QA Choosing the Right Ball

By Frank ThomasJuly 11, 2007, 4:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
What are the key ingredients to ball selection? I would like to play the right ball consistently. Do I need to know my swing speed, etc.? I am 57 and a 14 handicap, but agree with you on lessons as opposed to buying new equipment, even though I do have a club fetish.
 
Thank you.
--Mike

 
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Andy Bean asks about square grooves on 'Ask Frank,' Monday at 11:00 p.m. ET on GC. (Wire Image)
Frank,
I have always enjoyed your comments and I have been an email subscriber to your newsletter for many months. Thank you.
 
When I was younger and played to a single digit handicap, I purchased the most expensive, top-of-the-line branded golf balls. Now that I am older (and perhaps wiser) I resist buying balls that cost $4 or $5 each. I find that by shopping carefully, I can buy name brand golf balls for $1 to $1.50 each. Admittedly, these are never the absolute top-of-the-line balls, but they are often manufactured and marketed by the same companies. Also, as an 18 handicapper, I don't notice the difference and I have yet to retire a ball because I have hit it out of round or worn it out.
 
I know Titleist, Nike and the rest want me to play the same ball as Phil, Tiger and the other touring pros, but it just doesn't seem worth it. What do you think?
--Ted

 
Dear Mike and Ted,
Mike, I know that using the correct ball is a major concern to many golfers, and Im going to try to give you a thorough answer here. Ive also included Teds letter here, because hes noticed something important, i.e., that most of the name brand balls in the marketplace today are all very good balls, which is different from how it was 30 years ago, when there was much more variation between balls ' even between balls made by the same manufacturer. I am certain that if Jack Nicklaus had played with a better ball in the mid to late 1970s, he would have won several more majors.
 
In the mid-'70s, to verify that all balls being used on tour were the same as those submitted to me at the USGA, I collected balls from tour sites. I got some MacGregor balls directly from Jack's bag and found some of them veered off line by as much as 15 to 20 yards when tested using the mechanical golfer. Re-tests proved that the first unbelievable test results were correct. I couldnt tell Jack about those results at the time, but he figured out there was a problem and soon changed to a Titleist ball and went on to win four more majors.
 
Today, we wouldnt get such erratic results; balls have improved significantly. There are basically two different grades of balls: Premium balls, designed primarily for the elite golfer, and those balls designed for average golfers, who have handicaps greater than about 5 or slower swing speeds than the elite golfers.
 
The premium balls generally have three or four layers in their construction and are designed to spin and give great control to those of us who can -- or think we can -- apply high spin to the ball around the greens. These balls also perform well at driver impact speeds above 90 mph. The downside to these balls is that they are very expensive, ranging from $35 to $55 a dozen.
 
Balls designed for lower swing speeds may not have the same spin properties around the green, but most of us need to get close to the green first. Theyre a better choice for those of us who arent as worried about stopping the ball short of the hole as we are about getting it down the fairway. These balls are more efficient for lower swing speeds, have sufficient spin around the greens for most of our needs, and cost about half the price of the premium version from the same company.
 
Below are a few examples of the higher priced Premium balls for generally faster swing speeds and good playing skills, and the lower priced balls for the rest of us. This is only a partial listing, but its good for starters. As far as quality is concerned, both categories provide excellent results in all the brands.
 
Premium Balls:
Callaway: HX Tour; HX 56
Maxfli: Black Max
Nike: ONE Platinum; ONE Black
Precept: Tour Premium LS; U-Tri
Srixon: Z-URC
Titleist: Pro V1; ProV1x
TaylorMade: TP Red; TP Black
 
Good Quality Balls For the Rest of Us
Callaway: HX HOT; HX Pearl; Big Bertha
Maxfli: Noodle; Red Max
Nike: Juice 312; Power Lady
Pinnacle: Power Core; Gold
Titleist: DT Solo; NXT Tour; NXT
 
Mike and Ted, go ahead and use the bottom list to make your selection and thereafter don't give it another thought. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to tell any differences in performance between the balls on this list, they are all about as good as they can get.
 
Because we think we are better than we really are, we are always tempted to go for the premium balls. The problem in doing this is that generally only your wallet will show any effects. However, the confidence factor you gain from spending more money just might make up for the yards you lose on your drives as the balls back up on the greens. The other secret Ive learned is that the more expensive balls are better they listen, particularly once theyre in flight, so dont forget to talk to them.
 
