The Tee Ball

By Adam BarrFebruary 13, 2008, 5:00 pm
The tee ball: we crush it, or it crushes us. No full-swing shot causes more joy or more angst, sometimes within the same four-second period.
 
The good news is that modern equipment offers more options than ever for getting the ball into play off the tee. Between drivers (traditional and new geometries), fairway woods and hybrids, the tee toolbox is wonderfully full. Herewith, some thoughts on using the latest technology to accomplish one of golfs most hallowed ' and harrowing ' tasks.
 
Whats the Goal? It pays to step back for a moment and think about what were trying to do with a tee shot. Anyone who has been around this highly strategic sport for awhile knows that no shot exists in a vacuum ' each one is either a preparation for the next or a reaction to the last, or both. Although the most public aspect of the tee shot is the distance it will fly, good players know that where the ball comes to rest is at least as important as how far it went to get there. Especially on good golf courses designed to challenge your second shot, placing the tee shot is paramount. It may require raw force or restraint. Thats one of the key attractions of the game.
 
Thats Great, Perfesser. Now Shut Yer Pie Hole and Tell Me How to Bust It. Fair enough. The best players are usually also quite long. This is where modern drivers come in. Over the last five years, a sea change ' no, an air change ' has occurred in the way we think about what a driver should do. Instead of a low, penetrating flight that bores through like a cruise missile, even the best players have come to want more air under the ball. Parabolic trajectories, once thought to invite ballooning and loss of distance, are now the rage. We have modern golf balls to thank for that. They spin less off drivers, and therefore are less subject to that annoying ballooning in the second half of flight.
 
So the important thing in choosing a driver head to go with modern balls is to get enough loft. Get the ball up. The longer its in the air, the farther its going to go. There is a limit to this, of course; youre not an NFL punter who needs to hang it up while the other ten guys get downfield. But in general, recreational players need to hit their drives higher. Stick with lofts above 10 degrees, and consider as much as 13 degrees. Get your local PGA pro or clubfitter to put you on a launch monitor to make sure youre getting at least 14 degrees of launch angle. (Some folks can go as low as 11, but err on the high side.) Youll find yourself getting more distance.
 
And yes, the shaft plays a big role in this. Most of us can benefit from a softer shaft that flexes lower (that is, more toward the clubhead), encouraging the ball to get up quicker. If you find yourself hitting it left with a good swing, consider a lower torque model, or take a step up in flex, perhaps to stiff. New interchangeable shaft systems can help with the trial process, so it will be easier to go stiffer or lower torque while avoiding a clangy or boardy feel.
 
But avoid copying pro specs. Most touring pros swing extra stiff (X) flex shafts, and most of us cannot make that work any more than we can pure short little forged muscleback blade irons more than once a round.
 
Having directional problems? This is where high moment-of-inertia (MOI) models, including the squares, could help. High MOI drivers resist twisting at impact, which could help keep it on the world. Also, dont be afraid to look into models with a face bias engineered to create a draw. It may not look very closed at address, but a degree or two can make all the difference.
 
Finesse at Its Best. When less than a driver is called for ' you dont want to hit through a fairway, or the shot is narrow all the way down ' fairway woods and hybrids offer some comfort. Theyre shorter, and therefore easier to control. And in the case of hybrids especially, there may be enough offset to help straighten out whatever directional risk a driver may have.
 
More and more recreational players are relying on their hybrids to reach long par 3s. Putting a plain ol iron swing on them ' that is, hitting down instead of trying to sweep it ' can lead to a long, high flight that holds the green more easily than, say, a fairway or 3-iron. And since hybrids are so much easier to hit than long irons, the issue should be settled.
 
Also, with a little practice, you can choke down on a hybrid and flatten the flight. Thats extremely useful on windy days. There will still be a bit of a humpback quality to the trajectory, but the ball will get under more of the wind.
 
With fairways and hybrids, watch your tee height. We have been told ' and its good advice ' that the equator of the ball should be even with the top of the driver. Get it lower for the fairway and hybrid ' fairways especially have lower profiles these days ' so that the equator of the ball cuts across the top line of those clubs ' go no higher. I stop the tee with the thickness of a finger between the ball and the ground, and that usually works well. However, this is merely a guideline. If you like, go a bit lower, especially if you do indeed hit down on your hybrids like irons. You can get the ball almost on the ground in this case. As usual, there are no hard-and-fast rules, and plenty of room for experimentation.
 
