Balls in Orbit Trajectory Today

By Adam BarrJanuary 15, 2008, 5:00 pm
When I was growing up, trajectory was a word we usually heard Walter Cronkite applying to an Apollo spacecraft.

The lunar modules trajectory will carry it over the moons massive Sea of Tranquility, the most trusted man in America would intone, tranquilly yet authoritatively, and we would imagine the module, tinted gold by the sun, in a grand parabola of flight over the lunar grayness.

And thats the way it is. Or was. Nowadays, trajectory brings to my mind (and many others) the flight of something we all want to put into orbit: a golf ball.

What influences the vertical shape of the flight of a golf ball? Beyond raw distance, we all want to see a balls flight line take a certain shape, so it will roll out on drives and land obediently on iron shots. Of course, the clubhead matters. The shape, size, loft, resistance to twisting ' these all play a part that most of us know pretty well. But what about the other participants in this 500 microsecond physics experiment?

Lets begin with the pellet.

The overall construction of a golf ball usually impacts the initial launch, says Dean Snell, chief golf ball engineer at TaylorMade-adidas Golf. Softer compression balls will have a tendency to fly [at a] lower [angle] off the face. The trajectory is then determined a few key factors: first, the ball speed. The second is how much spin the ball has. Lower spin will not lift or carry higher, and higher spin will have a tendency to carry up higher.

So were in the familiar zone of each persons unique swing characteristics. Naturally, your particular launch habits, including how much spin you put on the ball, will help decide how your ball flies. But tell us more about the features on the ball itself. Those holes and bumps aint decoration.

The dimple shapes, depths and edge angles can control the trajectory all by themselves, Snell says. If you launch the two balls at the exact same spin, speed and launch, and have shallow dimples on one, and deep dimples on the other, they will have two completely different flights. The shallow dimples will fly much higher and not roll as much, while the deeper dimples fly much lower and will roll out more with shorter carry.

So, there are three influencers here, as Snell sees it.

Construction controls initial launch (and also helps control some of the spin), the player controls ball speed and spin, and the dimples and spin control the flight in the air.

Great. Now, if your game requires a change, the ball might be a good place to start. But do you run straight for the store? It might be a good idea to take a more measured approach.

For most consumers, todays balls all have very similar spin, so they dont have to worry about that anymore, Snell says. If they are looking for balls that launch higher, then the higher compression or firmer balls will help them do that. But if they truly want to be the best launch for their specific swing, then should get fit on a system to try to optimize trajectory that includes carry and roll. Getting your launch angle to 12-14 degrees and getting your spin to 2500-3000 rpm will help you achieve best carry and roll.

Fitting is more expensive than a new dozen, but is more likely to offer lasting results. But the analysis has just begun. What about shafts?

The flex profile of a shaft has the most profound effect on trajectory, says John Oldenburg, chief design engineer at shaft company Aldila. For a large majority of golfers, shafts with softer tips will give a higher launch with an increase in spin. The shaft effects trajectory by changing the actual loft (dynamic loft) of the head at the moment of impact. Softer tip shafts allow for a greater change in dynamic loft due to shaft bending being more concentrated in the lower end of the shaft closer to the head. Torque also can have an effect on trajectory and spin by its effect on face angle at impact.

So if a fitting tells you ' or you have the time, dollars and willingness to experiment ' could a new shaft be the ticket?

Yes, changing a shaft can definitely change trajectory, Oldenburg says. The player needs to remember that optimal launch conditions vary with relation to their ball speed. Higher ball speeds need a lower launch angle and lower spin to optimize performance. Slower ball speeds require a higher launch with more spin. So, when a player is seeking a trajectory change they need to make sure they choose a product that gives them an optimal combination of ball speed, launch angle, and spin rate. Sacrificing one of these three parameters to change one of the other two can have an adverse effect on performance.
So whats the intelligent way to go about making a change?

A good way for the consumer to choose is to determine the characteristics of their current shafts, most importantly tip stiffness. Oldenburg says. And then, to get accurate information on the shafts they are considering so they can make a valid comparison. If the consumer is looking increase the launch angle, they should shop for a product with a softer tip than they currently use, and vice versa. This information is typically available from professional clubmakers, and from shaft manufacturers websites, or by contacting the customer service department at the shaft manufacturer directly.

The absolute best way to tell how a shaft performs for your particular swing is to demo a product before buying, because no two golf swings are the same, so no one shaft will perform equally for any two players.

