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Blame the rules committee, not Tiger



Moving Day at Augusta began with a bang on Saturday as news broke about Tiger Woods being assessed a two-shot penalty for an incorrect drop on No. 15 Friday after his ball struck the flagstick and spun backward into the water.

The unfortunate shot unleashed an explosion of opinion and controversy that resulted in the Masters rules committee making the correct decision not to disqualify Tiger from competition.

Keep in mind that it does not come down to whether Tiger broke a rule or not — he certainly did, and he has admitted it. It is simply the series of events and decisions made by the committee that would have made it unfair to Tiger for him to be disqualified.

So let’s start at the beginning:

Being a water hazard (not lateral) Tiger had four options he could exercise under Rule 26-1:

  1. Play the ball as it lies, which was not possible because it was submerged in water.
  2. Take a one-shot penalty and drop his ball in the drop zone at the left side of the fairway toward the grandstand.
  3. Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.
  4. Proceed under the stroke and distance provision of Rule 27-1 by playing a ball as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was last played.

Tiger attempted to exercise the fourth option and drop where he hit the prior shot from. At the time, it seemed as though Tiger had proceeded correctly. Between the time that he dropped his ball and the end of his round, the Masters rules committee received a call from a viewer prompting it to reexamine how Tiger proceeded at No. 15. At that time, the committee ruled that Tiger had proceeded correctly, and no penalty was issued.

Many are wondering where the rules official was during all of this. Surely the world’s No. 1 player must have an official with him at all times, right? Yes, pretty much. However, it is the responsibility of the player to call the official in to assist with procedural questions. Rules officials are essential silent observers unless called upon for a ruling, or they can prevent a rules infraction.

So why didn’t the official step in this time?

Since we never saw the official with Tiger short of the pond on No. 15, we can’t be sure. But I have to believe he was up near the green or drop area. From the perspective of the official some 85-plus yards away, those two yards back that Tiger dropped his ball had to look very near to the original spot where he hit from. Therefore there was no reason for him to step in.

In an interview after his round, Tiger stated that he purposely dropped his ball about two yards behind where he hit his original ball from, not knowing he had broken a Rule 26-1. Upon seeing the interview, the committee believed that the ruling warranted further discussion, and they asked Tiger to meet Saturday morning. It was during this meeting that it was deemed that Tiger had not proceeded correctly, and had played his ball from a wrong location.

Playing a ball from an incorrect location in stroke play competition is a two-stroke penalty. However, in Tiger’s case he had already signed his scorecard for a 71. Signing for an incorrect score in stroke play competition will usually result in a disqualification. So why was Tiger not disqualified?

Under Rule 33-7, “A penalty of disqualification may in exceptional individual cases be waived, modified or imposed if the Committee considers such action warranted.” To some, this rule might make it seem like the committee made an exception in Tiger’s case in order to keep the most exciting player in golf in the field for the weekend.

It did not.

Before Tiger finished his round on Friday, the committee had already reviewed what happened on No. 15 and ruled no penalty. Since the committee initially ruled that there was not penalty and thus facilitated the player into signing for an incorrect score, they enacted Rule 33-7 and waived the penalty of disqualification.

Yes, it is the player’s responsibility to know and follow the rules as best he can. However, it would not have been fair to Tiger for the committee to disqualify him from competition.

It was the committee who ruled initially that there should not be a penalty issued. It was the committee who didn’t say anything before Tiger signed for his 71. And it was the committee who reversed its decision and assessed a penalty.

Tiger simply did exactly what the committee instructed him to do. He proceeded under the rules to the best of his knowledge, did not intentionally breach Rule 26-1, and wasn’t told of a possible infraction before he signed his card because the committee had already decided that no penalty was warranted at the time

I fully expect him to continue his exceptional play and make a run at the green jacket. And if Tiger goes on to win The Masters, it will go down as possibly the greatest win of his career.

Click here to read five reasons why Tiger should have withdraw from the Masters this weekend.


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Grant Shafranski is the Program Director for the First Tee of Minneapolis and Head Teaching Professional at Hiawatha Golf Club in Minneapolis, MN. He is a Level 2 PGA Apprentice following a successful amateur career where he played collegiately at Division III University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN).



  1. Dino

    Apr 17, 2013 at 10:16 am

    this is wrong. the committee does not nor has to remind players of thier penalties for breaching a rule or of any shot resulting in a penalty stroke prior to handing in thier cards. That is not thier job. Had they noted from the begining that Tigers drop was illegal they do not have to tell him prior to card signing. He simply would have been disqualified for handing in the wrong card. And wether or not Tiger knew the rule or not also does not matter. It is is his 100% resonsibility to know the rules and to play by them. This is not the same as what happened to P. Harrington becaues he did not know his ball moved but he still played by the rules. There is a big difference. Tiger (ignorant or not of the rule) did not play by the rules. They cannot dismiss the disqualification if they are going to penalize him for the play. They must do both or do nothing at all and say we missed it an its too late, its over. They should not acknowledge the penalty without acknowledging the wrong card. This notion that they missed it at first is not an excuse to excuse the disqualificatiopn because they do not have to discuss it with tiger prior to card signing anyway. That is not what they do. If a player hit a ball into water and hands in a card without penalty stroke he is disqualified. Its the same thing. They do not remind or tell players prior to signing who lost a ball in the woods or hit into water or whatever that they must add those strokes. They simply check the card against such and if it is wrong they are disqualified. They cant simply dismiss one and not the other because they go hand in hand. And cant dismiss it simply because they missed it. they should iether accpet it all and say they screwed up and its too late or penalize for both. Thats the only two ways which they should handle it. As said, totaly different from Harrington because he didnt know the ball moved or if a player double hits and doesnt know it. Harrington or other players in such situation still played by the rules. Tiger did not play by the rules and not knowing the rules is never an escuse. Whats to stop players from now doing things and pleating they didnt know the rule? they are using the right to waive for the wrong reason and unfairly applying it. They should have said. he handed in his card, we accepted his card and we screwed up so its over thats the breaks. But to acknowledge the penalty later on and also assess it as such they must also assess the disqualification. They cannot use the excuse they missed it for one penalty and not the other. They iether missed both which they did and decide to penalize for both or they should have done nothingdo nothing. There is no such thing to warrant an inbetween. It did not have to be discussed with tiger at all had they cought it earlier so thier notion that thats thier fault does not fly. If thats the case then penalize him for nothing. But shoulodnt do one without the other.

  2. Gene

    Apr 15, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    Tiger and the Masters lost their integrity. There is no way they DQ Tiger because they lose their tv ratings. Any other player in field would have have been DQ. And dont tell me Tiger doesnt know the rules. He would cheat to win another major and he just proved it and the Masters proved they are willing to over look the rules and give preferential treatment to Tiger Woods.

    • Steve

      Apr 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Lol. If he was cheating on purpose, he wouldn’t be stupid enough to admit it later. Especially after the rules committee watched the video and said nothing was wrong with the drop. If he actually was a cheater, he would have gone forward without saying anything and not get punished at all.

  3. Ty

    Apr 15, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    so, the third option for a drop from this type of hazard is:

    3.Drop a ball behind the water hazard, keeping the point at which the original ball last crossed the margin of the water hazard directly between the hole and the spot on which the ball is dropped, with no limit to how far behind the water hazard the ball may be dropped.

    Tiger’s drop was behind the hazard, the poing at which the ball crossed the hazard was between the hole and his drop point, and he droped the ball farther back from the original shot. The rules state that there is NO distant limit to how far back you can play your drop. So if anything I think Tiger is guilty of confusion between the 3rd and 4th option allowed by the rules.

  4. Ty

    Apr 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    This one falls on the Rules Committee. After the caller notified them of the potential infraction, they should have not only reviewed the tape themselves but also notified Tiger in the scorer’s tent before he signed his card. Had they done this, Tiger would have admitted his mistake, signed for the correct score and all of this would be a non-issue.

