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Beyond the Brand: Finding the Best Golf Ball for Your Game

beyond the brand golf balls

It’s a common misconception: the more you pay, the better you’ll play. We are starting a new series, “Beyond the Brand,” where we will dig into the pay-for-performance culture, dispel some myths, and shine a light on some lesser-known alternatives that could be viable options for the average golfer. In this post, we will take a swing and find out if shelling out for those high-end golf balls gives the average golfer any significant edge or if some off-brands like Cut Golf or lesser models from the more prominent manufacturers give you more bang for your buck. No matter your handicap or swing speed, a ball out there matches your game.

If you already have a good background and want to see the recommendations, click here. Otherwise, let’s get into it!

The Golf Ball Industry

The golf ball industry is massive, with ~1.2 billion sold annually. While the average player goes for > $50 a box for premium balls, the Tour Pros who endorse them are paid an average of $50,000-$100,000 annually to use and promote them. We’ll discuss the various types of golf balls on the market today, the pros and cons of each, and the factors that affect performance and product selection. Moreover, in keeping with the spirit of this site, we’ll delve into the impact that golf ball selection could have on your practice sessions.

The number of golf balls a golfer carries can vary widely depending on their skill level, the difficulty of the course they are playing, and their individual preferences. On average, a golfer might carry anywhere from half a dozen to over a dozen golf balls in their bag for a single round of golf. Keeping a sufficient number of balls is important to ensure they are prepared for any situation, including losing balls during the round. According to a 2009 Golf.com study, the average golfer loses about 1.3 balls per round (note that the study is no longer on their site, but I linked to one of their articles that quotes it). However, it’s not uncommon for higher handicap golfers to lose more, potentially even half a dozen or more in a single round, especially on a difficult course with many hazards.

golf balls

What’s the Deal with Kirkland Golf Balls?

The golf community has been buzzing about Kirkland golf balls over the past few years. Costco’s in-house brand makes these balls and come at a budget-friendly price, catching the attention of both new and experienced golfers. Many praise their performance, which can compete with some more expensive brands. However, opinions differ regarding their durability and feel, with some golfers noting less responsiveness when compared to top-tier balls. While they may not be the first choice for professionals, they are a great option for the average golfer who wants decent performance without breaking the bank. I cannot claim any first-hand experience with these – so they don’t make the list – but they deserve a mention in the spirit of completeness.

kirkland

Understanding Golf Balls

Golf balls undergo a meticulously engineered manufacturing process to ensure they meet the required performance standards and specifications. It all begins with the core of the ball. One-piece balls are the simplest, created from a singular mold of solid Surlyn. This is then subjected to heat to harden and take shape. Two-piece balls, on the other hand, involve crafting a solid inner core, usually from synthetic rubber, which is then encased in a hard, cut-resistant cover like Surlyn. This layered approach offers greater control over the ball’s performance characteristics, balancing distance and durability.

golf ball boxes

Production

The production of multi-layer and high-performance golf balls is even more intricate, involving multiple materials and stages. They feature a central core, which can be either solid or liquid, around which subsequent layers of different materials are built to influence the ball’s behavior in terms of spin, control, and distance. The outermost layer, or the cover, is crafted from premium materials such as urethane, which provides a soft feel and high spin rates favorable to more experienced players. Following the core construction and additional layers, these balls are coated with paint and finally polished to achieve a perfect sphere. Rigorous quality checks are implemented at every stage, ensuring each ball meets the highest standards of precision and performance, ready to grace the greens with reliability and consistency.

Golf balls have evolved dramatically over the years, with a range of options available today, each catering to different skill levels and preferences. In this blog post, we delve into the different types of golf balls, what they are made of, and weigh their pros and cons to help you make an informed decision the next time you are shopping for golf balls.

To learn more about golf ball manufacturing, who makes what products, and where they are made, check out this article from Par3NearMe.

golf ball factory

One-Piece Golf Balls

One-piece golf balls are the simplest kind and are generally used by beginners or at driving ranges. They are crafted from a single material, usually a solid piece of Surlyn, an ionomer resin.

