Gone are the days when the golf ball was a simple feather-stuffed baseball mitt. Today, it stands as a crucial component in a golfer’s arsenal, alongside the golf clubs. However, navigating the world of modern golf balls can be an overwhelming experience. Step into your local pro shop or browse online, and you’ll encounter different types of golf balls that can leave you scratching your head. The packaging might as well be covered in mysterious hieroglyphics — such is the confusion they can evoke.
This article will cover the different types of golf balls to help you understand what each means.
Key Points Summary
Types of Golf Balls
According to Construction
- One-Piece Golf Balls – made of Surlyn, which is famous for its resilience and toughness. These golf balls are highly durable but have a hefty feel about them
- Two-Piece Golf Balls – allow a firmer feel, superior durability, and better-shot distance overall. They’re the preferred golf ball of high-handicappers, beginners, and players with slow swing speeds
- Three-Piece Golf Balls – provide an exceptional combination of distance and feel, which explains why seasoned golfers find them appealing. The most popular golf balls on the PGA Tour belong to this category
- Four-Piece Golf Balls – have an additional layer that set them apart from the three-piece models. Features “spin separation,” wherein the extra layers are activated once the player achieves enough swing speed
- Five-Piece Golf Balls – even more intricate than the four-piece golf balls. Five-layered balls provide additional spin separation and allow compression to be staggered, thus maximizing performance
According to Spin
- Low Spin Golf Balls – are way harder to hit and are likely to roll a lot more on the fairway. When playing with these golf balls, you’d want to use slow swing speeds to achieve greater distances
- Mid Spin Golf Balls – are an excellent option for golfers with average control and swing speed. They are also ideal for those who are after extra forgiveness but possess a low-slicing tendency
- High Spin Golf Balls – are mainly meant to improve the ball’s spin-off in the air. They are popular among players with a higher level of control since they have a higher compression core
Based on Feel
- Soft Feel Golf Balls – golf pros favor this type and are standard among the five, four, and three-piece golf ball models for their soft urethane cover material with a rubber core
- Firm Feel Golf Balls – are dubbed as such for their hard feel on the clubface. They’re standard among two-piece construction models or those with a lower spin
- Combo Balls – set of golf balls that include various types of golf balls
- Distance Balls – feature a thin, solid covering that boosts the yardage of this type of ball
- Compression – occurs when your golf ball squishes after making contact with the clubface while swinging
Types of Golf Balls According to Construction
The way a golf ball is constructed has a considerable impact on how it reacts after making contact with the clubface. Chances are, you may already be familiar with the one-piece, two-piece, three-piece, and four-piece designs. However, manufacturers have recently come up with the five-piece construction after constantly pushing through many boundaries.
Each of these types has been custom-made to fit a specific style. Let’s have a look at each one of these designs in detail:
One-Piece Golf Balls
Let’s start from the very beginning. Outside of revival events and crazy golf courses that are pretty rare, a one-piece golf ball isn’t even used anymore. It’s made of only one kind of material, as the name implies.
The balls used for crazy golf are usually one-piece, crafted from a huge lump of Surlyn (famous for its resilience and toughness). Depending on the status of the market, you can see a couple of these littering the greens of your local driving range. They’re highly durable but have a hefty, tinny feel about them. They also produce very minimal spin. Overall, a one-piece golf ball is better left to be punted around the insane golf course since even the most indiscriminate of golfers avoid putting them in their bags.
Two-Piece Golf Balls
Two-piece balls are the most common choice of the majority of golf players today. They allow better shot distance, a firmer feel, and superior durability. As a result, they’re also the preferred golf ball of high handicappers, players with slow swing speeds, and beginners.
A two-piece ball allows more distance by reducing the slice and hook of the tee through a solid core that contains acrylate and high-energy resin. Also of note is their covering that’s made of Surlyn or similar material.
