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Opinion & Analysis

Growing Up Golf Part 6: The Right Ball

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Click here to read all the articles in Kadin’s series, “Growing Up Golf.”

At the beginning stages of your child’s development, you really don’t need to fuss about what golf ball your child uses. For the most part, we can just buy whatever is on the clearance rack or the “recycled” ball bin at your local pro shop or sports store, right?

Wrong! Your child needs to be fitted for a golf ball the same as your child needs to be fitted for their clubs.

Let’s start with a few terms used when selecting a golf ball.

Swing Speed: Swing speed is a measure of velocity, in miles per hour, of how fast the head of a golf club is traveling at the point it makes impact with the golf ball. Swing speed can be recorded by a launch monitor or other electronic radar devices.

Spin: Spin is the rotation of the golf ball in flight or the measured rate of that rotation. It’s what causes shots rise, curve and “back up” after hitting the green.

Compression: Compression is a measurement of the firmness of the golf ball. Typically, the softer the golf ball feels the lower the compression rating.

Trajectory: Trajectory is a term used to describe the flight characteristics of a golf shot. It considers the height of the shot as well as its launch and landing characteristics.

There have been huge advancements made during the last decade when it comes to golf balls. From core to cover, golf balls have changed drastically from the days of “wound” balls. Golf balls can be categorized by cover material, which is usually urethane or surlyn. There are spin ratings for the driver and long irons, greenside spin ratings for wedge play. They come in multiple layers and can be described as a two-piece, three-piece, four-piece and even five-piece balls. Some are categorized as “low,” “mid” or “high” trajectory, which are relative terms. Finally, they come in different compression ratings. When it comes to choosing the right ball for the adult amateur, the decision can be mind boggling. When it comes to choosing a ball for your child, I am happy to say this process is going to be much easier.

For children, you only need to look as far as the compression rating. And before I get the, “Yeah, but my child needs more greenside control and less driver spin,” keep in mind that we are talking about the beginner level, ages 5-12. I will touch base on younger than 5 and older than 12 as we go.

Compression rating rating is important because you want your child to be able to get the ball up in the air and hit it straight; distance should not be as much of a concern at this point. In order to accomplish this, your child will need to be able to compress the core of the golf ball, which in turn will yield a high initial launch. Choosing the correct compression will make it easier for your child to achieve this.

So how do we know the right compression? It’s as simple as knowing your child’s swing speed. To find out your child’s swing speed, have him/her take some swings on equipment that is designed to measure swing speeds based on miles per hour. Most of your local pro shops and some of the big name box stores will have this equipment available and usually will be able to measure swings for you.  If you are unable to have your child’s swing checked, U.S. Kids Golf has created a kids swing speed chart based on age, using testing results compiled from the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.

Age 5 Swing Speed: 51 mph          Age 9 Swing Speed: 73 mph

Age 6 Swing Speed: 58 mph         Age 10 Swing Speed: 76 mph

Age 7 Swing Speed: 62 mph         Age 11 Swing Speed: 82 mph

Age 8 Swing Speed: 68 mph         Age 12 Swing Speed: 86 mph

So now that we have your son/daughter’s swing speed, how does match it up to the compression ratio? We need to look for golf balls that have compression ratings ranging between 45 and 70. The lower the swing speed, the lower the compression should be. According to U.S. Kids Golf, children with swing speeds under 70 mph should be playing a ball with a compression of 45, and children with swing speeds between 71 mph and 90 mph should be using a ball with a compression rating of 62. This is why companies have created two balls, one for each range.

US Kids Golf 70

The U.S. Kids Golf 70: This golf ball is specially formulated to the Optimal Performance Combination (OPC) to provide the best results for golfers with swing speeds of 70 mph or less. Featuring a compression of 45, this ball is designed to give those with the appropriate swing speed more distance and trajectory while maintaining a soft feel.

