Tar Heel Golf Notes: March 2017

Henry Lister
Carolinas Golf Associate Rater

There are just under 26 million golfers in the USA who collectively purchase over 550 million golf balls every year—one half BILLION! And every year over 300 million golf balls are lost, which says volumes about the overall caliber of American golfers.

Nonetheless, there are a LOT of golf balls in play and in stores, at the bottom of ponds and under bushes, in golf bags and on ranges. And they are NOT all the same.

Not all golf balls are the same but they are more alike than different. Most balls comply with the USGA’s standard for conformity for weight, size, spherical symmetry (the ball must be round, in other words), initial velocity and overall distance. Jack Nicklaus (yes, the Golden Bear himself) is the most outspoken professional golfer demanding that the USGA get the golf ball under control especially regarding distance, which in many ways they have.

Well-known brands of balls typically cost $3-$4 per ball. However some companies offer Off Brand balls at more modest prices of $1-$2 per ball. Costco up until mid-January was selling the Kirkland ball, made in by the S. Korean-based Nassau golf in the same factory where TaylorMade balls are produced. The ball is no longer available at Costco and may not return in the foreseeable future due to production demands for higher profit balls (Nassau & TaylorMade) and Nassau’s concern about undercutting their Quattro ball which they produce for the European market.

Those who bought the ball at Costco for $15 per dozen should consider themselves lucky as we may never see that offer again. On average golfers can save $2 on each ball they buy —and apparently ultimately lose. Of course, they could spend $80 on lessons so they won’t lose so many balls and enjoy the game more.

There are several other Off Brand balls such as the Snell, Vice, 3UP 3F12, Lightning HL3 SmackDaddy, Monsta, Nicklaus Black and OnCore MA-1.0. Apparently creative names help with marketing. Most of these are sold online only. The Snell and Vice advertise ex­tensively through social media and charge $2-$3 per ball and their test results say the balls are as good as the Titleist Pro-V.

But if you plan to play competitively be sure the ball you select is on the USGA Con­forming Ball List, which is a lengthy list of over 1000 balls that can only be identified by VERY specific markings on the ball. Of those listed above only two Kirklands, three Snells and the Vice are conforming. Avoid the others.

You can play with non-conforming equipment, such as drivers, irons and balls. The manufacturers who suggest that their equipment “innovations bring more fun to the game.” Now you could buy a souped-up driver, find squared-grooved wedges and tee up some “hot” balls and hit it 400 yard or control the ball better as it lands on the green.

Most of us think the game provides enough fun without cheating. And yes, using non-conforming equipment is cheating at golf. Per­iod. There is no argument here. Unless you agree that deflating a football doesn’t give a player an advantage, or that there have never been any juiced baseballs. Equipment must conform to standards so that we are playing the same game. So if you use non-conforming equipment you are playing a game other than golf.

The early spring is creating some anxiety among course superintendents. Recall in the spring of 2015 an early warm spell was followed by snow and ice, which caused massive winter kill of Bermuda grasses. With the grass coming out of dormancy early we are vulnerable again to a late dose of winter.

While increased play is creating a financial windfall for area courses they are collectively crossing their fingers that Mother Nature has made an early retreat. The most anxiety is taking place at a private club in Augusta, where the azaleas are already blooming and will be long past their colorful displays by April. But watch out for FAST greens at this year’s Masters Invitational Tournament.

Hobbit Golfer 2017 index: 15 rounds. Aver­age score 81, CGA handicap = 7.3. “The difference in golf and government is that in golf you can’t improve your lie.”—Geo. Deukmejian