  5. Clark

    Apr 15, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Maybe Tiger should be able to see instant replay from last shot. Haha

  6. Joe C.

    Apr 14, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Kind of late to be jumping into the Tiger Wood’s controversy but …… When Tiger signed his score card, wasn’t it an incorrect score card? Does the fact that he did not asses himself a penalty mean that his score was correct on the card? This is where I am confused.

    • TWShoot67

      Apr 14, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      At the time Tiger signed the scorecard NO. No one who was at the event said anything about it before he signed his card. When a rules official (and its their job) thinks there’s a rule infraction he will in fact talk to the player ie…. just like they talked to the 14 year old Tianlang Guan after they clocked him for slow play. When they it got brought up about Tiger possibly braking a rule they said he didn’t that it looked like the drop was proper. No one really knows how far he actually dropped the ball until an interview with tiger where he stated it was 2 yards longer shot. well when I watched him drop and seen the replay it didn’t look 2 yards but that what he said he did. The rule as been explained over and over but the Tiger haters or so called PGA pro’s who say the older pro’s like JACK would have just DQ themselves. Tiger has been cheating for years, thats why he has the wins he has…. pure cheater.

      • char005

        Apr 15, 2013 at 11:17 am

        name one other instance. this should thread should just be i like tiger or i hate tiger.

  7. Bob S

    Apr 14, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Well….at least they have an official w/Snedeker and Cabrera when they needed ’em…..

  8. Alex

    Apr 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Trying to argue that a pro should know all the rules is like saying that a business owner should be familiar with the legion of laws and practices regarding taxes, statues, etc. I’m never going to buy that one.

    Sorry, but it’s easy to “remember” everything at home watching on TV.

  9. oilfield7550

    Apr 14, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Hmmm…seems as though the Masters rules committee called Eric Holder before rendering their decision.

  10. Brian

    Apr 14, 2013 at 10:49 am

    If the rules of golf intended for someone to be DQ’d for failing to execute a proper drop, they would not have the rule imposing a strict 2-stroke penalty! If Tiger intentionally violated the rule (i.e., cheated), there would be grounds to DQ him. The evidence does not suggest this as he voluntarily explained the improper drop. As a result, the evidence suggests that he had no knowledge of the error until after he signed his card. While this would have resulted in immediate DQ in the past, that has changed with the new rule. The conspiracy theorists are nuts if they believe this rule was created for Tiger, as will be shown in time as others reap the benefit of the new rule.

  11. JeffMac

    Apr 14, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Grant has quoted the rules correctly, but some others in this discussion have not. The rules do NOT state that a player is to “drop” his ball as near as possible to where the previous stroke was made. He is to “play” his ball as nearly as possible from where the previous stroke was made.

    If a player was allowed to place his ball, obviously he could place it in the exact spot where the prior stroke was made (in this case, the divot left behind). But you can’t place – you are required to drop the ball.

    I believe Tiger was on a down slope, and so it would make sense to me that a player would drop his ball some distance behind where the original stroke was made, so that if it rolled towards the hole, it has a chance of not rolling nearer the hole then where prior stroke was made (which would require a re-drop).

    In addition, the ball cannot roll more then 2 club lengths (2 yards?) from where it first hits the ground. So it makes sense to me that dropping 2 club lengths behind, when on a downslope, is your best chance to have your first drop be a legal drop and have the ball in play without having to re-drop.

    I think Tiger knows the rules, and the above is what was going through his mind when dropping. True, he may have been hoping the ball did not roll, or did not roll much, so he could play from a slightly further distance then previous. And sharing that thought process was his downfall that caused the penalty.

    It almost seems like he should have tried to drop his ball into his divot, and if he missed the divot, or if the ball rolled or bounced out of the divot, then re-drop. If it happens again, then place the ball in the divot.

    That is the only way to indisputably play your stroke from as near as possible to where prior stroke was played.

    Anything else is subjective.

  12. Larry

    Apr 14, 2013 at 9:44 am

    No,No,NoThe rules committtee knew exactly what happened. They tried to ignore it until ESPN told them about the interview. Then they had no choice. Tiger knew the rules and he thinks he is above them. He knows they all want him there to bring in the ratings but once there was no way out they had to work something out. All the other golfers and critics who called for Tiger to withdraw knows what was going on. Anyway you are right about one thing you can’t blame Tiger because the media has made him believe that he is above everyone and should not have to account for his actions on or off the golf course.

    • jake

      Apr 14, 2013 at 10:48 am

      Larry I am inclined to agree with you. I think that is exactly what happened. This isnt the first tine he has taken a funny drop. As someone who has played professionally I can tell you it does not sit well with other professionals when stuff like this happens, the worst thing you can have as a professional is to have a cloud of “gray” attached to your name.

      • Woodie

        Apr 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm

        Once there was this nice drop of a parking lot… which was out of bounds till then 😉

  13. Jack

    Apr 14, 2013 at 3:20 am

    This really changes everything. I don’t like how they can go back and change what was approved and signed for in the name of making it right. To me there were many opportunities to make it right, but that time had passed.

  14. sam

    Apr 14, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Rule requires you drop at spot as near as possible to prior spot. He knew he didn’t do that when he admitted he took it back two yards to a more favorable spot to hit his next shot. Rule does not provide you can take it as far back as you want. Committee or no committee it is a game of honor and if the committee didn’t dq him he had the moral obligation to withdraw. Aside from having a rules official with each group they should probably let players have their lawyers with them.

  15. J

    Apr 13, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    Yet again, people making comments without the skill most kindergarten children posess.


    Tiger was told, by the rules committee, that his drop was legal.

    Read it.

    The rules committee changed its mind.

    Read it.

    They assessed him a penalty as described in the rules and proceeded to follow the rules even farther by not DQ’ing him but waiving the DQ because… Now get ready… Here it comes… The reading part…

    They told him his drop was correct. They changed their mind. They waived the DQ.

    READ before you comment. You look stupid when you speak from a point of emotion, with some sort of weird, obsessive dislike of someone you’ve never met or interacted with, rather than speaking from a point of educated information and the benefit of all the information available. And… Here’s the best part..

    Augusta… The Masters… It’s an invitational. They make the rules. It’s their Tournament… They can say everyone uses pink balls and croquet mallets for putters… The PGA Tour rules… The USGA.. The R&A.. All of their rules…ALL OF THEM… Are irrelevant. Augusta makes em…breaks em…enforces em… All of you crying foul because of the rules are speaking from a point of ignorance. The rules are what AGNC says they are… They spoke. SU.

  16. Greg DeLaney

    Apr 13, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    For the signing the incorrect scorecard argument: Tiger didn’t knowingly sign a wrong scorecard, and when it was signed, the rules committee had determined it was the right scorecard. So Tiger obviously didn’t knowingly sign a wrong card. After the interview it was determined he broke the rule, he admitted he did this after the rule was further explained to him, and he was assessed the 2 stroke penalty, as the new rule states. Everything was followed by the book. Any other player would get the same treatment. This wouldn’t happen to any other player tho, because every single shot of Tiger’s is on TV therefore he probably follows the rules by the book more than any other golfer out there because he was more closely watched.

  17. Greg DeLaney

    Apr 13, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Nicely put Grant! Who on here really believes he should have been DQ’ed? He obviously didn’t know the rule, or at least the full rule, but within 5 feet is close enough anyways. And he hit the pin on the shot he was retaking anyways. Y’all that think he should have been DQ’ed are haters. Committee made the mistake, not Tiger. If anything Tiger should be commended for tattling on himself and taking the 2 stroke penalty. If he doesn’t say anything, all this is mute. 2 stroke penalty was more than fair. Hope he can make a nice run tomorrow. And anybody would get this treatment, but I don’t think any other golfer has enough haters who look up a rule such as this in the rule book and takes the time to call it in. LOL get a life. Probably one of you haters on here hating on Grant.

