No, it's not the surface of the moon (right), it's a super-close-up shot of a golf ball. In golf's modern era, the small, round dimpled orbs that fill the pockets of your golf bags are truly the sum of their parts. From the materials that make up their covers to how it's filled inside, a golf ball's composition greatly affects its behavior on the course. Among other things, it determines how high or low it launches off your clubface and spins around the green and how much it compresses when hit. In short, the modern golf ball is a technological masterpiece, with a number of different varieties built specifically for players of varying skill levels. They've truly come a long way since a bunch of feathers were sewn inside a piece of leather.
Of course, great technological advancements always meet some resistance. In Ohio, there's a limited-flight ball that has been integrated into competitions, and worldwide numerous legends of the game have bemoaned the modern ball's DNA for making old courses obsolete and eliminating shotmaking from the game. While the best in the world may take advantage of the newer ball technology, that still leaves the rest of us to duke it out with "Old Man Par." And we'll take all the help we can get.
Which Ball Is Right For You?
Late last year, the Golf Tips editors had the privilege to visit Hot Stix, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based golf lab. While there, we visited with some of the industry's most knowledgeable clubfitters, scientists and technicians and asked them which steps golfers should take to improve their game. They suggested a lot of things, including shaft upgrades, loft, lie and grip adjustments, but they also brought the conversation around to those little white balls that go a mile. Choosing the right golf ball, they said, was vital for golfers of all skill levels. (They also said it was the cheapest and fastest way to see important results.) Translation: Even though your favorite player tees up a thin-covered, high-spinning ball every week, it might not be the right one for your game, especially if you're an average golfer. Take particular care when perusing the offerings for '07—they might change your life.
Understanding Our Charts Features: The primary characteristics of the golf ball, including an overview of the cover, core and spin qualities. Advantages: How this ball separates itself from the others; its dominant features. Benefits: What type of golfer would most likely benefit from playing this ball. What We Like: We have our preferences, too, and share what we like in the particular ball. Lineup: Lists the balls available in the manufacturer's line. Construction: Two-piece, three-piece, multi-layer. Cover: Urethane covers tend to be the dominant material in premium golf balls, yielding a soft and grippy feel around the greens. Surlyn and other polymer blends are more affordable, but slightly less responsive and have a firmer feel. Core: Polybutadiene dominates most cores, but it's worth noting those that don't. Midlayer: Ionomer midlayers aid in adding spin with iron shots and reducing spin with driver and fairway wood shots. Dimple Pattern: Note the varying dimple patterns in several models. If supplied, dimple counts are in parentheses. Trajectory: High, Mid or Low Spin: High, Mid or Low Feel: Firm or SoftBridgestone e5/e6 bridgestonegolf.com (800) 358-6319 | $25/doz. e5: e6:
It's the customized performance, driven by the latest in urethane and core technology, that makes the new e5 and e6 golf balls the 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 less 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_Ê boring trajectory. Benefits: Mid- to high-handicappers who crave distance will like the e5, and better players who want minimal 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)_Ê Core: Polymer Mid-layer: Linear Velocity mantle (e6) Distance: High Dimple Design: Round (432 e5) (330 e6) Trajectory: High (e5), Mid (e6)_Ê Spin: High (e5), Mid (e6) Feel: Soft Bridgestone Tour B330/B330-S bridgestonegolf.com (800) 358-6319 | $40/doz.B330: B330-S:
These two Tour-validated golf balls from Bridgestone just got better. Features: The thin urethane cover, ionomer mid-layer and Speed Elasticity core of the B330 and B330-S combine to produce both distance and feel._Ê Advantages: The 2007 version of both golf balls is new and improved. Both balls are more durable, and both outperform their predecessors as far as distance is concerned. The B330 is a bit more playable around the greens and feels softer than before, and the B330-S is longer than the previous model. Benefits: The B330 is for fast swingers; the B330-S is great for everyone else! What We Like: Improved durability is a plus and it seems both balls cut through the wind like a warm knife in soft butter. Good stuff! Lineup: B330, B300-S, e5, e6 Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Urethane Core: Polymer Mid-layer: Ionomer Distance: High Dimple Design: Round (330) Trajectory: Mid Spin: Medium (B330), High (B330-S) Feel: Firm (B330), Soft (B330-S) Callaway HX Hot callawaygolf.com (877) ELY-BALL | $25/doz.
