Golf balls are on the front lines of the economic and ethical equipment battles. Some golfers fear that advances in equipment may render some of the game's most storied courses obsolete (although you won't hear them complain about extra yards off the tee). All we can say is it hasn't happened yet. St. Andrews continues to entertain and challenge golfers as it has for centuries. After all, whether the ball is stuffed with feathers or liquid or rubber, golf remains a game of accuracy and consistency, not merely distance. Because golf balls fly farther doesn't mean they necessarily fly straighter.
As golf technology and developments into golf clubs advance rapidly, many believe the advancements in the golf ball are slower and less common. This is a commonly believed by most golfers but is far from the truth. Golf ball technology has advanced immensely in recent years and now finding the right ball for your game could almost be as advantageous as picking the right clubs.
A golf ball in today's market is amazing: the amount of money spent on research and development is incredible and the time and resources used to fill the 1.68-inch diameter ball is truly astonishing. Gone are the days of the balata and liquid centre and the new breed of multi-layered solid core golf balls are here. A Callaway fitting expert believes that 50% of the golfers that come for a fitting are using the wrong ball.
However, is not just a matter of which brand you prefer, there are many different specifications that you must consider when finding the right ball for you. In this guide, we will explain different terms that you will have heard relating to golf balls, but perhaps never really understood.
The construction of a golf ball is vitally important to the way it will react to contact with a club. Manufacturers are constantly pushing the limits of golf ball construction. Below are the three most basic constructions.
A one-piece golf ball is the most basic ball that is designed primarily for beginners and occasionally used as driving range balls. This type of constructed ball is seldom used as a playing ball. It is typically made from a solid piece of Surlyn with dimples moulded in. It is an inexpensive and very durable golf ball, but does not give you the distance when hit because of its lower compression. On impact with the clubface, the one-piece ball has a softer feel
A two-piece golf ball is used by most ordinary everyday golfers because it combines durability with maximum distance. The balls are made with a single solid sphere (core), usually a hard plastic, enclosed in the ball's cover. The solid core is typically a high-energy acrylate or resin and is covered by a tough, cut-proof blended cover that gives the two-piece ball more distance than any other ball. These 'hard' balls are covered in either Surlyn, a specialty plastic or a similar kind of material. The firmer feel of the golf ball does produce more distance to a player' game but will also not be as easily controlled as a softer ball. The two-piece is virtually indestructible and with its high roll distance, it is by far the most popular golf ball among ordinary golfers.
Three-piece golf balls have either a solid rubber or liquid centre (core), a layer of enhanced rubber or a liquid produced layer and over that is moulded a cover of durable Surlyn, Surlyn like, or balata. They are softer and take more spin, allowing a skilful golfer more control over the ball's flight when hit. It typically has a higher spin rate than a two-piece ball and is more controllable by good players. The layered construction combined with a soft synthetic cover, produces a very high spin rate, providing maximum control and feel.
A recent addition to ball construction is the four-piece golf ball. Rare at the moment, but could be the way the ball is headed in the future. Each layer or piece of a golf ball has a specific and different purpose. All the layers work together to offer the longest hitting, softest feeling golf ball. The inner core, the first layer, of the ball is the solid rubber centre that is primarily designed to offer explosive distance. The next, inner cover, layer is in the ball to transfer the energy from the strike to the hot core. Next is the middle cover, which is the extra layer, compared to a three-piece ball. It offers the complete layer that tries to increase driver distance whilst also producing mid iron spin and feel around the green. The outer cover is where the feel of a golf ball comes from. Usually containing between 300-500 dimples, it is the thinnest layer. Made from Urethane it must be durable yet soft.
Low Spin Golf Balls
The lower spinning golf balls tend to decrease side spin of your shots, allowing the ball to fly straighter through the air. The ball may not travel as far in the air, but the lack of spin will result in increased roll upon landing. Suited more to players that slice the ball and struggle to find distance, this ball will go straighter and run out on the fairways. There are many low spin golf balls on the market suited for high handicap golfers that perhaps don't have the swing speed required to produce that 300 yard drive.
Mid Spin Golf Balls
As the name suggests the mid spin golf ball bridges the gap between the low spinning golf ball and the high spinning balls. Trying to incorporate the best of both distance and feel. Aimed towards the widest range of players and suitable to most player's game, the mid spinning golf ball will offer solid distance with varied feel and softness depending on brand. Almost all major golf ball manufacturers will produce a mid spinning golf ball that they believe is suitable to all players.