    • jake

      Apr 13, 2013 at 11:52 pm

      There is no “close enough anyways”…..he broke a rule.

  18. Jeff

    Apr 13, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    I find it interesting that ALL of this hand-wringing about who-knew-what-when began LONG AFTER the fact. None of his playing partners or caddie said, “Hey, wait a minute” either as he dropped or after the shot. None of the announcers calling the play-by-play at the time recognized a problem. None of the folks watching with me noticed it. And most important, none of the officials, until notified by fans watching TV (something I’m not fond of, by the way.) So now all of a sudden everyone is an expert on what happened and what Tiger should do or should have done. If he was trying to cheat, I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough not to yap to the press about how he tried to illegally gain an advantage. I see it as an honest mistake that in retrospect makes US ALL look a little foolish, most of all Mr. Woods, but one that has been ruled on and…play on, Tiger.

  19. Don

    Apr 13, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    This ruling is comical….Anyone defending not DQing tiger is either 1)a huge fan of tiger (so I understand) 2)doesn’t believe in DQs for
    sometimes lame golf rules which can be understandable, see Dustin Johnson at the PGA or 3)can’t understand the rules (or is a CBS tv exec).

    The rule is pretty simple, especially when you read the examples. Basically the rules are set up to protect someone from DQ when he doesnt REASONABLY know that he DID SOMETHING that caused him to break the rules. It does not matter if he knew he broke the rules or not, only if he knows that he did the act (which is prohibited).

    So in this case, if there were a bunch of divot marks around the area he hit from, and he dropped next to a divot where he thought he hit from previously, he would be saved. However, misinterpreting a rule is not a defense….

    • Greg DeLaney

      Apr 13, 2013 at 11:01 pm

      it was pretty reasonable that he misinterpreted the rules since he tattled on himself in his own after round interview there Elin. So by the rules he didn’t have to be DQ’ed just like the rule was put in place for. It’s too protect the players

    • J

      Apr 13, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      He didn’t break the rules. ANGC spoke. It’s their tournament… How is it absolutely so few of the people posting comments fail to understand the basic facts…

      Augusta makes the rules. It’s an invitational.

      They make the rules. ALL of the other rules are subject to…. Ready for it…. Wait for it…. Wait for it….


      You don’t like it… Fine. But the rules were enforced the way AGNC wanted them enforced. Which means… Here it comes again….ready….

      LOCAL RULES supercede those of the PGA… The R&A… The USGA… Their rules stop at the gate.

      • jake

        Apr 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm

        Local rules do not supercede USGA rules they have to be formed with USGA approval. Rule 33-8

        • J

          Apr 14, 2013 at 2:16 am


          It’s an Invitatinal. The USGA has no authority over an Invitational tournament. Period.

      • TWShoot67

        Apr 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

        Thank you , explain that to Woodie a PGA professional.

        • Woodie

          Apr 15, 2013 at 4:31 am

          Thanks TWshoot. Everything is said, I will not reply any further here. Guys like you are not seeing the facts, but ok. Play what you like, it is not Golf.

    • Metrybill

      Apr 20, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      misinterpreting a rule is not a defense.


  20. jake

    Apr 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    What I can’t believe is that the rules committee, after reviewing, ruled that what he did was ok! Mind you they had a forner USGA President and Mark Russell, a well respected official that has officiated on the PGA Tour for years. Forget all the other stuff that happened after… That where it starts getting funky for me.

  21. Troy Vayanos

    Apr 13, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Well said Grant,

    The rules committee need to take full responsibility for what happened. Tiger was doing as he was told and has every right to continue playing.

    If he goes on to win, hopefully this incident will not overshadow his victory.

  22. Steve

    Apr 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    I wish I could call the NBA and tell them that LeBron didn’t actually get fouled, it was a flop, so he shouldn’t get free throws.

    • Marc

      Apr 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      I think this is getting ridiculous about having people call, tweet, or whatever to the officials and then have them change their decision. The official needs to make the call, then you live with the result. I agree that Tiger should have been DQ’d, but all sports have officials that make bad decisions. We complain, and say “what if” – but the fact is, it’s getting to the point where the rules are being enforced differently based upon input from the TV audience. This is pretty ridiculous IMHO. What’s next? Are they going to start posting a phone number or email address at the bottom of the TV screen for us to send in our rules alerts and just make it part of the game?

  23. Ty Woodruff

    Apr 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I’ve never attended a Rules seminar, but even I know dropping 6 ft from the original position isn’t “as near as possible”. Wondering if the original ruling isn’t the one that should come into question as favoritism. Committee should have assessed a penalty to begin with…before Tigger signed his card.

  24. nick baker

    Apr 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Agree up to a point, and that point is the news conference, when TW stated that he dropped at a different location for benefit. This statement undermines the logic of the Rules Cte. Unless TW or the Rules Cte has good reason to believe that TW mis-spoke in his news conference, it is DQ in my opinion. Without the news conference the Rules Cte is entitled to make their own determination, but not when TW is on tape saying this.

  25. Kenneth Atkin

    Apr 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    I want to add that I feel it is sad that the new rule is being used to justify a player violating the rules (admittedly) and then signing an incorrect scorecard (admittedly) and being allowed to play for the green jacket. This is not what the new rule was aimed at. This is much different than a ball moving an 1/8th of an inch without the player knowing. Tiger SHOULD have known he violated a rule. Plain and simple.

    • Andrew Sellitti

      Apr 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

      That is my point as well. The spirit of this rule change was to protect players where they couldn’t protect themselves. Ignorance of the most basic rules is not a situation of a player not being able to protect themselves. The application of the rule sets a dangerous precedent going forward. The game of golf on the pro level will move further away from a self policing game of integrity and now into a sport where officials manage all the rules.

    • Bern

      Apr 13, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      The scorecard was in fact not incorrect when Tiger signed it. It was not incorrect until the committee decided that drop was improper. Nobody on the course seemed to think the drop was improper when Tiger made it. The commentators said nothing. The rules folks said nothing. The other players said nothing and Tiger thought he had taken a proper drop. This is nothing but that same old mess from the same tired voices that have found fault with Tiger from day one. The same kind of folks who called in threats on his life in 1997. Same folks. Same agenda. The committee made its ruling and that should be it. Move on.

  26. Brent Ashcroft

    Apr 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I do blame the rules committee as well as Tiger Woods. If any other player would have been caught trying to give them selves an advantage they would have been dq’d. Everything in golf is not about tiger and you people need to realize he’s not God.

    • Blanco

      Apr 13, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Nobody thinks he’s God dude. Just a mortal human being on the path to total knowledge of self– he’s also a phenomenal golfer– probably the best there ever was. This social media thing is getting more and more manic depressive every day. Journalism and enlightened discussion is long dead.

  27. Kenneth Atkin

    Apr 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    So is the Committee now going to keep score? Why even have players sign their cards in this day and age? Just one more reason that professional golf and recreational golf have nothing in common.

  28. Mikko U

    Apr 13, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    So why is it ok not to know even the most basic rules of golf and break them?

    Tiger made a mistake (or cheated), then the committee makes an uninformed decision, Tiger reveals his mistake to the media, the committee doesn’t hand out the required penalty of disqualification.

    Or how does a basic water hazard rule become something professional players shouldn’t or needn’t be aware of?

    • Woodie

      Apr 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      Right, Mikko!
      Sorry Grant, but as a Professional you should know better!
      “He proceeded under the rules to the best of his knowledge,…”
      Tiger did not know one of the easiest rules in golf, come on! He signed a wrong scorecard. It doesn’t matter what the guys from the rules comittee recognized or did not recognize. Any player is responsible for playing under the same rules as any other player in the tournament.

