Brandon Sowell is the golf ball marketing manager for Bridgestone Golf. I asked Brandon what makes a golf ball spin?
There are many different variables that come in to play, Brandon told me. For the most part ball spin occurs because of the club head hitting the ball, of course. Brandon continues, How a ball spins has a lot to do with the loft on the club and the swing path the clubs takes to impact the ball. Then there is the material used in the construction of the ball itself. Different covers affect spin and therefore flight.
OK, I get that and Im sure you do as well. Lets continue our conversation with Mike Pai, vice president of sales and marketing for Srixon. I asked Mike about what types of balls from a construction standpoint are out there and how construction affects spin.
There are two main types of golf balls. Multi-layer (3-piece and 4-piece balls) and 2-piece products, Mike says. The multi-layer urethane segment is favored by better players and tour players because it features a soft cover which is the primary driver of spin control with irons and around the green. Most distance only balls are 2-piece construction balls with firmer covers. Typically speaking, continues Mike, more layers offer more degrees of freedom to control performance. In other words, the ideal ball has low spin with the driver but good spin with the irons and around the greens. With more layers you are able to accomplish this by varying things like mantle layer hardness and thickness, core compression, core size, etc.
I asked Brandon about golf ball spin characteristics relative to too much spin or too little spin. We also talked about dimples.
The spin characteristics of a golf ball will greatly affect how that golf ball flies through the air, said Brandon. Too much spin will cause the ball to up-shoot and therefore fall out of the sky faster. Insufficient spin means that the ball wont get up in the air enough and so it wont fly as far either. This all ties in to the aerodynamics of the ball and the dimple design. Brandon continues, There is significant R&D that goes in to dimple design optimizing not only the shape but the depth and number of dimples as well. A lot of people believe, incorrectly, that the number of dimples equals how high or low the ball is going to fly.
But its really all the factors of golf ball design that determine flight. If you change one variable you can completely change the flight and spin characteristics. So you really have to look at a golf ball as a whole rather than its parts and judge performance and spin characteristics taking all the variables in to account.
How about firmer golf balls versus softer golf balls? Mike Pai told me, Harder ionomer covers will provide less spin off of all clubs which is why they are used primarily in distance products. Softer covers like urethane provide more spin particularly with the irons and the wedges. Because you are closer to the green, you do not compress the ball as much and therefore the material is the driving force behind how much spin you get.
Brandon is of the mind that angle-of-attack in to the greens should be considered carefully when choosing a golf ball. A lot of people believe they want the highest spinning ball they can find for shots hit in to the green. This is not necessarily always the case, says Brandon. You have to figure out your desired angle of approach to the green. A golf ball that has high spin characteristics can fly a little lower in to the green but just because another golf ball has a lot less spin doesnt mean it is going to have less stopping power on the greens. The ball could be coming in at a much higher angle so it can stop just as quickly as a higher spinning ball.
With a better understanding of spin, it makes sense that getting fitted for a golf ball is just as important as getting fitted properly for clubs. Getting ball fitted is one of the best things you can do these days to improve your game, says Mike Pai. Decide how much spin you need to play your greenside shots and go from there. If you play soft conditions and dont need a lot of greenside spin, then go for a lower spinning product that you are more apt to hit longer distances. If you play firmer greens or you play for spin in your short game, find a product that works for you around the greens that also gives you the distance you need off the tee.
Its most interesting for me to see, with our TOUR players, how testing goes and what we learn and what the players learn from testing, Brandon told me. Ill give you Charles Howell as an example. We recently signed Charles and we were testing the B330 against the B330S. To see the actual results of the testing ' to see he spun the B330 a good bit more than he spun the B330S off the tee because the B330 is a firmer compression ' to see the consistency of the results with Charles was quite amazing. His launch monitor numbers were almost identical for every swing he made. And he made a lot of swings during testing.
It turned out that Charles was a little surprised by the results. He had been told for some time information not really in line with what these new test results were clearly showing, Brandon said. Namely, a firmer golf ball would spin less than a softer ball. Charles was quite amazed to see the data for himself. That, in fact, a softer golf ball would spin less for him. He ended up choosing the B330S to play with and this optimized his driver performance while still giving him the feel he was looking for. The best of both worlds for a guy with his club head speed.
If Charles Howell III didnt have the information exactly right, what chance do we have? Well, fortunately, we have a great deal of chance. Launch monitors, like the one used to test young Master Howell, have become much more readily available to regular golfers like you and me. Many retail stores and golf courses now have sophisticated launch monitors. With a qualified fitter at the helm you can collect data that can help you choose the right type of ball for your game. By not being properly fitted ' in essence, not understanding how your ball is spinning ' could be robbing you of precious distance as well as control around the greens.
Finally, I asked Brandon to once and for all debunk the softer ball, harder ball spin confusion so even I could understand it. There is a tremendous amount of stress applied to the golf ball when hit by a driver swung at even medium swing speeds, Brandon told me. Most people have seen the super slow motion photography used to capture driver-on-ball impact. You see the golf ball flatten or deform. Heres the deal. The more the ball deforms, the less it is going to spin off the club face. The less it deforms, or the harder the ball is, the more spin it is going to have.
I think my head is spinning a little less now thanks to Brandon Sowell and Mike Pai.
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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.
Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. –
Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.
Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.
''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''
Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.
''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''
Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.
Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.
''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''
Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.
''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''
The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.
''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''
Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.
''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.
The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.
''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.
He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.
Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.
''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''
Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.
''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.
Mickelson 'displeased' with iron play; 10 back
All of Phil Mickelson’s offseason work on his driver has paid off through two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge.
His iron play? Not as sharp, and it’s the reason why he heads into the weekend 10 shots off the lead.
“I’ve been pretty pleased, overall, with the way I’ve been driving the ball, and very displeased with the way my iron game has been,” said Mickelson, who shot 68 Friday on PGA West’s Nicklaus course. He has hit only 21 of 36 greens so far this week. “Usually my iron play is a lot better than what it’s been. So I’ll go work on it and hopefully improve each round in this tournament and build a solid foundation for the upcoming West Coast events.
“I feel like if I continue to drive the ball the way I am, and if I got my iron play back to my normal standard, I should have the results that I’ve been expecting.”
Mickelson, of course, is always bullish this time of year, but he has been able to find 10 of 14 fairways each of the past two rounds, including at narrower La Quinta Country Club, which doesn’t always fit his eye.
“This is actually the best I’ve driven it in a lot of years,” he said.
Currently in a tie for 67th, Mickelson will need a solid round on the more difficult Stadium course Saturday to ensure that he makes the 54-hole cut. He hasn’t missed a cut in his first West Coast event of the new year since 2009.