The two-piece construction also increases the amount of energy that the club can transfer to the ball. It, in turn, powers the shots and propels the ball forward for greater distance. However, compared to the softer feel options, a two-piece golf ball isn’t as easy to control and does not spin as much. That’s why if you’re looking to maximize your short game, you should probably look elsewhere.
Three-Piece Golf Balls
Three-piece golf balls provide an excellent combination of distance and feel, which explains their appeal to seasoned players. Even the most popular golf balls on the PGA and European Tours fall under this category. You can’t find a better stamp of approval than being the ball-type of choice of the best players in the world.
The additional layer they have over their two-piece counterparts provides a softer feel but also allows more spin. While they sacrificed a great deal of distance to less complex golf ball types before, recent advances in technology helped minimize that.
The only drawback, especially for beginners and high-handicappers, is the higher cost of a three-piece ball.
Four-Piece Golf Balls
The characteristics that set four-piece golf balls apart from the three-piece models are still being disputed. Many golf enthusiasts, including professionals, appear skeptical about the additional layer of this golf ball if it really makes a significant difference.
Although, in theory, a four-piece ball feature a mechanism called “spin separation,” in which the extra layers are only activated when the player attains a fast enough swing speed. The science behind this is complicated, but the main point is that driver shots should spin less while short irons should spin more, providing players the best of both worlds in terms of performance.
Five-Piece Golf Balls
If you thought four-piece balls were overkill, you’d be even less impressed by their more intricate five-piece counterparts. The TaylorMade TP5, which was also the first five-piece product to hit the market in 2009, is the prototypical five-layered ball.
Basically, it features the exact mechanism behind the four — extra layers equal more spin separation and allow compression to be staggered to maximize performance.
The latest version of the TP5 boasts of a compression core that is 28% less compressed than its predecessor, resulting in less spin with the driver and more distance. Meanwhile, the ultra-soft urethane cover guarantees that the ball remains spinny and responsive on short shots.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to you to decide whether the difference between the four-piece and five-piece model compared to the more traditional three-piece offerings is really substantive.
Types of Golf Balls According to Spin
Every golf ball is created with a specific spin that pertains to the backspin created using the golf club’s loft. The categories include low spins, mid spins, and high spins.
If you’re wondering how the spinning speed affects the distance, control, and direction of your shot, it mainly has something to do with the spin rate of the golf ball. For example, if you’re after increasing its distance traveled, the golf ball must’ve sufficient spin to produce the right amount of lift. Failure to gain sufficient speed while swinging will require you to go for the low spin options since high spin balls are challenging to control, especially for beginners.
Low Spin Golf Balls
Low spin balls are considerably harder to hit and tend to roll a lot more on the fairway. You can attain greater distances by using slow swing speeds. These lower spinning models allow the ball to fly straight into the air while reducing the side-spinning of shots. Although you may not get as far in the air with this ball, the low spin will cause more rolling as it lands.
If you’re a novice golfer, this type of ball is an excellent option as it perfectly matches the rate of your swing speed. It’s also great for players struggling to maintain their balls in the fairway due to a drastic hook or slice.
Mid Spin Golf Balls
The mid-spinning type of golf balls lies between the low spin and high spin selections and serves to bridge the gap between the two. Thus, it’s an excellent option for golfers with an average level of swing speed and control.
If you’re a golfer who’s after additional forgiveness but has a low slicing tendency, then these mid-spin variants are ideal for you. Depending on the brand, they can incorporate a solid feel for you to achieve the best distance.
These characteristics make this golf ball type perfect for most avid golfers and can be used in almost every type of playing condition.
High Spin Golf Balls
High-spinning balls are primarily intended to improve the ball’s spin-off in the air. When you hit a golf ball, it is thrown into the air with enough backspin.
This type of golf ball is popular among players with more control since it possesses a higher compression core. This characteristic allows the ball to retain structural integrity after being hit with a faster swing speed.
Though most high handicap golfers prefer to get the ball high in the air and stop smoothly, having a model that stays within bounds is essential. The most significant advantage of high spinning balls is around the greens, thanks to the enhanced feel that provides golfers with much-improved control.
