Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Find Your Sphere
Choosing the right golf ball for your game can make all the difference
The Value Three-Piece Multilayer ($25-$35/doz.)
Ryan: Value three-piece multilayers typically bill themselves as more durable counterparts to the more expensive multilayers. Also, they claim to reduce spin off the tee while retaining spin into the greens. Of the holes I played using a value three-piece ball, I immediately noticed the relatively high amount of spin I generated off the tee (despite expecting less). Not only did these balls have a high trajectory, but my slices sliced more and my hooks hooked more. From the fairway and even from light rough, these balls had plenty of spin, and I had no trouble holding the greens with middle and short irons.
When it was time to hit a few wedge shots, I noticed a big difference. It was almost as if the spin mechanism was turned off; the ball just didn’t hold on the greens as much as I’m used to. There was some spin, of course, but not nearly as much as I had hoped. But for someone who doesn’t swing fast enough to generate a lot of spin anyway, this category may be the right choice.
Charlie: Ryan speaks for both of us on this one. The mid-range offering I hit didn’t spin very much around the green, but it felt better coming off the clubface on woods and irons than the value balls. For $7 more, I didn’t see any remarkable difference between the two, although I could argue these were slightly softer around the green. Like the value balls, these were very durable.
Premium Three-Piece Multilayer ($35-$40/doz.)
Ryan: Testing balls in this category was easy since this is the category most ball-fitting sessions claim I should use for my game. The biggest upgrade (in addition to price) over the value multilayer is the urethane cover, as each ball I tested in this category had one.
Off the tee with a driver, I noticed two things. Different balls in this category actually have different trajectories—some fly high, others fly low—and the written description on the box of balls was dead on as far as which balls were designed to do what. Secondly, I noticed more distance off the tee as these balls flew on a flatter arc. With irons, the ball felt softer and like the value three-piece balls, they had plenty of spin to hold the greens. It was the pitch and chip shots, however, where I felt these balls performed the best. I think one of the top benefits today’s premium three-piece balls have is the responsiveness they produce around the greens. Although not as soft as balatas once were, these balls performed with what I’d call “optimal spin,” where the ball spins just enough to “drop and stop” onto the green with limited forward or backward roll. That’s a handy benefit that means more to me than a few yards off the tee.
Charlie: I can’t say it surprised me that the premium balls had exceptional spin around the greens. What did surprise me, however, was a noticeable distance gain off the tee. It was like the ball reached an intermediate apex and then climbed an extra few yards. What’s really happening, however, is that it launches on a lower trajectory, spins less and gains distance in the process.
Even though I don’t have Tour-level swingspeed, I swing fast enough to reap the benefits of this category. For me, the value and mid-range balls tended to launch higher and spin more off the tee, so I lost a little distance. Like Ryan, the three-piece urethane-covered ball was a good choice for me, but I happen to prefer a ball with a bigger dimple pattern (less dimples). I tend to hit it pretty high, so anything I can do to lower my trajectory and hit a more penetrating tee shot helps.
Ryan & Charlie: Could we tell the difference in these balls versus the value multilayers? You bet. The key for you is to choose the right one, since we both noticed that no two premium multilayer balls are the same. This is also the category that’s best for both our games, which is why we could discern the differences in balls here better than we could in the other categories that we tested.
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