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.
Cover Story 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.
Mantle Piece 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.
Speed Center 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. NollBen Hogan Tour Deep www.benhogan.com (866) 834-6532 | $39/doz.
The Tour-quality flagship model in the Ben Hogan line of golf balls. Features: An extremely thin urethane cover, multilayer construction and a unique dimple pattern enhances low-speed lift and driving distance for a solid combination of high, soft-landing wedge shots and a piercing trajectory with the driver. Advantages: The dimple design, with some dimples "deeper" than the rest, maximizes spin when you need it and lessens spin when you don't. Benefits: Faster swingers with a strong all-around game. What We Like: The Tour Deep's durable cover and impressive distance. Lineup: Tour Deep, The Hawk Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Urethane Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: Mid Spin: Mid Feel: SoftBridgestone e5/e6 bridgestonegolf.com (800) 358-6319 | $25/doz.
Customized performance, driven by the latest in urethane and core technology, is what makes the new e5 and e6 golf balls ones to watch. Features: The e5 is designed for golfers who want more height and distance by generating the optimal spin rate for maximum lift and carry. The e6, on the other hand, is designed for players who want to combat excessive sidespin. Advantages: The e5 has a 432 Seamless Double Dimple design for quick lift, while the e6 has only 330 dimples for less spin and a more boring trajectory. Benefits: Mid- to high-handicappers who crave distance will like the e5, and better players who want a durable golf ball that minimizes sidespin are in for a treat with the e6. What We Like: High performance, great value. Lineup: B330, B330-S, e5, e6 Construction: Two-piece (e5), Multi-layer (e6) Core: Kinetic Energy polymer Mid-layer: Linear Velocity mantle (e6) Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High (e5), Mid (e6) Spin: High (e5), Mid (e6) Feel: SoftBridgestone Tour B330/B330-S bridgestonegolf.com (800) 358-6319 | $39/doz.
Bridgestone's answer to the Pro V1 and Pro V1x. Features: The thin urethane cover, ionomer mid-layer and Speed Elasticity core combine to produce a ball that's both long off the tee and deft around the greens. Advantages: When the B330 was introduced, it was an instant hit, and so, too, was the softer, higher-spinning B300-S. Benefits: The B330 optimizes performance for fast swingers; the B330-S is for everyone else (though it's no less impressive). What We Like: There's no seam, resulting in a uniform dimple pattern and great consistency. Lineup: B330, B330-S, e5, e6 Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Urethane Core: Proprietary polymer Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: Mid Spin: Medium (B330),High (B330-S) Feel: Firm (B330), Soft (B330-S)Callaway HX Tour/HX Tour 56 callawaygolf.com (877) ELY-BALL | $39/doz.
Callaway's premium golf ball model gets significant improvements. Features: The hexagonal aerodynamics of the HX Tour produces a Tour-desired trajectory, and the deeper sub-hex dimples effectively reduce drag for a very consistent, penetrating ballflight. The softer, higher-spinning HX Tour 56 is the perfect combination of feel and distance. Advantages: The improvements made on the cover durability are just what this ball needed to catapult Callaway into the premium ball stratosphere. Benefits: While both versions of the HX Tour are suited for fast swingers, the HX Tour 56 is a solid option for average swing speeds as well. What We Like: Did we mention how happy we are to see improvements in durability? This ball is officially among the best in every category. Lineup: HX Tour, HX Tour 56, HX Red, HX Blue, HX Hot, Big Bertha, Warbird Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Urethane Core: Polybutadiene_Ê Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: Mid Spin: Mid (HX Tour), High (HX Tour 56) Feel: Soft Dunlop LoCo Motion www.dunlopsportsonline.com (800) 235-5516 | $16/doz.
The LoCo Motion not only has one of the most fun names in golf, it's also one of the most enjoyable balls to hit. Features: The unique 402-dimple pattern is designed for maximum distance for average to slow swing speeds, and the soft core is optimized for better greenside feel. Advantages: Added spin equates to a higher trajectory, which, for slower swing speeds, is critical for more distance. Benefits: Seniors, ladies and those with slow swing speeds will notice more carry and a softer feel around the greens. What We Like: At $16 a dozen, what's not to like about an affordable, high-spin golf ball? Lineup: LoCo Pro, LoCo Dart, LoCo Motion, Super LoCo, LoCo Construction: Two-piece Cover: Ionomer Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: High Feel: Soft Maxfli Noodle Ice maxfli.com (800) 456-8633 | $16/doz.
