Selecting The Right Ball
I’ve written several times about golf balls, and my general opinion is that most golfers should play the ball that gives them the best feel and performance around the greens. I am pretty firm in that belief, but thanks to a question from Cory, I thought today I’d go into more detail about golf balls and how to find the right one for you. Specifically, Cory asked:
“Since I became serious about playing golf, I haven't chosen a "favorite" ball. However, this was because I haven't been "educated" on what constitutes the proper ball for me and I think there are many people out there who feel the way I do. How do you know what the right ball is for your game and is there a method to the madness?”
Well, Cori, I’ll use your letter to get into some details regarding my opinion about golf balls and selecting the right one . . . for you, that is. With the vast selection of balls out there, no one person could ever try them all. But finding one and sticking with it is a critical element to playing your best golf.

For raw beginners -- who are going to lose a lot of bullets -- I’d suggest playing either a bargain ball in the $18-20/dozen range or less, or quality re-cycled balls. No, I’m not kidding. There are a couple of websites that sell graded re-cycled golf balls, and the research I’ve seen proves that balls don’t really degrade that much. I’ve actually tried them and I believe you might find one or two out of a hundred that are not quite right, at the worst. We also buy them regularly for our R&D effort and testing sessions. It’s an economical way to get the benefits of a top grade ball for considerably less than they cost new.

I’m a believer that once your game reaches a point where you are serious about improvement, you need to find a ball you like and stick with it. Don’t stop experimenting with a new product if one strikes your eye, because innovation continues, but playing different balls all the time makes it extremely difficult to develop a reliable touch on and around the greens. That all said, here are my three basic tips for how to find the right ball for you:
1. Narrow your brand scope. There are dozens of balls out there, and all of them are good. In many ways, golf balls are like a lot of other branded products – play/wear/drive/etc. what makes you feel good. For me, I’m a Bridgestone guy, because I like their products. But it’s also because I just can’t bear to give a single dime to my wedge competitors and golf giants Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, et al. Silly? Maybe so, but Bridgestone does make an extraordinary product, and I’ve switched more than one of my golf buddies from the V1 because of the B330 performance, especially in the wind. The key is, play a brand that makes you feel good.

2. Pick Your Price Point. Within each major brand, there are dozens of different balls at various price points. Market research shows that nearly 25% of the golf ball market is the Titleist Pro V1 family, but less than 10% of golfers play to a single digit handicap. And those guys are losing fewer balls, right. So there are a lot of mid- to high-handicap players blasting those $4+ golf balls into the water hazards, boonies and back yards. Seriously, guys, if you lose more than one ball a round, this is a rather senseless waste of money. There are a lot of quality balls that will lower your cost of playing golf.

3. Buy Spin. I might sound like a broken record, but all the golf balls today are plenty long. Some of them are made to spin less so they roll far . . . but they are terrible around the greens and off the putter. That will cost you many more strokes than a few extra yards (if you really get them) will save you. I challenge you to play a softer ball for a few rounds and watch what happens. I think you’ll be surprised.
So, there are my keys to selecting the right ball. Most golf balls packages have a guide on the back to selecting the right sub-brand or model, and I’m told there are some pretty good selector guides online. Spend some time, do some research and try out some different brands. It’s fun and can change your golf for the better.

photo source
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
Kurt the Knife says:
I started with Titleist Pro V1x as a beginner thinking a good quality ball would be a good starting point.
I sent my first dozen into the houses as they sliced and hooked and spun their way into oblivion.
My instructor made the suggestion that i try relatively low-compression balls as a beginner(50-70) with lower spinrates while I improve my Swing.
I get my stuff from and its working out great with Nike Karmas and Callaway Pearls and any other AAA rated low comp ball i find on sale.

good advice, Terry.
Bryan K says:
I think what Kurt says is very important. If you are struggling with a slice or a hook, stay away from balls that have a lot of spin.
sepfeiff says:
These days I play what balls I find and it definitely affects my score to the negative. I estimate at least 2 shots per round mostly on up and downs. I rarely remember to factor the ball when close to the green, instead I play my standard shot which gives me different results depending on what ball I play. Solid advice from the wedge guy today. I think this is what makes me an 8 hcp instead of a 5... I can't remember all this crap!

