Frank talk: how to identify the proper lie angle; comparing solid-core balls to wound balls – Equipment: your questions
I’d like to change the lie angle of my clubs, but I’m not sure how that angle is measured. And can I bend cast clubs? Greg Allen, South Africa
The lie angle is the angle between the shaft and the ground when the club is in the normal address position. You should adjust the lie angle only if the toe or heel digs into the ground while you hit the ball. This should be evident in the shape and depth of your divots. If it’s not, apply some pressure-sensitive tape to the sole of the club. Then place a ball on a thin sheet of plywood, and hit it. If the mark left by the impact is toward the toe, then the lie angle is too flat (and the ball will likely go to the right). If the mark is toward the heel, then the angle is too upright (and the ball will likely go to the left). A cast club can be adjusted, but only by a couple of degrees–any more than that and the club might break. If your problem is slicing the ball, and the mark on the impact tape indicates the lie is ideal (that is, on center of the sole) you may need a lesson to correct a swing flaw. I do not recommend trying to correct your slice with an adjustment to the lie. (For more information on adjusting your equipment, check out www.franklygolf.com.)
When I drop a new ball from arm’s length, it bounces back up level with my eyes. But older, wound balls bounce only to my chin. Why? Zach Neufeld, Yucaipa, Calif.
This bounce test is not a good indicator as to how the ball will perform off a driver. What it might indicate is how it will perform on a chip shot or a long putt. Today’s balls (two- and three-piece or multilayer models) will bounce higher when dropped from six feet than the old wound balls. That’s because the coefficient of restitution (COR) of a new ball when dropped from six feet will be about .880, but when the ball is hit by a club swung at 110 miles per hour, the COR will be about .760. What this means is today’s golf balls are more resilient at low-speed impact. The wound balls of the past are not as resilient at low-speed impact, which is why they tend to feel a little softer off putters and wedges. The new three-piece multilayer balls have covers that are designed to spin on short shots. These and the two-piece balls have less spin off drivers, resulting in an extra six to eight yards when compared with the old wound balls.
I’m a 7-handicap golfer, and I think I hit the ball too high. I’ve tried changing to a firmer-flex shaft. What else can I do? Ken Neely, St. Charles, Mo.
A shaft with a higher flex point (kick point) could help, but I’m not talking about a shaft that is stiffer overall. Rather, I’m referring to a shaft that plays firmer at the tip. I would look for a shaft with as high a kick point as possible. By the way, there is nothing wrong with launching the ball high with the driver. A launch angle of about 12 degrees and a spin rate of 2,000 revolutions per minute is ideal for an above-average swing speed. As the swing speed goes down, the launch angle should go up. A lower-lofted driver like an 8.5-degree model will reduce spin rate, but you will only get results with such a loft if your approach angle is on the upswing by about 2 degrees. Take advantage of a launch monitor to minimize the spin, and maintain a 12-degree launch angle. Keep in mind a swing fix may be just as important as making a change to your equipment.
Frank Thomas, technical director of the USGA from 1974-2000, is Golf Digest’s Chief Technical Advisor. E-mail him at email@example.com.
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