For the distance-obsessed golfer who needs extra yards with every club in the bag. Features: The HX Hot is equipped with not only a hexagonal dimple pattern for improved distance, but also a polymer mid-layer to ensure optimal spin with the big stick and around the putting surface. Advantages: The HEX dimple pattern works wonders for splitting the wind, and the Ionomer cover helps to minimize excessive spin with the driver for the utmost in both carry and roll. Benefits: Moderate to fast swingers who get a kick out of ripping it past the rest of their group. What We Like: It's cool to see a durable, multi-layer distance ball that performs well. Nice! Lineup: Warbird, Big Bertha, HX Pearl, HX Hot, HX Tour 56, HX Tour Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Ionomer Core: Polybutadiene Midlayer: Dupont HPF polymer Dimple Design: Hexagonal Distance: High_Ê Trajectory: Mid Spin: Low Feel: Soft Callaway HX Tour/HX Tour 56 callawaygolf.com (877) ELY-BALL | $39/doz.Tour: Tour 56:
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: Improved durability makes the HX Tour one of the best._Ê 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 Dimple Design: Hexagonal Trajectory: Mid Spin: Mid (HX Tour), High (HX Tour 56) Feel: Soft Maxfli Powermax maxfli.com (800) 456-8633 | $15/doz.
With John Daly on the box, do we really need to explain what this ball is designed to do? Features: the new, value-priced Powermax from Maxfli has an enlarged core for faster ball speed and a cover designed to not only be durable, but also functional around the greens. Advantages: Two models are available: The Powermax Distance is made to minimize driver spin and provide all-out distance; the Powermax Soft Distance is also a long ball, but has a softer cover. Benefits: Recreational golfers who want the most distance possible in a 15-ball pack. What We Like: The new logo looks great, and the Soft Distance is great from 100 yards out._Ê Lineup: Powermax Distance, Powermax Soft Distance Construction: Two-piece Cover: Surlyn Core: Polybutadiene Midlayer: None Dimple Design: Round Distance: High Trajectory: High Spin: Low (Distance); Mid (Soft Distance) Feel: Firm (Distance); Soft (Soft Distance) Maxfli Fire maxfli.com (800) 456-8633 | $19/doz.
Maxfli's latest entry into the distance market is backed up by none other than the original long bomber, John Daly. Features: With a multi-layer construction, 442 dimples and an HPG SpeedMantle, the Fire is built for sheer distance and an increase in ball speed. Advantages: By employing 442 dimples, the ball lifts quicker, making it a solid alternative for slower swing speeds. Benefits: Anyone who wants more distance for a great price. Also, if you keep the ball in play, the great durability of the Fire will really impress. What We Like: The ball hops off the face and rises quickly, making it the ideal golf ball for those who struggle with getting enough height on their drives._Ê Lineup: Fire, Powermax Construction: Multi-layer Cover: N/A Core: Polybutadiene Midlayer: HPG 100 SpeedMantle Dimple Design: Orbital (442) Trajectory: High Spin: High Feel: Firm
Nike Juice nikegolf.com (888) 799-NIKE | $20/doz.
You have to check out the latest commercials online. Nike Golf blows up a lava lamp. Features: The Juice ball is Nike's new, edgy ball designed to serve as a distance ball, albeit slightly softer and without the harsh feel some distance balls have._Ê Advantages: The thin cover and soft core help with distance, but surprisingly, the ball also has a soft feel around the greens and with the putter. By the way, the Juice is also exceptionally durable. Benefits: Average players with moderate to slow swing speeds who can use a few yards of extra distance off the tee. What We Like: Creative advertisements aside, the Juice has plenty of pop off the tee, as well as a pleasing, soft feel. Lineup: Power Distance, Mojo, Juice, Ignite, One Construction: Two-piece Cover: Surlyn_Ê Core: Shore D polybutadiene Midlayer: None_Ê Dimple Design: Round (312) Distance: High_Ê Trajectory: High Spin: Moderate Feel: Soft Nike One Platinum/Black nikegolf.com (888) 799-NIKE | $39/doz.Platinum: Black:
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 Dimple Design: Round (336) Trajectory: Mid Spin: Mid (One Black), High (One Platinum) Feel: Soft Pinnacle Pinnacle CLR White pinnaclegolf.com (800) 225-8500| $18/doz.
Known for being the popular choice among long drivers, Pinnacle shows it can also make a golf ball that looks nice too. Features: The see-though Surlyn cover material of the CLR White combined with the potent core make for a soft-feeling but hard-hitting value ball. Advantages: The clear cover actually aids in visibility by reflecting more in the sun. The CLR White (pink is also available) remains among the more versatile balls in not only the clear cover category, but among all golf balls. Benefits: Recreational players who crave big distance from a pretty golf ball. What We Like: Some clear cover balls feel harsh, but not this one. Lineup: Exception, CLR White, CLR Pink, Gold Long Drive, Gold Lady Construction: Two-piece Core: Polybutadiene_Ê Midlayer: None Dimple Design: Icosahedral (395) Distance: High Trajectory: High Spin: Moderate Feel: Soft Precept 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_â_¨ 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_â_¨ Core: X-Polymer Mid-layer: None Distance: High Dimple Design: Round (432) Trajectory: High Spin: Medium Feel: Medium Srixon Z-URC srixon.com (888) 4-SRIXON | $40/doz.