Material: Surlyn

Product Examples: Pinnacle Practice Balls, RangeMaxx Range Balls

ProsCons
AffordabilityLimited distance
DurabilityLimited control

Two-Piece Golf Balls

These balls boast a solid core made from a resilient material like rubber, which is covered with a durable exterior, typically Surlyn. These are the most common type of golf balls used by recreational golfers.

Material: Rubber core with a Surlyn cover

Product Examples: Titleist DT TruSoft, Callaway Warbird

ProsCons
Longer distancesLimited spin control
DurabilityHard feel on impact

Multi-Layer Golf Balls

Multi-layer golf balls come in three, four, or even five layers. These layers work in harmony to offer specific playing characteristics, with a soft urethane cover that many golfers prefer.

Material: Multi-layer construction with a urethane cover

Product Examples: Bridgestone TOUR B RX, TaylorMade TP5

ProsCons
Better spin controlHigher price point
Soft feelLess durability compared to two-piece balls

High-Performance Golf Balls

High-performance golf balls are the top-tier in the golf ball category, created to meet the demands of professional golfers, leveraging the latest technologies for an outstanding performance.

Material: Multi-layer construction with a premium urethane cover

Product Examples: Titleist Pro V1, Taylor Made TPx5

ProsCons
Advanced technology for superior controlPremium price point
Suitable for professional playersBest suited for low-handicap and professional players

Compression

If Compression is a new topic to you, see our “Beginner’s Guide to Golf Ball Compression,” for more context on how it affects your ball selection and your game.

he measurement of how the clubface impacts the golf ball is known as golf ball compression. This factor directly affects the behavior of the ball during a shot. Upon impact, the ball undergoes a process of compression and rebound, where it initially compresses and then quickly rebounds. The compression rating is usually a number, with lower values indicating softer balls and higher values representing harder ones.

Ratings

The compression rating is crucial in determining a golf ball’s performance, with ratings ranging from 30 to 120. Lower compression balls are softer and ideal for golfers with lower swing speeds, while higher compression balls are harder and preferred by those with faster swing speeds. To choose the right golf ball, it’s essential to consider your swing speed and select a compression rating that aligns with your skill level.

When looking for the perfect golf ball, there are many factors to consider, including golf ball compression. However, most experts agree that knowing your swing speed is the best place to start. A low-compression ball is recommended if your swing speed is less than 85mph. A medium-compression golf ball may be best for medium swing speeds ranging from 85 to 104mph. A high-compression ball is ideal for those with a high swing speed of more than 105mph. If you need a reliable way to measure your swing speed, look no further than our “Best Launch Monitors of 2023.”

For more on this topic, refer to Golf Ball Compression Chart Tells a lot about your skills from GolfTripz.

golf ball compression

Practice Sessions

One of the most valuable things a golfer can do to improve their consistency is to determine the correct distances for each club and swing variation. However, it’s important to keep in mind that different golf balls and their conditions can have an impact on the results, whether practicing on the range or at home with a net or golf simulator/launch monitor.

Balls used on the driving range, which are often substandard, and brand-new course-ready golf balls can offer different experiences in terms of visual feedback or while using a simulator or launch monitor. “Range Rocks” are designed to be more durable and handle repetitive hits, resulting in compromised performance. These balls have a harder cover and potentially a different internal structure, leading to less responsive feedback, lower flight trajectories, and reduced distances compared to premium or “real” golf balls. They are often “limited-flight” balls designed to travel a shorter distance to accommodate the limited space in driving ranges.

golfer range

Influence of the Ball on Launch Monitor Readings

Golf simulators and launch monitors have revolutionized the way golfers train and experience the game, offering a detailed analysis of a player’s performance based on various metrics such as ball speed, launch angle, and spin rate. These readings can be affected significantly by the condition of the golf ball used.

