Picking the Right Golf Ball for Your Game
Golf balls may all be the same size and weight, but they vary significantly in performance and cost. Choosing the right golf ball is based on many factors, including skill level and which parts of your game require assistance.
Golf Ball Components
Golf balls have two material components — the cover and the core/mantle. Each contributes to the ball’s performance.
The Core — generally made of rubber or liquid center; the bigger the core, the more speed on the ball. A well–designed core helps the ball travel with the right speed, spin, and launch. Different grades of rubber in the core affect the speed or spin. A higher compression ball will give you more control, while a lower compression one will provide more distance. The faster your swing speed, the higher compression ball you’ll want.
The Mantle — seals the core from moisture and helps retain energy after impact. It is usually made of soft, synthetic rubber to increase the spin on the ball.
The Cover — the two main cover types are ionomer and urethane. The first is more durable and offers a low spin. The latter, found on many higher–end balls, offers a softer feel and better control.
The Difference between 2–, 3–, and 4–Piece Balls
These basic components are assembled for different types of balls. The more layers, the better feel, distance, and spin. You want to pick the type of ball that matches how you play and your handicap.
Two–Piece — the most popular ball among average golfers and also the cheapest. It has a solid core but less compression, providing distance but a heavier feel and less spin. Players who are unable to spin the ball on approach shots should use a two–piece ball.
Three–Piece — a layer of enhanced rubber between the solid rubber or liquid core and cover offers additional performance, perfect for mid–to–low handicap players. It provides more control and better spin options than a two–piece (especially on wedge shots) but costs more.
Four–Piece — ideal for players with greater club head speed (over 100 MPH), compacting layers to drive the ball a little farther with a soft landing. It offers a greater spin than a three–piece ball but is more expensive.
Golf Ball Performance
Generally, golf balls are grouped into four performance categories — tour performance, tour value, soft distance, and straight distance. Most ball packaging will indicate the ball’s performance for feel, flight, long game spin, iron spin, and short game spin. Here are the characteristics of each level ball (in descending order of performance).
Tour Performance (3 to 5 layers) — premium price for scratch golfers with faster swing speeds.
Tour Value (3 layers) — for low– to mid–handicaps, features similar technology to the Tour Performance ball but is less expensive.
Soft Distance (2 to 3 layers) — made for average players with slower swing speeds. They emphasize greenside spin and feel, but you may lose distance.
Straight Distance (2 to 3 layers) — suitable for beginners seeking longer, straighter drives, but you may lose spin and the ability to stop the ball quickly.
Ask your local club pro or use an online app to help find the right golf ball for your game. Also, check if your local golf club schedules manufacturers to host ball–fitting sessions.