Balls Buyer's Guide 2006
As golf balls become more advanced, the majority have adopted the three-piece design. The question becomes ?What mantle fits your style??Golf ball fact: Most of the multi-layer, urethane-covered, high-performance models won’t provide significant benefits for anyone who swings the driver less than 100 mph. These models are built with cores and mantle materials that require a lot of compression in order to create the desired high velocity.
If your swing lacks the speed to utilize the benefits of this design, fear not. Check out the new three-pieces with firmer Surlyn® covers and softer cores. This allows the average swinger to activate the distance and spin benefits of today’s reactive centers. These models provide an excellent combination of distance (especially for the average swinger), durability and solid short-game performance. Plus, they’re moderately priced.
Over 90% of a modern golf ball is consumed by the core, a huge mass of highly energized synthetic rubber just dying to explode. But it’s hard and wouldn’t feel very good or spin very much if it weren’t for the cover. Modern covers employ softer materials such as urethane, which add feel, but are designed thin enough to allow the core and mantle to work their magic. However, that’s not to say the cover exists only to relay a sensation. First, the cover houses the dimples, which are an absolute necessity to help the ball achieve height and fly in the air without veering in all directions. Second, covers can influence spin. The softer the cover, the longer it will interact with face grooves and achieve higher spin rates.
There’s a good reason why three-piece, or mid-layer, construction dominates—it works. Basically, the mantle regulates how and when you activate the core, usually based on swing speed and force. That’s how today’s balls can achieve low spin distance off the driver (the mantle regulates lots of core usage) and high-feel, high-spin performance off an iron (there’s less core usage). Furthermore, it exaggerates spin or distance by allowing the cover to be made very thin and the core very large without either dominating the design (unless it’s meant to). Truly, this small layer of ionomer has changed the game forever.
Just a few years ago, cores were either very large or quite small, depending on what you needed. The large-core, two-piece models were built for distance, and that method holds true today for all golf balls. Whether you prefer low-compression models, ultra-distance models or a higher-spinning Tour-style ball, you’ll find each houses a huge, synthetic rubber core. This is where speed and distance come from. Some are energized or otherwise manipulated to release as much energy as possible at contact. Feel and spin? They have nothing to do with the core. This is the powerplant.
Material Matters: Polybutadiene
The polysyllabic material polybutadiene is a synthetic rubber concoction rooted steeply in the tire industry, but ever since golf ball winding machines shut down for good a few years back, it has become the dominant—and we mean dominant—ingredient for golf ball cores, regardless of their design to compress easily for slow swingers and spin like tops for more skilled golfers. Polybutadiene’s ultra-resilient structure, its ability to withstand low temperatures and take thin hits from a 2-iron without cracking has made it not only popular for golf balls and tires, but also for many automobile parts such as washers, hoses, belts and gaskets. Now, we’re not necessarily saying your golf balls are part Ferrari, but you get the idea.
—Ryan M. Noll
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