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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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Equipment

Members’ Choice: The top-5 drivers that golfers want to test in 2018

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Golf’s “off-season” is upon us and the PGAM Show in Orlando is quickly approaching in January, which means it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming driver releases.

We’ve seen a few companies launch their “2018” lines already — such as Cobra with its new King F8 and F8+ — while speculation swirls around the companies who have yet to announce their newest products. For instance, we’ve spotted a new “TaylorMade M4″ driver, and a new “Rogue” driver from Callaway. If history repeats itself and Titleist remains on a two-year product cycle, then we’ll see a replacement for the 917 line sometime in 2018, as well.

The question we posed to our GolfWRX Members recently was, which new or unreleased driver has you most excited heading into 2018? Below are the results and a selection of comments about each driver.

Click here to join the discussion!

Note: The comments below have been minimally edited for brevity and grammar. 

Titleist (7.39 percent of votes)

BDoubleG: I know it’s well down the road, but the Titleist 919 is what I’m most looking forward to. I played the 910 until this year and loved it, but I realized that I wasn’t getting much in the way of distance gains with the 915/917, and I was just leaving too many yards on the table. I know it’s a cliche, but I was seeing considerable gains with my G400LS, then my M2 I have now.

I feel like Titleist has been hurting in the driver market share category (and probably elsewhere), as I think a lot of people think that the 913, 915 and 917 have been minor refreshes in a world where almost everyone else has been experimenting with structure (jailbreak, turbulators) or with COG (spaceports, SLDR, G-series extreme back CG). I think if Titleist is going to recapture some of their market share, they will need to start taking an interest in stepping outside of their comfort zone to catch up with everyone else. Maybe I’m hoping for too much, but a D2-style head with ample forgiveness and low-spin (maybe a back-front weight), with the same great sound of the 917, and hopefully getting rid of the “battery taped to the sole” look would be a huge hit in my book.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what they come up with…and I hope I’m not disappointed.

Mizuno GT-180 or otherwise (8.87 percent of votes)

mrmikeac: After thoroughly testing the Mizuno ST-180 and seeing the distance gains I was getting from my Epic, I can’t wait for the GT to get here. Cobra would be next in line for me, but Mizzy really did something special with that JPX-900 and it seems to look like they’re going the same route with these drivers. Excellent feel, forgiveness and simple but effective tech. 

Callaway Rogue, Rogue Sub Zero or otherwise (17.73 percent of votes)

cvhookem63: It seems like we’re not getting a lot of “NEW” this time — just some same lines “improved” on a little. I’m interested to try the Rogue line and M3/M4 line to see if they improved on their previous models. The Cobra F8+ is intriguing to me, as well. I’d like to compare those three to see how they stack up. 

tj7644: Callaway Rogue. It’s gotta make me hit straighter drives right? It sure can’t be my swing…

Equipto: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero, and that’s about it. Most of my testing will be with shafts I presume. 

bangabain: Excited to give the Rogue a shot, although with the hope that there’s a little more fade bias despite the lack of sliding weight.

TaylorMade M3, M4 or otherwise (27.09 percent of votes)

DeCuchi: TaylorMade M3 of course, and the F8+. I’m more interested in the fairways this year though. TaylorMade M4 fairways and Rogue fairways are top of my list. 

elwhippy: TaylorMade M3 and M4. Not owned a TM driver for several seasons and want something with a bit more power than the Ping G Series…

cradd10: M3. Still rocking an OG M1. Super solid driver. Curious to see if the updated version can beat it. 

Cobra F8/F8+ (33.66 percent of votes)

WAxORxDCxSC: I sure want to like the F8 based on looks (I understand I’m possibly in the minority on that one at GolfWRX).

TWshoot67: For me, it’s three drivers: the Cobra F8, F8+ and TM M4. 

The General: Cobra F8 is going to dominate everything, just wait, on the F8

Ace2000: Definitely F8/F8+. Love my Bio Cell+ and can’t help but wonder if these perform as good as they look. 

Click here to join the discussion!

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True Linkswear goes back to its spikeless roots

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True Linkswear is getting back to its roots, while expanding the singular golf shoe brand’s reach at the same time.

The Tacoma, Washington, company’s Director/Partner, Justin Turner, told us that with the release of the two new models, the company is course-correcting from a move toward the mainstream, spiked golf shoes, and a loss of identity.

In addition to durability issues, Turner said the core True Linkswear customer didn’t appreciate the shift — or the deluge of models that followed.

So, in a sense, the two-model lineup both throws a bone to True devotees and casts a wider net.

Turner and company asked: “If we wanted to restart the brand….what would we value?” A commitment to the brand’s core outsider identity, style as articulated in early models, and an emphasis on quality led Turner on multiple trips to China to survey suppliers in early 2017. Eventually, the company settled on a manufacturing partner with a background in outdoor gear and hiking shoes.

“We’ve spent the last few years scouring the globe for the best material sourcing, reputable factories, advanced construction techniques, and time-tested fundamentals to build our best shoes yet. No cheap synthetics, no corners cut.”

Eventually, True settled on two designs: The Original, which, not surprisingly, has much in common with the zero-drop 2009 industry disrupting model, and the Outsider: a more athletic-style shoe positioned to attract a broader audience.

True Linkswear Original: $149

The company emphasizes the similarity in feel between the Original and early True Linkswear models, suggesting that players will feel and connect to the course “in a whole new way.”

  • Gray, White, Black
  • Waterproof full grain leather
    2-year waterproof guarantee
  • thin sole with classic True zero-drop heel
  • 12.1 oz
  • Sockfit liner for comfort
  • Natural width box toe

True Linkswear Outsider: $169

With the Outsider, True Linkswear asked: “What if a golf shoe could be more? Look natural in more environments?”

  • Grey/navy, black, white colorways
  • EVA midsole for lightweight cushioning
  • Full grain waterproof leather
  • 13.1 oz (thicker midsole than the Original)

The company envisions both shoes being worn on course and off.

True Linkswear introduced the more durable and better-performing Cross Life Tread with both models. Turner says the tread is so good, you can wear the shoes hiking.

Both models are available now through the company website only. True Linkswear plans to enter retail shops slowly and selectively.

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Sean O’Hair and Steve Stricker’s Winning WITBs from the 2017 QBE Shootout

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The team of Steve Stricker and Sean O’Hair closed the QBE Shootout with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot win over Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. O’Hair made a timely eagle on the par-5 17th hole at Tiburon Golf Club to lock up the first place prize of $820,000 ($410,000 each).

Here’s a look at their bags.

Sean O’Hair

Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White Prototype 60TX

3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S+ Limited Edition 70TX

5 Wood: Titleist 915F (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ Limited Edition 80TX

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (4-iron), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 prototype (50, 54 and 58 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron Concept 2 NB

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Related: Sean O’Hair WITB

Steve Stricker

Driver: Titleist 913D3 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 8.2X

3 Wood: Titleist 915F (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Tensei CK Pro White 80TX Prototype

Hybrid: Titleist 816H1 (17.0 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2X

Irons: Titleist 718 CB (3-9)
Shafts: KBS Tour Prototype

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (46, 54 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 w/ Sensicore

Putter: Scotty Cameron T5W

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Related: Steve Stricker WITB 2017

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