Choosing The Right Golf Ball
I missed giving away a wedge once or twice in the past couple of months, so I’m going to make up for it today, because two oobgolf readers sent in questions asking me to sound off about selecting the right golf ball from the vast array of choices that are out there. Janny G. asked:
“With all the ball choices out there, how do I choose the right ball? Specifically, could you recommend a systematic approach to testing different balls to find the best ball for one's game?”
And then, not two days later, I get this from Ryan G. (no relation):
I would be interested in a more technical discussion on golf balls; a discussion on the consequences of compression, dimple design, cover material, feel of the ball, cleanliness of the ball, etc.”
Well, Janny and Ryan, let’s start the dialog on this very broad subject which I’m sure will generated plenty of response from our oob readers.

Perhaps no other segment of the industry has made such a dramatic change in technology over the past decade or two than have golf balls. It was not that long ago that no tour-level player would tee up a two or three piece ball; they almost universally demanded the performance of wound core balata cover pellets for their level of play. But as advances were made in cover and core technology, and the Pro V1 introduced by Titleist, the seismic shift was made and the old standard – rubber band wound core, balata cover ball – was extinct almost overnight. Now we have dozens of manufacturers producing very high quality spheres for us at price points from $60/dozen to under $20. And all of them are pretty darn good quality.

With this vast array of choices, as you would expect, “ball fitting” became a science at the major brands’ tour labs, and that technology is making its way to the masses through some online guides and an increasing number of golf equipment labs at the local level. What this process can do for any golfer is define which ball – out of hundreds – performs best for YOU, with YOUR individual swing and impact characteristics. If you want to have some fun, at a very reasonable cost, research who near you can do this process. It’s quite enlightening.

For the rest of us, here are my suggestions as to where to start the process to find the ball that performs best for you:
1. Start with your comfortable price point. It doesn’t matter how good a ball is, if the net cost of playing it is too high, it’s not the right ball for you.

2. Determine which is more important to you – distance or feel. Generally speaking, the “distance balls” are a little harder in the cover to reduce the spin they generate, thereby delivering a few more yards. Balls with a softer cover and core will allow you to generate more spin around the greens, deliver a higher ball flight, and feel softer off the putter. For my money, I think all the balls are reasonably long and almost all golfers are better served by playing a ball that spins and putts better. Most ball packages offer some text and/or charts to help you narrow down the choices.

3. Pick a brand that makes you feel good. Actually, I’m not kidding. All of them are good, so pick one that makes you feel good. For example, I can’t bear the thought of giving my money to my major wedge competitor, Titleist. I play the Bridgestone B330 S or RX and am very happy. In fact, several of my golf pals have switched from the V1 because we think the Bridgestone is a better wind ball. But if you have affinity for a brand, by all means give it a shot.

4. Try them out. Your game will determine how many rounds with a ball it will take to find one that “fits”, but I think you need at least 3-4 rounds to make a sound assessment. You need to examine how it feels off of all clubs, how it performs around the greens, distance delivered, and possibly how it plays in the wind (very important this close to the Texas Coast, maybe not as much elsewhere.)

5. Narrow down the choices. Find the 3-4 brand/models that seem to work best and continue to test one against the other until you find the one you want.

6. When you find one you like, STICK WITH IT. All these balls perform a little different, and if you are constantly switching around, you’ll have a hard time refining your short game and putting touch to where you would like it to be.
So, there is the first chapter in this. Let’s all chime in and see where we can take this dialog.