Hope this helps, and that my little story about Jack gives an insight as to how good he really was.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
Thank you for your time in producing your column; I enjoy receiving it and always learn something valuable.I seem to be much more accurate and consistent using a persimmon wood with a steel shaft rather than a metal / graphite combination. Is there any advantage for some golfers to stick with the older style woods?
 
Thank you,
--Dale

 
Dale,
Thanks for your comments. With regard to your wooden driver and steel shaft, I hate to say this, but even though you have made a good friend in your persimmon driver, it is time to consider a change.
 
You really are putting yourself at a disadvantage as far as distance and accuracy is concerned. On the other hand, if you are happy with the distance and accuracy you are now getting and dont wish to improve either of these, then dont change anything. There is nothing better than having confidence in your equipment.
 
If you want to get more distance, then the best thing to do is try out a new (2005 to 2007 model) titanium driver. They all have about the same technology, so a new one is not essential in your case.
 
Because you are now using, and happy with, your wooden driver, you must be hitting it somewhere close to the sweet spot. If you do the same using a 400 cc to 460 cc titanium driver with a high COR (Click here) and you launch the ball at an angle of 12 degrees or higher, then you will gain from 10 to 15 yards immediately.
 
As far as accuracy is concerned, be sure not to install a shaft that is too long. A driver more than 44 inches in length will only add to stray shots. Your persimmon driver with the steel shaft is probably 43 to 43 inches long. If you would like to swing faster with less effort, then try a graphite shaft. There are a number of good shafts that dont cost too much.
 
Your accuracy will also improve with a bigger driver head than the 200 cc persimmon driver you now have because it has a higher MOI (Click here).
 
Dale, the time has come to upgrade, as there are no advantages in continuing to use your persimmon driver. Sorry to have to tell you this especially if it means getting rid of an old friend, but it really is in your best interest.
 
Frank
 
Frank,
As I understand Coriolis force, it acts on objects flying over the earth's surface, deflecting them perpendicular to their path and dependent on latitude and groundspeed, and that it is opposite in the northern hemisphere than in the southern latitudes. Since golf balls travel over the earth's surface, even for a short duration, wouldn't Coriolis force act on the ball as well? Is the effect so minute that it isn't worth considering? Or would slicers be better off playing in one hemisphere than another? ;-)
--Tom

 
Tom,
Thank you for this question, the answer to which I am sure will be of great interest to many golfers. Many people believe that the Coriolis Effect is what makes the toilet flush in a circular motion that runs counter-clockwise in the States, but clockwise in South Africa.
 
The flush swirl direction is actually more a function of the toilet design than the Coriolis Effect. The Effect does, however, affect wind direction somewhat. It deflects winds to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and left in the Southern Hemisphere. This is what dictates the rotational direction of hurricanes in the north and cyclones down under.
 
Yes, it is true that all else being equal, the ball will fade in the Northern Hemisphere and draw in the Southern Hemisphere because of the Coriolis Effect. Your putts may also be affected. So at last we know the reason that the ball does what it does when we wanted it to do something else.
 
If you slice, the answer to your swing problem is not to visit your swing doctor, but rather to play all your golf south of the equator. And if youre determined to hit a straight ball without this outside influence, the equator is the place to play.
 
As much as we would like to blame the effect named after the French scientist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis, unfortunately at its worst it may account for only fractions of an inch in the longest drives -- but don't let this stop you from blaming 'Cori' for the unintended result in the flight of the ball.
 
So go ahead and hit it flush, and dont worry too much about Coriolis, the phases of the moon, or solar winds. But we golfers are all grateful to you, Tom, for a novel way to let ourselves off the hook for our imperfections.
 
Frank
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank 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@franklygolf.com
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Snedeker leads by one heading into final round

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 3:26 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Brandt Snedeker took a one-stroke lead into the final round of the weather-delayed Wyndham Championship after finishing the third round Sunday with a 2-under 68.

Snedeker was at 16-under 194 through three rounds of the final PGA Tour event of the regular season. Brian Gay and David Hearn were at 15 under, with Gay shooting a 62 and Hearn a 64.

