There’s been much ado via the media about the demise of the golf industry – this golf blog included. And while everyone has their opinion on how to fix it (this golf blog once again included), few solutions may be as practical as changing the ball you play.
Following up on Chris’ post from Monday, I’d like to offer my review and brief two cents about the Polara golf ball. Just to be completely transparent, the Polara balls I and the other bloggers here at GolfStinks tested were sent to us gratis after I interviewed the CEO of Polara, David Felker, for this post back in April. In that post, I stated quite honestly that my opinions toward Polara (or any non-sanctioned USGA equipment for that matter) had been rather scathing up until my conversation with Mr. Felker, who provided me a new perspective on this type of equipment.
My new perspective is; If golf is more enjoyable from the fairway (as the tag line in the photo above states) then who cares what equipment you use to hit those fairways? Of course you should never try to deceive your playing partners – especially if you’re playing in a tournament or if money is on the line. But in general, what difference does it make if the average weekend hack is playing with non-USGA conforming equipment? It’s not like the course ranger or USGA police will take away your license to golf. The only difference I can see is that weekend hacks will have a quicker and more enjoyable round.
That all being said, I have since played two 18-hole rounds with Polara golf balls and can offer the following review:
Round #1 (at Woodstock Inn & Resort, Vermont): I didn’t keep score during my first round playing the Polara balls. Perhaps I was still feeling some shame over playing with non-USGA conforming stuff, but my plan was to just see if my drives and fairway shots were straighter. On the first hole, I ripped one right down the middle and thought; “Wow, these balls really do work!” However I quickly learned (after a few poor shots) that the improvement to your game will be more subtle and to truly gauge how much the balls are helping you, keeping score is a must. At any event, when my round was over, I felt the Polara balls made my tee-shots more accurate but I didn’t notice much difference playing from the rest of the course. My guess was I saved 4 or 5 strokes overall.
Round #2: During the second 18-hole round (at Lake of Isles in Connecticut), I made sure I kept score. I played the front nine wretchedly, but still ended up with a 52 – which I didn’t feel was too bad considering how poorly I felt I was swinging the club. On the back, I turned it around and shot a 42 for a total of 94 (which is right around my average). My drives were pretty good on the back and again I attributed some of that to the Polara. To be that consistent with the driver was a bit unusual for me, so I would say the ball helped me save 3 or 4 strokes on the back alone. The ball probably helped me shave a few strokes on the front too, but it was less obvious (drives landing in the rough might have gone OB were it not for the Polara).
Now for context: I will mention my most recent round, where I did not play the Polara ball. Last week at Inn of the Mountain Gods in New Mexico, I went 55-45 for an even 100 playing Nike balls. Again I started off wretched and played better on the back – I felt I played very similar to the last time with the Polara balls, yet the result was six strokes higher. Was this because of the Polara balls? It’s hard to tell just by my scores alone.
Considering the slope: The slope rating at Inn of the Mountain Gods (from the forward men’s tees) is 124, while the slope at Lake of Isles (forward men’s tees) is a much harder 135. This means that even though I felt I played the same at both courses, I not only shot six strokes better with the Polara balls, but I was also playing on a much more difficult course that day (as indicated by Lake of Isles’ higher slope rating). To me, the combination of both my scores and the slope ratings at these courses really paints a telling picture.
Now obviously, this is just a small test sample, but it would appear the Polara ball does help keep you in play (especially off the tee). And if that leads to a quicker (since you’re not always looking for your ball) and more enjoyable round, then perhaps these balls can help golf as a whole. Hacks and new golfers alike should embrace subtle game-improving equipment like this. And to help clear the conscious of golfers everywhere, the USGA needs to amend its rules to include a section just for average players and/or non-tournament play. Steps such as these would help put golf back on track and start turning this industry into something we can once again be proud of.