Difference between golf balls isn't great

Updated: June 30, 2004, 4:39 PM ET
By Frank Thomas | Golf Digest

Does playing a "pro" ball make any difference in the average player? I use run-of-the-mill golf balls, whatever happens to be on sale ($12 to $15 a dozen). My golf buddy swears by his $9 a sleeve Titleist HPs. Also, what does 90 and 100 designate in compression? I figure if I am going to buy pro balls, I might as well go all the way. -- Paul Perhacs, Cleveland, Ohio

Golf balls are made so well these days that the difference between an average ball and the best ball out there is not that great. For 90 percent of us golfers, the variation in our performance is far greater than any variation in the quality of the golf balls we use. In other words, golf balls are more reliable than our all-too-human, unreliable bodies. So my advice to you is to play with a ball you have confidence in.

As for compression, it used to be a measure of the hardness of a ball (or the amount it would deform under a specific load). It was an indication of the speed with which the ball would leave the club. But that was in the days when practically all golf balls were wound. With today's prevalent multilayered "solid" balls, compression is no longer an important consideration.

I am a high handicapper who is thinking about adding another wedge to my game. I already have a 60-degree lob wedge and was thinking of getting something with a little less loft and more bounce. I was reading some comments about clubs and came to something called "rusting" the club. Does this really help to get spin on the ball? Should I buy a club that is made to rust, or go with the chrome one? -- Matthew Ward, Mishawaka, Ind.

If you increase the coefficient of friction of the clubface, you increase the potential for spin. Anything that can "grab" onto the ball will increase spin. So it is possible that rust could increase spin, but only by a very minimal amount. The poor esthetics of a rusted club far outweigh any very minor benefit of increased spin.

I'm a beginning, left-handed golfer and consistently shoot in the low 100's. I've played off and on for years but have only been playing consistently for the last four months. I'm only 5-foot-5 and have trouble with my woods and long irons. I have off-the-shelf, traditional-length clubs. I hit my 6-iron through my sand wedge good and consistently straight, but I still have problems with my long irons and woods. Do you think I should have my clubs cut down and shortened? -- Mark Watkins, Palmetto, Fla.

Mark,
Join the crowd. A lot of us find that hitting long irons (2, 3, and 4) is difficult. This is not necessarily because they have longer shafts, but possibly because of the clubhead design. Some manufacturers have produced 7- and 9-woods to help resolve the same problems you have, and these work well. I think that you should first try to choke up (i.e. allow an inch or so of the butt end of the grip to extend above the hands) on your longer irons and woods. See if this works and if so then maybe shortening the shafts may work. But if you do this I recommend you do it for the full set of irons, not only the long irons. Have fun.

I am 41 years old, 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. I am a 6 handicap with a driver swing speed of over 110 mph. My question is this: is graphite longer than steel and if so on average how much longer? I currently play with a Titleist 975J with a UST 65 stiff shaft. -- David Smith, Oklahoma City, Okla.

David,
All else being equal, graphite is longer than steel. But make sure that you get a good, quality graphite shaft. The reason for this is that there is less mass in the shaft and thus the club will have a lower moment of inertia about the swing axis which is close to, but above the butt end of the grip, just before and through the impact zone. This difference will allow for an increase in club head speed of several feet per second. If you are comfortable with what you have though, dont ch'ange. Looking for a few extra yards is not worth the potential discomfort. The grass is not always greener.

Frank Thomas, former USGA technical director, is now chief technical advisor for Golf Digest.

Do you have a question or comment for Frank? Send your inquiries to equipment@golfdigest.com with the word "Thomas" in the subject field. Frank will answer the best questions in this space.

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