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Range Balls and Distance

I have seen a lot of questions and discussions on range balls and distances in the Blogosphere. Seems there are a lot of golfers out there that are not aware of the distance differentials you can expect depending upon the kind of range balls a given range provides. I have found myself frustrated at the range until I took the time to really think about it and do some research.  When you think about it, a person should expect that balls hit day in and day out at a driving range, even if they are the kind you buy off the shelf for on course play, will not fly as far.  Now factor in those balls manufactured for the range with durability, not necessarily performance, as the primary quality and you can see that you should probably expect even less distance than your “gamer” ball.  I am speaking of golf balls manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them – normally a TOP-FLITE or SRIXON or WILSON ball. Finally, you may be at a range with limited acreage where they provide limited flight range balls.  These too will be manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them as well as some acronym or wording identifying them as limited range, limited flight, or restricted flight balls.
So, first thing to do is look at the balls. If they are old performance balls (shag bag balls) that may or may not have stripes painted on them then some may perform to standard, but you can expect some degradation – perhaps up to 10%. If they are standard RANGE balls, look for 10-15% degradation in distance. Finally, if they are limited flight balls expect to realize about 20-25% degradation in distance.
Now, the next thing to understand is that unless you are fortunate enough to be practicing at a high end range or country club and using Pro V-1 practice balls or some other top tier practice ball or performance ball, don’t count on zeroing in on distances with your clubs for on-course use. Use the range time to work on contact, direction, and ball flight – however, especially with limited flight balls, ball flight may be a waste of time as well.
So, unless you are independently wealthy, belong to an exclusive club, or have your own practice facility, you will likely be using a range that provides balls that give less performance than the ball you use on the course. Determine the kind of range ball you have and factor it in.
I put together a little cheat sheet for myself accounting for the simple average percentage degradation of 12% for RANGE Balls and 22% for Limited Flight RANGE Balls. This way, when I am at a range and I am hitting RANGE Balls with my 7 iron 145 yards when I normally hit my Pro V-1s 165 yards with the same club I can assume I am in the right neighborhood for distance. I have provided my simple cheat sheet below:

Chips and Putts

–  Congratulations to “Roar-y” McIlroy on his win at Quail Hollow in Charlotte!  That was the kind of finish I think we all love to see.  A terrific talent, I have his swing sequence on power point (and a few others).   As I turn 50 this summer, I doubt I can get his full turn in, but his move to the ball is spectacular.

–  Update on Hogan instruction and my progress.  I am going out most days at lunch and either hitting balls, chipping, or playing nine.  Marked improvement since my “epiphany” last post.  My key swing thought is Hogan’s shoulder to chin key.  You may recall he stated in his book that it got so that he would wear out the left shoulder of his golf shirts.  When I am doing that, I am really striking the ball.  I am finally getting a turn in that means something.  I was having real issues with my 3 wood, but since the swing key I have been killing it.  I am letting the swing happen and it feels great!

–  Trying out a new ball.  Srixon Z-STAR.  I was previously using the Pro V1x.  The Srixon ball feels markedly softer, yet it is at least as long as the Pro V1x  and even seems a bit longer…it may be the swing improvement though.  It seems to spin more, I get more zip on short wedge shots (100 yards and in) than my Pro V1x.  Srixon’s website has the following to say about the Z-STAR:

  • Contains a large, varying stiffness core (Energetic Gradient Growth Core Technology), providing high ball speed and low spin off the driver, resulting in longer drives
  • The Z-STAR’s enhanced Powershear® dimple technology keeps ball flight straight and long even in windy conditions
  • Iron impacts feel soft and pure, providing a tour-proven response
  • Players wanting more spin on approach shots will benefit from the Z-STAR’s thin, soft urethane cover

I concur with the soft feel, wind play, and more spin.  The length may be attributable to a better swing, but maybe not.  The price is right, about $10 less a dozen than Pro V1x has convinced me to switch.  Uh oh, just got a notice that Andy Giles, the pro at Bide-A-Wee (number 1 Muni in Virginia!), is sponsoring the Bridgestone people in a couple of weeks for “ball fittings.”   More later on that!

–  The Players this week.  Chris’ prediction – “Young gun” week again…Mickelson…another second…Tiger…favorite on the Golf Channel…wild card in my book until he fixes “getting stuck.”

–  We all love weddings, don’t we?  I missed playing golf this past weekend because I traveled with my wife and daughter to a wedding Saturday in Pennsylvania.  OK…I took some “executive time” Friday afternoon to make up for it (and shot 75 – thanks Mr. Hogan).  We are friends of the bride and her parents, the lovely girl she is, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the extended family, the groom, and his family.  It seems, that on that day like on the golf course, I met some terrific people.  Lots of baseball coaches, tennis players, and guys who just want to hit a golf ball better.  Funny how in a conversation with athletes these days, no matter their age and no matter the venue, the talk eventually moves toward golf.  It is a common theme these days.  Like “how ’bout those Bears” in times past.  Our best to AJ – the Groom and Jill-Bean – the Bride…what a wonderful adventure you have before you.  AJ, I think you need a lesson on the course…1 a side in a $5 nassau sounds about right.