Mental Mondays: Choose The Right Golf Ball

Choose The Right Golf BallWe live in the golden age of the golf ball. Breakthroughs in design, materials and manufacturing have produced a bumper crop of balls. No matter what your body type, swing style or clubhead speed, there’s a ball specifically designed for you.

Unfortunately, far too many players give absolutely no thought to the ball they play. In a pro shop, they instinctively reach for the Pro V1 because that’s the ball that has won the marketing race. Everyone is convinced that it’s the best ball on the market—and it may be. But a ball that pros and top amateurs love with their 100+ mph swing speeds just might not (and likely isn’t) the best ball for you.

A critical factor in golf ball performance is compression. At impact, the golf ball is flattened against the face of the club, and then rebounds into its original shape. You can see this quite clearly in slow motion television analyses of tour players’ swings. To get the most distance (and accuracy) out of your ball, it needs to be just soft enough for you to achieve that compression. Compressing a ball too much or too little can be counterproductive. All things being equal, a player with a higher swing speed will be able to crush a higher compression ball more easily. It follows, then, that a ball favored by fast swinging pros and top amateurs may be a little too hard for slower swinging weekenders.

There are other factors, too. Design and composition of balls lead to varying spin rates. Spin and the dimples create loft and carry. So a slower-swinging golfer may need a higher spin rate for greater distance. But greater spin also can create hooks and slices. An erratic ball striker may need one with lower spin. The short game also factors into this. Players who are adept at high flying short games will require a different ball than those who prefer the pitch-and-run.

Feel with the putter is an other consideration. While improved manufacturing tolerances ensure that virtually every ball these days is “true,” their feel off the putter can be quite different. I’ve rejected a couple of otherwise good balls just because they didn’t “feel” right off the putter. All of this makes the choice of a golf ball a somewhat complex decision.

(To appreciate how far things have come, consider this: Through the 1970s, tour pros would carry a metal ring on their bag, sized perfectly for a golf ball. Before putting a new ball into play, they would pass it through the ring to ensure that it was correctly sized and shaped.)

A recent development in golf balls is the notion of a golf ball fitting. These are generally available at the national golf chain stores, high end local pro shops and at better equipped golf learning centers. The computerized equipment will track your swing speed, launch angle, ball spin rate and other factors and compare it to data on known balls to give you a “best fit.”

Barring a ball fitting, your best bet is to try a variety of balls based on what you know about your own swing and manufacturer’s claims. Balls advertised as “low compression” generally are best for those with slower swing speeds. Those that claim to reduce hooks and slices typically are lower spin models.

The biggest barrier to picking a ball without professional help is estimating your swing speed. You can get a rough estimate of your swing speed from your 150 yard club. If that Club is a 6 or a 7 iron, your swing is in the 80 – 90 mph range; if it’s between a 7 and an eight, 90 – 10; an 8 to a 9 iron would indicate a 100+ swing speed. Another rule of thumb is to divide the number of yards of carry with your driver by 2.3.

Finally, be aware—as I’m sure you are—that ball price has little to do with which one is best for your game. There are some absolutely superb balls at around $20 a dozen aimed precisely at slower swinging weekenders.

About this series:

In 1960, the average golf score was 100. Forty years later, in spite of all the innovations in clubs, balls and instruction, the average golf score is … still 100. In fact, only 20 percent of all golfers will ever break that mark.

Here’s the problem: Even with all the improvements, the one thing we haven’t been able to improve is the golf intelligence of the players. Most hackers—and more than a few better players—just play dumb golf. So here’s part one of a series on playing smarter golf. I’ve been collecting mental game golf tips for years in a series of notebooks, on my palm pilot and in various computer files. They’ve helped my game. I know they’ll help yours

This tip is an excerpt from The Five Inch Course: Thinking Your Way To Better Golf. The complete book is available in Kindle format at Amazon.com.

11 thoughts on “Mental Mondays: Choose The Right Golf Ball”

  1. I volunteered at a fairly prestigious Jr Golf tourney lately. It was frustrating how nearly all of them were playing either ProV1s, or ProV1xs. I asked most of these 15-17 year olds if they had tested other balls (Callaway, Bridgestone, Nike, etc.), and almost none of them had. They simply were playing the ProVs due to them being the number one ball on the tours. It’s frustrating that golfers with such great natural talent gave no thought if the ball they were playing was best for them. They simply were following the herd mentality and playing what most of the pros played, without taking the time to evaluate if it really was best for their game.

  2. The Polara Ultimate Straight golf ball provides golfers with something no other golf ball does – prevents hooks and slices by up to 75%.  This is not Golf Marketing Hype – this is fact.  I should know, I am one of the inventors. 
    Even with an outside-in club path, a slice can be largely prevented by using the new Polara Ultimate Straight or Super Straight golf balls. These balls use physics and aerodynamics to help those who need an immediate fix for the dreaded slice. see http://www.polaragolf.com for further information

  3. Well I agree about the misperception about the ProV1 and it’s almost identical brother the x.  However, I disagree that there are many quality balls under $20.  I have performed 6000 fittings (yes I can document it) and the only very low priced ball I have seen consistently perform well is the Noodle.