Types of Golf Balls According to Feel
Soft Feel Golf Balls
Expert players and Tour Professionals commonly favor these soft feel models. They are standard among the five, four, and three-piece balls with their soft urethane cover material with a rubber core. Though not as durable as their firm feel counterparts, soft feel golf balls provide more spin and control across the greens.
The softer feel also allows you to move the ball into the air and spin it into the pins. Although soft feel golf balls don’t offer more distance the way a firm feel option does, they’re best suited for golfers who seek more control.
Firm Feel Golf Balls
When it comes to selecting the right type of golf balls, feel is quite essential. Firm feel golf balls are dubbed as such for their hard feel on the clubface. They’re commonly present among two-piece construction models or the low spin balls. The firm feel helps produce maximum distance from the irons and drives while compromising control to an extent around and on the greens. These golf balls also have a strong rubber core, which contributes to their hardness and distance. Compared to the soft feel models, firm feel golf balls are far more durable.
Combo balls are a set of golf balls that includes different types of golf balls. A particular set usually includes several options, such as those with high compression cores, urethane covers, mantles, and so on. However, in their respective categories, all golf balls are suitable for swinging. Ladies’ golf balls are also available in a variety of colors, thus making identification easier.
Combo packs of soft and hard balls are also available. Soft golf balls are suitable for players with slower swing speeds. Meanwhile, the harder ones are perfect for those with a higher swing pace.
Lastly, you’ll also come across combo packs with different distance combinations.
Distance golf balls feature a thin, solid covering and a bigger, multi-layered core. These characteristics allow this type of golf ball to have maximum carry, which boosts yardage, especially from the tee box. Furthermore, it reduces the spin that exaggerates both slices and hooks.
Consider the ball’s core to be its engine since it can cause the ball to travel further. Its thin covering and broad core allow the ball to move quickly from the clubface and launch with the fastest speed as you swing.
When you hit the golf ball, the resulting impact determines the ball’s velocity, spin rate, and launching angle. Some balls are specifically designed to maximize distance with shorter clubs, whereas others increase distance using the driver. Choosing the best golf balls for distance is entirely dependent on your degree of competence and how the ball comes off your clubface.
Compression is the measurement of the deflection of a golf ball when it’s struck. Typically, it’s measured between 0 and 200, wherein 0 denotes that the ball deflects up to 5 mm or more. On the other hand, 200 is the level at which the ball doesn’t compress. On average, the compression rating of most golf balls ranges between 50 and 100.
Compression mainly occurs when your golf ball squishes after making contact with the clubface in the process of swinging. You’ll see that two factors come into play during compression. These are swing speed and the core of the ball. Increased swing speeds result in a more substantial impact when you strike the ball, causing higher compression. Compressing the ball during impact and engaging with the core enables the club to propel the ball forward. As a result, the ball’s core serves as the engine, propelling it further away.
Lower compression balls tend to have greater deformation during impact and make contact with a bigger surface area on the clubface. They’re also softer and more suited to beginners or those with slow swing speeds. On the other hand, high compression models require faster swing speeds to get optimal control and activate the ball’s innermost layers.
As a beginner, you may be unsure which compression model is best for you. Keep in mind that if you have a quick swing rate and prefer a soft feel ball, low compression balls are the best option. However, for those with slower swing speeds, don’t even consider wasting your time with a high compression model.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Does a Golf Ball Weigh?
The weight of a golf ball is specifically regulated to ensure that it is used in an official capacity and is not too heavy. A golf ball must not weigh more than 45.93 grams (1.62 ounces) as regulated by golfing rules. In addition, golf balls should have a diameter of 42.67 mm (1.68 inches) or less to be capable of performing within a specific distance, velocity, and symmetry limits.
Like golf clubs, golf balls must be approved and tested by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the R&A. The R&A was previously owned by the prestigious Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Balls below standard and don’t meet the minimum rules and regulations won’t be allowed for use in competitions.