Now, get out there and crush it.

Open Qualifying Series kicks off with Aussie Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 4:24 pm

The 147th Open is nearly eight months away, but there are still major championship berths on the line this week in Australia.

The Open Qualifying Series kicks off this week, a global stretch of 15 event across 10 different countries that will be responsible for filling 46 spots in next year's field at Carnoustie. The Emirates Australian Open is the first event in the series, and the top three players among the top 10 who are not otherwise exempt will punch their tickets to Scotland.

In addition to tournament qualifying opportunities, the R&A will also conduct four final qualifying events across Great Britain and Ireland on July 3, where three spots will be available at each site.

Here's a look at the full roster of tournaments where Open berths will be awarded:

Emirates Australian Open (Nov. 23-26): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Joburg Open (Dec. 7-10): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

SMBC Singapore Open (Jan. 18-21): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Mizuno Open (May 24-27): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

HNA Open de France (June 28-July 1): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The National (June 28-July 1): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 12 and ties

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (July 5-8): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

The Greenbrier Classic (July 5-8): Top four players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (July 12-15): Top three players (not otherwise exempt) among top 10 and ties

John Deere Classic (July 12-15): Top player (not otherwise exempt) among top five and ties

Stock Watch: Lexi, Justin rose or fall this week?

By Ryan LavnerNovember 21, 2017, 2:36 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Jon Rahm (+9%): Just imagine how good he’ll be in the next few years, when he isn’t playing all of these courses for the first time. With no weaknesses in his game, he’s poised for an even bigger 2018.

Austin Cook (+7%): From Monday qualifiers to Q-School to close calls on the Web.com, it hasn’t been an easy road to the big leagues. Well, he would have fooled us, because it looked awfully easy as the rookie cruised to a win in just his 14th Tour start.

Ariya (+6%): Her physical tools are as impressive as any on the LPGA, and if she can shore up her mental game – she crumbled upon reaching world No. 1 – then she’ll become the world-beater we always believed she could be.  

Tommy Fleetwood (+4%): He ran out of gas in Dubai, but no one played better on the European Tour this year than Fleetwood, Europe’s new No. 1, who has risen from 99th to 18th in the world.   

Lexi (+1%): She has one million reasons to be pleased with her performance this year … but golf fans are more likely to remember the six runners-up and two careless mistakes (sloppy marking at the ANA and then a yippy 2-footer in the season finale) that cost her a truly spectacular season.


FALLING

J-Rose (-1%): Another high finish in Dubai, but his back-nine 38, after surging into the lead, was shocking. It cost him not just the tournament title, but also the season-long race.  

Hideki (-2%): After getting blown out at the Dunlop Phoenix, he made headlines by saying there’s a “huge gap” between he and winner Brooks Koepka. Maybe something was lost in translation, but Matsuyama being too hard on himself has been a familiar storyline the second half of the year. For his sake, here’s hoping he loosens up.

Golf-ball showdown (-3%): Recent comments by big-name stars and Mike Davis’ latest salvo about the need for a reduced-flight ball could set up a nasty battle between golf’s governing bodies and manufacturers.

DL3 (-4%): Boy, the 53-year-old is getting a little too good at rehab – in recent years, he has overcome a neck fusion, foot injury, broken collarbone and displaced thumb. Up next is hip-replacement surgery.

LPGA Player of the Year (-5%): Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu tied for the LPGA’s biggest prize, with 162 points. How is there not a tiebreaker in place, whether it’s scoring average or best major performance? Talk about a buzzkill.

Titleist's Uihlein fires back at Davis over distance

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 21, 2017, 12:59 am

Consider Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein unmoved by Mike Davis' comments about the evolution of the golf ball – and unhappy.

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, the outlet which first published Davis' comments on Sunday, Uihlein took aim at the idea that golf ball distance gains are hurting the sport by providing an additional financial burden to courses.

"Is there any evidence to support this canard … the trickle-down cost argument?” he wrote (via Golf.com). “Where is the evidence to support the argument that golf course operating costs nationwide are being escalated due to advances in equipment technology?"

Pointing the blame elsewhere, Uihlein criticized the choices and motivations of modern architects.

"The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate," he wrote.

The Titleist CEO even went as far as to suggest that Tiger Woods' recent comments that "we need to do something about the golf ball" were motivated by the business interersts of Woods' ball sponsor, Bridgestone.

