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

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.