Skip to main content

Throwing Fast Balls


I enjoy your weekly talks and was with you all the way on the grooves issue and the USGA. Interesting to see the number of 59's and low 60's even with the new grooves. They will not admit it, but they were completely wrong and lots of people have to buy new clubs.

Since most of the technological improvements to golf clubs have been achieved, I believe the low scores PGA Tour players are posting is because they are fit to the best golf ball for their equipment and swing characteristics.

How can we recreational golfers get help in selecting the best ball for our swing speed. We do not have the luxury of trying a wide range of balls because of the expense.

Is there a database that lists the various balls and their construction and ball flight characteristics?

Can you tell us what to look for when selecting a ball to help lower our scores?

– Jim

Regarding your first statement about grooves, now that we are more than halfway through the year is there any evidence to justify the rule change?

Has the perceived problem been solved and was it worth the disruption?

It may be too early to tell, but from what we see about scoring, shot values, etc. on the tour but there seems to be little, if any effect due to the adoption of the new rule. In fact, a preliminary analysis looks like the performance results oppose those anticipated by the USGA.

If this trend continues for the remainder of the year perhaps some good will come from the experience in that next time the USGA makes a change it will be more transparent, providing to its constituents the evidence proving that there really is a problem and also providing sound evidence to indicate that the proposed solution will resolve that problem – based on sound localized experimentation – before universally adopting a change. Let’s see what happens.

Regarding a selection of balls to lower your score significantly, I think you are looking for a little more magic than is available. You do need to optimize your launch conditions for your drives – which has more to do with the club properties than ball selection – as well as select a ball you are comfortable using around the greens. The pros on tour have selected the ball which satisfies their needs for both around the green and off the tee. This is not the reason for the very low scores we have seen recently but probably helps a little because of the confidence it instills.

Jim, once you have the correct club properties to get close to optimum launch conditions you can tweak these by using different balls but don’t compromise distance off the driver for control around the greens. Selecting a premium tour grade ball would be a good start but this won’t by itself get you into the 59 range.

There are certain things to consider when selecting your golf ball:

  1. If you are looking for an inexpensive ball (under $20) for pure distance off the tee and are prepared to compromise your shots around the green, you should look for a two-piece ball with a hard Surlyn® (Ionomer) cover and resilient core.
  1. If you can step up a notch in price ($30 range) and want both some control around the green as well as good distance then select a multi layered ball with a resilient lower compression core and a Urethane or soft Ionomer cover.
  1. If price is not a factor then select a premium ball ($45 to $55) having a multi-layered construction and a very thin urethane cover. This will not compromise any part of your game. Building confidence in your ball will do wonders for your game, but not turn a 79 into a 59.

Many of the top golf ball manufacturers have excellent websites that can help you learn more about their products and what ball is right for you.

– Frank


Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email