What’s in a Ball?
(Or that which we call a ball by any other name would fly as sweet)
When you wander into golf shop you’ll undoubtedly find a vast array of (increasingly colorful) golf balls. If you’ve ever wondered why a certain dozen costs $20 while another costs $50, or if a certain ball could help your game, this post is for you. Read on!
Golf balls have layers, and the more they have, the more expensive they generally are. Here’s a quick rundown:
One-Piece: Your typical limited-distance driving-range ball. They are inexpensive but don’t fly as far as a normal ball due to extremely low compression (more on that later).
Two-Piece: These are lower-priced golf balls good for beginners or those that don’t like hitting a dozen $5 golf balls into the water. They have a little firmer feel (for the most part) and will maximize distance for slower swing speeds. Two-piecers also help keep the ball straight.
Three-Piece: The rubber core is surrounded by enhanced liquid rubber to help impart more spin. This helps control the ball around the green.
Four-Piece: This is a combo that adds distance while keeping feel and spin. These are more expensive but will be the best all-around ball for mid to low-handicappers.
If you haven’t noticed, golf balls have dimples (anywhere from 250-500 depending on the ball). Dimples help the ball fly. Dimples vary in shape, size and number depending on the ball’s characteristics. If you have some dimple-less golf balls in your bag, don’t use them. They won’t go far.
Here’s a good analogy: imagine wrapping a rubber band around your wrist once (low compression). Now imagine that you stretched the same band out and wrapped it around three times (high compression). This is the same way golf ball compression works.
Compression ranges from 40-100, and low-compression balls are softer and will help slower swing speeds and higher-handicappers achieve more distance. High-compression balls are harder and help faster swing speeds achieve distance while gaining better control. If a fast swinger hits a low-compression ball it will compress too much and won’t perform as well, and vice versa.
For example, a ProV1 has a lower compression than a ProV1X (as is the case with any “X” golf balls). The ProV1 vs ProV1X is an article in itself, as they’ve undergone significant changes in spin and other factors through the years. You can read more about the differences here.
There are three spin characteristics of golf balls:
Low-Spin: These are designed to decrease side spin and are good for golfers who are looking to increase distance and keep the ball straight.
Mid-Spin: These are a mixture of low and high-spin balls and are probably the best for the majority of golfers. They’ll give some spin around the green while still aiming to stay straight and maximize distance.
High-Spin: These spin the most in the air and will give the most feel and control around the green. These are good for those who carry the ball a long way but are looking for a better short game.
Does any of it Matter?
Only in the sense that it matters to you. If you’re just starting out, you’re going to lose a lot of golf balls. Stick to a (relatively) inexpensive two-piece ball that will help your distance and keep you in the fairway. For better players and those who’ve been playing awhile, I’d recommend finding a ball that stops somewhat quickly on the green, even if you sacrifice a couple yards off the tee. It’s more important that you put chips and pitches close than gain 3 yards.
The bottom line is you want to figure out what you’re willing to spend and play rounds with a few different golf balls. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better for your game, and you might be surprised by the results. Happy golfing!