Balls in Orbit Trajectory Today

By Adam BarrJanuary 15, 2008, 5:00 pm
When I was growing up, trajectory was a word we usually heard Walter Cronkite applying to an Apollo spacecraft.

The lunar modules trajectory will carry it over the moons massive Sea of Tranquility, the most trusted man in America would intone, tranquilly yet authoritatively, and we would imagine the module, tinted gold by the sun, in a grand parabola of flight over the lunar grayness.

And thats the way it is. Or was. Nowadays, trajectory brings to my mind (and many others) the flight of something we all want to put into orbit: a golf ball.

What influences the vertical shape of the flight of a golf ball? Beyond raw distance, we all want to see a balls flight line take a certain shape, so it will roll out on drives and land obediently on iron shots. Of course, the clubhead matters. The shape, size, loft, resistance to twisting ' these all play a part that most of us know pretty well. But what about the other participants in this 500 microsecond physics experiment?

Lets begin with the pellet.

The overall construction of a golf ball usually impacts the initial launch, says Dean Snell, chief golf ball engineer at TaylorMade-adidas Golf. Softer compression balls will have a tendency to fly [at a] lower [angle] off the face. The trajectory is then determined a few key factors: first, the ball speed. The second is how much spin the ball has. Lower spin will not lift or carry higher, and higher spin will have a tendency to carry up higher.

So were in the familiar zone of each persons unique swing characteristics. Naturally, your particular launch habits, including how much spin you put on the ball, will help decide how your ball flies. But tell us more about the features on the ball itself. Those holes and bumps aint decoration.

The dimple shapes, depths and edge angles can control the trajectory all by themselves, Snell says. If you launch the two balls at the exact same spin, speed and launch, and have shallow dimples on one, and deep dimples on the other, they will have two completely different flights. The shallow dimples will fly much higher and not roll as much, while the deeper dimples fly much lower and will roll out more with shorter carry.

So, there are three influencers here, as Snell sees it.

Construction controls initial launch (and also helps control some of the spin), the player controls ball speed and spin, and the dimples and spin control the flight in the air.

Great. Now, if your game requires a change, the ball might be a good place to start. But do you run straight for the store? It might be a good idea to take a more measured approach.

For most consumers, todays balls all have very similar spin, so they dont have to worry about that anymore, Snell says. If they are looking for balls that launch higher, then the higher compression or firmer balls will help them do that. But if they truly want to be the best launch for their specific swing, then should get fit on a system to try to optimize trajectory that includes carry and roll. Getting your launch angle to 12-14 degrees and getting your spin to 2500-3000 rpm will help you achieve best carry and roll.

Fitting is more expensive than a new dozen, but is more likely to offer lasting results. But the analysis has just begun. What about shafts?

The flex profile of a shaft has the most profound effect on trajectory, says John Oldenburg, chief design engineer at shaft company Aldila. For a large majority of golfers, shafts with softer tips will give a higher launch with an increase in spin. The shaft effects trajectory by changing the actual loft (dynamic loft) of the head at the moment of impact. Softer tip shafts allow for a greater change in dynamic loft due to shaft bending being more concentrated in the lower end of the shaft closer to the head. Torque also can have an effect on trajectory and spin by its effect on face angle at impact.

So if a fitting tells you ' or you have the time, dollars and willingness to experiment ' could a new shaft be the ticket?

Yes, changing a shaft can definitely change trajectory, Oldenburg says. The player needs to remember that optimal launch conditions vary with relation to their ball speed. Higher ball speeds need a lower launch angle and lower spin to optimize performance. Slower ball speeds require a higher launch with more spin. So, when a player is seeking a trajectory change they need to make sure they choose a product that gives them an optimal combination of ball speed, launch angle, and spin rate. Sacrificing one of these three parameters to change one of the other two can have an adverse effect on performance.
So whats the intelligent way to go about making a change?

A good way for the consumer to choose is to determine the characteristics of their current shafts, most importantly tip stiffness. Oldenburg says. And then, to get accurate information on the shafts they are considering so they can make a valid comparison. If the consumer is looking increase the launch angle, they should shop for a product with a softer tip than they currently use, and vice versa. This information is typically available from professional clubmakers, and from shaft manufacturers websites, or by contacting the customer service department at the shaft manufacturer directly.

The absolute best way to tell how a shaft performs for your particular swing is to demo a product before buying, because no two golf swings are the same, so no one shaft will perform equally for any two players.

Viewed from one angle, trajectory is the result of a three-part machine (the golf club, with its head, shaft and grip) operating on a two-to-four-part machine (depending on the number of layers in the golf ball you choose). So its no surprise that the equation is complex. But as far as your game is concerned, it could be very rewarding to do the math ' especially with some of the equipment innovations coming over the development horizon.

Trajectory management is really finding the combination of clubhead, shaft, and golf ball that optimize the launch conditions for your particular swing, Oldenburg says. All three of those components can have profound effects on performance, and they must be looked at in combination with each other, not as separate entities.

The future of trajectory management might well be found in the new ruling from the USGA on interchangeability of golf clubs. This will enable the player to obtain several heads and shafts that they can combine in a wide array of combinations to fit their swing and performance needs. Players swings and the conditions they play in constantly change, so having the ability to change your shaft/head/ball combination on any given day will really allow a player to manage their trajectory on a day-by-day, round-by-round basis.

And thats the way it is in the modern game.

If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

You don’t believe it, though.

She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

“I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Tour finals.

“He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''