Maxfli's newest low-compression model comes in a variety of neon colors. Features: The new core is designed to spin less with a driver but more with short irons and wedges, making the Noodle Ice not only cool to look at, but a strong performer in the two-piece ball category. Advantages: The special Noodle 442-dimple pattern promotes a high, long-carrying trajectory with soft landings and softer putts. Benefits: Watching the iridescent colors streak across the sky. What We Like: Finding golf balls in the rough has just gotten a whole lot easier. Lineup: Noodle, Noodle Ice, Noodle Long & Soft, Noodle Longest, Noodle Softest Construction: Two-piece Cover: Ionomer Surlyn_¨ Core: High-optic rubber Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Low Feel: Soft
Maxfli RedMAX maxfli.com (800) 456-8633 | $20/doz.
A distance-oriented ball with a soft feel to complement the Tour-designed BlackMAX. Features: A lively Surlyn_¨ co-polymer cover designed with a high COR for pure distance. A soft proprietary core delivers the goods in terms of feel, distance and control. Advantages: Players of all swing speeds can take advantage of the RedMAX's low-spin, high-launch formula. Benefits: If more distance is what's most important, the RedMAX is a solid alternative for players of all skill levels. What We Like: Most low-spin distance balls have a firm feel, but not the RedMAX. It feels like a premium multi-layer ball. Lineup: BlackMAX, RedMAX Construction: Two-piece Cover: Surlyn_â_¨ co-polymer Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: Mid Spin: Low Feel: Soft Nike Golf Ignite nikegolf.com $28/doz.
For those who demand big distance off the tee but also require some shotmaking capabilities around the green. Features: The 408-dimple design promotes a penetrating ballflight with less spin when it comes to a driver, but with iron play the ball actually spins more, thanks to its three-piece construction. Advantages: The Ignite is priced far below other comparable multi-layer golf balls, giving serious players a more affordable alternative. Benefits: All skill levels will see big distance, but it's up to average to fast swing speeds to take advantage of added spin with irons and wedges. What We Like: The Ignite is huge off the tee, and surprisingly responsive from the fairway, too. A great all-around golf ball. Lineup: One (Black, Platinum), Ignite, Mojo Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Surlyn_¨ Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: Mid Spin: Mid Feel: MidNike Golf One nikegolf.com $39/doz.
The reinvented One Series is better than ever. Features: The One Platinum features an enhanced core that's now softer in the middle and firmer toward the edges, which reduces spin with the driver and increases it with iron hits. The One Black has a new, thinner cover and a re-engineered 408-dimple pattern to minimize drag and maximize distance. Advantages: The new One balls are obviously longer than ever. Plus, the difference between the balls' spin rates is more noticeable. Benefits: Both balls are suited for faster swings, but that won't stop everyone from trying Tiger's. What We Like: The Platinum is an excellent spinner around the greens. Lineup: One (Black, Platinum), Ignite, Mojo Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Urethane Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: Mid Spin: Mid (One Black), High (One Platinum) Feel: SoftPrecept XP3 preceptgolf.com (888) 358-6319 | $30/doz.
A high-performance two-piece model designed to provide all golfers with Tour-like distance and feel. Features: An X-Polymer core with an X-shaped molecular structure that's said to produce an enhanced transfer of energy at moderate swing speeds. Available in white, yellow and orange. Advantages: The X-Polymer core is designed to produce significantly enhanced distance for average swing speeds, while the soft Surlyn_¨ cover is designed to provide a combination of feel and durability, as well as added consistency. Benefits: Golfers with swing speeds under 100 mph who want more distance plus feel. What We Like: Seamless Cover Technology. Lineup: XP3, U-Tri Tour, U-Tri Extra Distance, PWRDrive, Laddie Xtreme, DForce Construction: Two-piece Cover: Surlyn_¨ Core: X-Polymer Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Medium Feel: Medium Srixon AD333 www.srixon.com (888) 4-SRIXON | $25/doz.
