Ultimate Guide To Golf Balls

Ultimate Guide To Golf Balls

The golf ball is the only piece of equipment that you use on every shot. Having a better understanding of what your golf ball is likely to do is going to help your game. Knowing which golf ball to purchase will also make your game more enjoyable.

Golf Ball Rules

The USGA and R&A have created numerous rules regarding the design of golf balls. Their goal is to try and make sure that advances in technology don’t completely remove the need for skill.

Manufacturers can submit their golf balls to be tested. Assuming they meet all the criteria then they will be added to the list of conforming golf balls. Balls that aren’t submitted or fail the tests are not able to be used in organized competitions or for rounds intended to count towards an official handicap.

The two simplest rules are about the size and weight of balls.

A golf ball cannot be less than 1.68 inches (42.67 mm) in diameter. As recently as 1990 the R&A still allowed the use of the smaller 1.62-inch golf ball. The game’s governing bodies eventually agreed to standardize on the American-size golf ball as the minimum allowable diameter.

The smaller ball could potentially travel slightly further and therefore U.S.-based players coming to play in the Open Championship did often tend to swap in order to take advantage.

In order to be approved by the USGA, a golf ball cannot weigh more than 1.62 ounces (45.93 g).

Golf Ball Construction

Over the years golf ball technology has advanced from the feathery through the gutty and wound balls to the current usage of solid ball construction.

Modern golf balls are usually made using different forms of synthetic rubber. The highest quality golf balls will go through a wide-range of processes and sometimes as many as 100 or more quality control checks before leaving the factory.

Below you can see YouTuber Mark Crossfield touring a Titleist facility.

Titleist Ball Plant


Solid construction golf balls are composed of a number of layers of material. While you can get one-piece golf balls they tend to be restricted to mini-golf or the cheapest of driving range balls.

Most golf ball manufacturers produce balls with two, three or four layers. TaylorMade produces the TP5 and TP5x which have five layers.

Each layer will be designed with a specific purpose in mind. Usually to improve distance or spin. Most players want a ball that goes far with the driver but still stops on the green. That is the challenge for golf ball manufacturers.

Two-Piece Golf Balls

Historically these would have usually been described as ‘distance’ balls. Two-piece balls would have been aimed at the more value-conscious player who tended to lose quite a lot of balls and therefore didn’t want to spend too much on each ball.

Balls in this category will tend not to spin as much but will still give excellent distance of the tee. They will tend to be more durable golf balls since they use harder cover materials such as ionomer or surlyn.

Two-piece balls had a tendency to feel firmer but these days it’s quite possible to find quite a soft feeling two-piece golf ball. The Srixon Soft Feel is just one example.

Three-Piece Golf Balls

Solid core three-piece balls will tend to be slightly more expensive. Manufacturers will likely have different versions for different types of golfers.

Players looking for the highest performing ball will choose a model that features a urethane cover. If you’re not quite so concerned about getting maximum spin then you can probably save some money by going for a three-piece ball with an ionomer cover.

The Titleist Pro V1 is a premium golf ball with a three-piece construction. The Srixon Q-Star Tour is another urethane-covered three-piece but its lower compression will make it feel softer for players with lower swing speed. It’s also a bit cheaper.

Four-Piece Golf Balls

There aren’t too many four-piece golf balls on the market. All of them will be targeting players that want tour-like performance.

The Titleist Pro V1x is the most well-known example.

Five-Piece Golf Balls

At the moment only TaylorMade produces a five-piece golf ball, the TP5 and TP5x.

What Is Golf Ball Compression?

In golf, compression can actually mean two different things. In terms of a golf ball, the compression rating is a number that tells how difficult it is for you to knock the ball out of shape at impact. See the video below to see how a ball is deformed when the clubhead strikes it.

How a golf ball compresses at impact

When used in reference to hitting a shot it means how efficient your ball striking is and therefore how much distance you will achieve.

Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

It improves the aerodynamics of the ball. Studies show that a ball with dimples will travel roughly twice as far as a smooth ball. Most companies use circular dimples while Callaway use hexagonal ones. They do this because it means more of the ball’s surface area is covered by dimples.

What Do The Numbers Mean On A Golf Ball?

They are usually there for identification purposes. If the number is greater than 300 then it probably refers to the number of dimples on the ball.

Take a look here for a more in depth look at the reasons why there are numbers on your golf ball.

How To Choose The Best Golf Ball For You: Buying Guide

The only way to really pick the right type of golf ball is to test them out yourself on the range and golf course.

Look at the features of different balls to create a shortlist of candidates that might suit your golf game. Start off on and around the green. Do you like the feel of the balls with your putter? Do they spin and react the way you want when chipping and pitching?

Move on to your irons, hybrids and fairway woods. Are you getting the sort of flight and spin you want? Are they traveling the sort of distance you want? Can you shape the ball the way you like?

Finally, try them with your driver. Do you get the distance you are looking for? Is the trajectory right for you?

Think about the following criteria during your testing.


Ideally, you want to choose the golf ball that best suits your golf game. However, for most people price is still a consideration. While an expensive ball might be the right choice for you not everyone needs to use a premium ball.

If you lose lots of balls every time you play then it will probably be difficult to stomach teeing up a brand new Pro V1 at $4 each. Indeed you may find that you are spending more on balls than green fees!

You could try a cheaper brand like the Srixon Z-Star or go direct to a company like Snell or Vice.


When choosing the right golf ball for you spin should be one of the most important considerations. If you already slice or hook the ball then moving to a premium ball that spins the most will only make your bad shots worse. In this scenario would probably be better off opting for a lower spin ball until you could change your swing to reduce the excessive spin.

If you currently struggle to generate enough spin then a top-quality ball may allow you to spin the ball more.

Ball Flight

Some people like to have a more penetrating ball flight so it’s not worth you picking a ball designed to fly as high as possible. Conversely, if you tend to hit the ball lower than you would really like to then you might find a ball designed to launch and fly higher is a better option.


While most manufacturers will make a recommendation as to the swing speed you need to get the most out of a particular ball Bridgestone seems to place club head speed as the primary factor when picking a ball.


I would suggest that distance shouldn’t be near the top of your list when shopping for a ball. If you are a short hitter anyway then you might only see 10 yards difference between most models of balls. Someone with lots of clubhead speed could see a much bigger difference between balls but if you have a high club head speed you are more likely to want or need to play a tour ball and they tend to go similar distances anyway.

Getting the right combination of launch, spin and ball flight will see you get all the distance off the tee that you need.


Not something that is talked about directly by many ball companies. They are more likely to talk about soft, medium or firm feeling balls. How the ball feels to you will also depend somewhat on your own club head speed and your awareness of impact. If you only swing your driver at 80 mph then a Titleist Pro V1 will probably feel quite firm. If you have 110 mph club head speed then a Srixon Soft Feel might feel too squishy!

Whichever ball(s) manage to perform the best are the ones you should stick with going forward.

Try to commit to one model and then stick with it.

Ultimate Guide To Golf Balls: Conclusion

Just because your favorite tour player uses it doesn’t mean it’s the best ball for you. Find a ball that suits your game and your pocket. If you are stressing about putting a new ball on the tee then you need to play a cheaper ball!

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