ConditionProsCons
New Golf Balls– Accurate readings representing a golfer’s true potential
– Consistent performance with unblemished and intact structural integrity
– Higher cost associated with continuous use of new balls
Old Golf Balls– Cost-effective solution utilizing balls already in possession– Inaccurate readings due to wear and tear; Unpredictable flight path leading to unreliable data

In our guide to golf launch monitors, we look at the different options, both budget and premium and explain the vast array of data collected and at your disposal. Understanding the influence of the ball’s condition on the readings can help get a more accurate assessment of one’s game. Using new balls to get precise data is generally recommended, aiding in better analysis and improvement of your gameplay. We encourage you to review our list of best golf-hitting nets for 2023, and our guide to golf launch monitors when setting up a practice area at home, indoors, or outdoors. Remember the effect that the golf ball itself may have on your results.

Golf Ball Fitting

In our article “Size Matters: Selecting the Right Grip,” we explained that in a study, it was found that 90% of the subjects were using the wrong grips on their clubs. Many manufacturers have developed fitting systems to help the average golfer select the right grips, and it’s no different with Golf Ball manufacturers. Ball fitting is a process that manufacturers and professionals utilize to help golfers find the ball that best suits their playing style and the specifics of their golf swing.

The Process

This process considers several factors, including a player’s swing speed, launch angle, and the types of shots and courses they most frequently play. Manufacturers often have ball fitting tools on their websites, guiding players to the optimal ball choice through questions and tests, focusing on aspects such as distance, control, and feel. Another part of golf ball fitting involves live monitoring, where a player’s swing and impact metrics are analyzed in real time to recommend the ball that would offer the most enhanced performance for that individual.

Manufacturers suggest different types of balls for players with high swing speeds versus those with lower swing speeds to optimize distance and control for each group. Additionally, they consider other factors like feel, greenside control, and preference for a softer or firmer ball. For example, a player who desires better control may receive a recommendation for a ball with a higher spin rate. In contrast, a player looking to maximize distance may be advised to use a ball that promotes lower spin and higher launch. By utilizing golf ball fitting, manufacturers aim to enhance players’ skills by suggesting the perfect ball personalized to their specific playing styles and preferences.

Major brands like Titleist, Taylor Made, and Bridgestone all have fitting guides on their website. See also Golf Ball Fitting 101 from MyGolfSpy for more information on that process.

golf ball fitting

Golf Ball Alternatives for the Average Player

We have compiled a list of recommendations for the average golfer. Some options are premium models from lesser-known brands, while others are slightly lower-end offerings from larger players. However, all of them are affordable ($40 and under) and should cater to your needs and abilities, regardless of your strengths and weaknesses. Let us know if you think we have missed any lesser-known brands producing high-quality products. We would love to check them out and add them to this list.

Cut DC

s l1600
  • Affordable for a premium ball
  • Excellent distance
  • Good around the greens
  • Not as durable as other premium balls
  • Low brand awareness, online ordering & support only


Titleist Tour Soft

71hkSdbYxkL. AC SL1500
  • Soft feel
  • Good distance
  • Excellent greenside control
  • Slightly less spin compared to premium balls
  • Durability can be an issue

Taylor Made Soft Response

71w segZ6HL. AC SL1500
  • Soft feel
  • Good spin rates
  • Urethane cover for better control
  • Might be too soft for players with higher swing speeds
  • Not ideal for windy conditions


Callaway Chrome Soft

Screenshot 2024 01 03 at 12.51.57 PM
  • Forgiving
  • Good feel
  • Dual SoftFast core for higher launch
  • Slightly less control for expert players
  • Can scuff easily


Bridgestone e12 Contact

Screenshot 2024 01 03 at 12.52.50 PM
  • Soft feel
  • Good for slower swing speeds
  • Reduced sidespin for straighter shots
  • Not ideal for players with high swing speeds
  • Distance might not be as great as other balls


