Throwing Fast Balls

By Frank ThomasAugust 26, 2010, 11:09 pm


I enjoy your weekly talks and was with you all the way on the grooves issue and the USGA. Interesting to see the number of 59's and low 60's even with the new grooves. They will not admit it, but they were completely wrong and lots of people have to buy new clubs.

Since most of the technological improvements to golf clubs have been achieved, I believe the low scores PGA Tour players are posting is because they are fit to the best golf ball for their equipment and swing characteristics.

How can we recreational golfers get help in selecting the best ball for our swing speed. We do not have the luxury of trying a wide range of balls because of the expense.

Is there a database that lists the various balls and their construction and ball flight characteristics?

Can you tell us what to look for when selecting a ball to help lower our scores?

– Jim

Regarding your first statement about grooves, now that we are more than halfway through the year is there any evidence to justify the rule change?

Has the perceived problem been solved and was it worth the disruption?

It may be too early to tell, but from what we see about scoring, shot values, etc. on the tour but there seems to be little, if any effect due to the adoption of the new rule. In fact, a preliminary analysis looks like the performance results oppose those anticipated by the USGA.

If this trend continues for the remainder of the year perhaps some good will come from the experience in that next time the USGA makes a change it will be more transparent, providing to its constituents the evidence proving that there really is a problem and also providing sound evidence to indicate that the proposed solution will resolve that problem – based on sound localized experimentation – before universally adopting a change. Let’s see what happens.

Regarding a selection of balls to lower your score significantly, I think you are looking for a little more magic than is available. You do need to optimize your launch conditions for your drives – which has more to do with the club properties than ball selection – as well as select a ball you are comfortable using around the greens. The pros on tour have selected the ball which satisfies their needs for both around the green and off the tee. This is not the reason for the very low scores we have seen recently but probably helps a little because of the confidence it instills.

Jim, once you have the correct club properties to get close to optimum launch conditions you can tweak these by using different balls but don’t compromise distance off the driver for control around the greens. Selecting a premium tour grade ball would be a good start but this won’t by itself get you into the 59 range.

There are certain things to consider when selecting your golf ball:

  1. If you are looking for an inexpensive ball (under $20) for pure distance off the tee and are prepared to compromise your shots around the green, you should look for a two-piece ball with a hard Surlyn® (Ionomer) cover and resilient core.
  1. If you can step up a notch in price ($30 range) and want both some control around the green as well as good distance then select a multi layered ball with a resilient lower compression core and a Urethane or soft Ionomer cover.
  1. If price is not a factor then select a premium ball ($45 to $55) having a multi-layered construction and a very thin urethane cover. This will not compromise any part of your game. Building confidence in your ball will do wonders for your game, but not turn a 79 into a 59.

Many of the top golf ball manufacturers have excellent websites that can help you learn more about their products and what ball is right for you.

– Frank


Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. 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 of engaging in 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 WGC-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.