Are Golf Balls All the Same

Are Golf Balls All the Same?

A golf ball is a golf ball is a golf ball, right?

Small, white (sometimes other colors), spherical objects that golfers whack around green spaces with a set of clubs? Is there really any difference between buying a dozen Pro V1s for $50 versus buying fifteen Wilson Ultras for $15.

As it turns out, yes. There’s a huge amount of difference. Any golfer who has ever played with balls of differing quality will immediately be able to distinguish between the two. Golf ball manufacturers produce a wide range of models to suit different types of golfers.

Golf Ball Rules

Golf is a game filled with rules. Rules on the course, rules for attire, rules in the clubhouse and the same is true for golf balls. They need to be a particular weight and size in order for them to be legal for tournament play. They must be at least 1.68 inches in diameter while their weight needs to be a maximum of 1.62 ounces or 45.93 grams. Balls that meet the criteria are submitted to the USGA for testing and are added to a list of conforming balls. The dimple pattern must also follow certain rules.

While most golf balls stick with these criteria, there are examples of conforming ‘oversized’ balls, such as the Callaway Supersoft Max which has a 1.73-inch diameter rather than the standard 1.68-inch.

There are also a few non-conforming balls. These don’t follow the rules usually in an effort to get more distance or fly straighter. This type of ball can’t be used in a competition or when you are entering your round for handicap purposes.

Golf Monthly test cheap and expensive balls

How Do Golf Balls Differ?

Aside from potential variations in size and weight, golf balls also differ greatly when it comes to their construction. Both the numbers of layers in a ball and the dimples play a major factor in performance.

Golf balls contain anywhere between 1-5 layers. A one-layer ball, more commonly known as a one-piece ball, is the cheapest type of golf ball produced and are usually only used as range balls. A two-piece ball will be harder and while it will fly further, it also has less control around the greens. It is made from one thin layer of material wrapped around a solid core.

Pros tend to play exclusively with balls that are either 3, 4 or 5-piece. These balls are made from various materials, some soft and some hard. These days they have a solid core although in the past they might have been made differently. The Titleist Pro V1 is a good example of a 3-piece golf ball, while the Pro V1x is a 4-piece and the TaylorMade TP5 is a 5-piece. 3, 4 and 5-piece golf balls tend to be better around the greens, more workable, easier to shape shots with and higher in price due to the added science and technology behind them.

Ball speed is one area that manufacturers always look to maximize while staying within the limits as distance is the easiest sell to the consumer.

When it comes to dimples, the small indentations that decorate all golf balls, the idea is to allow air to flow tightly around the ball, thus reducing drag and helping the ball fly further and more consistently. The number of dimples on a ball depends on the manufacturer, with most varying between 300-500 dimples. For instance, the TaylorMade TP5 has 322 dimples, the Pro V1x has 348 and the Pro V1 has 388.

Traditionally golf balls feature spherical dimples though one notable exception to this is Callaway Golf’s hexagonal-styled dimples. Hexagonal dimples are supposed to cover a greater surface area of the ball while also removing flat spots from the ball’s surface. The result, in theory, is that the ball should fly higher and further with less wind resistance.

The depth of dimples can be altered to adjust the ball flight. This means you can pick a ball to help you if your trajectory is too high or too low.

Why Are Golf Balls Different?

Golf balls are different from one another for many reasons. On a very basic level, price points are different. More affordable balls will appeal to price-conscious and beginner golfers.

The main reason, though, is performance. Lower-priced balls, such as the two-piece balls already covered, are harder and fly further but offer less spin and control. These are more suitable to higher handicappers, beginner golfers and senior players who require as much distance as they can get. Premium golf balls tend to be used by better, more advanced players who require more control and feel and aren’t as in need of extra distance.

But just because you have 2 three-piece balls, for instance, doesn’t make them the same. The thickness of the layers, the material used, the dimple pattern and the cover all play a part in a ball’s performance. It varies their distance, feel, trajectory and spin rate.

Why Do Golf Balls Have Layers?

Every layer allows manufacturers to affect the performance of a golf ball. In essence, the more layers a ball has, the more manufacturers can alter this performance, whether that be the compression, spin, trajectory etc. It also allows manufacturers to create a more well-rounded ball to suit a golfer’s entire game rather than benefitting one area such as driving from the tee while severely lacking in others such as feel and control.

What is Compression?

Compression is how a golf ball’s shape alters when it is struck with a golf club. The higher the compression, the harder the ball feels to the player and the more energy is required to alter its shape. Manufacturers rate their golf balls on a scale with most coming in between 30 and 120. As an example, the Titleist Pro V1 has a rating between 87-90 while its harder sister ball, the Pro V1x, has a rating of 97-100.

Generally, a higher compression ball will feel firmer while a low compression ball will have a soft feel.

What Sort Of Cover Materials Are Used?

There are two different materials used as golf ball covers. Urethane tends to be used on the most expensive balls since this will allow the player to generate the most spin. Better players are generally looking to use high-spinning golf balls. Ionomer or a trademarked version called Surlyn is used on cheaper balls or those targeted at mid-handicap and high-handicap players. Ionomer balls will spin less than those with a urethane cover.

Does Swing Speed Affect The Choice Of Golf Ball?

Usually yes, the players with fast golf swings will be looking at more expensive tour balls that offer them the most spin along with higher compression. The average golfer with a slower swing speed will probably look at a two-piece ball and may also consider a lower compression ball as well.

Are Golf Balls Recyclable?

Sadly no, golf balls are not recyclable due to the materials they are made from. It is possible to repurpose golf balls, using them for Christmas ornaments or vase fillers.

Are Any Golf Balls Made from Recycled Material?

There are a number of golf balls on the market that are made from biodegradable and recycled material. The Ecobioball is non-toxic and 100% biodegradable with a core made from fish food! If lost in water, the cover will break down and release the food, providing a bite to eat for fishy friends! Another example is Dixon Golf’s Earth, Wind, Fire and Spirit golf balls. They are made from 100% recyclable materials and the packaging is also produced from recycled materials.

Are Golf Balls All the Same: Conclusion

Hopefully, you now understand that all golf balls are not created equal even if they look the same at first glance. The construction method and materials can differ wildly along with dimple patterns to create different types of golf balls for different types of players.

Here’s a look at some of the worst golf balls.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Does it matter which golf ball you use?

If you are serious about your game then yes, it will matter. It is better to build up consistency using one particular ball so you know how it will react to different situations and conditions on the course.

How do I know which golf ball to buy?

An easy rule to follow is the lower your handicap, the more expensive the ball. Of course, this doesn’t deal with the specifics of your game. The best thing to do is get advice from your Club Professional and try out two or three different balls of similar quality.

Do expensive golf balls make a difference?

Yes, they make a difference, but they don’t automatically make you a better player. Different players require different attributes from their equipment and it’s possible that the best golf ball for your game could be in the low-mid price range.

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