Srixon Q-Star Tour

81jdQQvNnvL. AC SL1500
  • Tour-level performance
  • Good value
  • Urethane cover offers good greenside control
  • It can be less durable than some competitors
    Might not offer the highest spin rates


Vice Pro Soft

5179NlkPaCL. AC SL1119
  • Excellent value
  • Low compression for soft feel
  • Good greenside control
  • Less availability in stores
  • Some players report durability issues


Snell MTB Black

Snell Golf MTB Prime Golf Balls White
  • Great value
  • Tour caliber performance
  • Developed by a former Titleist engineer
  • Less known brand (could be a pro for some)
  • Limited availability in retail stores


OnCore ELIXR

418BRnKxLQL. AC
  • Perimeter weighting for straighter shots
  • Good value
  • Urethane cover for control
  • Brand not as established as others
  • May not provide the highest possible distance


Volvik Xt Soft

81mGb70nZTL. AC SL1500
  • Bright colors available for visibility
  • Soft feel
  • Reasonable price point
  • Some players find the matte finish off-putting
  • May not offer optimal performance for very high swing speeds


Piper (Black, Green, Blue, Yellow)

61lUaC7pQbL. AC SL1500
  • 3-piece construction creates longer shots and stable flight
  • Urethane cover offers maximum spin to work shots left and right and to stop quick on the green 
  • Custom black color alignment guide helps identify your ball quickly and helps line up and make more putts
  • The brand is not familiar to most golfers yet
  •  Their prices are slightly higher than some competitors, making them almost a premium choice.
  • Since Piper is a new player in the market, it may not be widely available in all stores.

Considerations

  • Trial and Error – Given the number of options available, finding the perfect ball for your game might take some time and experimentation. Consider buying sleeves of different balls rather than dozens to try out various options without committing to a large purchase.
  • Focus on Your Weaknesses – When choosing a golf ball, it can be beneficial to select a ball that helps mitigate your weaknesses rather than one that complements your strengths. For instance, if you struggle with control, you might prioritize a ball that offers more spin to help you maintain better control.
  • Personal Preferences – Don’t overlook your personal preferences when it comes to feel and sound. Some golfers prefer a softer feel, while others prefer a firmer ball. Play with different balls and note how they feel and sound to find one that fits your preferences.
  • Environmental Conditions – The environment where you typically play can also impact your choice. For instance, if you usually play in windy conditions, you might prefer a ball with a lower trajectory to mitigate the wind’s effects.
  • Budget – Lastly, be conscious of your budget. While it might be tempting to opt for premium golf balls used by pros, there are plenty of great options available at lower price points that might suit your game just as well or even better.
golfer w ball 1

Further Reading

Best Golf Balls for the Average Golfer: Wrap-Up

When choosing a golf ball, it’s important to take into account your skill level, play style, and budget. Familiarizing yourself with the various materials and construction of different types of golf balls can help you make a decision that meets your specific needs. Whether you’re just starting out and need an affordable option, or you’re a professional in search of top-tier performance, there’s a golf ball out there for you. Be sure to try out a few different types to determine which one is the best fit for your game. Remember, it’s not just about putting down the most money and expecting miracles.

golf ball magnifying glass

Key Takeaways

  • There is no universally “best” golf ball. The right ball depends on your skill level, swing speed, budget, and preferences for feel, spin, and trajectory.
  • Higher handicap golfers (90+) should prioritize price, forgiveness, and distance. Softer, 2-piece distance balls are good options. Cut DC is a good option.
  • Mid-handicappers (80-90) can benefit from 3-piece ionomer or urethane balls that balance distance and short-game spin. Callaway Chrome Soft is a good option.
  • Better players and lower handicaps (<80) can take advantage of premium multi-layer balls like Titleist Pro V1 for maximum spin and control.
  • Fitting, whether online or in-person, helps narrow your golf ball search. Answer questions about your game to get recommendations.
  • On-course testing of different balls is key – judge carry distance, trajectory, feel, and greenside spin when comparing golf balls.
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