Viewed from one angle, trajectory is the result of a three-part machine (the golf club, with its head, shaft and grip) operating on a two-to-four-part machine (depending on the number of layers in the golf ball you choose). So its no surprise that the equation is complex. But as far as your game is concerned, it could be very rewarding to do the math ' especially with some of the equipment innovations coming over the development horizon.

Trajectory management is really finding the combination of clubhead, shaft, and golf ball that optimize the launch conditions for your particular swing, Oldenburg says. All three of those components can have profound effects on performance, and they must be looked at in combination with each other, not as separate entities.

The future of trajectory management might well be found in the new ruling from the USGA on interchangeability of golf clubs. This will enable the player to obtain several heads and shafts that they can combine in a wide array of combinations to fit their swing and performance needs. Players swings and the conditions they play in constantly change, so having the ability to change your shaft/head/ball combination on any given day will really allow a player to manage their trajectory on a day-by-day, round-by-round basis.

And thats the way it is in the modern game.
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No indication when Trump Turnberry will next host an Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 18, 2018, 12:25 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Turnberry last hosted The Open in 2009, during that magical week where Tom Watson, at age 59, nearly won his sixth claret jug. Ultimately, Stewart Cink won in a playoff.

While Turnberry remains on The Open rota, according to the R&A, there is no clear understanding of when the club, purchased by Donald Trump in 2014 before he became President of the United States, will next host the championship. The next open date is 2022

“With respect to 2022, I’ve already said, ’21 we’re going to be celebrating the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews,” R&A chief executive Marin Slumbers said Wednesday on the annual news conference on the eve of The Open. “And in ’22, we’ll be going south of the border.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


South of the border means the 2022 Open will be at one of the three venues in England. Since the 2020 Open is at Royal St. George’s, that leaves Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Liverpool as the two remaining options. Since Lytham (2012, Ernie Els) last hosted the Open before Liverpool (2014, Rory McIlroy), that’s the likely choice.

Trump was at Turnberry for two days last weekend, 150 miles southwest of Carnoustie. The R&A said it did not receive any communication from the U.S. president while he was in the country.

Turnberry hosted the Women’s British Open in 2015. Inbee Park beat Jin-young Park by three shots.

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Slumbers explains driver test; Rory weighs in

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:18 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Players and manufacturers were informed about three weeks ago that the R&A intended to test individual drivers at this week’s Open Championship, marking the first time the rule makers have taken the current standards to players.

Although the R&A and USGA have been COR (coefficient of restitution) tests on drivers for some time, they have been pulling the tested clubs from manufacturers, not players.

“We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the Rules of Golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players' drivers straight out of the bag,” said Martin Slumbers, the R&A’s chief executive.

Thirty players were notified their drivers would be tested this week - including Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson - from a list that roughly mirrored the breakdown of various brands based on current equipment counts.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


The R&A test center was set up on the Carnoustie practice range, and according to Slumbers there were no violations of the testing limits, which essentially measure the spring-like effect of the driver clubface.

Although none of the drivers failed the testing, Rory McIlroy did say that TaylorMade was “singled out a bit more than anyone else.”

“A manufacturer is always going to try and find ways to get around what the regulations are. It's a bit of an arms race,” said McIlroy, who plays TaylorMade equipment but said his driver was not tested. “If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then obviously guys shouldn't be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much.”

There was no individual driver testing at last month’s U.S. Open, and it’s not expected to become the norm on the PGA Tour, but Slumbers did say the R&A tested drivers at an event earlier this year on the Japan Golf Tour.

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Carnoustie open to any number of scenarios

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2018, 12:07 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Carnoustie holds a distinct position within the Open Championship’s rotation of storied venues. It’s come by its nickname, Car-Nasty, honestly as the undisputed rough-and-tumble heavyweight of all the championship links.

Historically, Carnoustie is a beast. A punch in the mouth compared to the other stops on The Open dance card. If the likes of the Old Course and Muirfield are the fair ladies of the rotation, the Angus Coast brute would be the unfriendly bouncer.

As personas go, Carnoustie wears its reputation well, but the 147th edition of the game’s oldest championship has taken on a new look this week. It’s not so much the softer side of Carnoustie as it is a testament to the set up philosophy of the R&A.

Unlike its sister association in the United States, the R&A allows Mother Nature to decide what kind of test a championship will present and this Open is shaping up to be something far different than what the golf world is accustomed.

Instead of the thick, lush rough that ringed the fairways in 1999 and 2007, the last two stops at the par-71 layout, this year has a dust bowl feel to it. The stories have already become legend: Padraig Harrington hit a 457-yard drive on the 18th hole during a practice round that bounced and bounded into Barry Burn and on Monday Tiger Woods slashed a 333-yard 3-iron down the same power alley.

