QA Golf Ball Overload

By Frank ThomasJune 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
Hey Frank,
There are several golf balls out in the market that promise to be longer, straighter, and softer. As a new student of the game, how should I know which ball suites me? Do softer balls translate to more feel but less distance? Or do balls with more dimples and more material produce more distance and spin? Please help me with this dilemma so I know which ball to choose. Thank you so much for your knowledge and very generous time. -- Mark Bravante, Woodbridge, Va.

As a new student of the game I can only presume that you do not have a handicap in the single digits. For this reason and the fact that most courses are very intimidating you are probably going to lose quite a few balls during the process of becoming reasonably proficient. While at the same time you don't want to use a ball that will not perform well when you do.
There is nothing worse than hitting your Sunday best and not being fully rewarded for this because you compromised with your ball selection. The premium balls are very expensive, with built in performance properties which are slightly different from those designed for slower swing speeds.
In most cases only the very elite players are able to take advantages of these differences. This is not to say that you should not use a premium ball but rather that you, like the vast majority of us may not be able to take full advantage of what they have to offer.
If you link to you will find the results of a survey we conducted recently to find out what are Frankly The Best' balls. More than 3,600 of our friends told us, based on their usage, how they rated the balls.
The choice of our Frankly Friends with a 20+ handicap would suggest that you look at using a Titleist NXT Tour, a Maxfli Noodle, or a Titleist DT Solo, all of which are very good balls. Other manufacturers also have balls designed for slower swing speeds, with a soft and very resilient core which also perform very well.
In fact you can, without concern use these balls until you get into the single digit handicap range. They are designed for average swing speeds and will perform better than the premium balls for most of us.
Having said this I can tell you that most balls today perform better than most of us are capable of trying to make them perform, and they are certainly not going to detrimentally affect our game.
I cannot reconcile the advice I hear about obtaining maximum distance by high trajectory and low spin. If I use a high lofted driver to get a high trajectory that would put more spin on the ball, wouldn't it? Whereas a low lofted driver puts less spin on the ball but is difficult to get a high trajectory with.
I read that one must put spin on the ball to keep it airborne, and I can see that, but I have a 14* driver that gets the ball up high, but it gets little or no roll to it. It seems to me I can't get both, high trajectory and low spin. What do you suggest? A launch monitor? It seems to me a low lofted driver, with ball teed high and hit on the upswing would accomplish both factors. I see from what pros use that a recent LPGA winner, a rather small woman, uses a 7 1/2* driver while Bjorn, a big man, used a 10 1/2* driver to win the Irish Open. It is all very confusing. -- Neal

I agree it is confusing and you are right, in that more loft increases the launch angle but also increases the spin rate.
Let's assume that you have a swing speed of 85 mph you will need to launch the ball at about 14 degrees and have a spin rate of about 3,000 rpm to get maximum distance on an average fairway. This means that the ball should roll about 16 to 20 yards. If you are getting less roll than this on an average hardness and flat fairway then either the launch angle is too high and/or the spin rate is too high.
The roll is dependent on the angle and speed at which the ball lands on the fairway. To get the launch higher and spin rate down you can use an eleven degree lofted driver with a low spin ball and hit it on the up stroke (which most of us do with a driver) and on the upper half of the face. This will allow you to take advantage of the vertical gear effect which decreases the spin from the top side of the face and increases it from impact on the lower portion of the face. Hitting it a little above center will also launch the ball higher. I do believe that in your case the 14 degree driver is too much loft. These are things to try when finding the best compromise between launch angle and spin rate.
I read every article and have gone on your website which I find very informative. My question is what is the best way to back weight the grip on a driver? I can't get any answers on this and I have done it and it seems to make my drives longer. What are the benefits? -- PB

Thanks for you kind comments. Our mission is to 'Help Golfers' whenever possible.
I must first tell you that I am not an advocate of back weighting clubs as this doesn't effectively change the dynamics of the club. It is as effective as wearing a wrist watch when you normally don't. This weight, even though it is on your wrist is equivalent to being part of the club. If a glove is attached to the grip (which is practically the same as wearing it) it will reduce the swing weight by 5 to 6 points. Based on our experience we know that this has little effect on the clubs performance. If however you insist on back weighting then there are grips with built in weights under the butt-cap. You can also remove the grip, insert a weighted plug into the butt end of the shaft and re-grip it.
PB after 400 years of trying to adjust clubs to perform as well as they can for us we have not found that back weighting is an improvement. This is something golfers try every now and again and the change seems to coincide with a performance improvement from which they gain some comfort. While with the USGA as technical director I had someone come in with an innovative idea (he thought) of removing weight from under the grip by drilling holes in the shaft and swore that this had improved the distance of some lady pros by 20 yards. It was not two days later that another visitor submitting a product for approval told me his invention was to put weight under the grip and this had a significant effect on distance improvements. Whatever works for you.
I WAS a 12 handicap and the fitness craze hit the golf scene. While my numbers on the scale decreased my numbers on the golf course have sky rocketed. At the same time that I was loosing weight I made an equipment change, this did not help either. I am totally lost to what to do. Is it the equipment change or the weight loss that has affected my game, please help? -- Aaron from St. Louis, Mo.

I am very much in favor of becoming stronger and more flexible. Studies have shown that an increase of 5 mph in swing speed can be the results of only three months of strength and stretching exercises. Most of us don't have the range of motion we need and require this form of exercise. I do not believe that this is the problem. Many pros are involved in fitness programs which have improved their stamina and performance. There are a few exercises specifically designed for golfers but as long as you are not involved in a major body building program, an all round exercise and stretching program should only enhance your golfing performance.
I don't know what you changed from or what you changed to with regard to your equipment so cannot be sure that this is the problem. I suggest that you visit a good teaching pro to see what he/she can see you are doing. This may be a very good investment rather that trying to fix what your problem seems to be by changing your equipment - 95% of the time it is you and not the equipment.
Frank 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
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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days engaging pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGCC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.