QA Golf Ball Overload

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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 letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com
 
Hey Frank,
There are several golf balls out in the market that promise to be longer, straighter, and softer. As a new student of the game, how should I know which ball suites me? Do softer balls translate to more feel but less distance? Or do balls with more dimples and more material produce more distance and spin? Please help me with this dilemma so I know which ball to choose. Thank you so much for your knowledge and very generous time. -- Mark Bravante, Woodbridge, Va.

 
Mark,
As a new student of the game I can only presume that you do not have a handicap in the single digits. For this reason and the fact that most courses are very intimidating you are probably going to lose quite a few balls during the process of becoming reasonably proficient. While at the same time you don't want to use a ball that will not perform well when you do.
 
There is nothing worse than hitting your Sunday best and not being fully rewarded for this because you compromised with your ball selection. The premium balls are very expensive, with built in performance properties which are slightly different from those designed for slower swing speeds.
 
In most cases only the very elite players are able to take advantages of these differences. This is not to say that you should not use a premium ball but rather that you, like the vast majority of us may not be able to take full advantage of what they have to offer.
 
If you link to franklygolf.com you will find the results of a survey we conducted recently to find out what are Frankly The Best' balls. More than 3,600 of our friends told us, based on their usage, how they rated the balls.
 
The choice of our Frankly Friends with a 20+ handicap would suggest that you look at using a Titleist NXT Tour, a Maxfli Noodle, or a Titleist DT Solo, all of which are very good balls. Other manufacturers also have balls designed for slower swing speeds, with a soft and very resilient core which also perform very well.
 
In fact you can, without concern use these balls until you get into the single digit handicap range. They are designed for average swing speeds and will perform better than the premium balls for most of us.
 
Having said this I can tell you that most balls today perform better than most of us are capable of trying to make them perform, and they are certainly not going to detrimentally affect our game.
 
Frank,
I cannot reconcile the advice I hear about obtaining maximum distance by high trajectory and low spin. If I use a high lofted driver to get a high trajectory that would put more spin on the ball, wouldn't it? Whereas a low lofted driver puts less spin on the ball but is difficult to get a high trajectory with.
 
I read that one must put spin on the ball to keep it airborne, and I can see that, but I have a 14* driver that gets the ball up high, but it gets little or no roll to it. It seems to me I can't get both, high trajectory and low spin. What do you suggest? A launch monitor? It seems to me a low lofted driver, with ball teed high and hit on the upswing would accomplish both factors. I see from what pros use that a recent LPGA winner, a rather small woman, uses a 7 1/2* driver while Bjorn, a big man, used a 10 1/2* driver to win the Irish Open. It is all very confusing. -- Neal

 
Neal,
I agree it is confusing and you are right, in that more loft increases the launch angle but also increases the spin rate.
 
Let's assume that you have a swing speed of 85 mph you will need to launch the ball at about 14 degrees and have a spin rate of about 3,000 rpm to get maximum distance on an average fairway. This means that the ball should roll about 16 to 20 yards. If you are getting less roll than this on an average hardness and flat fairway then either the launch angle is too high and/or the spin rate is too high.
 
The roll is dependent on the angle and speed at which the ball lands on the fairway. To get the launch higher and spin rate down you can use an eleven degree lofted driver with a low spin ball and hit it on the up stroke (which most of us do with a driver) and on the upper half of the face. This will allow you to take advantage of the vertical gear effect which decreases the spin from the top side of the face and increases it from impact on the lower portion of the face. Hitting it a little above center will also launch the ball higher. I do believe that in your case the 14 degree driver is too much loft. These are things to try when finding the best compromise between launch angle and spin rate.
 
Frank,
I read every article and have gone on your website which I find very informative. My question is what is the best way to back weight the grip on a driver? I can't get any answers on this and I have done it and it seems to make my drives longer. What are the benefits? -- PB

 
PB,
Thanks for you kind comments. Our mission is to 'Help Golfers' whenever possible.
 
I must first tell you that I am not an advocate of back weighting clubs as this doesn't effectively change the dynamics of the club. It is as effective as wearing a wrist watch when you normally don't. This weight, even though it is on your wrist is equivalent to being part of the club. If a glove is attached to the grip (which is practically the same as wearing it) it will reduce the swing weight by 5 to 6 points. Based on our experience we know that this has little effect on the clubs performance. If however you insist on back weighting then there are grips with built in weights under the butt-cap. You can also remove the grip, insert a weighted plug into the butt end of the shaft and re-grip it.
 
PB after 400 years of trying to adjust clubs to perform as well as they can for us we have not found that back weighting is an improvement. This is something golfers try every now and again and the change seems to coincide with a performance improvement from which they gain some comfort. While with the USGA as technical director I had someone come in with an innovative idea (he thought) of removing weight from under the grip by drilling holes in the shaft and swore that this had improved the distance of some lady pros by 20 yards. It was not two days later that another visitor submitting a product for approval told me his invention was to put weight under the grip and this had a significant effect on distance improvements. Whatever works for you.
 
Frank
I WAS a 12 handicap and the fitness craze hit the golf scene. While my numbers on the scale decreased my numbers on the golf course have sky rocketed. At the same time that I was loosing weight I made an equipment change, this did not help either. I am totally lost to what to do. Is it the equipment change or the weight loss that has affected my game, please help? -- Aaron from St. Louis, Mo.

 
Aaron,
I am very much in favor of becoming stronger and more flexible. Studies have shown that an increase of 5 mph in swing speed can be the results of only three months of strength and stretching exercises. Most of us don't have the range of motion we need and require this form of exercise. I do not believe that this is the problem. Many pros are involved in fitness programs which have improved their stamina and performance. There are a few exercises specifically designed for golfers but as long as you are not involved in a major body building program, an all round exercise and stretching program should only enhance your golfing performance.
 
I don't know what you changed from or what you changed to with regard to your equipment so cannot be sure that this is the problem. I suggest that you visit a good teaching pro to see what he/she can see you are doing. This may be a very good investment rather that trying to fix what your problem seems to be by changing your equipment - 95% of the time it is you and not the equipment.
 
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 letsbefrank@thegolfchannel.com