Think You Know Golf Balls? Not Until You Read This

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“This is the most impactful test we have ever published”

That was the opening statement in My Golf Spy’recent extensive report about golf balls. I learned a lot from reading it and if you haven’t read it, I’ve summarized the high points here. However, I encourage you to read the entire report.

Below are six areas the report covers. It also gives detailed test results of 36 of the most popular tour-level balls. Testing was done with a robot to minimize inconsistencies whenever possible.

I. “Golf Ball Fitting Is The Future”

More and more of us are getting fitted for drivers, irons, and sometimes for every club in the bag. MGS recommends that ball fitting become just as important as any club fitting. Marketing indicates that “feel” is the most important component in a golf ball, and in fact many balls have a “feel” word–usually soft– in the name. Titleist Tru-Soft and Callaway Chrome Soft are just two that come to mind.

The MGS stance is that companies should be recommending fitting, rather than choosing a ball based on feel. After all, the ball is the only piece of equipment used on every shot.

II. Golf Balls Are Different

I think most golfers know that. You certainly do if you ever hit an old Top-Flite, then a ProV1. They do feel different and react differently.

To prove the point, MGS points out that balls in their testing had a carry difference of over 17 yards from the longest to the shortest ball at 115 mph clubhead speed, and 7.6 yards even with a moderately slow 85 mph speed.

The wedge spin difference was a significant 1425 rpm from the highest to lowest spinning balls on shots to the green.

III. “A Soft Golf Ball Is A Slow Golf Ball”

This one made me take notice. Again, with all the marketing of “soft” balls, one would think that is a positive.

According to MGS testing, not so much. For anyone swinging over 85 mph, a soft ball is probably costing you distance off the tee, and spin around the green. Again, according to the report: “…the reality is that the only golfers likely to see real performance benefits from low compression balls are high speed, high spin players.” Firmer balls are faster and generally longer for the average player.

IV. Everyone compresses a golf ball

This raised my eyebrows also. I’ve read many articles and ads talking about how only an elite player can compress the core of a golf ball. MGS says not so fast, and they are unambiguous about it: “Forget what you might have heard, you swing fast enough to compress the core of the golf ball.”

Balls that are fast are fast at any swing speed, and a short ball doesn’t somehow become a longer ball when a swing speed decreases.

V. Choose a ball and stick with it

This relates back to the first item on the list and the importance of being fitted with the right ball for you. That means no more playing the ball you found in the pond or in the woods.

Golf is a game of eliminating inconsistencies and variables, and playing the same ball all the time will go help make that happen.

VI. Even now, there are inconsistencies between balls

Even with balls from major manufacturers, MGS found some inconsistencies in their testing.

Some ball models flew 20 yards or more off-line at maximum swing speeds, whereas other ball models from the same company did not. Experts felt this was due to manufacturing irregularities, dimple patters being inconsistent, etc.

So, yes, you can still do what golfers have done since the advent of the gutta percha: Blame the ball!

Final Thoughts

The testing is all based on your swing speed. If you don’t know your swing speed, that would be item #1 on your to-do list. Certain balls perform better for higher swing speeds than for lower, and visa versa.

There is no standard definition for “compression.” One company’s low compression balls may be several points higher (or lower) than another company’s.

Finding the right ball is a challenge and involves some trial-and-error. MGS recommends fitting your ball to the shots you hit from 150 yards and closer. These comprise 60% or more of all shots in a typical round. Therefore, the golf ball should do what you need it to do around the green. Then fit your driver to that golf ball, not the other way around.

Pick your ball, then buy in bulk to save money. MTB and Vice are two direct-to-consumer companies with volume discounts, and many golf ball sales companies have “buy three dozen and get the fourth free” specials.

Finally, I did not name names here, and that was by intent. The article does a deep dive into each ball, its characteristics, how it performed at different swing speeds, and more. It’s worth reading, and it might save you a stroke or two on your next round.

Next week, we celebrate a golfer who has shot his age…100 times!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy Shooting Your Age!

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