The Core of Modern Golf Balls

By Adam BarrFebruary 19, 2005, 5:00 pm
When we were kids, before we knew what golf balls were really for, much delight could be gathered with an old Titleist and a hacksaw. (Go ahead; deny it if you can.)
 
Gee, those windings seemed to go on forever, didnt they? And in the middle, there was the core, sometimes liquid-filled. You could see, stretch, and bounce the physical evidence that these things could really zip off a clubface.
 
Fast-forward 35 years to my own garage, where I have put the hacksaw out of reach of anyone under six feet tall. That wont keep my son away from golf ball surgery forever, though, as he insists on getting taller and more resourceful.
 
But what will the second generation of Barr golf-ball cutters find? Not the wound technology of just a decade ago, but a huge, super-ball-like rubber core encased in an impossibly thin, durable cover.
 
Thats the modern golf ball. Even when you get past the dimples and open them to the world, todays balls have no visible technology such as windings and a liquid center. Instead, there is a uniform orb of polybutadiene (mostly) that bounces and flies better than anything the industry has yet devised.
 
Why?
 
Theres been a capability of generating high ball speed for years, but not necessarily at a low compression rate, says Steve Ogg, senior director of product customization for Callaway Golf. The old high-speed balls were hard balls that spun too much off the driver. Now, low core compressions keep the spin rate down off the driver.
 
Rubber cores have been around ever since the Molitor, says Mike Pai, vice president of marketing for Srixon, the golf arm of a huge Japanese rubber company. The elasticity of the material itself, weve been able to improve. The solid rubber core of today compared to one of 15 or 20 years ago is much better. Its being able to work with different chemicals and additives.
 
Ah, now were getting somewhere. Better rubber, better additives, better driver spin. There are indeed various additives that make modern golf ball cores more elastic, and those formulae are the secrets the companies take such pains to protect. But those add-ins are also necessary to make the balls come to the proper weight for their size, which is generally 1.68 inches in diameter. Pure polybutadiene would be too light at that size.
 
So the real competition in cores is in finding ' or developing ' the additives that makes a ball zip for its target swing speed.
 
Our Z-UR model has an additive called PBDS, a proprietary material that essentially enhances the elasticity, Pai says. Thats for pentabromophenyldisulfide.
 
Uh-huh. Thanks.
 
Well, theyre the experts. And thats why Mike moved past my multi-syllabic confusion to change the point of view on the whole modern ball inquiry.
 
The cover of the Z-UR is 19.7 one-thousandths of an inch.and still durable. And that allows a bigger core within the 1.68 inches, Pai says. Rubber is the most resilient material in a golf ball, and it gives the ball speed, plain and simple. The more of it you have, all things being equal, the more speed youre going to get.
 
And thin covers do more than just make room for more core.
 
Its not so much the size of the core, Ogg says. Its the reduction in spin off the driver that you get with a thinner cover. The difference between a 60 thou[sandths of an inch-thick] cover and a 30 thou cover isnt nearly so much a matter of improved resilience as it is a cause of less driver spin.
 
And as everyone from tour players to tyros has discovered, too much driver spin increases drag, which of course fights lift and robs the tee ball of distance. Keeping backspin under control is one of the four tasks of launch-monitor-assisted club and ball fitting. (The other three are maximizing initial ball velocity, optimizing launch angle, and working with a players clubhead speed.)
 
Before thinner covers came along, Ogg says, tour quality balls were so spinny that dimples had to be deep to keep spin under control. Those same deep dimples created an undesirable amount of drag. With modern thinner covers, dimples naturally cant ' and dont have to be ' as deep.
 
Oh, and those covers ' the materials are crucial. Urethane is the material of choice for three-piece balls, which usually include an intermediate boundary layer made of an ionomer. That middle layer does more than just provide a hard surface for the driver to smack against ' it also keeps oxygen away from the rubber core, something urethane cant do. If oxygen reaches the core, the core will oxidize and lose its resilience, like your windshield wipers, Ogg says.
 
Thats why two-piece balls dont use urethane covers. Instead, they use softer ionomers such as DuPonts Surlyn (an 'ionomer-class thermoplastic resin,' as DuPont's Surlyn website calls it), or urethane-elastomer combinations. Either can be made appropriately soft for short-game satisfaction, while still keeping oxygen from the core.
 
Now, we all know that golfers from the ancient Scots to that guy Scott in your Saturday foursome have never given a tinkers dimple for core size, cover thickness, or any of that stuff. They just want performance. But knowledge is power, and all that information on the back of the ball box means something. Shop wisely, or at least narrow your field of trial-and-error options.
 
Not all multi-layer performance balls are going to work for all players, says Pai. The high-compression balls are definitely not going to work for an 85-mph swinger. If you cant deform the ball enough because the balls too firm for your swing speed, youre going to lose distance.
 
And if you know what to buy, youll gain it. Now, put down that hacksaw.
 
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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.