QA Choosing the Right Ball

By Frank ThomasJuly 11, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
What are the key ingredients to ball selection? I would like to play the right ball consistently. Do I need to know my swing speed, etc.? I am 57 and a 14 handicap, but agree with you on lessons as opposed to buying new equipment, even though I do have a club fetish.
 
Thank you.
--Mike

 
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Andy Bean asks about square grooves on 'Ask Frank,' Monday at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (Wire Image)
Frank,
I have always enjoyed your comments and I have been an email subscriber to your newsletter for many months. Thank you.
 
When I was younger and played to a single digit handicap, I purchased the most expensive, top-of-the-line branded golf balls. Now that I am older (and perhaps wiser) I resist buying balls that cost $4 or $5 each. I find that by shopping carefully, I can buy name brand golf balls for $1 to $1.50 each. Admittedly, these are never the absolute top-of-the-line balls, but they are often manufactured and marketed by the same companies. Also, as an 18 handicapper, I don't notice the difference and I have yet to retire a ball because I have hit it out of round or worn it out.
 
I know Titleist, Nike and the rest want me to play the same ball as Phil, Tiger and the other touring pros, but it just doesn't seem worth it. What do you think?
--Ted

 
Dear Mike and Ted,
Mike, I know that using the correct ball is a major concern to many golfers, and Im going to try to give you a thorough answer here. Ive also included Teds letter here, because hes noticed something important, i.e., that most of the name brand balls in the marketplace today are all very good balls, which is different from how it was 30 years ago, when there was much more variation between balls ' even between balls made by the same manufacturer. I am certain that if Jack Nicklaus had played with a better ball in the mid to late 1970s, he would have won several more majors.
 
In the mid-'70s, to verify that all balls being used on tour were the same as those submitted to me at the USGA, I collected balls from tour sites. I got some MacGregor balls directly from Jack's bag and found some of them veered off line by as much as 15 to 20 yards when tested using the mechanical golfer. Re-tests proved that the first unbelievable test results were correct. I couldnt tell Jack about those results at the time, but he figured out there was a problem and soon changed to a Titleist ball and went on to win four more majors.
 
Today, we wouldnt get such erratic results; balls have improved significantly. There are basically two different grades of balls: Premium balls, designed primarily for the elite golfer, and those balls designed for average golfers, who have handicaps greater than about 5 or slower swing speeds than the elite golfers.
 
The premium balls generally have three or four layers in their construction and are designed to spin and give great control to those of us who can -- or think we can -- apply high spin to the ball around the greens. These balls also perform well at driver impact speeds above 90 mph. The downside to these balls is that they are very expensive, ranging from $35 to $55 a dozen.
 
Balls designed for lower swing speeds may not have the same spin properties around the green, but most of us need to get close to the green first. Theyre a better choice for those of us who arent as worried about stopping the ball short of the hole as we are about getting it down the fairway. These balls are more efficient for lower swing speeds, have sufficient spin around the greens for most of our needs, and cost about half the price of the premium version from the same company.
 
Below are a few examples of the higher priced Premium balls for generally faster swing speeds and good playing skills, and the lower priced balls for the rest of us. This is only a partial listing, but its good for starters. As far as quality is concerned, both categories provide excellent results in all the brands.
 
Premium Balls:
Callaway: HX Tour; HX 56
Maxfli: Black Max
Nike: ONE Platinum; ONE Black
Precept: Tour Premium LS; U-Tri
Srixon: Z-URC
Titleist: Pro V1; ProV1x
TaylorMade: TP Red; TP Black
 
Good Quality Balls For the Rest of Us
Callaway: HX HOT; HX Pearl; Big Bertha
Maxfli: Noodle; Red Max
Nike: Juice 312; Power Lady
Pinnacle: Power Core; Gold
Titleist: DT Solo; NXT Tour; NXT
 
Mike and Ted, go ahead and use the bottom list to make your selection and thereafter don't give it another thought. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to tell any differences in performance between the balls on this list, they are all about as good as they can get.
 