A new and improved version of Srixon's low-compression performance model. Features: A new, resilient Energetic Gradient Growth (EGG) core and Rabalon elastomer blended cover, which is said to be 35% more resilient than regular ionomer, make this a highly competitive two-piece golf ball. Advantages: The low compression and formulation of the AD333's EGG core allows slower swingers to produce maximum ball speed. Benefits: Value-minded golfers who want a blend of distance and soft feel. What We Like: Lots of legit technology in a model that's reasonably priced. Lineup: Z-UR, Z-URS, AD333, Soft Feel Construction: Two-piece Cover: Rabalon elastomer Core: Polybutadiene, Energetic Gradient Growth Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Medium Feel: SoftSrixon Z-URS www.srixon.com (888) 4-SRIXON | $55/doz._Ê_Ê_Ê_Ê
Srixon's premium-quality, three-piece golf ball provides more spin than the companion Z-UR. Features: Thin proprietary urethane-elastomer cover, PBDS-enhanced core (which has an approximately 10% lower compression than the Z-UR) and a 330-dimple pattern that's designed to provide both stability and a penetrating ballflight. Advantages: Tour-like performance for accomplished players, including low driver spin, high wedge spin and a soft feel on the putting greens. Benefits: All-around excellent performance for better players–distance, feel and spin. What We Like: A lesser-known competitor challenging the big boys with an outstanding product. Lineup: Z-UR, Z-URS, AD333, Soft Feel. Construction: Three-piece Cover: Urethane-elastomer Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Low (driver), High (wedge) Feel: Soft
Titleist Pro V1 www.titleist.com (800) 225-8500 | $56/doz.
Still the benchmark for premium three-piece golf ball models. Features: A virtually indestructible urethane-elastomer cover, a speed-enhancing and spin-controlling ionomer mid-layer, as well as a faster core formulation highlight a litany of top-tier performance features. Advantages: The three-piece design provides optimal spin rates for driver (low-spin) and wedge (high-spin) shots, while the urethane-elastomer cover provides soft feel and incredible durability. Benefits: Incomparable combination of distance, spin and feel characteristics pay biggest dividends for more accomplished players. ProV1x will find favor for fast swingers who need less spin. What We Like: Incredible performance with equally incredible durability. Lineup: Pro V1x, Pro V1, NXT Tour, NXT, DT So/Lo Construction: Three-piece Cover: Urethane elastomer Core: Rubber Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Low (driver), High (wedge) Feel: Soft Titleist DT So/Lo www.titleist.com (800) 225-8500 | $28/doz.
Expected Titleist performance in a low-compression golf ball. Features: A super-low-compression model designed to provide a combination of maximum distance and soft feel for golfers who have no chance of ever earning a Tour card. Advantages: Like other models in the low-compression category, the So/Lo is designed with a high-velocity core that can be compressed by any golfer, including those with slower swings. Benefits: The So/Lo is a good option for anyone who wants to hit the ball consistently longer without having to swing any harder. What We Like: Feel around the greens among the best in the low-compression category. Lineup: Pro V1x, Pro V1, NXT Tour, NXT, DT So/Lo Construction: Two-piece Cover: Surlyn_¨ Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Spin: Low Trajectory: High Feel: SoftTop-Flite XL Extreme www.topflite.com (866) TF-GOLFCO | $23/doz.
A new line of Top-Flites, each of which focuses on providing a specific performance trait at a reasonable price. Features: All three models in the XL Extreme line (Tour, Distance, Straight) combine Rocket Core Technology with premium Top-Flite distance technologies to boost ball speed and distance. All models also feature Seamless Dimple Technology for reduced in-flight drag. Advantages: Golfers can choose the model that best fits their needs, as long as their needs include legendary Top-Flite distance. Benefits: Distance-hungry golfers who want the additional benefit of customized performance._Ê_Ê _Ê What We Like: A Top-Flite that feels pretty good. _Ê Lineup: XL Extreme, XL Plus, XL, Quartz Construction: Two-piece Cover: Surlyn_¨, Slickote (XL Extreme Straight) Core: Rocket Core polymer Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Low Feel: Medium Top-Flite Quartz www.topflite.com (866) TF-GOLFCO | $25/15-pack
A distance model directed at slower swingers who prefer a colored golf ball. Features: Low-compression core to optimize distance and feel for slower-swing-speed golfers. Seamless Dimple Technology for improved aerodynamic performance and symmetrical dimple pattern for increased consistency. Clear ionomer cover allows colored core to shine through. Available in white, pink, yellow and blue. Advantages: Optimized distance for slower swingers. Traditional Top-Flite durability. Benefits: Slower swingers who want the ultimate in distance and durability, as well as a unique look. What We Like: Multiple color options. Lineup: XL Extreme, XL Plus, XL, Quartz Construction: Two-piece Cover: Clear ionomer Core: Polybutadiene Mid-layer: None Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Low Feel: FirmWilson Staff Tx4 www.wilsonstaff.com (800) 469-4576 | $30/doz.
