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

 
Andy Bean
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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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.