      • Grant Shafranski

        Apr 13, 2013 at 10:14 pm

        Thank you for the comment Woodie. I absolutely agree that Tiger should know the rule, and I’m sure that he does. Keep in mind that knowing the rules and proceeding under them are two completely different things, however. The most difficult thing about the Rules of Golf is interpreting their meaning.

        I believe that Tiger was flustered at the time he took the drop, and did not think about the point at which his ball LAST crossed the margin (opposite side). I think he was only thinking about when his ball first crossed, and went back on a line with THAT point between himself and the hole. Therefore, in his mind he was proceeding correctly, and not intentionally breaking any rules.

        At the club level, the golf professional often times is the “committee” and we cannot expect every participant in the field to know every rule. The same goes at the professional level, you would be surprised how many tour pros struggle with the rules, even though they are playing the game for a living.

        Had Tiger said in his interview that he was knowling breaking Rule 26-1 when he dropped his ball, it would be a completely different story. It would then become a possible serious breach, for which the committee could decide to DQ him for. But as the committee, all we can do it trust that the player is telling the truth, just as the Masters committee has to believe Tiger when he says that he thought he was proceeding correctly.

        • MLamar

          Apr 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm

          Great Post … People need to take their emotions out of the situation and review the facts … As I’ve played in my Club Chmps – we have a committee – if there’s a question about a ruling – we play on – right the score and the committee will discuss/review with us when we get into the club house – Penalty will be assessed or not … The rules AGNC committee initially deemed no foul and later reviewed & assessed a 2stroke penalty – PLAY ON !!!

          Betcha dimes/donuts – I don’t think everyone (even tour players) know all the rules. ie They’re open for interpretation.

        • Metrybill

          Apr 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm

          I like the article, but …

          Ignorance of the law (rules) is no excuse. I do not care that he was “flustered.” So what? That is at best an explanation; but it is no excuse. There is no “fluster” exception to the rules. He violated a very, very basic rule. He had a caddie, too; which most of us cannot afford or claim. 4 eyes and 2 brains; not just 2 and 1. All the worse, he in fact admitted that he intentionally played from farther back than the rule permits. He did something that the rules committee did not know about! He had 4 options and he took none of them. Intent has no place in the rules for a proper drop. You either dropped the ball correctly or you did not. He didn’t get an official ruling during the round, only afterwards and even then not one generated by him or by a committee with full knowledge of the facts.

          btw, and importantly, there was a rules official available and TW did not take advantage of that. All he had to to was to ask, “Can I do this? (or) Is this OK?” In a club tournament he gets d’q’d.

          Another option: in case of doubt under the rules he could have played a 2nd ball.

          Golf is not a regular ball-sport. Golfers are self-regulating. Officials do not throw flags during the round. Golf officials are not active, flag-throwing officials. {Still I do not get that the rules official did not “check out” the drop to protect the field. If he/she had this affirmative duty, this might not have come up. Now, if rules officials had that “duty,” I would have a different opinion.}

          Full disclosure: Clearly, Tiger is one of the very best ever. I am not a Tiger fan but I don’t hate him or wish him failure. Tiger has benefited from the lack of a full field of future Hall-of-Famers in his era, except for Mickeleson and Els. If I could get a bet on Tiger v. Tom Watson, 1-shot a side, I would take Watson. (I know; ridiculous but that is how I feel about it.) Tiger has never come from even 1-shot behind to win a major. IMO, that is a serious hole in his resume’ when compared to others.

          Tiger is about Tiger and no one else. He is known to be smart and analytical. I am sympathetic but not to the point that the rules are compromised. I do think this was favoritism; maybe not intentionally so, but as applied.

          Tiger is without a doubt the best round 1 -3 player ever. As a 4th round player, who absolutely WILL be and deserves to be a hall-of-famer, as a 4th round player he will probably go down as one of the most mediocre of them all. That will be the hole in his resume’.

          btw, again. Most of us play without “drop-zones.” Pros are privileged with the best of everything when they play.

          Looking forward to the comments and prove me wrong. Is there some context that I am missing?


      • Greg DeLaney

        Apr 13, 2013 at 10:53 pm

        You keep talking about playing by the rules but Tiger followed the rules set forth by the governing body of golf. Stop being a hypocrite. The game of golf changed this rule. Grant is a professional and does know better you stupid idiot

        • Woodie

          Apr 14, 2013 at 6:03 am

          Oh Greg, are we getting personal? I won’t jump on your verbal abuse…
          I am a PGA Professional too and I know what I talk about! Signing a wrong scorecard is a DQ, period.
          Tiger should have amditted that he made a mistake and pull out of the Masters. And I am no Tiger hater…

        • Mikko U

          Apr 14, 2013 at 9:13 am

          I’m sorry but he did not follow the rules set forth by the governing body of golf. He himself said he went back a couple of yards to drop the ball (thus he knew where he shot his original shot) and that is not dropping as near as possible.

  29. Ronald Montesano

    Apr 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Nicely put, Grant. While I believe that my take is the correct one, and that the Competition Committee enabled Tiger in a way that they would no other player, I applaud your research and your formulation of your argument.

    • TWShoot67

      Apr 14, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      There is no argument. they are the facts Ronald. Tiger followed the rules of golf plain and simple. he didn’t need to withdraw because haters want him to, if in fact he did he would do the rules an injustice. When Tiger dropped he didn’t think he was gaining any advantage. if he wanted to cheat he would cheat but since he has 77 wins and 14 majors Tiger doesn’t need to cheat. He’s the greatest golfer of our time and maybe of all time.

    • John

      Apr 14, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Well he didn’t end up winning. Well Done Adam Scott

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Beyond limits: Carbon bending and the future of shaft manufacturing



My name is James, and I am an equipment junkie. Like many of you, I am also a (mediocre) golfer struggling to take my golf game to the next level. But since I’m not so keen on hitting the range or the gym, I’m always searching for the next big breakthrough to help me avoid excessive practice and golf lessons.

TLDR: I am back to report that I may have found the ultimate breakthrough involving how golf shafts are manufactured. It will sound mind-boggling and counter-intuitive, but the new technology involves controlling a shaft’s variables of weight, flex (CPM), and torsional strength (torque) all independently of one another. As if this alone doesn’t sound far-fetched enough, it also purports to control the subjective aspect of how stiff the shaft feels without affecting the other variables.

To the best of my knowledge, I never knew any of these were possible, but seeing (and feeling) is believing, though I’m still reeling from my recent experience. Moreover, I dare predict that the sheer novelty of this discovery has the potential to redefine the golf shaft industry as we know it.

Also, the article is long. You’ve been warned.

In A League Of Their Own

Over the years, I have reported on several golf innovations and technologies that made golfers sit up and take notice. Of those finds, let me briefly recap two products that especially stood out before I unveil my most recent discovery further below.

Starting at number three, I present the now-famous Autoflex shaft by Dumina. Introduced in early 2020 during the COVID epidemic, the small Korean company claimed that their shafts didn’t use any flex designations and are to be selected solely based on a golfer’s swing speed. Against conventional wisdom, the company claimed that a super flexible, ultralight shaft can improve distance and accuracy for golfers of all swing speeds. The AF shaft, with its mysterious Korea Hidden Technology (KHT), sounded too good to be true, but more often than not, golfers who braved the steep price and the hot pink color agreed that the shaft seemed legitimate. Many also credit it with creating a whole new category of soft and hyper-flexible performance shafts.

Next in the number two spot is the groundbreaking FreeFlex shaft from SJ Golf Lab, also out of Korea. When the FF shafts surfaced in early 2023, I first thought they were a slightly improved version of the Autoflex. At weights and flex even softer than the AF, the shafts also improved distance and accuracy at a lower price point than their counterparts.