"Given Bridgestone’s very small worldwide market share and paltry presence in professional golf, it would seem logical they would have a commercial motive making the case for a reduced distance golf ball," he added.

Acushnet Holdings, Titleist's parent company, announced in September that Uihlein would be stepping down as the company's CEO at the end of this year but that he will remain on the company's board of directors.

Class of 2011: The groups before The Group

By Mercer BaggsNovember 20, 2017, 9:00 pm

We’ve been grouping things since the beginning, as in The Beginning, when God said this is heaven and this is earth, and you’re fish and you’re fowl.

God probably wasn’t concerned with marketing strategies at the time and how #beastsoftheearth would look with a hashtag, but humans have evolved into such thinking (or not evolved, depending on your thinking).

We now have all manner of items lumped into the cute, the catchy and the kitschy. Anything that will capture our attention before the next thing quickly wrests said attention away.

Modern focus, in a group sense in the golf world, is on the Class of 2011. This isn’t an arbitrary assembly of players based on world ranking or current form. It’s not a Big Pick A Number.

There’s an actual tie that binds as it takes a specific distinction to be part of the club. It’s a group of 20-somethings who graduated from high school in the aforementioned year, many who have a PGA Tour card, a handful of who have PGA Tour wins, and a couple of who have major titles.

It’s a deep and talented collective, one for which our knowledge should continue to expand as resumes grow.

Do any “classes” in golf history compare? Well, it’s not like we’ve long been lumping successful players together based on when they completed their primary education. But there are other notable groups of players, based primarily on birthdate, relative competition and accomplishment.

Here’s a few on both the men’s and women’s side:

BORN IN 1912

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Feb. 4, 1912 Byron Nelson 52 5
May 27, 1912 Sam Snead 82 7
Aug. 13, 1912 Ben Hogan 64 9

Born six months within one another. Only a threesome, but a Hall of Fame trio that combined for 198 PGA Tour wins and 21 majors.


BORN IN 1949

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 4, 1949 Tom Watson 39 8
Dec. 5, 1949 Lanny Wadkins 21 1
Dec. 9, 1949 Tom Kite 19 1

Only 96 days separate these three Hall of Fame players. Extend the reach into March of 1950 and you'll get two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North.


BORN IN 1955

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 30, 1955 Curtis Strange 17 2
Jan. 30, 1955 Payne Stewart 11 3
Feb. 10, 1955 Greg Norman 20 2

Another trio of Hall of Fame players. Strange and Stewart were born on the same day with Norman 11 days later. Fellow PGA Tour winners born in 1955: Scott Simpson, Scott Hoch and Loren Roberts.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1956-57

Birthdate Player LPGA wins Major wins
Feb. 22, 1956 Amy Alcott 29 5
Oct. 14, 1956 Beth Daniel 33 1
Oct. 27, 1956 Patty Sheehan 35 6
Jan. 6, 1957 Nancy Lopez 48 3

A little arbitrary here, but go with it. Four Hall of Famers on the women's side, all born within one year of each other. That's an average (!) career of 36 tour wins and nearly four majors.


EUROPE'S BIG 5

Birthdate Player Euro (PGA Tour) wins Major wins
April 9, 1957 Seve Ballesteros 50 (9) 5
July 18, 1957 Nick Faldo 30 (9) 6
Aug. 27, 1957 Bernhard Langer 42 (3) 2
Feb. 9, 1958 Sandy Lyle 18 (6) 2
March 2, 1958 Ian Woosnam 29 (2) 1

The best 'class' of players Europe has to offer. Five born within a year of one another. Five Hall of Fame members. Five who transformed and globalized European golf.


WITHIN A CALENDAR YEAR, 1969-70

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Sept. 12, 1969 Angel Cabrera 3 2
Oct. 17, 1969 Ernie Els 19 4
May 12, 1970 Jim Furyk 17 1
May 12, 1970 Mike Weir 8 1
June 16, 1970 Phil Mickelson 42 5

Not a tight-knit group, but a little more global bonding in accordance to the PGA Tour's increased international reach. Add in worldwide wins – in excess of 200 combined – and this group is even more impressive.


BORN IN 1980

Birthdate Player PGA Tour wins Major wins
Jan. 9, 1980 Sergio Garcia 10 1
July 16, 1980 Adam Scott 13 1
July 30, 1980 Justin Rose 8 1

Could be three future Hall of Fame members here.

Editor's note: Golf Channel's editorial research unit contributed.