Tip #1 – What Makes Your Golf Ball Illegal!
by Bruce Fleisher
I recently read an article about a new golf ball that won’t slice in the New York Times, written by Bill Pennington on May 9, 2011. The ball is called the Polara, and has a specific and variable dimple design that supposedly makesit fly much straighter than your regular ball. The only problem with this design is that it’s not legal or sanctioned by the United States golf Association.
The significance of this is that the USGA continually tests golf equipment for conformity to the Rules. If there were no rules or guidelines to follow, then the advances in technology could overtake skill as the major factor in success. It’s kind of like in Caddyshack II when Jackie Mason pulls out a club that can not only hit itself, but go exceptionally far and straight to boot, just by aiming it. I’ll go over how the USGA does this in another article. In the meantime, let me tell you about the golf ball testing they perform.
A golf ball manufacturer submits two dozen balls of each model they design to the USGA for conformance. The technicians on staff test about 20,000 balls a year under strict guidelines for simple measurements and using the latest in testing devices for the utmost accuracy. A ball’s performance is tested according to Overall Distance and Symmetry Standards, and up into a few years ago, they were tested outside on their testing range. But the variables of testing, like changing temperatures, winds and and turf conditions didn’t allow for the accuracy they were looking for, which was testing under the exact same conditions, so they came up with a better mousetrap.
Today each ball is hit with a mechanical golfer as before, but now it’s hit into a net, inside, which measures launch conditions off the club head which include a balls velocity, direction and spin. They also use a 70 foot tunnel they hit the ball through to determine how it flies. The tunnel is called the Indoor Test Range (ITR for short), and allows them to measure the aerodynamics of a ball in flight. The machine is similar to a baseball pitching machine, and the information they get is plugged into a computer program that accurately calculates the driving distance of an actual drive. This distance is highly repeatable and not subject to weather conditions.
Additionally, each ball is measured for size and weight and then tested to determine their initial velocity. Everything is done in a climate controlled laboratory so no ball ever has an advantage over another. In order to make sure your ball conforms (and most of the balls you buy will) you can check out the “List of Conforming Golf Balls” that the USGA publishes each month on their web site.
Some interesting facts you might not know is that when a golf ball makes contact with your club face, it’s for only about 450 microseconds. That’s 0.00045 seconds, so don’t blink, your eye doesn’t blink that fast. Also, when your club head hits the ball, it exerts a force in excess of 2,000 pounds on the ball and compresses it to about one forth of its diameter. I once saw a YouTube video that showed this, so see if you can find it. It’s pretty cool to watch.