Upon delving further, FreeFlex Technology (FFT) was far more amazing than I could have ever imagined. Against the norm, the inventor of FFT claimed that a shaft’s weight, flex (CPM), and torque are NOT relative to each other and that each variable can be controlled separately. According to SJ Lab, a lightweight, flexible shaft with a strong torque was possible, and vice-versa. The incredulous claim went largely unnoticed at the time, but the folks at SJ Lab recently decided to prove their technology by introducing the ultimate unicorn of a shaft.

Aptly named ‘Hammer Throw’ the rubber-like shaft featured a conventional shaft’s weight of 62g yet measured only 140 CPM to be incredibly soft and flexible. To top it off, it also featured a strong 3.5 torque similar to an S-flex shaft, all unlikely numbers that have never been combined in a single shaft before. The Hammer Throw proved to be a wonder shaft for slower swingers, helping to increase club head speed, distance, and even accuracy.

Ultimately, SJ Lab redefined the concept of ‘shaft customization’ by proving that a shaft’s WT, CPM, and TQ can be controlled independently to any degree.

Featuring SJ Golf’s FFT technology, the Hammer Throw and FF38 also caught the attention of many WLD athletes with swing speeds over 150mph.

Mind-Bending Revelation

The AF and FF shafts are indeed quite amazing, but what I’m about to share with you may be an even bigger discovery than both of them combined.

It was a Thursday afternoon in October when I arrived at SJ Golf Lab. I had just finished a round of golf that morning and felt flush after having bested my buddies on a tough track. I was to cover the story of a new line of putter shafts (based on the Chaos Theory in physics, no less) and was looking forward to seeing if it could help my putting.

I was making small talk with Dr. Choi, the inventor & CEO of SJ Golf Lab, when a courier arrived to hand him a sealed envelope. Inside was a patent certificate for a new golf shaft manufacturing process, which was to be featured in SJ Lab’s latest MetaFlex series of shafts.

“Oh, that sounds interesting” I said politely. “Is it like FreeFlex technology?”

What came next was a barrage of information so contradictory and yet so transformative in its revelation that I forgot all about the putter shafts.

Entering The Realm Of The Senses

Carbon Bending Technology (CBT) is the latest brainchild of Dr. Choi, the inventor of FreeFlex shafts. As incredulous as his FFT may seem, his new CBT technology takes it even further by stating that a fourth variable, the shaft’s level of firmness, can also be controlled independently of the other variables.

“CBT technology involves bending or wrapping carbon in a certain way to control how stiff a shaft feels, independently of weight, flex, and torque.” – Dr. Seung-jin Choi, inventor of CBT Technology 

Take a moment to let that sink in. Not only is he saying that the objective values of WT, CPM, and TQ can be controlled in any manner desired, but he can also control the subjective aspect of how firm a
shaft feels.

If CBT technology is legitimately possible, the implications of his discovery are immense and may well change the way golf shafts are made. Needless to say, such a spectacular assertion begs the question, “How can such an improbable idea be possible?”

As I struggled to comprehend what I just heard, Dr. Choi handed me a shaft and asked me to try and bend it. Grabbing it at both ends, the shaft felt light and soft, and I was able to bend and flex it easily. I was then given another shaft and asked to do the same. The new shaft felt much firmer from the get-go, similar to what I’d expect from a typical S-flex shaft. When I said that the second shaft felt much stronger than the first, I was in for a rude awakening.

“They’re the same shafts” Dr. Choi said. “The only difference is that the second one was treated with the CBT process. Other than that, both are practically the same in CPM and torque.”

“What do you mean these are the same shafts? This one is definitely stiffer.” My eyebrow arched in puzzlement at such a blatant contradiction.

After all, I was holding both shafts in my hands, and no one in the world was going to convince me that these two had the same CPM and TQ measurements.

The skepticism in my voice must’ve been obvious as I was led to a measuring device. I wish I could’ve seen the look on my face at that exact moment when my eyes confirmed both shafts to have the same CPM and torque.

Two same-looking shafts measured similarly in CPM and torque, despite one feeling much stiffer.

Goosebumps broke out on my arms, and my brain felt numb. Stunned, I took turns grabbing each shaft by the ends and bent them over and over again. There was absolutely no doubt that one was stiffer than the other. It wasn’t even close. Yet, if the numbers don’t lie, how was I to reconcile the two empirical facts at odds with each other before my very eyes?

Seeing Is Believing… Or Is It?

After repeated measurements to ensure I wasn’t dyslexic, I regained enough sense to sit down with Dr. Choi to hear more about the sorcery of carbon bending.

ME: How does CBT differ from your earlier FFT technology?

CHOI: CBT came as a result of golfers loving our FreeFlex shafts with the FFT technology but wanting even more. The FFT allows us to control the weight, flex, and torque independently. We used this discovery to design a new breed of shafts that help all levels of golfers increase club head speed and distance. But some of the stronger, faster-speed golfers were eventually turned off from it, as they couldn’t get accustomed to the soft feel and flex. The fear of spraying the ball all over the course was just too much.

To solve this issue, I looked at many factors that led golfers to describe whether a shaft is soft or stiff. Similar to FFT, I soon discovered that a shaft’s stiffness is not relative to its CPM value. By reinforcing a shaft through a special process I call carbon-bending, it can be made to feel as stiff as I wish without changing the original CPM or torque.

ME: (blank stare)

CHOI: Did that answer the question?

ME: Uhh… no? What do you mean the CPM doesn’t change? If the shaft became stiffer, it means the CPM value must have increased, doesn’t it? How we perceive stiffness is subjective, so we measure the CPM value objectively with a machine. That way, we can compare the CPM values of different shafts to see which one is stiffer with the higher number.

CHOI: Normally yes, but like I said, how stiff the shaft feels does not have to correlate with the CPM. They are independently controllable. As I just showed you with the two shafts earlier, both measured at the same CPM and torque. It was only when I applied the CBT method to one of them that it became stiffer than before, as you have seen for yourself.

ME: Yeah, I’m still not sure how that is, feeling firm in my hands but the machine reading it as soft. Is this like the cat in Schrodinger’s box, where the cat is both alive and dead at the same time? This shaft is also both soft and firm simultaneously?

CHOI: Not quite. But how about this? What if the CPM measurement we currently use to gauge and compare stiffness between shafts is not the only method? What if there were other ways that we haven’t considered to control the feeling of firmness?

ME: So you’re saying you discovered a new way to objectively measure how we feel or perceive stiffness?

CHOI: I think it’s better to say that I realized that a shaft’s CPM and stiffness can be independent of each other, whereas before, we thought they were directly relative. It led to look for other ways to make the shaft firmer, which is what I did. In the process, it also made me think, what else are we missing? Maybe we’ve been limiting ourselves in believing there’s nothing new left to discover.

Shaft Manufacturing 101

According to Dr. Choi, the method of manufacturing carbon shafts has remained largely unchanged since 1979, when Taylormade first introduced the first graphite shaft that offered many advantages over conventional steel shafts. Since then, various new materials and technologies have made the shafts lighter and stronger, but the basic shaft-making process remains the same.

The making of a modern golf shaft consists of wrapping layers of prepreg (treated carbon fiber) sheets around a steel shaft (mandrel). As more layers are applied, the shaft becomes progressively thicker and heavier (WT), which makes the flex (CPM) stiffer and increases the torsional (TQ)

The characteristics of a shaft depend on the amount of material and how each layer is oriented on the mandrel. How this is done varies among OEMs.

The current method and its proportional relationship between WT, CPM, and TQ is widely accepted. However, it also presents a big challenge for shaft-makers, whose main goal is to make shafts that improve distance with more accuracy. This is because generating more club speed for more distance necessitates a light and flexible shaft; while improving shot accuracy requires the shaft to be firm in both flex and torsional strength.