AFAIK Golf digest regularly lists spin rates of balls in comparisons - Terry, do you guys record spin rates from wedge testings?
birdieXris says:
I get fit for balls every year. I play the v1x. it's usually 3 or 4 on the list of "fit balls" but tis the only one that I don't regularly take the cover off of!! it's a durability issue for me. callaway tour ix was #1 last year. I bought the dozen for $42 and a couple rounds later found myself having to buy new balls because of the durability of the cover. boo there. now I play xouts for practice and save the 'spensive balls for tournaments :-)
brentgrab says:
Great read. I used to think that finding the longest ball possible is the best ball but not the case. I tinkered between Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x for a while until I finally started tracking my results. With the Pro V1x I certainly got about 5-6 yards longer on my drives, but the performance around the green was much less than with the Pro V1. I think mainly because the X ball is a bit harder and different internal makeup which promotes less spin around the greens versus the Pro V1 which feels much softer and bites better. I've tried all balls but my top 2 are the Titleist Pro V1 and the Callaway HX Tour 56- both soft feel and long.
meatball413 says:
This was a great article. As you can tell from my stats, I far from the best golfer so I also find it pointless to buy an expensive ball such as the Pro V1 because there are so many aspects of my game that need improvment and one ball is not gonna make that difference. I enjoy playng the top flite D2 Feel balls with the dimple-in-dimple technology. I use these balls just because I like the way they feel coming off of the putter. This is my recommendation for a ball that costs less than 18 bucks a dozen and can be found at any major sporting goods store. Keep up the good work OOB!
activesense says:
I have tried a number of budget balls, including Top Flite D2 straight, Noodle+ and Nike Mojo and have found that none of them compliment both the long and short aspects of the game. The Noodles were great off the tee, but I hated using them on the green. So far the Mojo has offered the best compromise for my game (36.4+ HC rating). I am waiting for my local course to open it's gates so that I can test out the Bridgestone Tour B330 RX sleeve that I won. I hear great things about their low compression and soft feel, but they run $40+/doz and I can't justify that expense at my skill level. Once I go through my 330's I am probably going back to Mojo. Grrrrrrr baby, Grrrrrr!
aaronm04 says:
Thanks for the info Terry! Great article as always. Like you, I play the BS 330RX and love it. A went through a Cleveland fitting and they gave me a sleeve of Srixon Trispeed Tours which are pretty nice too. Lower price point ($30) and low spin but don't seem quite as durable as the BS balls. I also keep some Top Flite D2 Gamer's handy. If I'm playing a course for the first time that is a reputed "ball eater," I'll leave the BS's in the bag and play the TF's.
virtualadam says:
I previous played Pro V1’s and Callaway Tour I Balls thinking that they would be the “ultimate” ball. Although recently went out and bought around 10 different brands of balls, and was really surprised to find that some of the mid-range balls performed much better for my game and had a better feel.

I find the sound and softness of the balls to be really subjective; often a softer ball is recommended around the green, although found that some balls felt too soft and preferred to feel a little more crispness. Just glad to find that the ball I preferred the most is not the most expensive…

Here is a link that provides some info on various balls which was published by Golf Magazine, Feb. 2008 (so a little dated):
Clint24 says:
I used to play Taylormade TP black, but after just a few holes the cover started to come off. I also played Srixon AD 333 for a while, but when I started to get better, the Z-Star and Z-Star X's have been my absolute favorite. I also like the Trispeed and Tour. Srixon makes a really good golf ball, good spin, and great durablilty. I won't play anything else, other than the occasional Calloway water ball...
dave1269 says:
+1 on the Srixon Z-star, great ball and more durable than ProVs.
Logs34 says:
i have tried a lot of different balls and yes i was one of those who " i see a cool balls and use it". Now i found out i get a better feel off the T box and around the greens the Wilson Staff 50/50 Elite is what i have stuck with and love the way it moves on the green.
KVSmith59 says:
Great article. I took the chart that virtualadam posted, assigned points based on spin and distance to come up with a ranking that combines the best of both. Probably not very scientific, but it's interesting. See it here:
Scott Shields says:
I just used a sleeve of Top Flite Gamers the other day, and really, for 20 per dozen I can't think of a more complete ball.
mantajim says:
Nice charts, Kevin & Adam. The Feb '08 'Golf' article is worth hunting down. In addition to the information Kevin & Adam compiled, there is a quiz for finding your spin index, a 'Titlest Decision Tree' for chosing from their balls and a Find Your Ball chart based on your handicap. This is one 'Golf' issue that I've kept out since receiving instead of tossing in a pile with the others. I hope they do similar article soon.
mmontanaro says:
This is all well and good- but where is the independent web site that will compare all the major ball models and their relative statistics?
KVSmith59 says:
ok, fixed the chart (had some errors) and also added the approximate cost per dozen for each brand/model of ball. Not sure if it really means anything :)
virtualadam says:
Nice work Kevin, that new chart is great! Will be really useful in finding the "ultimate" ball...;>

I'd be curious if the 2010 ball models have changed characteristics much since 2008...
Panerai111 says:
Just buy used balls. Then you can play whatever you want on the cheap.
SingleDigits says:
Yeah, I've been playing the Taylormade TP and Burner TP since the Golf Mag article came out. TP Black when I can afford them, and Burner TP for most rounds. I think Burner TP provide the most spin for the money.

Note: I think the spin values are for wedge spin. The original article also provided driver & 8 iron spin for many of the balls. Finally, the distance was based on a 90 mph swing speed if memory serves right.
TeT says:
50/50 Elite from Wilson Staff is the best feel I have found around the Greens and off the Tee. I lose distance with them though...
If you have a soft swing they are fantastic.

Currently playing Titleist DT Carry and have no idea why, they just feel good off the clubface.
golfparking says:
Nike soft, (green box) performs well and is under $20 a box. I have played all the expensive balls and this one is almost as good at half the price. Give them a try
DoubleDingo says:
I recently tried the Talormade Penta. Love the ball for anything but driver. Drives were unpredictable, whereas all other shots were not. I've also learned that Pro V1's are not for me. Also too unpredictable off the tee unless I'm using my irons. So I have been playing what I have been finding lately, and had much success with Pinnacle, Top Flite, and Callaway for all shots. Yes I have discovered some compromise around the greens with certain balls, but not too bad. So the few dozen Pro V's remain in my bag, but if I find them on the course I pick them up for water balls.
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
Click here to for Terry's blogroll.
    Golf Talk
Most Popular: