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Choosing your “rocket ball”

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The longest golf ball in TaylorMade’s 2012 lineup is not the new Penta TP5. It’s not the new Penta TP3, or the Rocketballz ball, either. According to Dean Snell, Senior Director of Research and Development for golf balls at TaylorMade, the longest ball in TaylorMade’s 2012 lineup is all of them.

That’s why Snell, who has been designing golf balls for more than 22 years, said the least important part of fitting a golf ball is testing it with a driver.

“There isn’t a TaylorMade golf ball that doesn’t come up to the USGA threshold of velocity,” Snell said. “Off the driver, they’re all pretty much going to go the same distance … Nobody is going to be able to give you a ball that goes 20 yards further [off the driver] any more.”

For that reason, Snell said golfers should choose a golf ball that is best for them from 150 yards and in. That sounds simple enough, but it raises another question. What makes one golf ball better than another from that distance? Luckily, there’s a pretty easy way to find out.

Snell said that golfers should spend less time testing the latest golf clubs, and more time testing golf balls. He wants you to test golf balls the same way many tour players do – by playing nine holes with different types of balls, and spending extra time hitting shots around the greens with them.

“Notice how the balls feel, how they release, how they putt, how they come out of the sand,” Snell said. “At the end, the results should sing to you.”

But before you start testing golf balls, there are a few things you should know about golf ball design. Understanding the advantages of different types of golf ball constructions can save you shots off your game, and money off your golf ball purchases. And for the better player, it can help justify paying a premium price for your next dozen.

The No. 1 thing Snell wants you to know is that a player’s ball speed is not the most important aspect of fitting a golf ball. It’s the launch angle and spin rate of a golf ball that golfers should monitor the most closely. That’s because at tour swing speeds, a 1 percent increase in ball speed equates to only about 2.5 yards of extra distance. But a change in launch angle, say from 9 degrees with 2500 rpm of spin to 12 degrees with the same amount of spin can add as much as 15 to 20 yards of distance. Golfers would be hard pressed, however, to find a new golf ball that can cause such a drastic change in their launch conditions off of the driver. But where they can find radical improvements with different golf balls is with their shorter clubs.

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TaylorMade’s most expensive ball, the Penta TP5, will cost $45 per dozen when it is released in March. Its five-piece construction is similar to the original Penta TP, with the exception of a softer core compression and softer first mantle (the layer closest to the core), which will cause the ball to spin less on full shots than the original Penta.

Snell said that because of its softer construction, the TP5 performs better for high-spin players from 150 yards and in. It will also reduce spin for those players on shots with drivers and three woods. But the favorite part of the ball for many TaylorMade Staff players is its softer feel, which according to Snell actually has little to do with the way a golf ball reacts with the club.

“In our research, feel is actually a product of sound,” Snell said. “It’s a subjective measurement, but the softer the sound, the more control tour players feel like they have off the face.”

TaylorMade’s Penta TP3 is a three-piece ball that features all the benefits of the TP5, yet will cost about $10 less per dozen. Its cover is made of the same ultra-thin cast thermoset urethane material, and has the same compression as the TP5, but it is designed to spin more on full shots. Without getting into the technical details of golf ball design, Snell offered an easy solution on which Penta better players should have in the bag.

“If the current Penta hits the green and stays, or it spins back a little with your shorter irons, play the TP5,” Snell said. “But if it bounces forward, you probably want to try the TP3. And I promise golfers won’t be able to tell a difference in how the balls feel. If they can, I need to hire them as a product tester, because our tour pros can’t even tell the difference.”

For players that struggle with shots “knuckling,” or “falling out of the sky,” trajectories which mean the golf ball does not have enough spin, Snell recommends that they try the Rocketballz ball, a three piece ball that will cost $26 per dozen.

“People don’t believe me when I say this, but the Rocketballz balls and balls like it are actually softer than tour balls,” Snell said. “If you don’t believe me, try bouncing them on a wedge.”

The reason the Rocketballz ball is softer than the Penta line of balls is because of its ionomer cover. But ionomer, like surlyn, another popular material for covers in less expensive golf balls, must be made thicker, and is not as good at creating spin around the green as urethane covers. These less expensive balls also lack the firmer outside mantle that makes balls feel louder and “clickier,” yet adds short-game spin.

“Better players get more performance with urethane as you get closer to the green,” Snell said. “That’s what you pay for.”

For that reason, the Rocketballz ball will pitch a little higher and with a little less spin than the TP5 and TP3. But what the Rocketballz ball lacks in greenside spin, it makes up for with full shots. The Rocketballz ball will launch higher and with more spin than the Penta balls, which means average golfers will be able to hit the Rocketballz ball further than the TP5 and TP3 – a huge advantage for those that struggle from tee to green.

Penta TP5

What’s next?

Snell said it’s hard for him to predict what’s next for golf ball technology, but admits it will be hard to improve on the design of the this latest version of golf balls.

“Tour players like Jason Day, Sean O’Hair and Sergio Garcia – they tell me, ‘This is the ball that I love,’” Snell said. “We’ve got the top of the pyramid covered.”

With the success of Penta’s five layers, five shots campaign, Snell is often asked – “You get to have 14 clubs, so why not 14 layers?” It’s something Snell said could happen in the future. But what he really hopes he sees in the industry is better golf ball education and fitting.

“Right now we put players into categories when we’re designing golf balls,” Snell said. “As the categories get tighter, we can create more product, but I don’t think that’s the answer. It creates more confusion, because there’s no explanation for all the golf balls on the wall. In the future, I hope we can take all the feedback and help from the multilayer designs to design product for a stronger database of people. It would be nice to say, this is the tour ball for you.”

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Denny

    Sep 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Several balls may have a legitimate claim as the longest ball. In the most recent test I have seen, Several balls are in a range of 4 to 5 yards at the long end of the chart. Finding the ball that is in that range with the most spin off of an 8-iron or wedge then becomes the determining factor in the best ball to play.

    http://hittingthegolfball.com

  2. Dean Libner

    Apr 13, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Played the Rocket for the first time last
    week and the hype is true. This is the longest
    ball I’ve ever played. And to make it all the sweeter I found the ball on the practice area.
    Went to Sports Authority yesterday and bought
    a dozen for $26.99.

  3. joe

    Jan 30, 2012 at 11:05 am

    The Penta performs well but it is not long before it looks like it is ready for the shag bag.

  4. turner

    Jan 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I got a hold of the Rocketballz golf balls. They are good.

  5. Fistofnuts

    Jan 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    The best thing about Rocketballz so far is the marketing. I can’t wait to see if they live upto the hype. If they do, they will be the greatest contribution to the average golfer’s game since the creation of hybrid golf club.

  6. Ron Boehl

    Jan 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    The finest ball that I have ever played was the TP-Red ball that was the forerunner of the Penta ball. When they quit making that I bought what I could afford so I wouldn`t run out soon. The Penta is a very good ball but it didn`t putt like the TP-Red ball. I switched from Titietst Pro-V1`S for it. It had a knack of going in the hole for me. I will have to try the new TP5 ball since it is softer and see how it chips and putts.

  7. mrcub33

    Jan 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    It sounds good that for the Mid Handcapper that the Penta TP 3 will work and can save $10 Bucks, but I just stocked up on balls for this season and I’ll wait for them to go on sale doen to $25 Bucks and then stock up again

  8. Leonard

    Jan 11, 2012 at 3:11 am

    No one’s underestimating what Taylormade will develop in the future. I can’t wait to try the Rocketballz!

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pga tour

Ian Poulter WITB 2018

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2018 Honda Classic (2/20/2018).

Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei Orange CK 60TX

3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Matrix Ozik TP7HDe 7X

Hybrid: Titleist 816 H2 (21 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Tour Green ATX85H TX

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (4), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-PW)
Shaft: Project X LZ 130 7.0

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (52-12F, 56-14F, 60-04L)
Shaft: Project X LZ 7.0 (52), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 (56, 60)

Putter: EvnRoll Tour ER
Grip: Odyssey Pistol

Putter: Rife Antigua Island Series
Grip: Odyssey Pistol

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Related:

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Poulter’s clubs. 

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Equipment

10 interesting photos from Wednesday at the Honda Classic

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From our featured image of Rory McIlroy putting in a different kind of work on the range in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning, to shots of Tiger Woods’ similarly early pre-pro-am range work, to some intriguing shots Patrick Reed’s prototype Bettinardi putter, GolfWRX has plenty of fantastic photo content from PGA National.

Here are some of the best shots from Wednesday.

Tiger Woods at work prior to his crack-of-dawn pro-am tee time. Gentleman in the foreground: You do know that as the sun has not yet risen, you do not need a hat to aggressively combat its rays, right?

“My feet do not look like that at impact.”

All eyes on the Big Cat…except those focused on the live video on their cell phone screens…

Let’s take a closer look at Patrick Reed’s yardage book cover. Yep. As expected.

Do you think these two ever talk?

It looks like Captain Furyk already has some pre-Ryder Cup swag in the form of a putter cover.

If you’ve ever wondered why Rickie Fowler selected these interesting locations for his tattoos, this may be the answer: Visible when he holds his finish.

We’ve got a Pistol Pete sighting!

Patrick Reed’s droolworthy Bettinardi Dass prototype.

Fun fact: Wedges double as magnetic putter cover holders, as Jon Curran illustrates here. Healthy application of lead tape, as well, from the tour’s resident graffiti artist.

Wednesday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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Accessory Reviews

Review: FlightScope Mevo

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In 100 Words

The Mevo is a useful practice tool for amateur golfers and represents a step forward from previous offerings on the market. It allows golfers to practice indoors or outdoors and provides club speed, ball speed, smash factor, launch angle, spin rate, carry distance and flight time.

It also has a video capture mode that will overlay swing videos with the swing data of a specific swing. It is limited in its capabilities and its accuracy, though, which golfers should expect at this price point. All in all, it’s well worth the $499 price tag if you understand what you’re getting.

The Full Review

The FlightScope Mevo is a launch monitor powered by 3D Doppler radar. With a retail price of $499, it is obviously aimed to reach the end consumer as opposed to PGA professionals and club fitters.

The Mevo device itself is tiny. Like, really tiny. It measures 3.5-inches wide, 2.8-inches tall and 1.2-inches deep. In terms of everyday products, it’s roughly the size of an Altoids tin. It’s very easy to find room for it in your golf bag, and the vast majority of people at the range you may be practicing at won’t even notice it’s there. Apart from the Mevo itself, in the box you get a quick start guide, a charging cable, a carrying pouch, and some metallic stickers… more on those later. It has a rechargeable internal battery that reaches a full charge in about two hours and lasts for about four hours when fully charged.

As far as software goes, the Mevo pairs with the Mevo Golf app on your iOS or Android device. The app is free to download and does not require any subscription fees (unless you want to store and view videos of your swing online as opposed to using the memory on your device). The app is very easy to use even for those who aren’t tech savvy. Make sure you’re using the most current version of the firmware for the best results, though (I did experience some glitches at first until I did so). The settings menu does have an option to manually force firmware writing, but updates should happen automatically when you start using the device.

Moving through the menus, beginning sessions, editing shots (good for adding notes on things like strike location or wind) are all very easy. Video mode did give me fits the first time I used it, though, as it was impossible to maintain my connection between my phone and the Mevo while having the phone in the right location to capture video properly. The only way I could achieve this was by setting the Mevo as far back from strike location as the device would allow. Just something to keep in mind if you find you’re having troubles with video mode.

Screenshot of video capture mode with the FlightScope Mevo

Using the Mevo

When setting up the Mevo, it needs to be placed between 4-7 feet behind the golf ball, level with the playing surface and pointed down the target line. The distance you place the Mevo behind the ball does need to be entered into the settings menu before starting your session. While we’re on that subject, before hitting balls, you do need to select between indoor, outdoor, and pitching (ball flight less than 20 yards) modes, input your altitude and select video or data mode depending on if you want to pair your data with videos of each swing or just see the data by itself. You can also edit the available clubs to be monitored, as you will have to tell the Mevo which club you’re using at any point in time to get the best results. Once you get that far, you’re pretty much off to the races.

Testing the Mevo

I tested the FlightScope Mevo with Brad Bachand at Man O’ War Golf Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Brad is a member of the PGA and has received numerous awards for golf instruction and club fitting. I wanted to put the Mevo against the best device FlightScope has to offer and, luckily, Brad does use his $15,000 FlightScope X3 daily. We had both the FlightScope Mevo and Brad’s FlightScope X3 set up simultaneously, so the numbers gathered from the two devices were generated from the exact same strikes. Brad also set up the two devices and did all of the ball striking just to maximize our chances for success.

The day of our outdoor session was roughly 22 degrees Fahrenheit. There was some wind on that day (mostly right to left), but it wasn’t a major factor. Our setup is pictured below.

Outdoor testing setup with FlightScope X3 (foreground) and Mevo

The results of our outdoor testing are shown below. The testing was conducted with range balls, and we did use the metallic stickers. The range balls used across all the testing were all consistently the same brand. Man O’ War buys all new range balls once a year and these had been used all throughout 2017.  The 2018 batch had not yet been purchased at the time that testing was conducted.

Raw outdoor data captured with range balls including metallic stickers. Mevo data (blue) and X3 data (orange) were both generated from the same exact shots.

You’ll notice some peculiar data in the sand wedge spin category. To be honest, I don’t fully know what contributed to the X3 measuring such low values. While the Mevo’s sand wedge spin numbers seem more believable, you could visibly see that the X3 was much more accurate on carry distance. Below is a quick summary of the percent differences between each of the parameters as presented by the Mevo and the X3 in our outdoor session when separated out for each club. As previously mentioned, though, take sand wedge spin with a grain of salt.

Table showing the percent difference of each parameter between Mevo and X3 grouped by club (outdoor testing).

The first thing we noticed was that the Mevo displays its numbers while the golf ball is still in midair, so it was clear that it wasn’t watching the golf ball the entire time like the X3. According to the Mevo website, carry distance, height and flight time are all calculated while club speed, ball speed, launch angle and spin rate are measured. As for the accuracy of the measured parameters, the Mevo’s strength is ball speed. The accuracy of the other measured ball parameters (launch angle and spin rate) is questionable depending on certain factors (quality of strike, moisture on the clubface and ball, quality of ball, etc). I would say it ranges between “good” or “very good” and “disappointing” with most strikes being categorized as “just okay.”

