The Core of Modern Golf Balls
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.
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.
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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Tiger Tracker: Arnold Palmer Invitational
Tiger Woods will start Sunday five off the lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. How will he follow up last week's runner-up? We're tracking him at Bay Hill.
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McIlroy: Time for Tour to limit alcohol sales on course
ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy suggested Saturday that the PGA Tour might need to consider curbing alcohol sales to stop some of the abusive fan behavior that has become more prevalent at events.
McIlroy said that a fan repeatedly yelled his wife’s name (Erica) during the third round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I was going to go over and have a chat with him,” McIlroy said. “I think it’s gotten a little much, to be honest. I think they need to limit the alcohol sales on the course, or they need to do something, because every week it seems like guys are complaining about it more and more.
“I know that people want to come and enjoy themselves, and I’m all for that, but sometimes when the comments get personal and people get a little bit rowdy, it can get a little much.”
This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has voiced concerns about fan behavior on Tour. Last month at Riviera, he said the rowdy spectators probably cost Tiger Woods a half-shot a round, and after two days in his featured group he had a splitting headache.
A week later, at the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas had a fan removed late in the final round.
McIlroy believes the issue is part of a larger problem, as more events try to replicate the success of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which has one of the liveliest atmospheres on Tour.
“It’s great for that tournament, it’s great for us, but golf is different than a football game, and there’s etiquette involved and you don’t want people to be put off from bringing their kids when people are shouting stuff out,” he said. “You want people to enjoy themselves, have a good day.”
As for a solution, well, McIlroy isn’t quite sure.
“It used to be you bring beers onto the course or buy beers, but not liquor,” he said. “And now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail. I don’t know whether (the solution) is to go back to letting people walking around with beers in their hands. That’s fine, but I don’t know.”
Confident Lincicome lurking after 54 holes at Founders
PHOENIX – Brittany Lincicome is farther back than she wanted to be going into Sunday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, but she’s in a good place.
She’s keeping the momentum of her season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic victory going this year.
Her confidence is high.
“Last year, I won in the Bahamas, but then I didn't do anything after that,” Lincicome said. “I don't even know if I had a top 10 after my win in the Bahamas. Obviously, this year, I want to be more consistent.”
Lincicome followed up her victory in the Bahamas this year with a tie for seventh in her next start at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And now she’s right back on another leaderboard with the year’s first major championship just two weeks away. She is, by the way, a two-time winner at the ANA Inspiration.
Missy Pederson, Lincicome’s caddie, is helping her player keep that momentum going with more focus on honing in the scoring clubs.
“One of our major goals is being more consistent,” Pederson said. “She’s so talented, a once in a generation talent. I’m just trying to help out in how to best approach every golf course.”
Pederson has helped Lincicome identify the clubs they’re likely to attack most with on the particular course they are playing that week, to spend more time working with those clubs in practice. It’s building confidence.
“I know the more greens we hit, and the more chances we give ourselves, the more our chances are to be in contention,” Pederson said. “Britt is not big into stats or details, so I have to figure out how to best consolidate that information, to get us exactly where we need to be.”
Lincicome’s growing comfort with clubs she can attack with is helping her confidence through a round.
“I’ve most noticed consistency in her mental game, being able to handle some of the hiccups that happen over the course of a round,” Pederson said. “Whereas before, something might get under her skin, where she might say, `That’s what always happens,’ now, it’s, `All right, I know I’m good enough to get this back.’ I try to get her in positions to hit the clubs we are really hitting well right now.”
That’s leading to a lot more birdies, fewer bogeys and more appearances on leaderboards in the start to this year.
Returning Park grabs 54-hole Founders lead
PHOENIX – In the long shadows falling across Wildfire Golf Club late Saturday afternoon, Inbee Park conceded she was tempted to walk away from the game last year.
While healing a bad back, she was tempted to put her clubs away for good and look for a second chapter for her life.
But then . . .
“Looking at the girls playing on TV, you think you want to be out there” Park said. “Really, I couldn't make my mind up when I was taking that break, but as soon as I'm back here, I just feel like this is where I belong.”
In just her second start after seven months away from the LPGA, Park is playing like she never left.
She’s atop a leaderboard at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup, looking like that’s exactly where she belongs.
With a 9-under-par 63 Saturday, Park seized the lead going into the final round.
At 14 under overall, she’s one shot ahead of Mariajo Uribe (67), two ahead of Ariya Jutanugarn (68) and three ahead of 54-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies (63) and Chella Choi (66).
Park’s back with a hot putter.
That’s not good news for the rest of the tour. Nobody can demoralize a field with a flat stick like Park. She’s one of the best putters the women’s game has ever seen, and on the front nine Saturday she looked as good as she ever has.
“The front nine was scary,” said her caddie, Brad Beecher, who was on Park’s bag for her long run at world No. 1, her run of three consecutive major championship victories in 2013 and her gold medal victory at the Olympics two years ago.
“The front nine was great . . . like 2013,” Park said.
Park started her round on fire, going birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. She was 6 under through five holes. She holed a wedge from 98 yards at the third hole, making the turn having taken just 10 putts. Yeah, she said, she was thinking about shooting 59.
“But I'm still really happy with my round today,” she said.
Park isn’t getting ahead of herself, even with this lead. She said her game isn’t quite where she wants it with the ANA Inspiration, the year’s first major championship, just two weeks away, but a victory Sunday should go a long way toward getting her there.
Park is only 29. LPGA pros haven’t forgotten what it was like when she was dominating, when she won 14 times between 2013 and ’15.
They haven’t forgotten how she can come back from long layoffs with an uncanny ability to pick up right where she left off.
Park won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year in just her second start. She left the tour again in the summer with an aching back.
“I feel like Inbee could take off a whole year or two years and come back and win every week,” said Brittany Lincicome, who is four shots behind Park. “Her game is just so consistent. She doesn't do anything flashy, but her putting is flashy.
“She literally walks them in. It's incredible, like you know it's going in when she hits it. It's not the most orthodox looking stroke, but she can repeat it.”
Park may not play as full a schedule as she has in the past, Beecher said, but he believes she can thrive with limited starts.
“I think it helps her get that fight back, to get that hunger back,” Beecher said. “She knows she can play 15 events a year and still compete. There aren’t a lot of players who can do that.”
Park enjoyed her time away last year, and how it re-energized her.
“When I was taking the long break, I was just thinking, `I can do this life as well,’” Park said. “But I'm glad I came back out here. Obviously, days like today, that's the reason I'm playing golf.”