Last week on the Fan 590 radio’s golf show, Fairways, which airs at an ungodly early hour, had Sean Foley, a regular correspondent and swing coach to Sean O’Hair and Stephen Ames, on to talk about “compressing” the golf ball.
Score editor Bob Weeks was also on the show, and asked Foley what compression entails:
Weeks: When the ball actually compresses, what actually happens Sean? The ball actually squishes and sort of expands again?
Foley: Basically, obviously, part of what happens because a ball has seams and balls can be two-piece or three-piece, they are all three-piece now. So obviously when they are put together they are put together in pieces. So when you hear “ you can really hear it with Sean and Stephen “ is that when they really compress it they have a sound. Even Phil Mickelson said you always know where Sean OHair is on the driving range because of how solid he hits it. So the noise that it makes as it is going through the air, you know the distinct difference Bob from being out on tour when guys have the sound and they dont. When they compress the ball, part of what is happening is the air is releasing from the inside of the ball out through the seams. That is part of the noise. It is kind of like when a baseball wraps around the barrel of the bat, when they have that tremendous crack. That is the air leaving out through the seams. That is part of it.
As you might guess, his response raised some eyebrows among swing instructors, one of whom wrote me to express his dismay at Foley’s response. This instructor had never heard anyone explain that the noise made by a fine swing results in air escaping a golf ball. With that, I went to two sources — Ted Manning, president of Acushnet in Canada, and Dean Snell, senior director of R&D for balls at TaylorMade.
Manning sent me this link, a video demonstrating how the ProV1 is made, and said that there is no way air leaves a golf ball. “Golf balls are of solid construction with no air escaping on impact,” Manning added.
Snell was a little more perplexed about Foley’s remarks, calling them “foolish.” Once again, golf balls don’t have any air in them, Snell said, adding that even if they did, there was no way the TaylorMade red ball, the one that O’Hair hits, would have any air escaping them unless the cover was compromised.
So Foley is wrong. Turns out the whole thing was a poorly worded remark brought about by a baby in the house and lack of sleep. I fully get both things. Foley responded to my email question about the remark with the following comment:
Unfortunately that show is live at 7:20am, which is sometimes very early after my son has decided to not go to sleep. The sound from impact in baseball is in part due to the the ball forming around the barrel. The compression or sound of compression comes from the air leaving the seams at the deepest point of linear force. My analogy was not to use golfball but baseball as showing two forms of compression in hitting or swinging. The sound that comes from compression in the golf swing is created by a few physical happenings. Obviously club-velocity, angle of approach, angle of descent, contact point on club that transfers the momentum(mass * velocity). The sound that is heard just post impact as the ball travels is the friction between the ball and the air which is creates drag(gravities effect). I t is a combination of those variables.
Turns out that air doesn’t escape a baseball either, but Sean’s point is well taken. Did he actually think air escapes a golf ball. Probably not. But add a crying baby into the mix with an early morning live radio show and you have the recipe for disaster.