To balance the trade-off as best they could, OEMs have continually researched new materials and higher-quality carbon, along with their own, often secret, ways of weaving and arranging the carbon prepreg. A good example to illustrate shaft improvement in this manner is the lighter 50-gram range of X-flex shafts, which were a rarity only a few years ago.

At least for now, 5X shafts seem to be the pinnacle of conventional shafts that can be made with the existing process.

Shaft Manufacturing 2.0

In physics, Force equals Mass multiplied by Acceleration (F=MA). The same can be applied to golf at impact, but since a golf club is designed to be in motion, its dynamic energy is calculated as Impulse=MAT, where T is the time the ball stays in contact with the club face.

Dr. Choi explained that increasing any of the three factors would transfer more energy to the ball (I).

In other words, by making the club head heavier (M), faster (A), and getting the ball to remain in contact with the clubface longer (T), the distance will increase as a result.

Now that we can get faster club head speed (FF shafts), how can the shaft be made to feel stiff while retaining a longer distance? The solution was surprisingly simple, as most discoveries tend to be at first.

“Imagine wearing a pair of skin-tight nylon stockings,” Dr. Choi said. “It’s tight, but you can still move and bend your knees easily.” Truth be told, I’d never worn stockings before, but I nodded to see where it would lead.

“If you were to put on one more, your legs will feel stiff, and with yet another, it’ll now be very difficult to even bend your knees,” he was building up towards a big reveal. “But no matter how stiff your legs now feel with the layers of stockings, you can still rotate them.” Come again?

“When you try to sit down, the legs will stick straight out like they’re in a cast, right? But you’d still be able to twist or rotate your leg [left and right] because the stockings are not exerting force in that direction.”

Dazed at the anticlimactic turn, I tried to recall the last time I had a cast but he plowed on. “The original characteristics of your legs don’t change because of the stockings. They’re still your legs, which are bendy and flexible.”

I may have missed a whole lot there, but loosely translated, CBT technology is like adding tight pairs of stockings to make a shaft feel firmer, but won’t change what the original shaft was in terms of
torque or CPM.

Helical Carbon Armour

Carbon bending involves a new step in the shaft manufacturing process, where a thin strip of carbon is helically wrapped tightly around the shaft to increase stiffness. This new sheath of armor will firm up the feel of the shaft but will not affect the CPM or torque. In addition, Dr. Choi’s in-depth research further showed that the width of the strip band and the spacing between the helical spirals all played a part in changing the characteristics of the shaft in minute ways.

Each shaft has been treated with CBT and using different carbon weave, band width, materials and alignment to display a unique characteristics that can be tailored to a golfer’s swing

The truly mind-blowing prospect of CBT, however, is its ability to create an endless number of unique shafts with specific performance characteristics. For example, the number of new shaft possibilities can reach tens or even hundreds of thousands, depending on various factors, including but not limited to the width and thickness of the band, the spacing and orientation of the helical spiral, the weave pattern of the band fabric, and each of the different materials that all of these factors can be applied to.

“Can you imagine a PGA tour pro being able to dial in a golf shaft to squeeze 99.9% of the performance potential from their favorite shaft, without giving up anything they prefer in WT, CPM, TQ, and now FEEL?” – SJ Golf Lab 2023 

If It Looks And Barks Like A Dog?

Several days later, I returned to SJ Lab to test the new MetaFlex CBT shafts. The lineup consisted of three driver shafts of 5H, 6H, 6.5M, and iron ix90 shafts (H for high kick, M for mid-kick). Again, the MF series is designed for faster-speed golfers who swing at least 100mph to well over 120mph. I purposely asked not to see the shaft specs beforehand, as I wanted to remain neutral in determining how the new shafts felt and performed.

Waggling the 5H shaft first, it felt similar in weight and flex to a typical R-shaft. I usually average a smooth swing of about 95 mph with my FF38, but the 5H shaft instinctively made me try to swing harder to compensate for the firmer feel. The good drives launched high and carried as far, with spin between 1900~2000 rpm. As I warmed up, I was hitting it quite well, despite swinging a bit harder than usual.

I had grown accustomed to swinging smoothly and in tempo with FF shafts, so it felt good to swing hard again and not worry about the head catching up. The overall distance was comparable with my own driver at 240~250 yards, so I guessed the 5H specs to be about 220 CPM and close to 4.0 torque. On the downswing, the shaft reminded me of the many 5S shafts I had been using before being turned onto softer shafts. I imagined I could play it well, but struggle to keep it straight on the back nine when I gradually get tired.

Next, the 6H shaft felt like a conventional 5S on the waggle, but much stiffer like a 5X shaft on the actual downswing. I guessed it to be about 230~240 CPM and 3.5 in torque, as I was only able to turn the club head over about one-third of the time. I got a couple out to 240 yards but the rest of the shots varied from a fade bordering on a slice interspersed with low pulls. I felt the shaft demanded more speed for it to show its potential, and my slower speed wasn’t making it sing as it should.

Lastly, the MetaFlex 6.5M told me right away that it was out of my league. The waggle reminded me of a Ventus or a Tensei shaft, and the actual swing was even stiffer and closer to a 6X shaft. As expected, my shots were mostly pushed dead right, as I couldn’t effectively load the shaft with speed.

When I tried to force the head to turn over, I’d overcompensate to flip the wrist and pull it low left. The few that managed to land on the fairway barely traveled 210 yards with a noticeable decrease in ball speed. I can usually muster enough muscle to make a typical stiff shaft work over nine holes at least, but the 6.5M felt like an iron rod.

Overall, MF shafts’ waggles felt similar to conventional aftermarket shafts and felt even firmer during the actual swing.

I was now ready to see the actual spec measurements of the three shafts.

I could never have imagined such numbers corresponding to the firmness I experienced with MetaFlex shafts.

“There’s no way these numbers are the actual specs,” I protested. “These are softer than my FF38, so how…?” Hearing my voice hit a high pitch, I quickly closed my mouth. I already knew to expect something different, but this? Trying to reconcile the stiffness with such low numbers was just as difficult as it was the first time I encountered this phenomenon.

For lack of a better comparison, imagine picking up a cute kitten to hear it purr, only to be shocked at hearing it bark like a big angry pitbull with its tail stepped on. Does this mean I can no longer use phrases like “seeing is believing,” What will happen to “if it looks like a dog and barks like a dog?”

More importantly, what does this mean for the future of golf shafts?

Implications For The Future

Deep down, I believe every golfer wants to increase their driver distance. It doesn’t matter if you average 150 yards or 300 yards. As golfers, the need to hit it farther is in our DNA.

Since discovering that longer, easier distance (and accuracy to boot) is possible with the advent of AF shafts, I’ve never looked back. When FreeFlex shafts debuted earlier this year, I switched all my shafts throughout the bag and couldn’t be happier. I’ve received dozens of similar emails from golfers who read about my experiences and took the plunge, mostly to their pleasant surprise.

As amazing as the shafts are, some scoffed at the absence of such shafts on professional tours. If they’re so good, why aren’t they used more? After all, a distance gain of 10 yards on drives can mean as much as 5-10 percent closer to the pin on approach shots for shorter putts, which can translate to millions of dollars in winnings. In fact, dozens of pros from all major tours have tried them, some openly and some in secret.

As a recreational golfer, I can live with an occasional OB if it means consistently out-driving my friends. But an elite tour pro for whom a single stroke may be worth millions? Not a chance. Even the best can become a psychological wreck if the shaft flexed more than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Especially on the back nine of a major on Sunday afternoon.

