TaylorMade, Nike, Callaway, Bridgestone, Titleist. What do all of these names have in common? They’re all manufacturers of golf balls. They also offer a wide range of balls of different constructions and at varied price points. It’s understandable if it’s hard to make a choice given the huge variety.
But do these golf balls really matter that much? Can they considerably change your game? Yes, they do and they can. Maybe novice golfers won’t notice the difference between a two-piece and a three-piece golf ball; after all, the ball won’t fix a slice no matter how much you pay for it.
However, serious and pro golfers prioritize golf balls just as much as they prioritize their clubs. For some it’s a matter of personal preference and what they’re used to, while for others it’s a matter of chasing engineering advancements. Either way, a properly chosen golf ball may be the difference between making and not making the cut.
What Do Pros Play With?
If you’re interested in learning more about golf balls, you’re probably not at an elite level. Therefore, trying to match your gear to that of pro golfers shouldn’t be a priority. Take for example the massive popularity of Titleist golf balls. The majority of pro golfers swear by these balls. However, Tiger Woods has always stuck by his Nike golf balls.
Does that mean that Nike is the company that made him the most successful golf figure of this century? That’s hardly a fair statement. It just means that combined with his technique, swing speed, and ability to exercise control over the spin (and probably Nike’s sponsorship of him through thick and thin), Nike balls work more to his advantage.
Other Masters champions have gone the route of hybrid balls that are optimized for both distance and control, which feature the Surlyn® cover. Others still stick to what they know best and feel better with.
What About the Golf Ball Types?
Many have written essays and books on the differences between golf ball designs that go far beyond the basic differences of adding extra layers to the basic one-piece design. Generally speaking, more layers matter if you want to have more distance and control. More dimples offer more spin and more lift.
But, not everyone is technically equipped to handle ‘pro’ golf balls. A beginner may not have the proper swing technique or power to control a four-piece or five-piece golf ball. In fact, it’s quite possible for tournament-quality golf balls to make your handicap worse on your casual golf Sundays.
Heavier golf balls are a bit more forgiving to inexperienced players. Of course, it’s a matter of trial and error before you find your perfect fit. Comparing features and specs should help a bit, but until you actually get the feel for the ball you can’t know for sure if it will work for you.
Course Balls vs. Range Balls
Although amateurs can still have fun with just about any balls, there is a situation where golf balls matter a lot. Knowing how to choose between practice balls and regular balls is important. When you’re at a driving range and you want to practice your swing, you don’t want high-flying balls.
What you want are harder balls that have less spin, less lift, and a super-hard cover which can withstand the excess punishment. Usually driving ranges provide you with just that. But, if you want to bring your own then you should be looking for harder, heavier balls that are pretty cheap when bought in bulk.
Looking at a different color than white is also important. Yellow, for example, offers better visibility in the air and on the green, so it’s easier to assess your mistakes and your progress. A unique paint job is also a nice idea if you want to have an easy time racking all your balls when you’re done.
Golf ball design is more important to performance in golf when compared to footballs, basketballs, or tennis balls to their respective sport. There’s no one-size-fits-all standard to follow and everyone develops certain familiarities with brands and designs.
The fact that golfers go against each other with different gear almost every time should also give you a hint about how important it is to choose something that plays to your strengths, instead of worrying about what someone else is carrying.
Still, how much time you spend shopping for golf balls will differ depending on how serious you are about the sport. If you just want to spend some quality time on the country club’s course and you don’t have much game to speak of, then golf balls are not as important as actually working on your technique.
If you want to be serious golfer, you have to start paying more attention to what construction layers work in your favor.