The second-best player in the world uses this ball. Features: the new Z-URC ball has an unbelievably thin cover (.02 of an inch thick) to promote a higher spin rate than the Z-URS and Z-UR balls, but in doing so, retains the same explosiveness and feel that the other Z-UR golf balls have._Ê Advantages: The added spin helps better players manipulate shots off the tee, and the high-spin rate produced by iron shots helps stick the greens. Benefits: Better players who want some shotmaking maneuverability off the tee. What We Like: The Z-URC isn't shy to say it's designed to help golfers move the ball off the tee, a la Jim Furyk. Better players will love this ball. Lineup: Soft Feel, Tri-Speed, AD333, Z-UR, Z-URS,_Ê Z-URC Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Urethane_Ê Core: Polybutadiene Midlayer: Ionomer Dimple Design: Round (330) Distance: High Trajectory: High Spin: High Feel: Firm TaylorMade TP Black/Red taylormadegolf.com (800) 888-CLUB | $45/doz.Black: Red:
Designed with Tour professionals in mind, the TP Black and TP Red are already making a huge impact across several professional Tours. Features: Although similar, the main difference between the TP Red and TP Black is that the TP Red has a larger core and thinner mantle than the TP Black. This means the TP Red has a lower launch angle off the tee, and a softer feel. The TP Black has a higher launch angle and a firmer feel. Advantages: Both have a razor-thin cover for solid feel and spin around the greens, and the cast thermoset urethane cover is amazingly durable. Benefits: Better players who want an all-around great golf ball. What We Like: The ball is long off the tee and soft around the green. Lineup: TP Red, TP Black Construction: Multi-layer Cover: Urethane Core: Neodymium-based Midlayer: Ionomer Dimple Design: Pentangular di-pyramid (322) Distance: High Trajectory: High (TP Black); Mid (TP Red) Spin: High Feel: Firm (TP Black); Soft (TP Red)
_Ê Tech Talk Choose Wisely By Brandon Sowell Bridgestone Golf
For the industry as a whole, it's fairly evident that solid-core golf ball technology and three-piece urethane cover construction have had the biggest impact. Bridgestone was the first company to introduce a solid-core performance model (back in the early '90s when Nick Price was winning his Majors), and has continued to be a leader in refining the technology to meet the demanding needs of today's golfer. For Bridgestone Golf, in addition to the solid core and other materials advances, the Seamless Cover has been a significant technological breakthrough. Seamless Cover Technology allows players to experience unparalleled flight consistency, regardless of whether they strike the ball on the equator or on one of the poles.
The biggest mistake that I've seen is that the average golfer doesn't always buy the best ball to maximize their game. Some may choose a model based on what their friends use or what guys on Tour are playing. Another mistake we see is that the ones that do choose a ball based on their swing only look at swing speed. In order to get the best ball for your game, it's important to look at the total equation. For instance, launch angle and the optimal spin rate should also be a consideration for golfers. Every golfer should be fit on a launch monitor to find out what ball is best for them. In 2007, we're introducing the Bridgestone Golf Challenge, which will provide consumers the opportunity to get fit on our Science Eye launch monitor at various golf courses and golf retailers across the United States. For a schedule of when the fitting is available in specific areas, visit www.bridgestonegolf.com.
Titleist Pro V1/Pro V1x titleist.com (800) 225-8500 | $45/doz. V1: V1X:
Could Titleist really improve on arguably the most popular golf ball ever? Features: The Pro V1 and Pro V1x are the hottest golf balls in the world, and thanks to a new, softer Elastomer cover, a staggered wave parting line (in other words, no seam is visible) and an alignment stamp right on the ball, these new balls from Titleist will likely continue to lead the pack. Advantages: The Pro V1 retains great distance off the tee with a driver, and thanks to a 392-dimple count, spins more and flies higher than the Pro V1x, which has 332 dimples to promote a lower launch. Benefits: Better players or anyone who wants distance, feel and durability. What We Like: The new seam is impressive. Lineup: DT SoLo, NXT, NXT Tour, Pro V1, Pro V1x Construction: Two-piece Cover: Urethane elastomer Core: Rubber_Ê Midlayer: Ionomer Dimple Design: Round (332 Pro V1x) (392 Pro V1) Distance: High Trajectory: Mid (Pro V1x), High (Pro V1) Spin: High Feel: Soft Top Flite D2 topflite.com (866) TF-GOLFCO | $16/doz.Feel Good: