Are Expensive Golf Balls Worth It?
A dozen golf balls can cost anything from $10-$100. You may well wonder whether you should be spending more money buying “better” golf balls.
A tour-quality golf ball may improve your game or it may actually make it worse! Let’s go through the pros and cons of expensive golf balls to see whether they might be worth it for you.
Pros of Expensive Golf Balls
Greater Levels Of Spin
Premium multilayer golf balls are designed to provide more spin when struck correctly.
Golfers that strike the ball well will tend to look for a golf ball that offers the most spin since this allows them to control the ball better when hitting approach shots or playing short game shots around the green.
They are also looking for a ball that will allow them to shape shots when they need to negotiate obstacles in their way.
Expensive Balls Generally Go Farther
MyGolfSpy has pointed out that during their testing that higher quality balls tend to be among the longest balls.
While they may not be the absolute longest they will certainly offer the best compromise between feel and distance.
Accomplished golfers generally don’t need extra help to gain yardage so they don’t need to play “distance” balls anyway.
They Feel Softer
Feel means different things to different players. When I started playing golf you could certainly tell the difference between a two-piece distance ball and a higher quality three-piece wound ball.
While there is now a wide range of “soft” golf balls at all price points the urethane cover on a premium ball usually means they feel softer than most.
They Are Higher Compression
Top-quality golf balls are generally aimed at better golfers who tend to have faster swings.
In turn, this means that such balls are usually at the higher end of the range.
Compression is just how hard or easy it is to squash the ball at impact. A high-compression golf ball will require a faster swing to squash it.
Cons of Expensive Golf Balls
They Come At A High Price
Obviously, the biggest disadvantage is the price. Titleist Pro V1s retail at around $50/doz.
Their main competitors usually sell for a similar price.
If you tend to lose several balls every round then buying top-quality golf balls can quickly add up. In fact, you could end up spending more on golf balls than you are on green fees.
In fact, you don’t even need to lose balls for it to end up becoming quite costly. Professionals and low handicappers will swap a ball out if the cover becomes too damaged.
This isn’t too much of a problem for a professional who receives his golf balls for free. It could however become quite costly if you have to pay for them yourself. Why are balls expensive?
They Can Be Less Durable
The covers on expensive golf balls tend to be much softer than cheaper models. This can mean they are more likely to be damaged more quickly.
Add in the fact that better players are more likely to swap a ball because of any perceived damage and they can become less durable than a cheaper ball.
They Spin A Lot
Although better golfers would see additional spin as a benefit it can also be detrimental to your game.
If you tend to hit the ball with a fair amount of hook or slice then using a tour-quality ball is likely to make your shot curve even more off-line.
You may have to forego some greenside control to avoid finding yourself deeper into trouble.
Does The Color Of A Golf Ball Affect Performance?
No. It doesn’t matter what color golf ball you choose to play. The only effect that the ball’s color has is that it makes it easier for you to spot the ball in flight or where you are searching for it in the rough.
If you are getting older and your eyesight isn’t what it once was then you might find playing with a yellow or orange ball makes it a lot easier to see.
Can I Lower The Cost Of Expensive Balls
There are several ways for you to reduce your costs while still getting the performance of an expensive tour ball.
You could try one of the direct-to-consumer brands that have sprung up over the past few years:
- Snell Golf
- Vice Golf
- Cut Golf
They will all be significantly cheaper than the retail prices of Titleist, Callaway, Srixon and TaylorMade. The Snell MTB balls seem to be particularly well regarded on a number of golf forums.
Another option is to wait for one of the golf ball manufacturers to release a replacement model. The old model will probably be sold off in stores for 10-25% off.
I haven’t noticed it so much in US-based stores but in the UK you can often find logo overruns available at quite hefty discounts. I generally buy any new balls I need this way as it saves up to 50% off the RRP. These are balls that have had a company logo printed on them but are otherwise brand new.
Probably the least attractive way to go would be to buy refinished or lake balls. I would advise against refinished balls as you really don’t know what you are getting and there have been some stories of rubbish balls being made to look like Pro V1s! Lake balls are a better option although the quality can vary. I also think the prices are often too close to the cost of brand-new balls!
How To Pick The Right Ball?
Choosing the right golf ball can make a significant difference to your game.
Most sources would suggest the following procedure to find the right golf ball for your game:
- Make a shortlist of golf balls that you like and can afford.
- Test them out on the putting green and try shifting and pitching to see the level of spin around the green.
- Try the balls that perform and feel best to you with your wedges and irons. See which ones give you the ball flight you like.
- Finally, try hitting them off the tee.
Whichever ball performs best across those categories is the one that you should play. Try to stick to that same model ball going forward so you can get used to the way it performs in a wide variety of situations.
If you have access to a launch monitor then that should help you narrow down the ball that gives the best performance.
Is Ball Speed Important In Selecting A Ball?
Some ball manufacturers place more importance on clubhead speed than others. Bridgestone seems to place more emphasis on speed than most other manufacturers.
Most manufacturers will suggest the club head speed you need to get the most out of a particular ball model. That being said many golfers would probably find the distance they hit the ball will be shorter with lower compression (cheaper) golf balls.
Picking a ball shouldn’t just be about distance off the tee though. You also play a lot of golf from the fairway or rough. Pitching and chipping are also very important. Premium golf balls will tend to give you the best performance in all situations.
Which Balls Are Played On Professional Tours?
The overwhelming favorite of PGA Tour players is the Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x. Other balls used on the major tours include the Bridgestone B X, Bridgestone B XS, Callaway Chrome Soft X, Srixon Z-star, Srixon Z-star XV, TaylorMade TP5 and the TaylorMade TP5x.
Professional golfers are generally looking for low spin off the tee and higher spin with irons and wedges.
Cheap vs Expensive Golf Balls
There’s probably less of a difference in performance between cheap and expensive golf balls these days. You can get some pretty inexpensive golf balls that still feel reasonably soft and perform reasonably well. Aside from the cost, using an expensive ball probably comes down to how you view your game. Is golf a casual activity that you do once or twice a month or is it your main hobby that you do several times a week?
If you take your golf seriously then you might want to invest in one of the better golf balls on the market.
Are Expensive Golf Balls Worth It: Conclusion
For most players, you have to balance the cost against the potential improvement in your game.
Assuming you strike the ball reasonably consistently then I think you should try to play the best ball you can afford.
If you are still struggling to make good contact then go for a budget ball while you try to improve.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
What is the best golf ball for an average player?
If we are talking about someone with a handicap of 18 and a swing speed of 90 mph then a Pro V1 would probably be the best choice out of the high-end models.
If the player didn’t want to spend $50 dollars per dozen then they might want to try the Snell MTB.
If they had a preference for something a little softer than they could try out the Srixon Q-Star Tour.
Should I use soft or hard golf balls?
There has been a definite shift towards soft golf balls over the years. This has been led mainly by golfers demanding soft feel.
Generally speaking, soft golf balls are low compression. If you prioritize feel then you will need to go for a soft ball but remember that this will likely cost you distance and spin.