But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose there exists a shaft that truly offers longer distance and accuracy of the soft FF shaft with the reassuring feel and playability of a stiff shaft. Better yet, what if your favorite shaft can be readjusted to fit all of your needs for maximum performance output and feel preferences? I’d bet my last Pro V1s that elite professional golfers will stop at nothing to have them tested and optimized to benefit each of their own swing metrics and performance. It’s in their DNA.

Dr. Choi also mentioned that he is nearing completion of his state-of-the-art swing and shaft diagnostic system, which can prescribe precisely the type of shaft (weight, flex, torque, feel, kick, kitchen sink?) needed for a player. And he builds it to that specification. Customization to the fullest.

As the company’s name implies, that is the ultimate goal of SJ Golf Lab and Dr. Choi, who hopes his shafts will come as a “Special Joy” for each and every golfer.

All in all, CBT certainly felt to me like the next evolutionary step in golf shaft technology.

So, what do you think? Can we trust the accuracy of the statements made by SJ Golf Lab? I would love to hear from other golfers and knowledgeable shaftoids in the industry, and what it can mean going forward.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: The science of spin



Over my 30-plus years writing about equipment and designing wedges, I must have been asked thousands of times: “How do I get more spin with my wedge shots?” That seems like such a simple question, but the answer is as far from simple as you can get. So, today I’m going to try to break down the science of spin into its separate components.

The amount of spin imparted to the golf ball in any wedge shot will be affected by three basic things:

  1. The ball you play
  2. Your personal swing skills
  3. The specific wedges you play.

Let’s look at each of them.

The Ball

One very simple way to improve the spin you get with your wedge shots is to play a premium ball with a soft cover. The harder and usually less expensive balls typically have a firmer core and a cover that is more durable but doesn’t allow as much spin. You should experiment with various balls to see which gives you the optimum combination of distance and spin.

Your skills

We all know those golfers who seem to spin the ball better than others. That’s because they have honed their skills to make an accelerating, pure strike to the ball most of the time, and to make contact very low on the clubhead – elite players wear out a dime-sized spot on their wedges that is center-face and between the 2nd and 5th grooves. My bet is your wear pattern is more the size of a quarter or even half dollar and centered several grooves higher. You’ll see later why that is so important.

Anyone can learn to be a better wedge player by engaging a golf professional and spending lots more time practicing your wedge shots. I highly recommend both, but also realize that spin is greatly affected by swing speed as well. A strong player who can hit a gap wedge 120 yards is likely to generate much more spin than an equally skilled player who hits gap wedge only 90 yards.

Now we get to the fun part – how the specific wedges you are playing will affect the amount of spin you can impart to any given shot.

The wedges


Very simply, if you are playing a wedge that you’ve had for years, the grooves are likely well past worn out and are costing you valuable RPMs on every wedge shot. That said, no wedge brand has any measurable competitive advantage over another when it comes to groove technology. The USGA has not changed the rules on grooves in over a decade, and every premium brand of wedges is utilizing the best CNC-milling techniques to push those regulations to the limit. There’s just no story here. And my robotic testing indicates the total absence of grooves only reduces spin by 15-17 percent on a dry ball.

The Shaft

Yes, wedge shafts are that important. You should have shafts in your wedges that closely match the shafts in your irons in weight, material, and flex. This is particularly important if you have evolved to lighter and softer iron shafts. The exception to that is if you play X-flex shafts in your irons, take a tip from almost all tour professionals and opt for a slightly softer flex in your wedges.

Clubhead Design

What is much more important to make a wedge “spin-ier” is the design of the clubhead itself. While wedges really didn’t change much for decades, over the past few years, every major wedge brand has begun to position a bit more mass in the top section of the wedge clubhead. This repositioning of mass raises the CG a bit and improves the “gear effect,” which enhances spin on every wedge shot.

While they all are doing so to a different degree, most are held back by their reliance on their tour professionals’ input. Those elite players already spin the ball as much as necessary, and they don’t need or want more spin in their wedge shots. But that isn’t in your best interest.

This subject simply cannot be addressed without referencing my own work in wedge design for over thirty years. My wedges for Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, Ben Hogan and now Edison Golf have put increasingly more mass in the top half of the clubhead to help recreational golfers get more spin on all their wedge shots. I’m flattered that all major brands are finally starting to follow my pioneering of this design concept, because it works.  (Caliper measurement reveals that none of today’s wedges even have as much mass above center-face as my original Reid Lockhart wedges did in the mid-1990s)

Regarding my reference to tour players’ skills and their dime-sized wear pattern earlier, by striking their wedge shots so low in the face, they are optimizing spin on their traditional “tour design” wedges, because it maximizes the amount of clubhead mass above the point of impact. We all know that “thinned” wedge shot that flies low but has sizzling spin – same concept.

To help explain how this CG placement affects spin, look at what has happened in drivers, fairways, hybrids, and now irons.

As the “launch monitor wars” have come to dominate club-fitting (and selling!), the “holy grail” of distance is high launch and low spin. The engineers are achieving this by continuously finding ways to put maximum mass low in the clubhead with carbon crowns, tungsten inserts and thin faces. But good wedge play is all about penetrating trajectories and optimum spin — and all that mass in the bottom of the wedge head is exactly the opposite of what is needed to deliver that ball flight.

Final thoughts

I’ll also leave you with this thought on getting maximum spin on your intermediate-range wedge shots.  You are quite likely to discover you actually get more spin with your 52- to 54-degree wedge than with your higher-lofted 56 to 60. That’s because the ball is less likely to slide up the clubface, which causes loss of spin and higher ball flight. Give it a try to see for yourself.

This has been one of my longer posts, but the topic is worthy of a full explanation. I hope the “science of spin” is much less mysterious now.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s RSM Classic betting preview: Experienced heads likely to contend at Sea Island



The final full-field event of the 2023 fall season has arrived. The PGA TOUR heads just south of Augusta for the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club (Seaside and Plantation courses) in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

Each golfer will play three rounds on the Seaside course and one round on the Plantation course.

The Seaside course is a par-70 layout measuring 7,005 yards, and the Plantation course is a par-72 setup coming in at 7,062 yards. The Seaside course, which was redesigned by Tom Fazio, plays more like a coastal links, while the Plantation course is similar to a tree-lined parkland course. Both feature Bermudagrass greens and will be very scorable. The past five winners of the event have all finished between -19 and -22.

Some notable players in the field include Brian Harman, Ludvig Aberg, Si Woo Kim, Akshay Bhatia, Cameron Young, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Russell Henley, Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners.

Past Winners at The RSM Classic

  • 2022: Adam Svensson (-19)
  • 2021: Talor Gooch (-22)
  • 2020: Robert Streb (-19)
  • 2019: Tyler Duncan (-19)
  • 2018: Charles Howell III (-19)
  • 2017: Austin Cook (-21)
  • 2016: Mackenzie Hughes (-17)
  • 2015: Kevin Kisner (-22)

Let’s take a look at several metrics for Sea Island Golf Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds:

Strokes Gained: Approach

The greens at Seaside are big, so it will be important to stick approach shots close to avoid having to make difficult two-putt par saves. In what should be a birdie-fest, golfers will need to stick their approach shots to contend.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Sam Ryder (+24.8)
  2. Russell Knox (+22.4)
  3. J.T. Poston (+20.3)
  4. Eric Cole (+18.8)
  5. Alex Smalley (+18.4)

Good Drives Gained

Length really isn’t a factor at either course. Looking at the past winners at Sea Island, they’re all accurate golfers off of the tee who know how to find the fairway. However, over the past few years, “Good Drives Gained” has been a much more predictive statistic at this event than “Fairways Gained.”

Total Good Drives Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Russell Henley (+22.7)
  2. Brendon Todd (+21.8)
  3. Tyler Duncan (+21.7)
  4. Martin Laird (+20.6)
  5. J.J. Spaun (+20.5)

Strokes Gained Putting: Bermudagrass

This tournament could become a putting contest if the winds aren’t strong this week. Historically, the winners of the RSM Classic are great Bermudagrass putters (Simpson, Kisner and Hughes).