“It’s so fast. It’s nothing like ’99 – that was like a jungle. It was wet, rough was up, there was wind. In 2007, it was cold and green,” said Ernie Els, who has played two championships at Carnoustie. “But this is very, very dry. Very different.”


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Anywhere else these divergent conditions would simply be the nature of the game’s most hands-off major, but at Carnoustie it’s created an information vacuum and wild uncertainty.

Within a 48-hour window, two of the championship’s easy favorites offered diametrically contrasting philosophies on how they might play Carnoustie.

“There's eight or nine drivers we hit. Depending on the wind direction, we could hit more,” said Brooks Koepka, who won his second consecutive U.S. Open last month. “It's so burnt out, where there's a lot of opportunity where the rough's not quite as thick as I expected it to be.”

That was in contrast to how Jordan Spieth, this week’s defending champion, was thinking he would play the course.

“I talked to [caddie Michael Greller] a little bit about what he thinks, and he said, ‘You might hit a lot of 5-irons off the tee, you might wear out 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you're used to,’” Spieth said.

Unlike previous championships that were played at Carnoustie, which were won by the player best prepared to take a punch, this one might come down to which strategy, controlled and calculated or bold and brash, works best.

In theory, the bombers seem to be on to something, primarily as a result of the dry conditions that have produced uncharacteristically thin and playable rough. The alternative is weaving irons in between the countless bunkers that pepper each fairway, which on links courses are widely considered true hazards compared to what players face at other major venues.

“I would definitely say it is a bomber’s course,” said Gary Woodland, who counts himself among the long-hitting set. “A lot of the bunkers here are 285, 290 [yards] to cover, for us that’s nothing. You can take them out of play, which normally isn’t the case because it’s windy and rainy over here.”

That line of thinking leads to a rather narrow list of potential contenders, from betting favorite Dustin Johnson to Rory McIlroy and Koepka. But that logic ignores the inherent unpredictability of The Open, where countless contenders have been undercut by the rub of a bad draw and the always-present danger of inclement weather.

Although this week’s forecast calls for continued dry weather, winds are currently forecast to reach 25 mph on Sunday which could upend game plans, regardless of how aggressive or conservative one intended to play the course.

Despite conventional thinking and the realities of a modern game that is being dominated more and more by long hitters, there are compelling arguments for the other side of the bash-or-bunt debate.

One needs to look no further than Woods’ record on similarly dusty tracks as an example of how a conservative approach can produce championship results. In 2006 at Royal Liverpool, Woods, who is playing his first Open since 2015, famously hit just one driver all week on his way to victory, and he was just as effective in 2000 at St. Andrews when the Old Course also played to a bouncy brown.

“It could be that way,” Woods said when asked to compare ’06 at Hoylake to this week. “Either case, I'm not going to hit that many long clubs off the tees.”

Adding to that uncertainty is Carnoustie’s track record in producing late drama on Sunday. This is, after all, the same slice of coast where Jean Van de Velde stepped to the 18th tee box with a three-stroke lead in 1999 only to slash his way to a closing triple-bogey 7 and the game’s most memorable, or regrettable, runner-up showing.

In ’07, the heartbreak went extra frames for Sergio Garcia, who appeared poised to win his first major championship before he bogeyed the last hole and lost a playoff to Harrington.

Even this week’s baked-out conditions can’t mitigate the importance and challenge of what many consider the most difficult Grand Slam finish; but the yellow hue has certainly created an added degree of uncertainty to an already unpredictable championship.

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Slumbers: Mickelson penalty 'not good for the game'

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 11:44 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said that Phil Mickelson’s controversial penalty at the U.S. Open was not “good for the game,” but he did not say explicitly whether the ruling would have been any different at The Open.

Speaking Wednesday at his annual address, Slumbers said that he spoke with Mickelson last week about the incident. At Shinnecock Hills, Mickelson hit a moving ball in the third round but was not disqualified for a breach of etiquette. Instead, he received a two-shot penalty under Rule 14-5.


Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“In the event of a similar situation this week, clearly, the first thing is you understand the facts because you never get the same situation and there will be lots of reasons,” Slumbers said. “But we have looked very carefully at the rules, and I don’t think it was good for the game and not the right way to have played this wonderful sport, and we would make a decision based on the facts of any incident that happened later in the week.”

Rule 1-2, which includes a clause for disqualification, was not used because the infraction is covered under another rule.

“Let’s also remember that it’s a moot point for next year,” Slumbers said, “because as of the first of January 2019, there would have been a DQ option in that equivalent rule.”