What’s your key consideration when you are buying golf balls?
Cost can be a major factor especially when we see the ongoing increase in prices in the premium ball sector.
Maybe you have been loyal to a particular brand for years and don’t feel the need to change because you just trust that brand.
If you are new to golf it can be even more bewildering to work out what to purchase.
So how do you sort out the manufacturer’s marketing jargon from what’s actually best for your game?
Over the course of this article, we’ll take a look at some of the key features behind the current crop of golf balls to help you make the right decisions.
It’s also worth noting that selecting the right ball for your game can also complement any club-fitting process you go through.
Most golfers have heard the terms “low spin” and “high spin” when looking at golf balls.
Manufacturers spend a lot of money and time perfecting dimple patterns and designs on golf balls.
These dimple patterns help the ball travel through the air with certain flight characteristics to give higher or lower ball flights
We can take advantage of this if we understand how we impart spin on a golf ball.
Players with faster club head speeds can put a lot of spin on the ball therefore they may need a ball that offers lower spin.
The lower spinning ball can assist these golfers in optimising their launch numbers for each club in the bag giving them a desired trajectory plus more distance.
The opposite can be said for golfers who don’t swing the club very fast.
They may need a higher spinning ball to maximise their launch and trajectory keeping the ball in the air longer.
A higher spinning ball also means getting more stopping power on the greens which can help golfers with their approach play.
So what other factors do we need to consider when choosing a golf ball that is suitable for our game?
There are four additional considerations outside of the low spin, high spin debate which is:
Something in this day and age which is more a consideration for golfers especially when the premium brand golf balls retail for something in the region of £50 ($62) for a dozen balls.
But there are alternative options from the major ball manufacturers where you don’t have to be spending this amount of money.
These golf balls are still designed to offer high performance but maybe lack the feel or control of the more premium balls.
Certainly, if you are relatively new to the game spending a lot of money on premium golf balls might not be the best idea initially.
Sometimes it’s easy to focus on high or low spin balls purely from a distance perspective.
But how the ball reacts when landing on the green with an approach shot or when we are chipping or pitching is equally important.
If a ball spins too much it might be difficult to judge accurately where to land it on the green.
The ball could check up and stop much further from the flag than intended leaving a longer putt than anticipated.
Alternatively, if the ball isn’t spinning enough you are likely to see the ball run on further than anticipated leaving you the same conundrum of a longer-than-anticipated putt.
Seeing how the ball reacts around the greens with your pitches and chips can give you more confidence and increase your chances of getting up and down in two shots if you miss the green.
This is a very personal and sensory aspect of choosing a golf ball and we can form preferences based on how a ball sounds when hitting it.
When we talk about acoustics we predominantly think about the noise the ball makes at impact with the putter or when we are chipping.
As an example, some golf balls will make a distinctive “click” sound when struck.
For some golfers, this is off-putting. The perception is that the “click” noise relates to the ball being on the firmer side.
Alternatively, some golfers might not like the ball sounding a little “dead” if there is no discernible noise at impact.
Hard or soft feeling
Another sensory aspect of choosing the right ball is whether or not it feels hard or soft at contact.
Linked closely to the acoustics of the ball we also build up a certain trust and like for how a ball feels.
If a ball feels too soft at impact with the putter you may feel you will never hit the ball hard enough to get to the hole.
The opposite can be said for a harder-feeling ball.
Distance control with our putting is vital to shaving shots off our score and having a ball that you trust will give you added confidence when facing tricky or long putts.
What goes into making the modern golf ball
Without going through the history of the golf ball understanding a little of the construction of the previous generation of golf balls helps us understand how we get to the modern ball.
The professionals generally used what was known as a balata ball.
This ball had either a liquid or a solid core with tightly wound rubber bands beneath the soft balata cover.
The balata ball was great for control and spin but would tear easily after a mishit meaning the ball could be useless after only a few holes.
That’s fine in the professional game because they got their golf balls for free so it didn’t matter.
For amateurs wanting to use balata golf balls, it could end up being very expensive.
An alternative was a harder more durable golf ball.
This ball was a 2-piece golf ball with a solid core and a cover usually made out of a material called surlyn.
Whilst not offering the spin and feel of the balata these golf balls did offer more distance.
The market changed in 2000 with the launch of the Titleist Pro V1 which looked to offer the best of both worlds - distance with spin and a durable cover.
The Pro V1 was essentially a 2-piece construction ball (and still is) and falls into the lower spinning category of golf ball.
The Pro V1X joined the fold in 2002 and was a higher spinning offering which is a 3-piece construction.
TaylorMade upped the ante when they launched their 5-piece construction TP5 line with a high and low spinning offering.
TaylorMade’s theory behind the 5-piece construction was that each layer of the ball would offer optimum control, feel, distance and durability.
We also need to focus on how the ball works for every aspect of our game before we make a decision about which ball is right for us.
Whilst it might be great to have a golf ball that goes a long way with the driver it could cost us if we can’t control it around the greens.
It’s also important to understand our sensory perceptions of how a ball feels and sounds in making decisions.
Understanding a little more about how the modern golf ball is constructed and the differing characteristics on offer can help us make the correct decision on what type of ball to use.
Coupled with custom-fitted golf clubs we can optimise the ideal launch and spin characteristics which can give us extra distance with the long clubs while maintaining control with the shorter clubs.