Total Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda in past 24 rounds:

  1. Maverick McNealy (+27.7)
  2. Chad Ramey (+25.3)
  3. Martin Trainer (+23.0)
  4. Justin Suh (+22.7)
  5. Taylor Montgomery (+22.5)

Birdie or Better Gained

With birdies (and potentially some eagles) likely to come in abundance, pars aren’t going to cut it at Sea Island. I anticipate the winning score to be close to -20, so targeting golfers who go low is the right strategy here.

Total strokes gained in Birdie or Better Gained in past 24 rounds

  1. Eric Cole (+31.4) 
  2. J.T. Poston (+21.3)
  3. Ludvig Aberg (+20.9)
  4. Luke List (+20.7)
  5. Justin Suh (+16.1)

Strokes Gained: Par 4 (400-450)

With eight of the par 4s on the Seaside course measuring 400-450 yards, I’m looking to target golfers who excel on par 4s of this length.

Total strokes gained in category in past 24 rounds:

  1. Russell Henley (+21.1)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+13.4) 
  3. Matthias Schmid (+12.8)
  4. Callum Tarren (+12.6) 
  5. Ryan Moore (+11.4)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (25%); Good Drives Gained (21); SG: Putting Bermudagrass (21%); B.O.B (21%); and SG: Par 4 400-450 (12%)

  1. Russell Henley (+2200)
  2. Sam Ryder (+9000)
  3. Chesson Hadley (+6500)
  4. Brendon Todd (+5000)
  5. Eric Cole (+3500)
  6. J.T. Poston (+3500)
  7. Stephan Jaeger (+4000)
  8. Matthias Schmid (+6000)
  9. Brian Harman (+2000)
  10. Austin Smotherman (+25000)

2023 RSM Classic Picks

Matt Kuchar +4000 (DraftKings)

There are plenty of players at the top of the odds board who have a strong chance to contend this week, but few have had the recent repetitions that Matt Kuchar has had. The veteran is in fantastic form and felt as if his game was in great shape heading into the World Wide Technologies Championship, where he came agonizingly close to victory.

Kuchar has three top-19 finishes in his last four starts worldwide, including the runner-up in his most recent start. At one point, he had a six-shot lead before making a disastrous quadruple bogey on the 15th hole during his third round. Many expected Kuchar to struggle on Sunday after blowing such a big lead, but he performed admirably and would have won if Erik Van Rooyen didn’t shoot a ridiculous -8 on the back nine.

The 45-year-old currently lives in St. Simons, Georgia so will be right at home playing at Sea Island this week. His history at the course isn’t as spectacular as one would think given how well the course fits him on paper, but he does have four top-30 finishes at the event since 2013.

In five of Kuchar’s six wins since 2012, he’s had a top-5 finish in one of his three previous starts leading up to the win. I believe his start at the WWT was a foreshadowing of a looming victory.

Billy Horschel +4000 (DraftKings)

After struggling for much of the 2022-2023 season, Billy Horschel has finished the top 20 in five of his past six worldwide starts including a T14 finish in his most recent start at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in October.

Horschel hasn’t played the RSM Classic with regularity but finished in 2nd place at the event back in 2016 where he lost to Mackenzie Hughes in a playoff. The course is a perfect fit for Billy, who’s not overly long off the tee and putts incredibly well on Bermudagrass.

Billy will come into the event as motivated as ever to contend on a course that he should be able to pick apart. With seven career PGA Tour wins, there’s no doubt that Horschel is a closer who will be able to keep his composure down the stretch.

Harris English +6000 (DraftKings)

After a 2021 Ryder Cup appearance, Harris English has had an inconsistent two seasons on the PGA Tour. However, the Sea Island resident finished the season on an encouraging note, finishing 10th at the BMW Championship.

English has a mixed history at Sea Island, but he does have a 6th place finish in 2020. He finished 29th last year, but a final round 65 may be an indication that the 34-year-old figured something out at the course that he grew just a few hours away from.

It’s a bit concerning that English has been off since August, but he’s played well off of layoffs in the past. Last year, he finished 9th at the Fortinet off a 6-week break. In 2021, he won the Sentry Tournament of Champions off of a 5-week break. This break has been a bit longer, but the extra time may not be a major detriment.

Enlgish is a better player than he’s shown over the past 18 months, and I believe he’s in store for a resurgent season that may start this week in Sea Island.

Taylor Pendrith +6500 (DraftKings)

Taylor Pendrith is in fantastic form. In his past three starts, he’s finished 3rd, 15th and 8th. Despite not seeming like a great course fit at Sea Island on paper, he’s had some great history at the course throughout his career.

Last year, Pendrith finished 15th at the event, gaining 5.4 strokes on approach. He also came into the event while playing some below average golf and still managed to hit it great at Sea Island. In 2021, he finished 26th despite missing the cut in two previous starts as well as the following start. I believe now that the Canadian is coming into the event playing some incredibly consistent golf he should be a serious threat to contend deep into the weekend.

Ben Griffin +7500 (DraftKings)

Just a week ago, Ben Griffin was 22-1 and one of the betting favorites at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Although some top end players such as Ludvig Aberg, Brian Harman and Cameron Young have been added to this field, I still believe the drop all the way down to this price gives Griffin a ton of value this week.

The North Carolina hasn’t built up an extensive course history at Sea Island just yet, but he did finish 29th at the event last season. The 27-year-old fired an opening round 65 to start his week and then shot two more rounds in the 60’s after a second round 71. His experience last season should be helpful in his pursuit of a victory this time around.

Sea Island should suit Griffin perfectly. In his past 24 rounds, he ranks 15th in the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach and in Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermudagrass. His sharp iron play and ability to hole putts on Bermuda make him an ideal candidate for to contend at Sea Island.

Alex Smalley +8000 (DraftKings):

The past five events in the PGA Tour’s swing season have given us winners who’ve already won on Tour multiple times. The fa oll is typically a time for first-time Tour winners to shine, and among the top candidates to accomplish that this week is Alex Smalley.

Smalley has contended a few times thus far in his career and one of those times was at last year’s RSM Classic. A consistent effort of 67-66-67-67 resulted in the Greensboro, North Carolina resident finishing in a tie for 5th place for the week. It’s no surprise that Smalley likes Sea Island given the amount of golf he’s played in the area and his knack for playing well on shorter courses.

The Duke graduate is beginning to round into form, finishing 30th last week at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship fueled by a final round 65 (-6). Smalley has done his best work on easier courses and the course should provide plenty of birdie opportunities for the 25-year-old.

Kevin Kisner +25000 (DraftKings):

Kevin Kisner has been playing incredibly poorly by his standards since his win at the Wyndham Championship in August of 2021, however Camilo Villegas’ win last week showed us how quickly things can change.

Kisner has shown some minimal signs of improvement during the fall season, finishing 62nd and 51st in his two starts at the Fortinet Championship and the Sanderson Farms Championship. More importantly, Kisner gained 1.8 strokes on approach at the Country Club of Jackson, which was his best approach performance since November of 2022. Going back to the Villegas example, while he was in the midst of a twelve-start stretch where he didn’t finish better than 54th, the Colombian gained 4.0 strokes on approach in a missed cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship in a missed cut. Clearly, he found something and went on to finish 2nd and 1st in his next two starts.

If there’s a course that Kisner may be able to find “it” on, it’s Sea Island. Kisner is a former Georgia Bulldog who’s won here in 2015, lost in a playoff in 2020 and has two additional top-7 finishes since his win. At long odds, “Kiz” is worth a sprinkle on one of his favorite tracks.

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