High Spin Golf Balls
Last is the high spinning golf ball. This ball is designed to increase the balls spin in the air. When a golf ball is hit, it is released into the air with a certain degree of backspin; a high spinning ball will increase this spin and create a longer carry. If you are a player that hits the ball right to left with a draw, a high spinning golf ball could be the one for you.
Out of control hook shots are produced by the drawspin overpowering the backspin on the ball; so increasing backspin will help straighten out a hook/draw. The high spinning golf ball will not get the run on the fairway that either a mid or low spinning ball can, however its greatest advantage is around the greens. A high spinning ball will increase feel around and on the greens, which will help players improve control.
Firm Feel Golf Balls
As the title implies, firm feel golf balls will feel hard off the clubface. Usually aimed towards distance golf balls, the hard cover will produce a more explosive hit than a softer feeling ball. Therefore choosing a firm feeling golf ball will produce the maximum distance from your driver and irons, but you will sacrifice a certain amount of feel around the greens. It is aimed towards high handicap golfers who place more importance on distance and iron play than spinning shots into greens. By far the most durable ball of the three, you will rarely mark or scuff this type and ball and as a result it will play more rounds.
Mid Feel Golf Balls
Similar to a mid spinning golf ball, the mid feel ball acts as a compromise between the explosive distance from a firm ball and the feel of a soft ball. Again suited to most players' game, it is aimed towards mid handicap golfers that desire distance as well as improving their control by having a soft feel ball to use around the greens. Becoming a popular choice in today's market as manufacturers are developing mid feel golf balls that contain dual qualities of feel and distance.
Soft Feel Golf Balls
Going back to the days of balata covered golf balls, the soft feel ball is the choice of many low handicap and professional golfers. The soft feel cover means that a competent player can work spin into their game and use the soft feel to help their short game. It does not produce the distance of a firm feeling golf ball, but offers improved playability to those golfers that distance is not a weakness. Although, the vast majority of professionals use this type of soft feeling golf ball, it is not suitable for your typical amateur. The soft cover means the ball can scuff easily and will not last as long as a harder feeling ball.
To find the right ball for you, search our Golf Ball Review Section and use the filters on the left.
Frequently Asked Golf Ball Questions
Why do dimples help a golf ball?
The reason for golf balls having dimples is to do with drag. The moment a ball is struck, it is slowing down. Well-hit golf shots propel the ball at about 120 mph through the air, and the moisture and pressure in the air get right to work and slow the ball down. The less area you have on the cover of a golf ball, the less area there is to be affected by the air. The dimples on the golf ball affect the air molecules that affect the ball's flight. The dimples cause the molecules to roll and bounce around which creates turbulence in the air on the surface of the ball. A smooth golf ball would travel far shorter as its area is more susceptible to the force of air pressure. In the early years of golf, smooth feather filled balls were used, and it wasn't until they got scuffed and misshaped that players discovered that a non-smooth ball would travel further. The smooth round ball would travel around 100-150 yards from a driver. So when it comes to drag on a golf ball, dimples smooth things out.
Lake balls - are they just as good as new?
There is no doubting that lake balls seem an attractive investment, but are they just as good as new? Well the answer is no. Tests into the effect that water had on balls resting at the bottom of lakes were carried out and they discovered that balls that have spent time in water travel less than new, or simply dry golf balls. Balls that had spent 8 days in water produced drives six yards less than the benchmark ball. Balls that had spent 3 months submerged in water travelled 12 yards less, and balls kept in water for 6 months went 15 yards less. This may sound like a sizeable difference, however for the average golfer a lake ball can be a very good investment. Considering the price of new golf balls in the market today, buying lake balls is a cheap way to enjoy the game. The chance to pay a lot less for some of the best balls around is one that many golfers take and don't regret. Many lake ball companies re-cover balls in a shiny gloss that makes them appear new. This cover will wear and the ball may discolour slightly, but will not affect the balls flight or roll. There is no doubt that the occasion lake ball can be a very sensible investment, but just remember the next time you scoop a Pro V1 from the lake that all that glitters is not gold.
What about X-Outs? Are they different?
X-outs are factory overruns or balls with cosmetic blemishes. They're also brand-new (as opposed to the jar of used and possibly water-logged balls on pro shop counters). The ones with corporate logos or business names on them are the best of the bunch. X-out balls, on most store and pro shop shelves, sell for considerably less than top-of-the-line models. Some golfers won't touch them, believing that the price represents some sort of problem with the ball that will produce a bigger slice or perhaps one more three putt. But for the average player they play as true as a regular ball in both velocity and distance.