Thirty players were on the course Saturday when play was suspended because of severe weather. After a delay of 3 hours, 23 minutes, organizers chose to hold things up until Sunday morning.

Snedeker, who shot an opening-round 59 to become just the 10th tour player to break 60, is chasing his first victory since 2016 and his second career win at this tournament.

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Olesen edges past Poulter in Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayAugust 19, 2018, 3:10 pm

With only two weeks left in the qualification window, Thorbjorn Olesen is now in position to make his Ryder Cup debut.

Olesen finished alone in fourth place at the Nordea Masters, two shots out of a playoff between Thomas Aiken and eventual winner Paul Waring. Olesen carded four straight sub-70 rounds in Sweden, including a final-round 67 that featured three birdies over his final seven holes.

It's a tight race for the fourth and final Ryder Cup spot via the World Points list, and Olesen's showing this week will allow him to move past Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, both of whom didn't play this week, into the No. 4 slot. Olesen is now also less than 40,000 Euros behind Tommy Fleetwood to qualify via the European Points list.

The top four players from both lists on Sept. 2 will qualify for next month's matches, with captain Thomas Bjorn rounding out the roster with four selections on Sept. 4. Poulter and Casey will both have a chance to move back in front next week at The Northern Trust, while the final qualifying week will include the PGA Tour event at TPC Boston and Olesen headlining the field in his homeland at the Made in Denmark.

Even if Olesen fails to qualify automatically for Paris, the 28-year-old continues to bolster his credentials for a possible pick from his countryman, Bjorn. Olesen won the Italian Open in June, finished second at the BMW International Open three weeks later and has now compiled four top-12 finishes over his last five worldwide starts including a T-3 result at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this month.

In addition to the players who fail to qualify from the Olesen-Poulter-Casey trio, other candidates for Bjorn's quartet of picks will likely include major champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

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Thompson bounces back from rule violation

By Randall MellAugust 19, 2018, 2:22 am

If Lexi Thompson’s trouble in the sixth fairway brought back any painful memories Saturday at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, she shook them off in a hurry.

If the approach of another rules official amid a spirited run of brilliant play rattled her, she didn’t show it.

Thompson posted an 8-under-par 64 in the third round despite another awkward rules infraction.

Her round was impressively bogey free but not mistake free, and so her work will be a little harder Sunday chasing Lizette Salas.

After incurring a one-shot penalty for violating a local rule in effect for preferred lies, Thompson will start the final round five shots back instead of four.

She knows she’s fortunate she isn’t six back.

If a rules official hadn’t witnessed Thompson in the middle of committing the infraction, she could have been assessed an additional penalty shot for playing from the wrong spot.

Thompson got the penalty after stepping on the 10th tee and blowing her drive right, into the sixth fairway. She got it after picking up her ball over there and lifting, cleaning and placing it. She got it because she wasn’t allowed to do that in any other fairway except for the fairway of the hole she was playing.

The preferred-lie rule was distributed to players earlier in the week.

The story here isn’t really the penalty.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


It’s Thompson’s reaction to it, because she opened this week in such heartfelt fashion. After skipping the Ricoh Women’s British Open to take a month-long “mental break,” Thompson revealed this week that she has been struggling emotionally in the wake of last year’s highs and lows. She opened up about how trying to “hide” her pain and show strength through it all finally became too much to bear. She needed a break. She also candidly shared how the challenges of being a prodigy who has poured herself into the game have led her to seek therapists’ help in building a life about more than golf.

That’s a lot for a 23-year-old to unload publicly.

Last year may have been the best and the worst of Thompson’s career. She said dealing with that controversial four-shot penalty that cost her the ANA Inspiration title, watching her mother battle cancer and losing a grandmother were cumulatively more difficult to deal with than she ever let on. There was also that short missed putt at year’s end that could have vaulted her to Rolex world No. 1 for the first time and led to her winning the Rolex Player of the Year title. She still won twice, won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average and was the Golf Writers Association of America Player of the Year.

That’s a lot of peaks and valleys for a young soul.

That’s the kind of year that can make you feel like an old soul in a hurry.

So seeing a rules official approach her on Saturday, you wondered about Thompson gathering herself so quickly. You wondered what she was thinking stepping up and ripping her next shot 215 majestic yards, about her hitting the green and saving par. You wondered about how she  bounced back to birdie 13 and 14 and finish bogey free.

