Merion By the Balls

This year’s U.S. Open is being played on a “throw-back” course, Merion outside Philadelphia. It measure less than 7,000 yards, but it comes with one big requirement: Shaped shots.

Merion’s par-4 10th will measure 303 yards. Tee shots from players like Dustin Johnson stay in the air 303 yards. Yet Merion is an answer to all those who claim today’s clubs and balls fly too far and too straight.

The tenth will require severe right-to-left ball flight to reach its target. On the beastly No. 6, a 480-yard uphill par-4, players have to “turn” their tee shots in order to have them light on the severely sloping left-to-right fairway.

Today’s high-performance balls lack one key element needed for a course like Merion: They don’t turn like the balata balls of old. Those radar-produced pro tracer replays we see on TV broadcasts show the “draws” or “fades” only move three to five yards. At Merion, tee shots will need to move 10 or 12.
Golf balls with softer covers in general produce more spin, and more spin is the key. Draws and fades come from inducing sidespin to create the ball flight. Brandt Snedeker plays the Bridgestone B330 ball, whose powerful core and firm cover enable him to hit great distances. But the B330S model used by Matt Kuchar has a softer cover for more spin.

Titleist’s Pro V1x has a higher compression than the Pro V1, but the softer compression of the latter offers a little more control in shaping shots. Tiger Woods’ Nike One Tour D model might be the “spinning-est” ball on the Tour. He loses distance off the tee but he chooses to have more shaping capability. Like we saw at The Players Championship, he’ll bend those 3-wood and 5-wood tee shots into Merion’s sloping landing areas.


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