What’s the Best Golf Ball for You?
The best golf ball for you depends on the following. What type of golfer you are, what you’re looking for from your golf ball, and your budget. If you’re a good golfer looking for more feel and spin around the greens. Then your ball will be different from a mid handicapper wanting more distance off the tee. Or a high handicapper wanting a cheap golf ball.
Playing the right golf ball makes a huge difference to your game. So to understand what makes your golf ball spin, one ball to ‘feel’ differently to another, and what gives a golf ball more distance. I did a lot of research so I could make the right choice.
Today I am going to share with you the process of choosing your next ball. So get yourself comfortable and let’s discover what makes the best golf ball for you.
Why the golf ball you want, may not be the one you need.
Being sure that you’re looking for the right golf ball is important. After all you don’t want to add strokes to your game do you? So if you already have an idea of what you’re searching for, take a moment to think about how you came to that decision. What’s the reason you want more distance, better spin or greater feel?
When I searched for the right ball for me, I spent a bit of time preparing. Luckily I was already recording my playing statistics using the GameGolf software. This uses RF chips in my grips, and helps me record everything that I could need. All without writing anything down so I’m free to enjoy my game.
Whilst I thought I needed more distance and to steer away from a softer, more controllable golf ball. My statistics highlighted my distance was consistent with all my clubs. What I actually needed was more feel and control around the greens. This led me to test, and eventually change, to a different ball than I originally had in mind. And my game has improved because of it.
But before I get into how I tested golf balls. Let’s take a look at why there are so many choices available.
What is the Difference Between Golf Balls?
What’s the outside of a golf ball made of?
At 42.67mm in diameter and 45.93 grams in weight. A standard golf ball may look simple at a quick glance, yet it is anything but. All golf balls have to conform to playing regulations and each month, the list is updated.
The outermost layer of the golf ball, is the ‘Cover’. It’s either made from Urethane, Ionomer or Surlyn. Urethane and Ionomer are widely used on the more premium golf balls. It’s softer and less durable than Surlyn and makes for a more rubbery surface which can promote spin.
Surlyn is more typically used on mid range balls and below. It is harder than Urethane, so more durable. As such, golf balls with a Surlyn cover scuff less than those made with Urethane.
How many dimples are on a golf ball?
Besides the material differences. The cover of a golf ball can also have different dimple designs. The same company can also produce different dimple patterns. For example the Titleist Pro V1 has 352 dimples, whilst the Titleist Pro V1x has 328.
Averaging between 300 to 500 dimples. These small dents help the ball to fly by creating a thin layer of turbulent air around it. This turbulent air helps the smoother air to flow further around the back of the ball. Decreasing the wake and creating less drag.
What’s the inside of a golf ball made of?
As with the outside, the inside of a golf ball is ‘stuffed full’ of modern technology. This technology has meant that the line between so-called premium balls and budget balls has been blurred. Today the yardage gap between high spinning models and distance balls is much reduced.
The inside of a golf ball is referred to as its ‘Core’. This core can be made up of upto 6 layers in some extreme cases. Typically however they are as follows;
Two Piece Construction
The 2 piece ball such as the Srixon AD333 or Mizuno JPX, typical are a lower priced and budget style ball.
A tough outer layer envelops a large, solid core. The cover is traditionally either Surlyn or Ionomer and has a reputation for a ‘firm’ feel when struck. However Mizuno say that players can’t tell teh difference between their JPX Golf Ball and a ‘Tour’ level golf ball.
With two piece constructed golf balls, spin is typically minimized delivering maximum distance but also reducing the amount these balls will slice or hook.
Three Piece Construction
Three piece golf balls can cover both the need of the good amateur and also the tour player. Some more common golf balls that are constructed in three pieces are;
- Good Amateurs
- Callaway REC Soft
- TaylorMade Project (a)
- Wilson Duo Professional
- Tour Level Players
- Titleist Pro V1
- Srixon Z Star
- Bridgestone Tour B RX
- Bridgestone Tour B XS
- Pearl Pure Pro
- Snell MTB Black
- Vice Pro
With the three piece golf ball you still have a large core, but then you a thinner ‘mantle’ layer between the core and the cover. This extra layer gives the manufacturer more influence over spin and the feel of the golf ball.
Most of these golf balls will feature a Urethane cover. Their high spin rates provide excellent greenside control and allow skilled golfers to play shots like draws and fades.
It is relevant to note here, that ALL Bridgestone balls are designed for high swing speeds. Both the Bridgestone Tour B RX & XS is designed for swing speeds OVER 105mph.
Four Piece Construction
With a four piece golf ball, what typically changes is the core. Where as the mantle and cover will stay the same, the volume of the core will be split between two materials rather than one. This helps the manufacturers taylor the performance to a certain aspect of the game.
It’s interesting to note that all of the four piece golf balls below are X balls and with the exception of the Callaways, are aimed at reducing spin.
- Callaway Chrome Soft
- Callaway Chrome Soft X TT
- Pearl Pure Pro X
- Snell MTB X
- Srixon Z Star XV
- Titleist Pro V1 X
- Vice Pro +
Five Piece construction
There are really only two common five piece constructed golf balls. These are;
- TaylorMade TP5
- TaylorMade TP5 X
These 5 piece golf balls have a similar core to the four piece ones above, but benefit from another mantle layer. TaylorMade say that they produce a five piece golf ball because it gives them a greater influence to nudge performance towards lowering spin, or increasing feel.
What Makes a Golf Ball Spin?
Contrary to popular belief, the grooves on your clubface are not what causes the ball to spin. It is the club face material, club loft and most importantly, the type of material the cover of the ball is made of.
On a car tyre it is the tread pattern and the rubber that gives you grip on the road. The gaps in the tread made by the tread pattern, simply disperses water to help the tyre keep contact with the road surface.
In golf, the grooves are there in much the same way, to clear away water and dirt. The material the ball is made up can represent the rubber tread of the tyre. The club face material is like the road.
If you’re unsure then think of the huge difference between the spin imparted by that of a wedge, and that of a putter. More loft = more spin.
Driver vs Wedge Spin
Another widely held misconception is that better spinning balls will spin more with the driver, than lower spinning balls. In tests conducted on launch monitors, it’s been proven that there is little difference between premium and budget ball spin rates with a driver.
It’s not until you get to an 8 iron and below, that the spin rates of premium balls come into their own as it is with these clubs, that the loft and angle of attack are huge factors.
How to create spin on a golf ball
As much as this question can give birth to a whole other article, in simple terms here is how you create spin on a golf ball.
- Keep your clubs clean. You need good clean contact with the ball. A dirty club face is like a mud covered road that the ball has no hope of gripping.
- Ball first, turf later. There is no such thing as ‘getting under the ball’ to get spin. Professional players will always hit the ball first and even a 60 degree lob wedge has a negative angle of attack. What these players are good at, is striking the turf with the sole of the club and using the bounce to slide the club along. But it is always ball first contact with the face of the club.
- Club speed. The faster the club head the more spin will result for a given loft. So choose your club wisely.
Why do Golf Balls Feel Different?
Golf balls fell differently because of their construction. In general, a multi-layer core golf ball with a soft Urethane cover, will feel a lot softer than a one piece ball with a hard Surlyn cover.
Also the materials that make up the cores, have a huge impact on feel as well as performance. It is possible that two 3 piece balls can have very different characteristics.
This is why it is important to be clear on what type of ball you need for the game you have. So take you time and measure your game.
What gives a golf ball distance?
Again it is the construction of the golf balls core that determines its distance.
In the past, if you wanted a golf ball that flew further, you would use a single piece ball with a hard Surlyn cover. However nowadays with multi-layer cores, manufacturers have managed to build a golf ball which has both good distance properties, and a decent amount of feel.
Low compression golf balls tend to be better for players that want more distance from their balls.
One thing that I must highlight at this point though, is that many tests have been performed. And it is now clear when using a driver, that the difference between a premium spin ball and budget distance ball is barely noticeable for anyone other than a very low handicapper. In a recent test by PXG using a robot. The 20 balls highlighted above in my list, only differed in distance as follows;
- At 85 mph swing speed
- 4.3 yards
- At 100 mph swing speed
- 7 yards
- At 115 mph swing speed
- 10.2 yards
The top two performers were TaylorMade TP5 X and the Mizuno JPX. Interstingly enough, the Mizuno JPX worked out at just 10p per yard compared to the TaylorMade TP5 X at 20p per yard. The Mizuno JPX also came out as the lowest spinning golf ball over the two fastest swing speeds with a driver.
What makes a Budget golf ball?
A budget golf ball tends to be made with a hard Surlyn cover. It also has fewer cores, so expect your budget golf ball to be just a 2 piece golf ball.
How do you test a golf ball in the real world?
