QA Golf Ball Overload

By Frank ThomasJune 20, 2006, 4:00 pm
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
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.

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 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.
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

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.
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

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.
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.

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
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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and was able to cobble together his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.