photo source
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[ comments ]
Backquak says:
I'm all for playing a ball that is better around the greens, but I have a problem with the softer covers, I chew them up pretty quickly, Do you have a recommendation for a ball that is good around the greens with a durable cover?
Backquak says:
cause if I'm gonna put my logo on it, I want to make sure it advertises for me for the full 1000 years, ;)
Banker85 says:
I would have to go to a fitter to really believe a ball can make a difference. Sounds fun never been to one for any type of fitting is it expensive? I like softer feeling balls because of the feel off the putter. Some balls i have played feel like rocks off my putter. i like the more durable balls too, i find that pro v1's seem to wear to easy for $50-60 bucks a dozen.
Golf_O_Matic says:
I agree is so important to mentally "feel" good about the ball you use...and the extra yards you get with a distance ball is not worth for show putt for dough. I switched to the B330s this year and love it. I still get great distance and it works great around the green. Thanks for this great article Terry!
Optimus Prime says:
That's pretty much the process I went through in selecting the Bridgestone e6+ and the e7+ that I play in the wind.

I think I have played just about every ball on the market. I found out quickly that they all aren't for me. Some balls needed a faster swing speed. Some just made my slice worse. Some tore up way too easily. Some were too expensive to play, especially since I was losing several balls per round. Using some balls, I lost distance. Some played better in the summer than the winter.

It was an interesting journey but I've settled on the Bridgestones.
jeremyheslop says:
I think picking a ball and staying with it is good advice. I just starting playing the game this year I can say I'm going to stick to one ball as to not bring any other variables into the mix. Once I get a consistent swing I'll start switching out balls. I'm sure as my swing progresses my speed or other factors might change thus making my current ball of choice, Nike PD Soft, the wrong once for me. Until then though it is a decent ball for a decent price.
Kickntrue says:
The Top Flite Gamer bals (12 for $18) are the best cheap balls money can buy. They aren't ProV1's, but they are a great 3 piece ball that definitely react good enough to play consistently with confidence. You have to get the old Top Flite ball out of your head and try these. You won't be disappointed.
Shankapotamus says:
For those looking for a good ball without having to shell out big $$, I have experimented with many of the balls in the $20-$30 range this year. Here are two balls I would recommend for an average to skilled player looking for a ball with a good combination of distance, feel, and durability.

$20 a dozen- Srixon AD333- This is the best two piece I found and you can actually get this ball for $15 or less per dozen right now.

$30 a dozen- This was the best inexpensive 3 piece I found (@ Kickntrue- I haven't played the gamer). A cool thing about this one (other than how it plays) is that right now most major online retailers allow you to have them customized for no additional charge.
Ward says:
I actually was quite dissapointed by the Top Flite gamer balls, I found them to be the least durable cover of any ball I'd played. They were certainly softer and did spin more than what you would expect from a top flite, but I think the extra $5 or so a dozen for the Taylormade burner TP balls is well worth it. I found the burner TP spun more, felt softer, and was more durable in my game

