Choosing the Right Golf Ball for your Game

By: Mark Pearson

Golf Balls come in a range of compressions, multiple layer constructions and various dimple patterns. What does it mean and how do you choose the right ball for your game?

What most people do not know is that there is no maximum size of a golf ball, and no minimum weight. But if you have ever tried to hit an inflatable beach ball with a golf club you will know it does not travel very far! It could be possible to construct golf balls that could be made to fly much further than a 'standard' golf ball, by changing their weight, size or characteristic.

Therefore, all legal golf balls today are manufactured to certain specifications to make it fair for all golfers.

  • The weight of the ball must not be greater than 1.620 ounces (45.93 gm).

  • The diameter of the ball must not be less than 1.680 inches (42.67 mm).
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  • The ball must be spherically symmetric. Sounds obvious, but the ball must be round!
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  • The initial velocity of the ball must not exceed a specified limit, when measured on approved testing apparatus.
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  • The overall distance (combined carry and roll) of the ball must not exceed a specified distance when tested in specific circumstances on approved apparatus.
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    Given these manufacturing restrictions imposed on the ball, what can be done to make golf balls different and produce different results for your game?

    Compression

    The compression or "hardness" of a golf ball relates to how easy it is to compress the ball on impact and get the ball to accelerate off the club. A low compression number e.g. 80 is softer; a high compression number e.g. 110 is harder. If the ball is too soft for you will not get as much launch speed out of it as you could get out of a harder ball. A ball that is too hard will not compress enough and will again not launch at optimum speed.

    Layers

    Prior to 1966, most golf balls had a wound core made of elastic. These balls were relatively soft and were easy to control with the spin that could be imparted easily on them. In 1966 the first solid one-piece golf ball was produced. These balls were found to fly much further, but they had much less 'feel' to them, and were harder to control on shorter shots.

    What was needed then was a combination of the two in some way to give the distance of the solid one piece ball and the feel of the soft wound ball. This is where multi layer balls came in.

    A multi layer ball has a softer outer layer to give better feel on short shots, and a solid core to generate ball speed and distance. Today we have 2 piece, 3-piece and most recently 4-piece balls. Generally, the more layers the higher the price!

    Dimples

    The dimples on a ball are there to create drag as the ball travels through the air. The drag creates aerodynamic lift as the ball spins and keeps the ball in the air far longer than a totally smooth ball would go. Manufacturers vary the pattern and number of dimples on the ball to optimize the distance and trajectory of the ball.

    Choosing the right ball for you

    You can fit a ball to a player just as you can fit a club. Firstly, find the ball with the optimum level of compression for your swing speed. Then choose a type of ball that feels best for you. This could be a 2, 3 or 4 piece ball. Thirdly, make sure it fits in with your budget - golf balls don't last forever!

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