QA Must You Mark Your Ball

By Frank ThomasSeptember 18, 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
USGA Rule 12-2 below states that 'Each player SHOULD put an identification mark on his ball.' I have interpreted this to mean 'Each player is REQUIRED to put an identification on his ball and I would like to know if my interpretation is correct.
I play in a group where two players use Top-Flight golf balls almost exclusively. I mentioned this rule to them as a way to avoid the frequent confusion that arises about whose Top-Flight ball is whose. Both stated that they 'MAY' personally identify their ball, but that the rules do not REQUIRE them to put a personal identification mark on their balls.
Would you please discuss USGA Rule 12-2 in terms of what it really means? If this rule makes it mandatory for players to put a personal identifying mark on the ball they are playing, then the word SHOULD in the rule really ought to be MUST.

Rule 12-2 Identifying Ball:
The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.

(This goes on to discuss various detailed situations in which one may find themselves. The point, however, is to explain some of the consequences of not being ale to identify your ball.)
I know that this isn't strictly an equipment question, but its close enough for me to help you out and I hope help others, as I have had a problem with this situation myself.
I have discussed this with my friends at the USGA many times, and the short answer is that you DO NOT have to put an identification mark on your ball -- but it is highly recommended.
Manufacturers have for a long time placed identification numbers or symbols on balls. For convenience of the players, in a dozen balls four different numbers are generally used, one number per sleeve. There is no limit as to what number or symbol can be used as long as it fits on the ball and is not part of the official markings that identify the ball for the conforming list. It is common to see the numbers go up to four, and sometimes to eight or more. Some balls have been identified with the symbols of playing cards (hearts, spades, etc.).
The color of the identification numbers used to signify the compression of the ball (i.e., black for 100 compression and red for 90 compression etc.). Because compression is no longer related to performance, the color of the number doesn't mean a thing.
It is highly recommended that you put an identification mark on your ball because, if you and I are playing the same type and model ball with the same number and we land next to each other in the middle of the fairway, we have a problem. If we are unable to say for sure which ball belongs to whom, then we must treat BOTH as lost balls, go back to where we played the previous stroke and play from there with the appropriate one-stroke penalty.
Also, if your ball goes into the woods and you find one close to where yours entered the woods, with the same number as yours, good for you -- unless those helping you look for it on their way out find another identical ball type with the same number. This creates the same problem as to which is your ball. If you cannot demonstrate which ball is yours, your ball is again assumed to be lost; scrape marks or the condition of the ball may help you out, but you don't have to worry about this if you have marked your ball.
Oliver, for your sake and his, your fellow competitor should put an identification mark on his/her ball and stay out of the woods. It a nice thing to do and thats what golf is about.
Do you mark your ball with your own identifying mark? Click here to have your say on this issue.
-- Frank
Dear Frank,
Is there a conspiracy against left-shoulder golfers among golf bag manufacturers? I was looking for a new stand/carry bag recently and noticed that most bags were designed for people who carry the bag on the right shoulder. Two design characteristics favor right-shouldered golfers: 1) the harness/strap attachments and the 2) 'hip rest pad' (or whatever it is called). Is this discrimination?

If you are left handed (10% to 13% of the population and growing), there is good reason to have a persecution complex because there are so many things that have been designed with only the right-handed person in mind. It must feel like a vast conspiracy against lefties, maybe even a case of discrimination.
If, on the other hand, you are right handed and just carry your bag on the left shoulder, then you may be bordering on paranoia in seeing a conspiracy against your style of toting a bag. It is like claiming that the brake and accelerator pedal locations are not suited to your style of driving.
You are right that almost all bags have been designed first to be lifted onto the right shoulder and then, with the second supporting strap, to even the load by balancing it over the left shoulder. Before the introduction of the very popular double strap concept by IZZO, few if any carry bag straps were shoulder specific, equally and effectively carried on either shoulder.
Fred, I want to congratulate you for carrying your own bag, which is becoming an extinct art form. Youre not only keeping this practice alive, but youre reaping the health benefits associated with walking and adding to them by hauling your own clubs. Walking is my preference, but carts have taken the game by storm and have even had an effect on course design (to the delight of the cart manufacturers, as many courses today are almost unplayable without a cart). This is a built in source of revenue to the course and the cart manufacturer. We may through the evolutionary process start losing the use of our legs.
If you really can't sleep at night because you like to carry your bag on the left shoulder first, then I am sure you can find some lawyers who will think about (not for too long) taking your discrimination case to the Supreme Court, but don't get too excited just yet.
Fred, this is one of those times where I don't feel too bad for your left shoulder, but I certainly want to say well done on staying the course and enjoying a wonderful part of the game -- the tradition of walking. For those who want to play on many courses in the UK, where the game began, you will need to practice the art of walking, carrying your own bag and often playing in the cold and rain.
Carry on the tradition.
-- Frank
I recently spent an hour on a launch monitor trying to identify my ideal driver make-up. I tried eight driver head-and-shaft combinations from all the major manufacturers.
My average swing specs were 105mph swing speed, 12.5 degree launch angle, 245 yards of carry and 255 overall yards. The one stat that was clearly out of spec was my spin rate, which ranged from 2900 to 3600. My question is, how do you reduce spin rate if not with the driver head or shaft? I use the lower spinning premium balls. I am now trying to hit the ball higher on the face. But these seem like band-aids when I need to drop my spin rate into the 2200 - 2400 range for optimum performance.
Thank you for being so generous with your time and information.
Best regards,
-- Alex

You are hitting the ball very well, but for your 105 mph head speed you should be getting an overall distance of about 270 yards. I don't know how the launch monitor you have been working with has been programmed, but it seems to be giving the correct distances if the spin rate is up to 3,600 rpm. This would tend to give you a higher trajectory and steeper landing angle, and thus reduced roll.
On a closely mown fairway of average hardness and a flat landing area, you should expect about 25 yards of roll on your drives. So the problem does seem to be the spin rate. You have indicated that you are using a premium ball with a lower spin rating; you shouldnt consider this a band aid, but rather a proper fitting or tweaking for your skills. A lower-lofted club will lower the spin rate, but will also lower the launch angle. If you are successful in your efforts to hit the ball above the center of the face, this can lower the spin by as much as 500 or more rpm because of the vertical gear effect. This will also increase the launch angle a little because of the roll designed into the face.
I would first concentrate on trying to hit the ball higher on the face. Most of us are lucky to find the face, never mind selecting a specific impact point on it. The golfers on Tour can do this most of the time and that is why they are on Tour. Alex, you may be able to do this more often than most of us, so try it before you go to the next step of decreasing the loft of the driver by about one degree. Even with a decreased loft, youll still need to make impact slightly above center. The combination of the decreased loft and higher impact point on the face will probably help. Let's face it, though, you don't need too much help anyway.
To gain more distance, most of us need to increase our range of motion and develop a little more strength and stamina. Unfortunately, this requires a few visits to the gym, which may not be as exciting as looking for the magic tools.
Good hunting and keep on having fun. For more on launch conditions check out my guideline by clicking here.
-- 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
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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm