There are so many golf balls available to the average golfer, but I think there is an issue with understanding what you actually need from a golf ball.
It’s all good and well telling players that X ball launches higher, Y ball is softer, or Z will spin more…but what do these things mean for a mid to high handicap golfer?
It’s not really the manufacturers’ fault, it’s impossible for them to be specific to each golfer in the world, but many amateurs are using the wrong ball because they don’t know which ball actually suits the way that they play golf.
With the help of this article, I would like to explain what you should be looking for from your golf ball depending on the style of golf that you play.
We’re going to take a look at some of the options out there from the more popular brands and then delve into the particular model of ball that would suit you.
I can tell you from experience that there truly is a vast difference between the balls available to you, so understanding what you are looking for could save you a few shots, and maybe even a few quid!
|How to choose a golf ball
|Analyze your swing and ball flight. Do you hit it too high or too low? Also consider the golf courses you play – links, parkland etc.
|Higher numbers mean a firmer ball that requires more swing speed to compress fully. Lower numbers are softer and compress more easily.
|Can help increase carry distance if you struggle with that. Some limit spin more to prevent ballooning shots.
|Very high quality but also expensive. Require 90+ mph swing speeds. Lower spin for distance.
|Provide good quality and performance at reasonable prices. Many focus on distance. Some also aid alignment.
|Surprisingly good options available. Focus on distance for high handicappers rather than spin. Good durability.
|Made for women’s swing speeds. Emphasize distance and high launch. Some promote soft feel.
|Consider using a different ball than your usual one when playing famous or very different courses.
How do I know what I’m looking for?
Before you can decide which ball you should play, you need to analyse your game a little.
By doing this we are going to diagnose which characteristics you need from a golf ball in respect to the way that you hit the ball and the conditions that you regularly play in.
In terms of how you hit the ball, we are looking at what your current ball flight is like. Do you hit the ball with a low trajectory and struggle to spin your shorter shots? Or maybe you hit the ball to the moon and back, often flying off line with all of that side spin?
Using this information, we can help you to find a ball which works for you, rather than a ball which could actually be accentuating your faults. Another area to consider is the type of golf course that you play as this can determine which ball suits those conditions better.
For example, if you frequently play on a links course and deal with heavy winds during most of the rounds that you play, then you might benefit from using a lower launching ball with lower spin.
On the other hand, you might be a member at a parkland course which is often wet and you don’t carry the ball particularly far. In this case it would benefit you to have an all out distance ball which can keep your ball in the air for longer to maximise that carry and overall distance. You see where I’m going with this.
That is what I mean by “analysing your game”, it is a mix between understanding your game and the needs of the type of golf that you play.
Combining the answers to these two questions will get you pretty close to finding the ideal ball for you. Now I will start with explaining what some of those “descriptive” words connected to golf balls actually mean!
What does compression mean?
The compression of the golf ball is one of the main descriptive characteristics used in golf ball marketing nowadays.
Generally you will find that softer balls will have lower compression ratings, compared to a higher compression rating in firmer balls.
If I had to explain it more simply I would say that higher compression balls are for the better player as they require higher swing speeds to use efficiently, which allows greater control over the ball. Lower compression golf balls support the player in getting distance because the ball is softer and requires less force to achieve compression.
A high compression ball, like a Titleist Pro V1 has a compression rating of 90, whereas lower compression ratings (65) will be found in a ball like the Titleist Velocity which is designed to help the lower speed player to create more ball speed.
Loosely speaking, some people advise that a compression of 90 requires a swing speed of at least 90 mph to effectively use such a ball. This shows us that the premium golf balls, which are pretty much all high compression, may not be for you if you fall into a lower swing speed category.
On the other side of things, if you are a high speed player who struggles with too much spin, then a premium ball could be useful for you, but the specific ball needs to be considered.
An interesting point to consider with compression is that the temperature that you are playing in can have an impact as well. It can be easier to compress a ball in warmer conditions than in cold, so if you do play in a climate with warm summers and very cold winters, then you could consider a higher compression ball for the summer, then move down to a lower compression ball when those temperatures drop.
I know that the word “compression” sounds a bit technical and you might not want to go into your pro shop and ask the pro what compression each ball is, but I have found that it is quite an effective measurement tool for mid-to-high handicappers to help them to see which balls will not help their game.
