Find Your Sphere
Choosing the right golf ball for your game can make all the difference
Even golf magazine editors sometimes need to see things for ourselves. Throughout the year, we’re inundated with countless “golf ball test results,” indicating the performance benefits of one ball versus another. We admit there are real differences between golf ball categories—we don’t dispute that. But we’re also clever enough to understand that no two golf ball tests are exactly alike. In fact, they’re all done under different conditions, with different clubs, swing speeds, launch conditions, weather types and a bunch of other variables that are hard to quantify.
As editors responsible for keeping up on this stuff, once in awhile we want to see how a golf ball performs not on a launch monitor, but on an actual golf course. So we did the only logical thing there was to do: find a reason to get out of the office and play a round of golf. We wanted to test the differences in performance between three different types of golf balls over the course of 18 holes.
Ryan chose to play a select group of multilayers, starting with a non-urethane three-piece ball, a three-piece urethane-covered ball and, finally, a four-piece urethane-covered ball. Charlie, on the other hand, went with a two-piece value ball, a non-urethane three-piece ball and a urethane three-piece ball. We had some overlap with the urethane three-piece, but nonetheless it was interesting to see how our results compared. Eschewing the launch monitor and any real scientific approach to our findings, here’s what we found.
The Value Ball ($18-$25/doz.)
Charlie: To be honest, I rarely play this kind of ball; I’m more inclined to hit a soft-cover, multi-layer premium ball. I typically find value balls (usually made of a two-piece construction) to be hard off the clubface and even harder around the green, but I was very surprised at how responsive this ball was. Regardless, it didn’t spin nearly as much around the green as I’m used to.
On one hole, I purposefully tried to get it to check up around the cup and it almost did. Its cover was soft (made from a soft ionomer), but not soft enough to generate the appropriate amount of spin. Would a Tour player put this kind of ball into play? No. But at a buck-fifty a ball, it’s something most amateurs probably should play. It’s economical, has a remarkably soft feel for a value ball, and I didn’t notice much difference in ballflight, launch or distance with my longer clubs.
These balls were designed for players who, like me, don’t generate a swing speed that’s considered “Tour level” (above 112 mph). In playing this ball, I’ve learned that the key to more distance is to compress the firmest part of the ball as much as possible. Faster swingers can compress balls that have firm cores, which means they can use balls that have soft covers (that combo of soft cover/firm core is common). That type of ball allows them to hit the ball both far off the tee (firm core) and with spin from the fairway and around the green (soft cover). Most players just don’t swing hard enough to do that. Value “distance” balls like the one I tried have a firm cover and soft core, which puts the firm part of the ball right out front, making it easier to get more distance. You may lose some spin around the green, but the trade-off is the gain in yardage.