that being said, there looks to be a new version of the TF gamer out that may have improved durability, but I really think that TM burner TP is on of the best values right now.
Ward says:
2 dozen burner TP's are going for $45 at most retailers now
cvargo says:
Callaway warbird plus. Cheap good ball and i like the feel. I also like the Taylormade TP's i know its bad but i play both
DiC says:
I never really gave much thought to which ball I hit until recently.
Coming back to the game after about a 5 year break I played one (practice round) on a 9 hole short course near me using some rock hard Wilson Titanium thing which I'd found in the garage. It hit the ever-so soft greens and STILL rolled off the back. The next time out on the same course I decided to pick up a couple of Nike PD Soft (lake balls) from the pro shop before the round and WOW the difference was amazing! They went high, stopped quick and felt great off my putter.
I've since been playing some of the best golf of my life (recently breaking 90) and was wondering if I would get even better performance from some BRAND NEW Nike PD Soft or will there not be much difference to using these old lake balls I already have?
mjaber says:
When I first started, I found that the Top Flite XL STRAIGHT was a great "beginner" ball. It didn't slice/hook as much as others. Now that I have fixed my swing a bit, I've started experimenting with some different balls. I started with Titleist X-outs. They mixed different models into the box. It gave me the opportunity to try a number of different Titleist models at very low cost.
activesense says:
I had good luck off the tee with the Noodle+ but they felt really bad off the putter. I couldn't get the putting weight right at all. A buddy of mine suggested the Nike Mojo, which are much better on the green for me, but I have sacrificed a little accuracy off the tee. The best overall ball I have played was the now obselete(?) Nike NDX. The new equivalent of these is out of my price range, considering I lose on average 2 balls every 3 rounds. I also tried the Intech TiTech and the Top Flite D2 straight, both with less than adequate results.
JDoughMO says:
Anybody looking for soft feeling golf balls should give the Wilson Staff line a shot. Their new 2010 stuff is geared for the new groove rules. Distance is good and the feel is incredible. The FG Tour ball is a low compression urethane cover 3-piece ball similar to the Bridgestone RX, but about $20 a box cheaper.
Kurt the Knife says:
For experiments, I buy prospective balls from
There I can purchase all varieties economically. Their quality rating system consistently underestimates the condition of what they offer. For example Titleist ProV1x 1 doz. AAA quality for $15.95. In my batch a few just had light cosmetic scuff marks, certainly nothing enough to affect flight or grip. Most were perfect condition and I got to try 'em out cheap.
onedollarwed says:
I've played all the top balls, and nothing beats a good swing. To make good swings, you need good swing thoughts, and positive thinking. Think of the tradition of using an old junky ball on a water hole. The idea of trying out a ball flawed. I mean, we all do it. But every ball will follow you with you ups and downs. I can hit the hardest two-piece with a blade 3-iron and get the sweetest, softest feel. As long as the swing is timed well, the club is gripped not too tight, and contact dead center, it's dead sweet - no gloves, stiff metal shafts.
I'm not sure on this, but wasn't there a discussion a while back about an illegal ball with random dimple patterns? I feel that chewed-up, and dirty balls fly just fine. Is there a relationship? I have been using Taylormade TPs lately and the covers can wear quickly, I just keep playing them. No problems. Any data on this, vs. wet ball just out of the washer? Are there rules on this - applying products to ball (WD-40?).
ipv6freely says:
I just switched to the 'MaxFli Noodle Longest', and my first round with them, I hit the pin off my drive on a par 4. Now, I think I'm going to keep playing them, just because of that one crazy moment in time where I almost aced a par 4 :)
eventHorizon says:
When an individual has a consistent swing and develops an understanding of his/her swing speed, the amount of rpms put on the ball, trajectory of the ball, etc. the decision of what golf ball to play on a day to day situation is quite important. The design of a ball matched with a particular swing can have vastly different results. So when you make the decision of your price point and what companies you like, definitely try all those in your category side by side for multiple shots/rounds and definitely try them out around the green (side by side is important).
If you haven't seen it yet, Mythbusters did an episode about dimples on a golf ball (and then attempted to use the same design on a car for better gas mileage). It is probably a good introduction into the aerodynamics of a golf ball for those not necessarily aware of why there is an art behind the design of golf balls. Thanks again Terry!
(starts about 4 minutes in)
trikai says:
Since I seem to consistently improve my ball striking and improve my scoring while consistently changing the balls that I use, is it possible the ball you use doesn't really matter until to have reached you perceived potential? Or am I perfectly choosing the right ball for exactly the right time in my game?

Looking back at my graphs I pinpointed two periods were I drastically improved my game in respects to scoring. My biggest consistent issue is usually off the tee and within 100yds of the green. When I started I used Callaway HX Hot and Callaway Spins. I switched to Taylor Made TP's and the scoring improved. I continued to play with those switching between the TP Red and TP blacks till recently switching to the Burner RED because of the price and the scoring improved again.