Because we think we are better than we really are, we are always tempted to go for the premium balls. The problem in doing this is that generally only your wallet will show any effects. However, the confidence factor you gain from spending more money just might make up for the yards you lose on your drives as the balls back up on the greens. The other secret Ive learned is that the more expensive balls are better they listen, particularly once theyre in flight, so dont forget to talk to them.
 
Hope this helps, and that my little story about Jack gives an insight as to how good he really was.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
Thank you for your time in producing your column; I enjoy receiving it and always learn something valuable.I seem to be much more accurate and consistent using a persimmon wood with a steel shaft rather than a metal / graphite combination. Is there any advantage for some golfers to stick with the older style woods?
 
Thank you,
--Dale

 
Dale,
Thanks for your comments. With regard to your wooden driver and steel shaft, I hate to say this, but even though you have made a good friend in your persimmon driver, it is time to consider a change.
 
You really are putting yourself at a disadvantage as far as distance and accuracy is concerned. On the other hand, if you are happy with the distance and accuracy you are now getting and dont wish to improve either of these, then dont change anything. There is nothing better than having confidence in your equipment.
 
If you want to get more distance, then the best thing to do is try out a new (2005 to 2007 model) titanium driver. They all have about the same technology, so a new one is not essential in your case.
 
Because you are now using, and happy with, your wooden driver, you must be hitting it somewhere close to the sweet spot. If you do the same using a 400 cc to 460 cc titanium driver with a high COR (Click here) and you launch the ball at an angle of 12 degrees or higher, then you will gain from 10 to 15 yards immediately.
 
As far as accuracy is concerned, be sure not to install a shaft that is too long. A driver more than 44 inches in length will only add to stray shots. Your persimmon driver with the steel shaft is probably 43 to 43 inches long. If you would like to swing faster with less effort, then try a graphite shaft. There are a number of good shafts that dont cost too much.
 
Your accuracy will also improve with a bigger driver head than the 200 cc persimmon driver you now have because it has a higher MOI (Click here).
 
Dale, the time has come to upgrade, as there are no advantages in continuing to use your persimmon driver. Sorry to have to tell you this especially if it means getting rid of an old friend, but it really is in your best interest.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
As I understand Coriolis force, it acts on objects flying over the earth's surface, deflecting them perpendicular to their path and dependent on latitude and groundspeed, and that it is opposite in the northern hemisphere than in the southern latitudes. Since golf balls travel over the earth's surface, even for a short duration, wouldn't Coriolis force act on the ball as well? Is the effect so minute that it isn't worth considering? Or would slicers be better off playing in one hemisphere than another? ;-)
--Tom

 
Tom,
Thank you for this question, the answer to which I am sure will be of great interest to many golfers. Many people believe that the Coriolis Effect is what makes the toilet flush in a circular motion that runs counter-clockwise in the States, but clockwise in South Africa.
 
The flush swirl direction is actually more a function of the toilet design than the Coriolis Effect. The Effect does, however, affect wind direction somewhat. It deflects winds to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and left in the Southern Hemisphere. This is what dictates the rotational direction of hurricanes in the north and cyclones down under.
 
Yes, it is true that all else being equal, the ball will fade in the Northern Hemisphere and draw in the Southern Hemisphere because of the Coriolis Effect. Your putts may also be affected. So at last we know the reason that the ball does what it does when we wanted it to do something else.
 
If you slice, the answer to your swing problem is not to visit your swing doctor, but rather to play all your golf south of the equator. And if youre determined to hit a straight ball without this outside influence, the equator is the place to play.
 
As much as we would like to blame the effect named after the French scientist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis, unfortunately at its worst it may account for only fractions of an inch in the longest drives -- but don't let this stop you from blaming 'Cori' for the unintended result in the flight of the ball.
 
So go ahead and hit it flush, and dont worry too much about Coriolis, the phases of the moon, or solar winds. But we golfers are all grateful to you, Tom, for a novel way to let ourselves off the hook for our imperfections.
 
Frank
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
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J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

He is just four shots off the lead.

“I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

“He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

“It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

“I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

“It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

“I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

“It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

“He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

“I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

“I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

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List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

And he has plenty of company.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

And there was another guy four shots behind.

Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

He went with the 5-iron.

''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.