    The problem with lower priced balls is that most are very high compression balls and almost all are two piece.  A high compression ball will almost aways create too much spin for the average golfer on full shots.  Of the 6000 tests I performed I estimate that 85% of players at every skill level have too much back spin on full shots.  The excessive backspin causes the ball to balloon and loose distance.  Technically a ball only really spins one way so a ball that spins a lot on full shots will also tend to spin off line quickly.  Balls like the Top Flite XL, Pinnacle and Slazenger have insane spin rates especially when missed.

    Virtually all lower priced balls are also two piece balls as this is the least expensive ball to produce.  Two piece balls will have less short iron spin compared with a three piece ball that has the same cover material and compression.  In the test I performed I also noticed that two piece balls had a wider variance in overall spin on individual shots.

    Regarding the referenced ball in a previous post that has 75% less spin I would say it sounds promising.  However my question would be how does the ball spin into the green with short iron or a 40 yard wedge from a tight lie into a firm green.

    Finally regarding putter feel…this may be the most over rated issue regarding a golf ball.  I believe that feel is important in golf but once you have “felt” the putt or shot it is over and it has zero impact on what the ball actually does.  Choosing a ball for putter feel would be lime a great marksman choosing a round of ammo based on how it felt coming out of the gun.  I promise you if the round hits the bullseye he will quickly forget how the bullet “feels”.

  4. To Rick H, post on 10/26:  Referring to your comment:
    “Regarding the referenced ball in a previous post that has 75% less spin I would say it sounds promising.  However my question would be how does the ball spin into the green with short iron or a 40 yard wedge from a tight lie into a firm green.”

    The Polara Ultimate Straight (2pc) and Polara Super Straight (3pc) have spin rates that on driver and short iron shots are comparable to other 2 and 3 piece balls.  For a normal golf ball, lower spin means lower lift, which means slightly less slice and hook dispersion.

    However, the Polara ball does not spin 75% less, THEY REDUCE SLICES AND HOOKS BY UP TO 75%.  The straight shots do not result from a low-spin mechanism, but rather through a combination of “preferred axis of inertia” and low lift/low drag coefficients exhibited when the ball is rotating about the preferred axis of inertia. 

    Check out http://www.polaragolf.com or email me at david@polaragolf.com and I would be happy to provide you with more information about the performance of our straight golf balls.  As an example, in an independently run test performed at Golf Labs in San Diego where the Golf Labs computer controlled robot was setup to hit a classic slice shot (80 ft off center), our new Polara golf balls were up to 92% straighter than two very popular performance and straight balls.  The Polara balls were so much straighter than the “popular respected balls” that it is hard to believe.

    We have videos on YouTube (polara golf balls) and on our website that show how the ball works, test results and player testimonials.  Check them out!

    David Felker, PhD
    Head of Technology
    Polara Golf
    (Founding executive team member and former VP R&D, Callaway Golf Ball Company)

  5. I continue to get more and more happy with the Nike PD Long every round.  I bought because it is one of the few yellow balls out there, and I lost interest in playing Nike balls a few years ago – but at $15 I figured I would give this yellow a try since it was just a little more than half the price of the E-6 – and only a fraction of the Z-Star.

    It doesn’t have much stopping power, that’s for sure.  But distance is great and it is a fairly straight ball.  For the last 3 rounds, I am 90% fairways on drives.

    I will still play with the E-6, until I run out – and the same for the Q-Star – unlike other balls which I switch off of – which end up filling up bins in the garage like some sort of island of misfit toys.

    And then, yes, I do play the ProV1.  For Par 3s, I tend to play a ProV1.  Also when the greens get the fastest, I will tend to play ProV1s for whole rounds.  My distance will drop off a little, but the ability to hold greens goes up.

  6. Yes I agree with this. There are too many golfers I see on the weekend using the Titleist Pro v1. They range from low handicappers to high handicappers.

    A lot of these golfers have slow swing speeds and would be much better off using a cheaper 2 piece golf ball.

  7. The problem with lower priced balls is that most are very high compression balls and almost all are two piece.  A high compression ball will almost aways create too much spin for the average golfer on full shots. Good post!

  8. I agree that the right equipment can make a difference in some situations. But how good of a golfer do you have to be before a different ball makes a difference? I’m a total hack on the course—in fact, I have yet to break 110 on an easy 18—so I suspect that playing the wrong ball is the least of my troubles.

  9. Ok – today, not so great for Nike PD Long.  +17 for first 10 holes, +4 for last 8 holes after switching to ProV1.  Not only that, but on the course I was playing the stretch 13 to 18 is the hardest stretch of holes of our 36 holes.  Tomorrow morning playing the same course, I will be starting with a ProV1.  (This #3 I was playing today has about 40 holes of golf on it and still looks new).

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