What is the maximum velocity for a golf ball


TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s recent announcement that a batch of its TP Red golf balls had exceeded the USGA’s initial velocity rule raises the following questions: Just what is the maximum velocity permitted under USGA rules? And how is it determined?
Golf Channel Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas has the answers. Quoting Thomas, the former technical director of the USGA and founder of FranklyGolf.com: “The Initial Velocity (IV) test is based on the speed the ball leaves a steel striker attached to a wheel weighing approximately 200 pounds and traveling at just under 98 mph. The limit is 250 feet per second plus a tolerance of 2 percent, which set the limit at 255 feet/second. Or, about 173.5 mph.”
Two-tenths of one percent, the amount in which the TP Red balls is reported to have exceeded the limit, would be .51 feet per second, or approximately one-third of 1 mph. According to Thomas, the rule was adopted in 1942 to limit the distance the balls were traveling.
“Manufacturers work so close to the IV limit that a slight change in the chemical makeup of the ball’s core might change the resilience, and this might be enough to exceed the limit,” said Thomas. “As small as this is (one-half of 1 percent in IV may result in less than a yard in total distance), there has to be a limit.”
Thomas’ 'Let’s be Frank” column appears every week on GolfChannel.com. To submit a question to Frank, please e-mail letsbefrank@franklygolf.com.