With more than 5,000 design patents granted since 1990, the golf ball is probably the most engineered ball of any kind in the sports world. Due to advanced golf ball technology and marketing hype, choosing the right ball can be a confusing decision for players of all levels. Since there are many kinds of golfers, engineers have devised many types of balls, and when matched correctly to a golfer's game, certain balls can increase overall enjoyment as well as chances for par. Keep in mind that choosing the right ball is just as crucial to your game as selecting the right clubs. Rather than you having to spend hours and hours researching your options, we did it for you.
Golf Ball Construction
Golf balls are designed to create distance and spin. The three basic choices in ball construction are two-piece, three-piece and multi-layer, each with unique benefits.
Two-piece balls consist of a thin outer cover, surrounding a large solid inner core. This is the design used by most "distance" balls the harder the core material, the further the ball travels. The solid nature of the ball, however, will tend to limit the amount of spin and feel you can impart on the ball.
Three-piece balls have a thin outer cover, and a solid inner core (in common with two-piece balls), but have the additional feature of a layer of wound rubber between the core and the outer layer. The effect of this outer layer is to "soften" the impact of clubhead against ball. This provides enhanced spin and feel, but with some loss of distance.
Multi-layer balls have a modified solid inner core and soft outer cover, separated by several ultra-thin layers made of a range of materials. The net effect are balls that offer good all around performance in all key areas of distance, durability, spin and feel.
Tip - The basic rule of thumb is that more layers tend to imply more cost.
What materials are available for the golf ball cover?
When it comes to a golf ball's durability, the cover is the most important factor. Three primary materials dominate the market.
Surlyn is the most widely found ball cover material on the market and is considered the best for durability, cut-resistance, distance and affordability.
Balata is a softer, more expensive cover that is valued for spin, feel and control, but it is susceptible to nicks and cuts and is not as long lasting.
Why are there so many dimples on a golf ball?
A golf ball usually has 324 to 500 dimples, depending on which company manufactures the ball. The number, size, and depth of the dimples influence the lift and flight of the ball. Without dimples the ball would only travel 75% of its intended distance, but there is a downside to dimples, the golf ball has a tendency to slice or hook.
What is a golf ball's compression rating?
Players must consider the ball's compression rating, defined by how tightly the ball is wound. The slower the swing, the lower the compression needed. However, a player's own skill level and personal preference will be the deciding factor. The three most common ratings are 80, 90 and 100.
80 - Lower compression balls are also the softest. This provides a sling shot effect, which propels the ball further, but it is harder to control. Typically chosen by women, juniors and senior players.
90 - Played by the majority of male players and experienced female players.
100 - The hardest compression, this rating is best suited for advanced players with fast swing speeds.
How to choose the best golf ball for you?
Since beginners need distance and tend to mis-hit the ball, they should select a two-piece ball with a Surlyn cover due to it durability, affordability and "distance" characteristics. Instead of new balls, novice players should buy used golf balls because they tend to lose more balls on the course. Most amateurs have a slow to average swing speed so play a ball with a 80 to 90 compression rating.
Tip - Here is a simple golf ball test for beginners who buy used golf balls. Take the two balls, hold them up to eye level with both at the same distance from the ground, then drop them onto any piece of concrete and watch them bounce. The ball that springs higher is the ball you want.
Low handicap players who "work" the ball can choose to play a three-piece or multi-layer ball with a softer balata cover to provide more spin and feel.
Like everything else in golf, finding the perfect golf ball for your style of play may involve some trial and error. But if you follow the simple tips and hints above, you will quickly narrow your search.