I’m a big believer in performing tests on the golf course and practice tee/driving range. For one, I don’t have thousands to spend on launch monitors, plus I can’t see the sense in testing a ball in doors unless you have a robot that will swing exactly the same each and every time.
So here is my advice for how you can test to find the best golf ball for you.
Be honest with yourself about your game.
No amount of lying to yourself will make you a better player. So be honest with what you need from your golf ball.
As I have said before, take the time to review the last few rounds you’ve played. Try and spot where your strengths are in your game. Then you can start to narrow down the available choices to suit these areas.
To help you understand your particular shot shape. Take a read of my Ultimate Guide to Golf Ball Flights. It clearly lays out way a ball has a particular flight, and can help you understand your game and ball requirements.
Be honest about affordability
I wanted to change my car recently. Yet I didn’t include a Ferrari or Aston Martin in the prospective choices because as much as I like the look of them, or be seen to be good enough to have them. I couldn’t afford them.
So if you’re losing a few balls each time you play, perhaps spending £41 for a dozen Titleist Pro V1’s would be a poor choice. Perhaps something like the Titleist Tour Soft at half the price would be just as well suited to your game?
Golf is expensive and most players don’t notice how much they can spend on balls alone.
So be honest with yourself. The money you save won’t buy a Ferrari, but could help out with lessons.
Do you need a golf ball that gives you distance, spin or feel?
If you’re not hitting your driver very well, and missing fairways, would a ball that gives you potentially more distance, be the right choice? Afterall it could just put you further into the rough, trees, lake or all three….
Are you hitting greens in regulation more often than not, but just can’t convert? If so then perhaps a ball with a better feel and spin rate could help hold the greens and give you better feel with the putter.
Trying out golf balls on the course
Once you have narrowed down a couple of choices, it’s time to dive in and get a sleeve of each. These three balls will be your test subjects as you go off to make your final choice on your best golf ball.
Playing golf is great, but spending time around the practice area can be just as satisfying.
On the practice green you can set up a couple of my putting practice drills. Using these you can get an idea of the feel and pace of the balls you are using. Spend 5 minutes with each golf ball type before swapping out to another.
As you work through the drills, keep in mind how each ball is making you feel. Also keep track of some cold hard data. Record your scores if you are playing some of my putting games. This will help you decide on your best golf ball at the end.
Next pop onto the chipping area. Again set up a few practice exercises that will resemble what you face on the course. Perhaps a few short sided chips along with a few standard approaches.
I found that marking out a landing area helped me to see how each ball rolled or spun, as I practiced. It’s easier to work to a landing zone than an area were you want the ball to rest.
Now to the course
Now it’s time to go onto the golf course to test the balls. If you have narrowed the choice down to two types by now, then great.
I would encourage you to play the first 6 holes with your normal balls. This will help you warm up and give you a better feel for how the new balls will perform.
Once warmed up you can start to play a couple of each ball from the same spot on each hole. It’s best to do this when the course isn’t busy. This way you won’t be rushed.
As the round progresses and you are repeating the same shots with the different balls. You should start to get a feel for the one you like. Then the final couple of holes can be played with your preferred choice.
If all goes well, you should be making your way up to the 18th green, more cnfident and happier now you’re playing a ball you like.
Whilst they are all the same size, golf balls are all different. This is what fuels the long time debate of which ball is best. Professional golfers play the ball they are paid to play, or generally have been playing all of their professional career. It is rare to have a player change their preference.
Don’t get sucked into the misnomer that you have to be a good player to play a premium golf ball. Find out what you need from your sphere, and then test a couple of choices. For me the Mizuno JPX gave the distance and feel around the greens that I was looking for and it was half the price.
The beauty about golf balls is that they are relatively cheap. It’s not as if you’re changing your irons after a round. You can change your mind if you need to.
If you are a low single figure handicapper that pays a premium for a dozen balls. Then the Snell MTBx is my recommendation.
With higher swing speeds it produces fast ball speeds, long distances and tight dispersions. And as Dean Snell worked on both the TaylorMade TP5 and Titleist Pro V1 designs, it’s no wonder it’s such a great performer.
If you are a club golfer that has a budget of around £25 per dozen. Then my recommendation is the Mizuno JPX.
It performes well across all swing speeds and has a ‘fee’ that is much more akin to a 3 or 4 piece golf ball. Plus it’s great value.
Another alternative would be the Callawy AD333 for more spin
I hope you have enjoyed the article and taken something useful away from it. Enjoy you day and your golf and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Until then, stay out of the rough!