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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G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

“I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

“Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

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Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

“When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”

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Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

“Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

“Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

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Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

“I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.

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Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

“I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

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Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

“You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

“Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

“Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

“I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

“Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.