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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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Podcasts

Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes

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Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the TheTourVan.com, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

The 2018 NCAA Men’s National Championship: By the Numbers

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For the 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship, 156 participants (30 teams of five, and six individuals) will collect at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30 to determine the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion and the NCAA Team champion.

There will be three days of stroke play on Friday through Sunday (54 holes). From there, 15 teams and nine individuals advance to a final day of stroke play on Monday. That will determine the eight teams who will advance to match play, and the individual 72-hole stroke play champion. Match play format on Tuesday and Wednesday will then determine the national team champion.

Who will win? Well, let’s look at the numbers from the NCAA Men’s Championships in the past 9 years (when they began playing match play as part of the national title).

Average winning score for individual stroke play

  • For 3 rounds of stroke play — 832 strokes (avg. 69.3 per golfer)
  • For 4 rounds of stroke play — 1137 strokes (avg. 71.06 per golfer)

Number of No. 1 seeds to win championship: 0

Average match play seed of eventual winner: 4.5

Where the winners have come from

  • 44 percent of winners (4 out of 9) are from the SEC: Texas AM (2009), Alabama (2013, 2014) and LSU (2015)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from the Big 12: Texas (2012), Oklahoma (2017)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from Augusta, GA: August State (2010, 2011)
  • 11 percent of winners (1 out of 9) are from the PAC 12: Oregon (2016)
  • 11 percent of the match play field has historically come from mid-major teams

Mid-Majors that have Qualified for Match Play

  • August State (2010, 2011)
  • Kent State (2012)
  • San Diego State (2012)
  • New Mexico University (2013)
  • SMU (2014)
  • UNLV (2017)

Mid Majors with 4+ Appearances in the NCAA National Championship 

  • UCF (2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • Kent State (2010, 201, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • North Florida (2010, 2012, 2013, 2018)

So with facts in hand, let’s hear your opinion GolfWRX readers… who’s going to be your team champion for 2018?

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational

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Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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