Finding the ball which maximizes your distance may not be as simple as you think. For example, most people think that we should use a ball which helps us to hit it high and get the most ball speed that we can.
Well that doesnt always work and I am actually a good example of this. I always had plenty of clubhead speed, but until I started using a lower launching, lower spin ball, I was wasting that speed by imparting too much spin onto my shots and hitting it too high to get any run.
When I started using a TaylorMade TP5x I was able to hit the ball as hard as I wanted and the ball would remain on a lower, more penetrating ball flight. This helped my shots to retain forward momentum. Hitting the ball the maximum distance is all about efficiency of energy, speed is not the only factor.
So if you are looking to get more distance from your golf ball, then have a think about where you can find that distance. If you don’t carry the ball very far, then a lower compression ball with higher launch will help you.
On the other side of things, if you have plenty of speed but waste it with high spin and wild shots, then getting a higher compression, low spinning ball will maximise your distance.
Premium golf balls
Premium golf balls are so called because they provide the highest quality results for lower handicap golfers…and they cost a lot. They could suit you, as a mid-to-high handicap golfer, as well, but the price point of these balls is somewhat unnecessary, truth be told.
You are looking at around £50 per dozen balls for Titleist ProV1’s, the most popular in the premium range. In my opinion, part of the reason that these balls cost more is that the companies advertising them can sell us on the fact that the tour pros are using them, something which they cannot do for a TaylorMade Distance+ golf ball.
I see a lot of amateur golfers playing these golf balls when they are definitely not the correct ball for them, meaning they are paying more to make the game harder for themselves! It is probably a fair misconception to have, but just because it’s “the best ball” does not mean it is the best ball for you.
The most common characteristics of premium golf balls are a nice soft feel while also keeping the spin down for longer shots. Premium golf balls can be more reliable as they are made by the biggest brands, helping them to recreate the exact same ball time and time again.
Some of the budget balls on the market are made with cheaper materials and production setups, which can lead to inconsistencies with the balls.
Premium golf balls are generally not a good option if your swing speed is below 90 mph with a driver. They require quite a lot of speed in order to compress the ball correctly to maximize the characteristics of the ball.
If you do have a lot of speed then you could be looking at one of these balls, in which case I might recommend the slightly lower spinning options of a TP5x and Callaway Chrome Soft X which keep the spin down on longer shots, while still providing healthy spin around the greens to give you a helpful mix of distance and feel.
The Bridgestone Tour B RX is a premium ball with a compression rating of 75, so if you have lower swing speeds but want to play a premium ball, then this could be the one for you.
Examples of premium balls:
- Titleist: Pro V1, Pro V1x, AVX
- TaylorMade: TP5 and TP5x
- Callaway: Chrome Soft and Soft X
- Bridgestone: Tour B X, Tour B XS, B RX
- Srixon: Z-star and Z-star XV
Mid-range golf balls
Thankfully there is some good news for your bank balance if you want to play a high quality golf ball but you’re not looking to break the bank. I think this section is where most of you will find the ball for you, as there is a great variety depending on what you need, and the prices are far more acceptable.
What I would say about a lot of the mid-range golf balls is that they are advertised as distance balls. This is a mix of being what people want to hear and the fact that golf ball technology has developed to a stage where they are able to make golf balls which remain soft enough in feel while also traveling exceptional distances.
Vice golf balls have provided a particularly interesting offering into the market with a ball that they describe as premium which still fits into the mid-price range. Having tested the Vice Pro ball, I do not consider it to be quite at the level of the TP5x which I have used for a long time, but it certainly performed well and is probably one of the best value golf balls available.
The Vice Pro Soft is a very good ball for mid handicap golfers with a swing speed lower than 95 mph, suitable for you if distance isn’t your thing, but you don’t want to give up the softer feel either. The Vice Pro caters to the player with +95 mph swing speeds.
Then we have options like the Tour and Drive models, which are extremely durable golf balls aimed towards a less frequent player while providing strong distance characteristics.
Another mid-range ball that I want to bring attention to is the Callaway Supersoft. This ball provides high launch and low spin. As a result this ball is well suited to golfers who want to increase their carry without giving up too much on the accuracy side of things.
This ball will suit you well during the winter as the courses in the UK become more and more wet leading to less run-out. Another bonus characteristic of Callaway balls is that you can get them with the Triple Track Technology.