As for the calculated parameters of carry distance, height and time, those vary a decent amount. Obviously, when the measurements of the three inputs become less accurate, the three outputs will become less accurate as a result. Furthermore, according to FlightScope, the Mevo’s calculations are not accounting for things like temperature, humidity, and wind. The company has also stated, though, that future updates will likely adjust for these parameters by using location services through the app.

Now, let’s talk about those metallic stickers. According to the quick start guide, the Mevo needs a sticker on every golf ball you hit, and before you hit each ball, the ball needs to be placed such that the sticker is facing the target. It goes without saying that it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to spend time putting those stickers on every ball, let alone balls that will never come back to you if you’re at a public driving range. Obviously, people are going to want to avoid using the stickers if they can, so do they really matter? Below is a table of data showing the percent difference between the Mevo’s data and the X3’s data of what we collected outdoors with a driver and range balls with and without the use of the stickers.

Table showing how the percent difference of each parameter changes between Mevo and X3 when you use the metallic stickers and when you don’t

The FlightScope website says that the metallic stickers “are needed in order for the Mevo to accurately measure ball spin.” We observed pretty much the same as shown in the table above. The website also states they are working on alternative solutions to stickers (possibly a metallic sharpie), which I think is wise.

Another thing we thought would be worth testing is the impact of different golf balls. Below is a table of data showing the percent difference between the Mevo’s data and the X3’s data of what we collected outdoors with a driver and range balls as compared to Pro V1’s. All of this data was collected using the metallic stickers.

Table showing how the percent difference of each parameter changes between Mevo and X3 when you switch from range balls to Pro V1’s

As shown above, the data gets much closer virtually across the board when you use better quality golf balls. Just something else to keep in mind when using the Mevo.

Indoor testing requires 8 feet of ball flight (impact zone to hitting net), which was no problem for us. Our setup is pictured below. All of the indoor testing was conducted with Titleist Pro V1 golf balls using the metallic stickers.

Indoor testing setup with FlightScope X3 (foreground) and Mevo

The results of our indoor session are shown below.

Raw indoor data captured with Pro V1’s including metallic stickers. Mevo data (blue) and X3 data (orange) were both generated from the same exact shots.

Below is a quick summary of the percent differences between each of the parameters as presented by the Mevo and the X3 in our indoor session when separated out for each club.

Table showing the percent difference of each parameter between Mevo and X3 grouped by club (indoor testing)

On the whole, the data got much closer together between the two devices in our indoor session. I would think a lot of that can be attributed to the use of quality golf balls and to removing outdoor factors like wind and temperature (tying into my previous comment above).

As far as overall observations between all sessions, the most striking thing was that the Mevo consistently gets more accurate when you hit really good, straight shots. When you hit bad shots, or if you hit a fade or a draw, it gets less and less accurate.

The last parameter to address is club speed, which came in around 5 percent different on average between the Mevo and X3 based on all of the shots recorded. The Mevo was most accurate with the driver at 2.1 percent different from the X3 over all strikes and it was the least accurate with sand wedge by far. Obviously, smash factor accuracy will follow club speed for the most part since ball speed is quite accurate. Over every shot we observed, the percent difference on ball speed was 1.2 percent on average between the Mevo and the X3. Again, the Mevo was least accurate with sand wedges. If I remove all sand wedge shots from the data, the average percent difference changes from 1.2 percent to 0.7 percent, which is very, very respectable.

When it comes to the different clubs used, the Mevo was by far most accurate with mid irons. I confirmed this with on-course testing on a relatively flat 170-yard par-3 as well. Carry distances in that case were within 1-2 yards on most shots (mostly related to quality of strike). With the driver, the Mevo was reasonably close, but I would also describe it as generous. It almost always missed by telling me that launch angle was higher, spin rate was lower and carry distance was farther than the X3. Generally speaking, the Mevo overestimated our driver carries by about 5 percent. Lastly, the Mevo really did not like sand wedges at all. Especially considering those shots were short enough that you could visibly see how far off the Mevo was with its carry distance. Being 10 yards off on a 90 yard shot was disappointing.

Conclusion

The Mevo is a really good product if you understand what you’re getting when you buy it. Although the data isn’t good enough for a PGA professional, it’s still a useful tool that gives amateurs reasonable feedback while practicing. It’s also a fair amount more accurate than similar products in its price range, and I think it could become even better with firmware updates as Flightscope improves upon its product.

This is a much welcomed and very promising step forward in consumer launch monitors, and the Mevo is definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for one.

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