Does less spin = better results for me? Or does the ball not really matter unless you have the ability to manipulate the flight path?
Swingem says:
I've played with ProV1's for years but don't like coughing up $45.00 for a dozen. A few months ago I tried the Taylor Made TP Red and bought 2 dozen ($55.00). I like these but felt that I get too much spin. About a month ago I found a Nike Tour D in the bushes and played it. Funny, I couldn't get rid of the damn thing. Our course has a slope of 148 with no room to miss and its extremely rare to play a whole round with one ball, I retired that ball when it was too beat to play anymore. Picked up two dozen of these ($60.00) and just played another whole round with the same ball. Feels good off the clubs on full shots as well as pithches and chips, and putts well. Never liked Nike balls before, but it seems like two dozen of these might last me a long time, go figure.
kidputter says:
I've been hitting Titleist NXT x-outs from Wal-Mart ($10 for 15 balls). I also like the Srixxon Tri-speed. It's for us guys who are honestly swinging the club around 80-85 MPH.
Mjw71772 says:
I use precept laddie, double douzen for 19.99 at wally world. I found I hit that the best with my irons and wedges, and lets face it, that is most of game anyhow, unless you are Happy Gilmore. it is all about balance. And as far as the guy talking about needing a good swing, there are many previous greats who had jacked up swings that hit the ball just fine, one comes to mind right away Arnie.
onedollarwed says:
I was talking about the feel of the ball. You can have the softest ball, but off the toe it will feel and fly awfully. What I was getting at is that if you're going to "try out" balls, for one round say, you will probably not so much experince the ball, but other aspects of your game (swing, grip, etc). Most of what you're trying to test is largely in your mind - and that's fine, because that is where you develop swing thoughts, and strategy. Knowing you've got a soft covered ball, you will make those shot. If you're playing 2-piece (like a TopFlite D2 Straigt) You'll probably not attempt certain shot or thoughts about strategies. Now if you didn't know what kind of ball you were playing, and you just played "normally," I'm sure there'd be a lot less difference than you'd expect.
onedollarwed says:
It's the blind taste test phenomenon: People can't usually tell the difference - it's the label (and thus preconceptions) that lets you know how the product should taste. For those who really can tell the difference, so what. If the question was "are you enjoying the drink?" That would be better. Instead it's expected that most people want to know the brand before they can decide if they like it - it's human nature.
Q: Are you hitting the ball well?
Q: Are you getting the right amount of control?
Q: Is it going straight when you want it to?
If you can answer those question without knowing the make or model, then it's probably due to the 99% of other factors, not the ball.
Tim Horan says:
I have been using Srixon Soft Feel for a couple of years now and find although they scuff up quite easily they are cheap enough @ £15 per dozen ($22) They give distance and a very good feel around the green and off the flat stick. I also trialed a three piece ball from Thailand called Topoint TI but have not found a reliable supplier. The Topoint ball was equally a good as a Pro V1x and at the time of the trial the ball was retailing at about $12 a dozen. If you are a snob forget about it, but great feel about the ball generally; you need to feel comfortable about a little known brand
hhkan says:
I am not quite convinced that sticking to a particular brand is important for mid to high handicapper. Between broad categories, such as between 2-piece and 3-piece balls, yes. But within the same category, I think the inconsistencies in the shots makes the small differences in ball performance unnoticeable.
Dale North says:
Ball fitting really is as important as they say it is, and having the right ball can definitely reduce your score.
Imagine hitting the right ball for your game straight down the fairway, long and strong. Then imagine hitting the wrong ball for your game, maybe a ball that spins too much off the driver, and watching it sail into the long rough or pond. Already you have a 1 shot difference. Multiply that by 14 tee shots and your score card is totally different animal.
Taking into account that the most common error for mid to high handicappers is either a hook or (more commonly) a slice, a Low Spin Distance ball, with a soft cover might well be the ball of necessity.
I'm an 11 handicapper and I play the new TM Noodle+, it's a great ball because it doesn't spin too much off the driver, but it spins and stops nicely on the greens. The Nike PD Soft is similar, but the Noodle+ is longer off the driver.
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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