The U.S. Kids Golf 90: This golf ball is specially formulated to the OPC to provide the best results for golfers with swing speeds of up to 90 mph. Featuring a compression of 62, this ball is designed to give those with the appropriate swing speed more distance and trajectory while maintaining a soft feel.

Nike also has a golf ball designed specifically for young golfers called  The Nike EZ-Distance Youth Golf Ball. It is designed to deliver faster ball speed off slower swings, and higher ball flight for optimal carry.

Nike EZ Distance Golf Ball

There are a lot of great low compression/slow swing speed balls out there. Some manufacturers market their balls by swing speed and some market their balls by compression rating. If you are not sure, ask your pro shop attendant to clarify that the ball you are purchasing is a low-compression ball or one that matches your child’s swing speed. One of the best ways to determine which ball would be best for your child is to buy a couple sleeves of different brands and compression levels and test which ball works the best. The right ball can go a long way in making your junior golfer’s experience the best it can be at this point. As your child gets older and stronger, you will want to reassess what type of ball your child is hitting; it should always be a ball that is appropriate for your child’s swing.

For those of you that have children 5 or younger and are at the very beginning of golf introduction, you can have them hit just about any round object under the sun. My son and daughter hit everything, including foam practice balls, Wiffle balls, bouncy balls, tennis balls and even rolled up socks! Until they start going to the practice area, there really isn’t a serious need for them to hit golf balls. Let them play and hit whatever they want. Plus, lager objects are easier to hit and some will make silly sounds when struck. This is instant gratification for the little ones.

If you are the parent whose child requires “more greenside control and less driver spin,” you’re at that stage where your son/daughter is looking to play a Tour-level ball and are at the serious competition/tournament level. The best suggestion I can give you is have your young athlete attend a professional ball fitting. With such a vast selection of Tour-level balls, it is very hard to tell which one will give you optimal performance without seeing some real-world numbers on a launch monitor. If you are serious about playing the best equipment for YOUR game, you need to be professionally fit.

Having your child play the same ball as his/her favorite PGA/LPGA star is not going to cut it. Professional golfers use a ball that gives them the best performance possible and the way they found out is by testing them on a launch monitor and then testing them on the course. They look for specific things such as a certain amount of spin, feel, driver distance and trajectory control. These are considerations you need to look at when choosing a top tier ball.

Okay moms and dads, don’t let the golf ball selection process scare you, it’s not as hard as it sounds. The little ones younger than 5 years old hit every round object under the sun. For players 5 to 12 years old, it’s a process of matching your swing speed to the compression rating. The older athletes competing in tournaments, high school matches and even those that are college bound, you need to attend a professional ball fitting.

Click here for more discussion in the “Junior Golf” forum.

 

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Kadin Mahmet has a passion for golf. He has coached at the collegiate level and has worked as an instructor specializing in youth athletics. You can follow Kadin on Twitter @BigKadin. "Like" Growing Up Golf on Facebook @ facebook.com/Growing.Up.Golf for more content.

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Opinion & Analysis

WATCH: How To Remove a Stuck Tip Weight

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Tip weights are one of the smallest components used to assemble a golf club, and they get stuck all the time. That causes a lot of problems if you want to re-use a shaft. In this how-to video, I explain the best practices for removing tip weights, as well as the tools you should use to remove them.

 

 

 

 

 

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Opinion & Analysis

Have you got Golfzheimers?

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While it has taken more than a quarter century of teaching golf to arrive at this point, I have come to the conclusion that there is an as-yet-unnamed epidemic condition afflicting a great majority of players. This condition is so prevalent that I think it is high time it was given a name. So let me be the first to navigate those uncharted waters and give it one in hopes that, once formally recognized, it will begin to be more seriously studied in search for a cure. I will call this condition “Golfzheimers,” as it is the complete inability most golfers have to remember the vast majority of good shots they have ever hit (even those hit only moments before), while having the uncanny ability to instantly recall every chunk, shank, skull, and chili-dip they’ve hit since sometime back around when balls were still covered with balata.

Now trust me, I’m not making light of a very troubling and serious disease. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s, and it is a heartbreaking condition.  n truth, I could have just as easily named this “A Golfer’s Senior Moment,” since the term is ubiquitous enough, if I really believed someone would actually take offense (and I am truly sorry if you do).  I didn’t, though, because it was after a conversation with my late grandmother one day that I was suddenly struck with how oddly similar her lack of short-term memory, combined with her ability to vividly remember things that happened 40 or 50 years ago, was in some ways to how most golfers tend to think.

As long as I have been playing and teaching, I’ve been searching for different ways to learn to accept bad shots, keep them in perspective, and move on without letting them affect the next shot, hole, or round. When it comes to swinging the golf club, I can generally teach someone how to hit pretty good shots in a fairly short period of time, but teaching them to remember them with the same level of clarity as those of the more wayward variety often seems like trying to teach a blind man to see. Despite a general awareness of this phenomenon by most players and its detrimental effect upon their golf game, little has been suggested until now as to why it exists and what if anything golfers can do about it. And while research in the field of neuroscience suggests that our brains are hard-wired from the caveman days to catalogue and assign more importance to events that are considered dangerous or threatening, what about the game can have become so dangerous (other than to our egos) that we all seem to be fighting such an uphill battle?

Numerous psychological studies have found that the majority of people can remember five bad experiences more readily than five good ones, and assuming this is true, it speaks a great deal about how we have been conditioned to think since an early age.  The concept of scarcity, a term popularized in the self-help world, essentially describes a lens through which many of us have been conditioned to look upon our world, our lives, and apparently our games, with far too much regularity. It is through the use of this concept that many of our parents kept us at the dinner table as children, far beyond our wishes and long after our dinners were cold. We were guilt-ridden, not because we might be unappreciative of the time and money that went into providing us with that dinner, but because there were millions of starving children in China or some other far-off country that would have been tripping over themselves for even the remnants of that liver and onions our mothers had beset upon us.

As a proud parent, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve used the scarcity tactic a time or two myself during moments of desperation. Being naturally an optimist, though, I try to avoid succumbing to its siren song because I prefer to teach my daughters a far better lesson. At the same time, my girls are proof positive of these same studies and our ability to recall, as evidenced by another thing we do at that very same dinner table — we play a game called high and low. I’m sure you’ve heard of it; it’s where you ask your kids what their high and low moments were during the day. With my kids, I ask them to tell me the low first, preferring to close their day’s reflection with something positive, but it’s uncanny how often recalling something positive makes them really pause and reflect, while if something negative occurred, their recall of it is nearly instant and typically very descriptive.

The good news for both my daughters and the general golfing public, however, is there is a very effective way to short-circuit this type of thinking, and it comes from the field of hypnosis. From this moment forward, make a point not only to remember every good thing that happens to you, but to stop and savor it. If you are paid a compliment, don’t just brush it off. Stop to relish it for a moment and recognize the responsible person with more than just the perfunctory, “Thanks.” If you accomplish a goal, regardless of how small, reward yourself in at least some small way, all the while reminding yourself how good it feels to follow through on your intentions. And if you actually hit a golf shot well, reflect a moment, make a point to enjoy it and remember the moment vividly, and actually thank your partners when they say, “Nice shot” rather than blowing it off with some sort of, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while” type of comment.

Hitting the golf ball well is actually a near miraculous achievement when you consider the complexity of the swing and the incredible timing and hand-eye coordination it requires. Enjoy it (or anything else for that matter) when it actually comes off right. Do it several times a day for a month or more and there will be subtle changes in your brain chemistry, how you feel, and your outlook on life. You will notice, and so will those closest to you.  Make it a long-term habit and you might even be able to avoid ever having your playing partners ask this unfortunate question: “Have you got Golfzheimers?”

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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