These balls have three alignment aids to help you with your putting alignment. Just by itself this is a useful tool, but if combined with one of the Odyssey Triple Track putters, it can make a massive difference to your ability to line up where you intend to.
Examples of mid-range golf balls:
- Vice golf: Pro, Pro Soft, Tour, Drive
- TaylorMade: Tour Response and Soft Response
- Titleist: Velocity
- Callaway: Supersoft
- Srixon: Soft Feel
Budget golf balls
When it comes to budget golf balls, I have actually been pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of the balls on offer here. The main thing we want to see in this category is a good price, but that doesn’t mean you have to use a rock hard ball with technology from 1972!
The TaylorMade Distance+ golf ball is one which I think has not received the exposure that it deserves. This ball delivers seriously high distance performance throughout the bag, but this doesn’t take away too much of the control on shorter shots, leaving you with plenty of spin as you get closer to the green.
It also comes with a convenient alignment design which can be used to line up your ball on the green or tee. TaylorMade has managed to deliver a ball which provides durability with a strong all-round performance for a lower price.
Another good option, from a brand who I haven’t mentioned as much as they probably deserve, is the Srixon Q-Star which is definitely in the budget price range. The Q-Star offers strong distance characteristics, durability and a thick putting alignment line which I think is one of the better additions that we are seeing on a few of these budget options.
The majority of these budget balls are focused on distance as they are targeting more of a beginner golfer who will benefit significantly from distance, but doesn’t quite have the skills yet to use a ball which can be manoeuvred around.
Examples of budget golf balls:
- Taylormade: Distance+
- Srixon: Q-Star and Q-Star Tour
- Wilson Staff: Zip
- Callaway: Warbird
Ladies golf balls
Many of the balls which you will find in this article are also suitable for female golfers, it is simply dependent on your characteristics as a golfer.
However, there are some balls on the market which have been made specifically for female golfers. These are the notable options here;
- Bridgestone Lady Precept – great for distance, but doesn’t provide much spin around the greens.
- Callaway Reva – more distance and higher launch which helps mid-to-high handicappers to get the ball in the air.
- TaylorMade Kalea – another long distance ball, but also advertising the soft feel for putting. I think that the purple version of this ball is one of the best looking balls on the market.
- Srixon Soft Feel Lady – a softer option for the Lady golfer who wants that feel and control around the green, while also offering a high-launch characteristic for longer shots.
Playing those bucket list golf courses
My final point might be a bit marmite, but for the mid-to-high handicapper I think this would be an interesting option.
When you go and play a course that you have been dreaming about playing for years, maybe you should consider a different golf ball to suit that course? The only reason I say this is because it may be a completely different style of golf to the one that you normally play.
Consider a situation where your home course is a soft parkland golf course and you are using a firm, distance golf ball to help you get around, but now you are off to the rock-hard links of Royal Birkdale on a warm summer’s day.
In this case that ball is going to be remarkably difficult to control with those ground conditions and you won’t be struggling for distance anyway, with those bouncy fairways to carry your ball away.
So perhaps in a situation like this, it would be a good idea to buy a sleeve of 3 softer golf balls which provide you with some extra spin for your approaches into those greens. You could go into the pro shop, tell the pro what level of golfer you are and request his advice on a softer ball to help and they would steer you in the right direction.
This won’t suit everyone as some people are more particular than others about the feel of the ball that they play, but I also know plenty of amateurs who don’t notice the difference anyway, so why not give it a go!
Something that I would say on this topic is that statistics prove that golf is easier from closer to the hole, even if you are in the rough. To generalize this, everyone can benefit from hitting the ball further.
That is the first thing to try and achieve with your ball, then work back from there. In the past this may not have been the case because you might give up so much feel and control that it wasn’t worth it to hit it closer to the hole, but with the enhancements in golf ball technology, we can get the best of both worlds now.
A lot of golf stores and driving ranges have the capability to offer a ‘ball-testing session’ now, which I would recommend if you want to go out and stock-pile a bunch of balls for your entire season.
This activity would allow you to go through a number of different options, using your own clubs, and seeing which ones provide the best combination of feel and numbers.
Don’t let yourself choose the one which has great numbers, but you hate the feel of it, or vice versa, because these two factors need to be working together.
I hope this article points you in the right direction for the golf ball that you should use.
The golf ball is often overlooked in the equipment discussion, but it is the only piece of equipment you use on every single shot, so make sure you get it right!