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QA Must You Mark Your Ball

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
USGA Rule 12-2 below states that 'Each player SHOULD put an identification mark on his ball.' I have interpreted this to mean 'Each player is REQUIRED to put an identification on his ball and I would like to know if my interpretation is correct.
I play in a group where two players use Top-Flight golf balls almost exclusively. I mentioned this rule to them as a way to avoid the frequent confusion that arises about whose Top-Flight ball is whose. Both stated that they 'MAY' personally identify their ball, but that the rules do not REQUIRE them to put a personal identification mark on their balls.
Would you please discuss USGA Rule 12-2 in terms of what it really means? If this rule makes it mandatory for players to put a personal identifying mark on the ball they are playing, then the word SHOULD in the rule really ought to be MUST.

Rule 12-2 Identifying Ball:
The responsibility for playing the proper ball rests with the player. Each player should put an identification mark on his ball.

(This goes on to discuss various detailed situations in which one may find themselves. The point, however, is to explain some of the consequences of not being ale to identify your ball.)
I know that this isn't strictly an equipment question, but its close enough for me to help you out and I hope help others, as I have had a problem with this situation myself.
I have discussed this with my friends at the USGA many times, and the short answer is that you DO NOT have to put an identification mark on your ball -- but it is highly recommended.
Manufacturers have for a long time placed identification numbers or symbols on balls. For convenience of the players, in a dozen balls four different numbers are generally used, one number per sleeve. There is no limit as to what number or symbol can be used as long as it fits on the ball and is not part of the official markings that identify the ball for the conforming list. It is common to see the numbers go up to four, and sometimes to eight or more. Some balls have been identified with the symbols of playing cards (hearts, spades, etc.).
The color of the identification numbers used to signify the compression of the ball (i.e., black for 100 compression and red for 90 compression etc.). Because compression is no longer related to performance, the color of the number doesn't mean a thing.
It is highly recommended that you put an identification mark on your ball because, if you and I are playing the same type and model ball with the same number and we land next to each other in the middle of the fairway, we have a problem. If we are unable to say for sure which ball belongs to whom, then we must treat BOTH as lost balls, go back to where we played the previous stroke and play from there with the appropriate one-stroke penalty.
Also, if your ball goes into the woods and you find one close to where yours entered the woods, with the same number as yours, good for you -- unless those helping you look for it on their way out find another identical ball type with the same number. This creates the same problem as to which is your ball. If you cannot demonstrate which ball is yours, your ball is again assumed to be lost; scrape marks or the condition of the ball may help you out, but you don't have to worry about this if you have marked your ball.
Oliver, for your sake and his, your fellow competitor should put an identification mark on his/her ball and stay out of the woods. It a nice thing to do and thats what golf is about.
Do you mark your ball with your own identifying mark? Click here to have your say on this issue.
-- Frank
Dear Frank,
Is there a conspiracy against left-shoulder golfers among golf bag manufacturers? I was looking for a new stand/carry bag recently and noticed that most bags were designed for people who carry the bag on the right shoulder. Two design characteristics favor right-shouldered golfers: 1) the harness/strap attachments and the 2) 'hip rest pad' (or whatever it is called). Is this discrimination?

If you are left handed (10% to 13% of the population and growing), there is good reason to have a persecution complex because there are so many things that have been designed with only the right-handed person in mind. It must feel like a vast conspiracy against lefties, maybe even a case of discrimination.
If, on the other hand, you are right handed and just carry your bag on the left shoulder, then you may be bordering on paranoia in seeing a conspiracy against your style of toting a bag. It is like claiming that the brake and accelerator pedal locations are not suited to your style of driving.
You are right that almost all bags have been designed first to be lifted onto the right shoulder and then, with the second supporting strap, to even the load by balancing it over the left shoulder. Before the introduction of the very popular double strap concept by IZZO, few if any carry bag straps were shoulder specific, equally and effectively carried on either shoulder.
Fred, I want to congratulate you for carrying your own bag, which is becoming an extinct art form. Youre not only keeping this practice alive, but youre reaping the health benefits associated with walking and adding to them by hauling your own clubs. Walking is my preference, but carts have taken the game by storm and have even had an effect on course design (to the delight of the cart manufacturers, as many courses today are almost unplayable without a cart). This is a built in source of revenue to the course and the cart manufacturer. We may through the evolutionary process start losing the use of our legs.
If you really can't sleep at night because you like to carry your bag on the left shoulder first, then I am sure you can find some lawyers who will think about (not for too long) taking your discrimination case to the Supreme Court, but don't get too excited just yet.
Fred, this is one of those times where I don't feel too bad for your left shoulder, but I certainly want to say well done on staying the course and enjoying a wonderful part of the game -- the tradition of walking. For those who want to play on many courses in the UK, where the game began, you will need to practice the art of walking, carrying your own bag and often playing in the cold and rain.
Carry on the tradition.
-- Frank
I recently spent an hour on a launch monitor trying to identify my ideal driver make-up. I tried eight driver head-and-shaft combinations from all the major manufacturers.
My average swing specs were 105mph swing speed, 12.5 degree launch angle, 245 yards of carry and 255 overall yards. The one stat that was clearly out of spec was my spin rate, which ranged from 2900 to 3600. My question is, how do you reduce spin rate if not with the driver head or shaft? I use the lower spinning premium balls. I am now trying to hit the ball higher on the face. But these seem like band-aids when I need to drop my spin rate into the 2200 - 2400 range for optimum performance.
Thank you for being so generous with your time and information.
Best regards,
-- Alex

You are hitting the ball very well, but for your 105 mph head speed you should be getting an overall distance of about 270 yards. I don't know how the launch monitor you have been working with has been programmed, but it seems to be giving the correct distances if the spin rate is up to 3,600 rpm. This would tend to give you a higher trajectory and steeper landing angle, and thus reduced roll.
On a closely mown fairway of average hardness and a flat landing area, you should expect about 25 yards of roll on your drives. So the problem does seem to be the spin rate. You have indicated that you are using a premium ball with a lower spin rating; you shouldnt consider this a band aid, but rather a proper fitting or tweaking for your skills. A lower-lofted club will lower the spin rate, but will also lower the launch angle. If you are successful in your efforts to hit the ball above the center of the face, this can lower the spin by as much as 500 or more rpm because of the vertical gear effect. This will also increase the launch angle a little because of the roll designed into the face.
I would first concentrate on trying to hit the ball higher on the face. Most of us are lucky to find the face, never mind selecting a specific impact point on it. The golfers on Tour can do this most of the time and that is why they are on Tour. Alex, you may be able to do this more often than most of us, so try it before you go to the next step of decreasing the loft of the driver by about one degree. Even with a decreased loft, youll still need to make impact slightly above center. The combination of the decreased loft and higher impact point on the face will probably help. Let's face it, though, you don't need too much help anyway.
To gain more distance, most of us need to increase our range of motion and develop a little more strength and stamina. Unfortunately, this requires a few visits to the gym, which may not be as exciting as looking for the magic tools.
Good hunting and keep on having fun. For more on launch conditions check out my guideline by clicking here.
-- 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