Top-of-the-line four-piece model directed at better players who demand Tour-caliber performance. Features: The core is infused with nanoparticles, which help make the ball soft yet resilient. The urethane elastomer aptly resists scuffs, while the PhD aerodynamics feature (with 312 Pan Head dimples) promote a higher trajectory and better in-flight stability. Advantages: Faster ball speed on driver and long-iron shots and more spin on iron and short-game shots. Benefits: More accomplished players who have the game to take advantage of a Tour-like performer. What We Like: Wilson continues to produce advanced, high-tech products. Lineup: Tx4, Px3, Dx2 Construction: Four-layer Cover: Urethane elastomer Core: Nano Tech rubber Mid-layer: Fusion Distance: High Durability: High Trajectory: High Spin: Low Feel: Medium_Ê _Ê Tech Talk The Skinny On Golf Ball Covers
In just about every advertisement for three-piece premium golf balls, the claim of an "ultra-thin" cover is proudly and repeatedly made by whoever is touting the benefits of that particular brand or model of ball. Though this initially sounds somewhat impressive, most golfers are probably left wondering why it's a big deal and why they should care about golf ball covers in the first place, let alone how thick or thin one might be._Ê _Ê_Ê_Ê The cover actually plays an extremely significant role in golf ball performance, though how and why it contributes to that performance depends largely on construction and materials. For example, most two-piece distance golf balls feature a very large, soft core with a fairly firm, relatively thick cover that's made of durable ionomer. These covers are thicker and harder because they're primarily designed to provide enhanced distance and durability for value-minded golfers. In contrast, premium multi-layer models typically feature a large core, an ionomer mantle layer and an extremely thin and soft urethane cover (basically a two-piece ball wrapped in a thin membrane). In these cases, the soft, thin cover is designed to produce spin for wedge and greenside shots, while allowing the core and mantle to produce the speed for drives and fairway-wood shots.
Dimples, Dimples, Everywhere: The Bottom Line On Ballistics Early golf balls sported smooth exteriors, which the craftsmen of the time thought was the best way to make them travel far. What golfers and golf ball makers soon learned was that these gutta-percha models didn't start performing well until they were broken in, meaning they flew farther once they got nicked up through use. Eventually, gutta-percha golf balls came "pre-nicked," or dimpled, and thus, the study and application of aerodynamic theory became an integral part of ball design and performance.
The simple concepts that started with patterned chisel marks have obviously come a long way, as R&D departments at every major golf ball company now spend untold hours developing unique and effective ways to maximize ballflight. The key concept they utilize to do so is simply this: A rotating object in flight, with a dimpled surface, creates a layer of air around it, which in turn creates wind resistance and air pressure beneath it. This phenomenon helps the ball rise and hang in the air significantly longer than one without a rough surface. So the next time you're shopping for golf balls, pay a little more attention to the dimples–they're not just there for the looks, but actually have a major effect on trajectory, distance and hang time. [Below: Wilson's Phd–Pan Head Design–dimple pattern is shallower and sharper than most existing patterns. It's said to lessen drag and increase distance.] –Mike Chwasky
How To Buy A Golf Ball Golfers often ask Ben Alexander, PGA, which ball they should play. The teaching pro at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif., and 2004 Northern California PGA Teacher of the Year assures them that "amateur golfers get overwhelmed by the manufacturers' marketing programs that if you play their ball, it will go farther. Or if you play a particular ball, it will spin more. Or with all of these extra dimples, this ball will go farther and straighter. Wow, that's a lot to digest for the average player."
Alexander offers a few simple tips when searching for the best ball for your game. "Consider how far you hit your driver. If you hit it long, then you need a ball with a softer feel for more control. If you hit it short, I would recommend a harder ball for more distance."
What about spin? Again, Alexander has some sage advice. "When you hit the green, does your ball stop with backspin or does it hit the green and roll? If the latter, try a ball with more spin. Around the greens, do y