QA Non-Conforming Balls

By Frank ThomasNovember 1, 2006, 5:00 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
Dear Frank...
Frank, Im interested in experimenting with a few non-conforming golf ball brands for the fun of it, but wonder if the heavier weight of these balls can cause unique damage to the driver face with repeated use, or expedite any flattening of the face that would result after a few years of normal, consistent driver use with conforming balls (per your recent letter to another golf enthusiast). Thanks. ' Matt, San Francisco.

Sorry to hear that you are interested in trying a non-conforming ball. These are advertised as going farther but in many cases may not go as far as a conforming ball.
Now to the question; a heavier harder ball will generally have more of an effect on the face than a softer lighter ball. The reason for this is that at impact the face will deform a little more if the ball is not as yielding and does not in itself deform. This in combination with a slight increase in weight will put more stress on the face. With todays balls (conforming balls) these effects are minimal. There is more of an effect from the higher head speeds than the properties of the ball. The difference in the weight of a nonconforming ball compared to a conforming ball is not enough to make any noticeable difference to the face of the club.
There are so many conforming balls which will go farther than almost all the nonconforming balls, that you are better off having fun finding one of these. In my opinion there isnt 20 yards left in the golf ball irrespective of any limiting standards. So dont be mislead. Golf is a game where you need to be honest with yourself.
I am trying to resolve my two drivers. I have a 2001 design 320cc head, 9.5 degree loft and another one that is from 2003 and is a 440cc, 9.5 degree deep face driver. Oddly, I really prefer the older club. It has a lower ball flight, but the ball hits the ground running. The newer club does indeed have a higher trajectory, but the ball lands softly. I can't accurately judge the relative carry between them, other than estimate they are not that different. I definitely get better results with the older club. Now, am I a dinosaur, or am I missing something because I don't doubt the idea that the deep face drivers are the way to go. Is there any prospect of the major manufacturers producing any 'low trajectory' drivers, or should I continue to load up at the used club store? By the way, I really don't want to tinker with what is an admittedly non Spalding guide swing. I carry the ball about 250 yards, and the low trajectory ball will hop, skip and jump anywhere from 20 to 60 yards. The high one doesn't do much once it hits. P.S. It's actually hard to go back and forth between the clubs at the driving range because the deep face is so big! ' Steve, Philadelphia, PA
There is one rule of thumb that I almost always use in cases like this. If you like it what you have and carry the ball 250 yards with your existing club and get a 20- to 60-yard roll DONT CHANGE A THING.
Making friends is not always easy, so when you have one hold onto it for as long as possible.
Your 2001 driver is not bad technology. In fact things are not changing as fast as they did between 1995 and 2000. Some small changes have been made and you can certainly get a 440 cc driver to perform like your 320 cc driver if you are prepared to mess around with loft, shaft flex and a number of things which may become very frustrating.
Some manufacturers are moving back to smaller drivers i.e. 425 cc. The main reason why the 460 cc head is still so popular is that the limit is at 470 and whenever a limit is established the assumption is that right below it must be the best. Very few golfers (if any) can detect the performance differences of 100 cc. It is not the volume which is important but rather the c.g. location and a face configuration which is most forgiving over a wider area. Even then the differences are small.
Steve, keep what you have until your drives come down to 240 yards carry and 270 total and then do some flexibility exercises to improve your range of motion to get those yards back.
An old friend is almost always a good friend.
I read about your suggestion to impose a 10 club limit on the pros. In my opinion, this would only widen the gap. Everybody will still carry their drivers, so the big hitter will still have that advantage. The short-hitters will be more negatively affected because they depend on a wider variety of irons to reach the greens.
A long hitter should be rewarded assuming they can hit the ball accurately. I don't think anybody disagrees with that sentiment. The only thing that will work is to make it truly penal to hit the ball far and off-line.
But, we must also assess whether the bombers really do have an advantage.
If you look at the GIR performance of the 20 longest hitters on tour, only 3 are in the top 20 GIR leaders (Woods/Scott/Mickelson.)
Not only that, they generally aren't even able to play their way into the four major tournaments. Out of the top 20 current driving distance leaders, only six played in The Masters (five made the cut). Nine played in the US Open (seven made the cut). Eight played in the British Open, but only three made the cut. Eleven played in the PGA Championship, but only 6 made the cut. So, the top 20 driving distance leaders only took home checks in 20 out of 80 potential starts. Woods, Mickelson, and Scott received 11 of those 20 checks.
What about money earned in all of the tournaments this season? Of the top 20 driving distance leaders, only six are in the top 50 money leaders.

Further, one could also argue that the real effect of today's more forgiving and scientifically custom fit equipment is the extension of the careers of older professionals. People lament the lack of young rising stars on the PGA Tour. I think it is due to the fact that up-and-coming professionals have to compete with the likes of David Toms, who not only has the huge advantages of maturity and experience of 400 starts, but can hit the ball'long enough' to not be at a length disadvantage. (He drives it nearly 20 yards longer at age 39 than when he was 29.) Heck, even Fred Funk is hitting the ball 10 yards longer at age 50 than age 40. -- Brian

Thanks for some interesting stats which I would like to share with our readers. In my article published in The New York Times I did suggest that the ten club rule be adopted along with better and more strategic course set up which would penalize the long hitters who were not accurate. This is a better solution than what the USGA has suggested doing i.e. rolling the ball back 25 yards for all of us.
The reason why some of the pros are hitting the ball longer than they used to 15 years ago, is because of the Spring-like effect (COR limit) permitted by the USGA. This in conjunction with the new multilayered ball has allowed them to approach the optimum launch conditions which were never available before to some of our older superstars like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Gary Player.
Instead of trying to roll the ball back for all of us my suggestion is to bring back the skill level that requires shot making and accurate drives.
Thanks for your input, Brian.
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
Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).