A Golfers Guide To Buying Golf Balls
“What golf ball do I need?”
This used to be a fairly simple question, which the pro in your local shop could answer almost at once, with only the most cursory knowledge of your game.
But for today’s golfer, faced with seemingly never-ending technological advances and ever more extravagant claims by manufacturers, choosing the right golf ball can seem almost as daunting as trying to chip over a lake from a bare lie.
But if you can disregard the marketing hype, there are really only a few elements of golf ball manufacture of which you need to be aware, and selecting the right ball for your game should be a fairly simple process.
We’ve put together this brief golf ball buying guide to help you get started.
Golf Ball Distance Factors
Golf Ball Compression
You’ve probably seen one of those super high speed photos showing a golf ball compressed almost flat at the moment of impact with a driver; and it is the rebound from that compression which gives the ball much of its distance.
But different balls will compress by different amounts in response to a given amount of force. The more force is required, the higher the compression rating of the ball.
Balls on the market commonly range between compressions of 50 – 100+, but the higher end of that range is usually suitable only for the pro or lower handicap amateur with a higher swing speed.
The advantage of the high compression ball is that it tends to accept less side spin, and is therefore easier to control. But players with lower swing speeds will find it hard to compress these balls. Not only does this cost valuable yards of distance, it also feels like hitting a rock.
Golf Ball Dimples
All golf balls are covered with dimples for the simple reason that smooth surface balls have been shown to travel only around half as far. But the number and pattern of dimples does vary from ball to ball. It’s open to question whether the pattern can make a significant difference to a ball’s aerodynamics when compared with other factors, but certainly it’s worth going for a high number of dimples (around 400) if distance is a primary concern.
Golf Ball Construction
Aside from the one piece range balls which are best avoided on the course, golf balls consist of a core and a number of covering layers.
The simplest two piece balls tend to come with a large core which is great for maximizing distance, particularly through the air.
The two piece ball also helps combat the hooks and slices, which apart from the obvious problem of missed fairways and greens are also highly destructive of straight line distance.
For the beginner or high handicap player this type of ball usually offers the additional benefit of a tough, hard wearing outer cover.
More Layers for Spin and Control
For players for whom distance is less of a priority than feel, control and accuracy, balls are also available with two, three and even four layers of cover around the core.
These extra layered balls are often marketed as “Tour” quality balls and offer extra control and backspin for greater precision in shot making, especially around the green. Tour balls also often have a thinner outer layer made of urethane, which provides more spin than the surlyn covers generally used in two piece balls; and also offers more of the elusive quality of “feel” which is so important to more advanced golfers.
A World of Choice
Apart from these differences in performance, golf balls can now be obtained in an entire rainbow of colors, and personalized with the initials or logo of your preference.
Of course, cost will also be a factor, particularly for beginners and other players prone to losing balls in significant numbers.
Tour quality, multi-layered balls naturally tend to be more expensive than those of the simpler two-piece construction and it will be a matter for the individual, perhaps with some advice from a pro, as to when is the right time to upgrade.
But it’s worth noting in this context that it’s often possible to find perfectly playable used tour balls at significantly lower cost. But beware of any lake retrievals, as immersion in water for any length of time will significantly affect performance.