With this week’s soul bearing, you wondered a lot about what rebounding like that meant to her.

We’re left to wonder from afar, though, because she wasn’t asked any of those questions by local reporters afterward. The transcript showed three brief answers to three short questions, none about the penalty or the challenge she met.

Of course, there were other questions to be asked, because local rules have been an issue this year. Did she read the local notes with the preferred lies explanation? She got hit with another local rules issue in Thailand this year, when she hit her ball near an advertising sign and moved the sign, not realizing a local rule made the sign a temporary immovable obstruction.

Of course, there were other good stories in Indy, too, with Sung Hyun Park poised to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn and return to Rolex world No. 1, with Salas holding off Park so brilliantly down the stretch Saturday.

Thompson, though, is the highest ranked American in the world. She’s the face of American women’s golf now. A face more tender, resolute and vulnerable than we have ever seen it.

Folks along the ropes watching her on the back nine in Indy Saturday got to see that better than any of us.

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Salas capitalizes on Park gaffe to take Indy lead

By Associated PressAugust 19, 2018, 2:07 am

INDIANAPOLIS – Lizette Salas waited patiently for Sung Hyun Park to make a rare mistake Saturday.

When the South Korean mishit her approach shot into the water on the par-4 16th, Salas capitalized quickly.

She rolled in her birdie putt then watched Park make double bogey – a three-shot swing that gave Salas the lead and the momentum heading into the final round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship. Salas closed out her 8-under 64 with a birdie on No. 18 to reach 21 under – two shots ahead of Park and Amy Yang.

“I have been striking the ball really well, and I just had to stay patient,” Salas said. “And yeah, putts dropped for sure. I just really felt comfortable.”

If she keeps it up one more day, Salas could be celebrating her first tour win since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship and her second overall. With five of the next six players on the leader board ranked in the world’s top 30, Salas knows it won’t be easy.

The changing weather conditions weather might not help, either. If the forecast for mostly sunny conditions Sunday holds, the soft greens that have kept scores at near record-lows through the first three rounds could suddenly become quicker and less forgiving.

But the 29-year-old Californian seems to have the perfect touch for this course, which weaves around and inside the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

She shot three sub-par rounds and finished tied for fifth last year here. This year, she has three more sub-par rounds including a course record-tying 62 on Thursday and has been atop the leader board each of the first three days.

“I have been so confident the whole year,” Salas said. “I have a different mentality, I’m a different player. So I’m just going to go out and play as if I’m behind.”


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


Salas’ toughest challenge still could from Park, who spent most of Saturday flirting with a 54-hole scoring record.

She birdied the last four holes on the front side and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 to reach 21 under with a chance to become the sixth LPGA player to ever finish three rounds at 23 under.

The miscue at No. 16 changed everything.

She never really recovered after dropping two shots, settling for par on the final two holes for a 66 after shooting 68 and 63 the first two days. Yang finished with a 65 after going 68 and 64.

“I was a little weary with right-to-left wind,” Park said. “I think a little bit of weariness got to me, but overall, it’s OK.”

Defending champion Lexi Thompson was five shots back after completing the final nine of the second round in 2 under 34 and shooting 64 in the afternoon.

She made up ground despite being assessed a one-stroke penalty after hitting her tee shot on No. 10 into the sixth fairway and lifting the ball without authority. Rules officials had implemented the preferred lies rule because more than an inch of rain had doused the course.

Thompson still made her par on the hole though it temporarily broke her momentum after making six birdies on the front nine in her first appearance since taking a monthlong break to recover from physical and mental exhaustion.

“Twenty-seven holes, I definitely had a few tired swings toward the end,” said Thompson, who finished each of the first two rounds with 68s. “But overall, a lot of positives. I hit it great. I made some really good putts.”

Three players – Nasa Hataoka of Japan, Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Mina Harigae – were tied at 15 under. Ko started the third round with a share of the lead but had three bogeys in a round of 70.

Now, all Salas has to do is cash in one more time.

“I’ve been knocking on the door quite a bit in the last four years, haven’t been able to get it done,” Salas said. “I’ve got good players behind me, I’ve just got to play my game.”