Since the “Does the golf ball travel too far” topic is all the rage this spring, it’s only fitting that Shooting Your Age jumps into the deep end to talk about golf balls as well. Avid Shooting Your Age reader (and subscriber #1) Tim Pelley suggested an article on golf balls that seniors should play. Which, amid the distance debate, is about as relevant a topic as it gets.
Which Are The Best Balls For Boomers?
The distance debate seems to be a microcosm of anything debatable in America these days. You are on one side of an issue, and I’m on the other. About half the people agree with you, and half with me. There is little amenable discourse, or option to “agree to disagree.” I am right and you are wrong (or visa versa). And that is that.
Regardless of which side of the golf ball distance debate you fall, you need golf balls. Hot balls, long balls, super balls, high spin and high distance balls. My ball is longer than your ball. But most importantly, you are looking for the best ball for you. Which may not be the best ball for me.
What a Boom Boomer Wants, What a Boom Boomer Needs…
The best ball for Boom Boom Couples is likely not the best ball for me. Or for you.
We have established that we want and need the ball that best suits our game- not his game. But which ball is that? Before we answer that question, we need to explore two fundamentals. These affect every single Baby Boomer and senior golfer that plays the game.
Fundamental Change #1
The first of two paradigm-shifts in the last twenty years was- hold onto your seats- we got older. Twenty years ago you were forty! Younger than Tiger is now; much younger than Phil.
Now? At 60, you’re older than Mark Calcavecchia for God’s sake! And as we get older, our 100 yard dash (trot, actually) time gets slower; our 10K time gets slower, and our swing speed gets slower. It just does. A 90 mph swing speed is the new reality. Enjoy it because in a few years, it’s going to be even slower than that.
As your swing speed slows down, should you be playing the ball you played 20-10-even 5 years ago?
Fundamental Change #2
Titleist introduced the ProV1 in 2000. It was, and is, a urethane-covered, solid-core ball. And as even the casual golf fan knows, this revolutionized the golf ball industry, and the golf game especially at the professional level.
Which brings us back to the question: As a Boomer, which ball should you play? A high compression ball? Low compression ball? Surlyn-covered distance ball, or a urethane covered spin and control ball? Whatever you find in the woods?
We are going to address it, I promise. But first, we have homework- a class on Golf Ball History 101.
Cliff’s Notes Modern Golf Ball History
If you’re under 30, you may have never even seen a Balata ball. Here is a quick history lesson (and you can learn more by going to a helpful article courtesy of Thought Company (https://www.thoughtco.com/looking-back-at-balata-golf-balls-1564005).
Balata is the name of a specific rubber tree that grows in Central and South America. The rubber is hard enough to be used as the outer covering for a golf ball, but pliable enough to provide a bit of “stickiness” and softness when hit, providing excellent spin for the accomplished player. It was introduced by Spalding in the early 1900’s so was around for most of the century.
That soft cover invited cuts, “smiles” when bladed with an iron, and chips and nicks when even slightly mis-hit. The Balata was the ball of the professional and the wealthy. Most of us couldn’t play a Balata- we weren’t good enough to control the spin, and weren’t wealthy enough to go through a half-dozen a round.
[Sidebar- Raise your hand if you ever dissected a Balata ball! Yes, it was easy to do. If you ever peeled a tangerine, you could peel the cover off a cut Balata ball, then spend a half day unwinding the rubber windings around the rubber core. Fun times]
Du-Pont invented Surlyn in the 1960’s, and Ram had introduced a Surlyn-covered ball before the decade was out. It has been a primary covering for millions of balls ever since.
Surlyn is very hard, and therefore very scuff and chip resistant. It’s great for golf ball coverings, especially if you are prone to bouncing your ball of a cart path. Or if you thin your five-iron on occasion.
Urethane exploded onto the golf ball scene with the introduction of the ProV1. It established the modern “professional” ball with a soft, grippy feel to replace the Balata. The great advantage is that Urethane is a type of plastic, not rubber, and therefore is almost as scuff and cut resistant as Surlyn. It is also more expensive to produce and more expensive to work with. And- surprise!- urethane covered balls are almost universally more expensive than Surlyn-covered balls.
Which Ball For You?
Ah, that is the 300,000,000 question. As in 300 million golf balls which are lost in the U.S. alone each year.
I borrowed some information from an article on Surlyn vs. Urethane balls by Revolutionary Golf Balls. He breaks down the following:
Pros- Suryln is a harder cover than Urethane and therefore doesn’t “grab” the clubface as much during the strike, reducing spin. Resists cuts and scuffing, usually increases distance for the average player, usually resists slicing and hooking due to decreased spin for the average player. Is more affordable
Cons- Less control around the greens due to less spin off the face of the club. The ball will roll significantly more. Has a “harder” feel, especially in colder temperatures.
Pros- The short game is where you score. Pitching, chipping, putting. The urethane cover balls gives you the grip and spin on those shots. If you are a straight hitter of the ball, you will also be able to actually work the ball- cause it to fade or draw on command. Has a softer feel.
Cons- More likely to spin, exaggerating slices and hooks especially with driver. It’s more expensive. Is usually confined to higher-end, higher-tech balls and those attributes may not transfer to the average swing speed.
Compression of a golf ball, simplistically speaking, is how easy it is for a club to “compress” it against the clubface. A high compression ball (ProV1 and ProV1X are 90 and 100 compression, as an example), take a faster swing speed to compress the ball and cause it to travel as far as it is designed.
A low compression ball in the 30-60 range is designed for the slower swinger- someone in the 80 or less mph range. An older senior player or lady beginner, for example. It doesn’t take as much swing speed to compress the ball, so distance is enhanced.
The Verdict Is….
Golf balls are like golf clubs are like putters are like players. There is no right answer. Professionals play different balls all the time, looking for the right mix of spin and distance that works for them.
You need to ask yourself some important questions, and give yourself some honest answers:
Which is more important to you? More distance off the driver, or more feel and control around the greens? What is your swing speed? How much do you compress a ball? What is your handicap? How much can you afford to spend?
All of these are important factors, and just as there is no right or wrong answer for the pros, there is no right or wrong answer for the senior and Baby Boomer. Just as they do, you should perform your due diligence. Play with a Surlyn cover, Urethane cover, high compression and low compression ball during the same round. Pay attention to the characteristics and feel. If you can, play when it’s not crowded and hit the same shots with different balls.
One will likely perform better. And THAT is the Best Ball for the Boomer.