Playing a ball that complements your game is just as important as getting the right clubs in your hands.
But with so many different balls on the market, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff and choose the right ball for you?
Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about golf balls with the GolfBox golf ball FAQ.
All of those golf ball questions you've always wanted to ask are answered, and those golf ball terms you've never really understood are explained, so you can play the right rock and watch your scores plummet.
Q: Are all golf balls pretty much the same?
A: No. There is a huge gap in performance between basic two piece balls and top of the range multilayer tour balls. But every ball on the market serves a different purpose because not all golfers are alike. It's kind of like the difference between driving a Hyundai Getz and a Bugatti Veyron - they'll both eventually get you to where you want to go, but the Veyron might just do it with a smidgeon more performance.
Q: What’s a two piece golf ball?
A: Two piece balls have two components: a large, solid core and an external cover. Also known as distance balls, they're cheap, hard and durable and perform best for slower swing speeds by maximising distance.
Q: How do two piece balls generate extra distance?
A: A two piece ball’s large core, usually made from hard synthetic rubber, creates fast ball speeds and low spin rates - two essential ingredients for extracting those crucial extra yards out on the course. They're also quite hard which produces a ton of run when they hit the ground, which is handy for the distance-challenged.
Q: Are two piece balls just for beginners?
A: Not really, but being the cheapest option they do suit beginners - who tend to lose many a ball. The low-spinning nature of two piece balls not only boosts distance but it can also reduce the effects of a hook or slice - another beginner-level bonus. But on the flipside, if you are a skilled golfer who generates insane levels of spin, a two piecer can actually benefit your ball flight, particularly if the wind is blowing straight into you.
Q: Do two piece balls perform well around the greens?
A: The trade-off with a two piece ball is a firm feel by virtue of its Surlyn cover, which is thicker and harder than the covers of multilayer balls. Two-piece distance balls will spin less with short irons and wedges and don’t offer the same level of control as a multilayer tour ball.
Q: What’s a multilayer ball?
A: They are golf balls that know when to spin, depending on which club has hit them. For instance, they become low-spin balls with the driver and long irons, to max out ball speed and distance. Then when the shorter irons and wedges come out, they spin like a campaigning politician for increased grip and control on the greens.
Q: What’s inside a multilayer ball?
A: There are several internal layers that work together to produce exceptional performance. A synthetic rubber core – sometimes infused with dense metals such as titanium or tungsten – is encased by one or more mantle layers. The core and innermost layers provide the ball speed, while the outer layers interact with either the cover or adjoining layers to create a “pinching” effect for high spin.
Q: How does a multilayer ball know when to spin or not?
A: It’s all about where the club makes contact with the ball. A driver will hit the ball more at the ball’s equator, which activates a greater proportion of the central core and inner layers. However, a wedge will strike the ball lower and with a more glancing blow, which stimulates more of the softer outer layers and cover, to ratchet up the spin rate.
Q: What type of golfer will benefit from a multilayer golf ball?
A: Multilayer golf balls are the choice for most golfers in the low to mid handicap range and are the balls professionals play on Tour. Golfers with higher swing speeds who require feel around the greens will be suited. They are more expensive than two piece distance balls so beginners should play them at their own risk, and they won’t run as far when they hit the ground.
Q: Do extra layers make any difference?
A: Three-layer balls were the first multilayer golf balls but four, five and even six layer balls are also available. Each additional layer aids a more even progression of spin rates and performance through the bag. Extra layers can often mean a ball performs better with mid irons.
Q: Are range balls OK to use?
A: It might be tempting to slip a few rangies in the bag, but you’ll soon notice they aren’t too flash to play with out on the course. That’s because durability is the primary design consideration for a range ball and it’s fair enough given the constant punishment they endure, not to mention the hours spent baking in the sun while waiting to be collected. But the indestructibility means inferior distance and terrible feel compared to every other golf ball. Range balls are constructed of a durable soft plastic called Surlyn and are a one-piece design, with dimples moulded into the plastic - there are no internal layers.
Q: Not even the new-looking range balls?
A: No. You’ve probably noticed that range balls don’t fly as far as other golf balls and sometimes behave erratically; some actually seem to drop out of the sky like a seagull diving on a hot chip. Well it’s all due to the low compression (more on that later) that makes range balls last for years. Some ranges even opt for ultra-low compression range balls to keep them within the confines of a driving range that is short on space.
Q: Why do both two piece and multilayer balls have high spin, low spin and mid spin varieties?
A: It’s all relative but manufacturers can tweak a ball to change its spin rate. Obviously a two-piece distance ball is never going to spin like a premium tour ball, but different spin rates give golfers more specific options - there really is a perfect ball out there for everyone.
Q: Who should use a high spin ball?
A: They are exceptional for around the greens and from the 50-yard range but don’t get much run when they hit the ground. However, they do tend to fly further through the air, thanks to the greater lift produced from a higher rate of backspin. So if your natural trajectory is low and you could do with some grip on the greens, a high-spin ball will be your best bet.
Q: Who should use a low spin ball?
A: As soon as these bad boys hit the ground, you'll get your run for your money. They’ll tend to fly lower and straighter as the effects of sidespin from a hook or slice is lessened - which will be music to your ears if you struggle to hit it straight. If you hit your driver high and produce a lot of spin, low-spin balls are your go.
Q: Who should use a mid spin ball?
A: Most golfers will find a mid-spin ball to their liking. A serve of distance and a side of spin is a winner for just about every golfer. While it might be a bit of compromise, it’s a happy one because mid-spin balls are extremely versatile and hugely popular.
Q: What is compression?
A: Compression has a major influence on the overall feel of a ball, or how hard or soft it seems when it streams off the clubface at impact. While the ball’s cover is the other factor that determines feel, compression is an indication of much a ball deflects at impact. Compression is ranked on a scale between 0-200, with 200 representing a ball that doesn’t deflect at all while 0 compression equates to a 5mm deflection. Golf balls usually sit in the 100 range for the highest compression golf ball and 50 for the softest.
Q: Who should use a high compression ball?
A: A high compression ball won’t deflect as much at impact and will feel harder than a ball with lower compression. High compression balls suit faster swingers who can compress the ball a greater amount through the sheer power of their golf swing.
Q: Who should use a low compression ball?
A: Golfers with slower swing speeds will derive the most benefit from playing a low compression ball, with the greater deflection at impact maximising distance. The increased deflection means the transfer of energy from clubhead to ball is more efficient. Players who like a softer ball will also generally play a low compression ball, which will squeeze significantly more at impact and give a softer feel.
Q: Which type of ball is the most popular?
A: Two-piece distance balls are the go-to ball for the majority of golfers but mid-range three piece balls are also popular. Premium tour balls are popular with more skilled golfers.
Q: How do I decide the best ball for my game?
A: If you’re a beginner, start off cheap because it’s likely you’ll be losing a few balls along the journey. Two piece distance balls will give good distance and run and reduce the effects of a hook or slice. If you are a low to mid handicapper, you’ll probably be more suited by a multilayer golf ball. Try a few different balls to decide which spin and compression combination feels best - you’ll get a good idea which one is perfect for you after a few holes.
Q: After gaining all this knowledge about my perfect ball, can I still blame it when I hit a bad shot?