What Do the Numbers on Golf Balls Mean?
The numbers you see on golf balls vary in meaning, depending on the number of digits indicated, namely:
The single-digit number located beneath the brand is for identification purposes. For example, if three or four people play golf with the same golf ball, it’s best to use balls with varying numbers. This way, it’ll be easier to distinguish one ball from the other after each round. Said numbers are most likely between 1 and 4. However, values between 0 and 9 are also acceptable.
The golf balls with double-digit numbers represent the ball’s compression rating. This rating indicates how the gear feels. For instance, w balls with a lower compression rating of around 70 to 80 are recommended for female players. Meanwhile, the ones above 100 indicate that you must swing hard to get the ball to work properly, making it suitable for males. The inclusion of compression rating digits on golf balls was common practice in the 1990s but is no longer the norm nowadays.
Finally, golf balls with three-digit numbers ranging between 300-400 indicate the number of dimples present.
How Many Dimples are on a Golf Ball?
While there’s no specific answer to this question, most golf balls have around 300-500 dimples on them. Most commonly, the number of dimples ranges from 336 – 392, with a depth of about 0.010 inches. Lots of these depressions enable a golf ball to fly higher. However, too many can result in increased air pressure on the front area than the back, resulting in a flight slowdown. Typically, dimples come in various shapes, including hexagons, ovals, teardrops, and circles.
Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?
Dimples are those small indentations that appear on the surface of golf balls. They are specifically designed to reduce drag and control the ball’s trajectory. Although they appear simple, their importance should never be underestimated.
Smooth-surfaced balls travel half the distance as dimpled balls. The reason behind this is that dimples form a thin, turbulent layer of air around the ball. This extra layer then clings to the surface and goes ahead around the back of the ball. Once this happens, the wake is reduced, which causes drag.
Dimple patterns vary depending on the type of ball and your preferred brand. Keep in mind that the number of dimples, their size, depth, and shape will all affect how your golf ball performs in flight.
What are Golf Balls Made Of?
Modern golf balls are commonly made up of one of two types of cover materials. They’re either made of urethane composition or a Surlyn cover.
Compared with those made of Surlyn, golf balls made of urethane are much softer and provide more feedback and feel. Although not as durable as its counterpart, urethane remains popular among high-end, multi-layered golf balls. The reason behind this is that this type of golf ball has more spin and provides more in-game control. As a result, it’s the preferred choice of seasoned and skilled players for its potential to shape shots and allow said players to show their best performance on the field.
This ionomer resin by Dupont is another popular golf ball covering. Aside from having a slightly harder feel, it’s also durable and scratch-resistant. Golf balls made of Surlyn are the preferred choice of novice golfers but aren’t ideal for low handicap players since they don’t give much backspin. What’s great about this cover is that it can deliver enough energy transfer that allows players to maximize distance.
How Do You Find the Best Types of Golf Balls?
Now that you’re more well-versed in their anatomy and construction, the next thing you’d want to do is find the best types of golf balls.
To make your search easier, you need to understand first the different categories of golf balls. Generally, they are available in two types:
If you’re still an amateur player, chances are, you also wished to get rid of the big slice or hook. For this reason, spin control models will work great according to your specification.
This type of golf ball is specially designed for you to hit them straight, without an excessive side spin that causes hooks and spices, which is similar to straight golf balls.
On the other hand, if you’re a seasoned player with a mid to low handicap score, you’d go for these multi-layered golf balls for the following reasons:
- They have multiple layers that function well with one another to provide you with the optimum feel, spin, and distance. Every layer of the ball gets activated depending on the club you’re using and your swing speed.
- Their mantle and core layers provide you with a much-improved feel and control. These enhanced features enable you to sculpt your shots as they create an extra spin on the green while affording you the distance you require.
- Their thin material covering provides additional spin control, allowing serious golfers the crisp feel they require.
The complete package that these golf balls provide is the main reason why they’re the preferred choice of the best-experienced players worldwide.
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