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Personally, I order Titleist Pro V1s and V1xs from eBay. They are great golf balls, in my opinion, without the cost of buying them out-of-the-box (MSRP: $62 USD). I'm not an expert golfer, but I have noticed a difference between inexpensive golf balls bought new at the store and Titleist Pro V1s and V1xs. Moreover, between the Golf Digest hot list (that spotlights different golf balls and is released annually) and this golf ball buying guide, different types of golf balls are constructed differently.

How can I choose a type of golf ball to play with? Is there a way to determine what type of golf ball is best suited for my game? (ie, if I can use improved performance around the greens, should I opt for a golf ball designed for feel? or if I can use improved performance off the tee, should I opt for a golf ball designed for distance? or should I opt for a golf ball that provides a blend of both feel and distance?)

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There are balls for every level of player--literally hundreds of different models to choose from. You should never spend $50 on a dozen of Pro V1's if you are having to ask which ball is right for you. If you are not regularly shooting in the low 90's or below, that is a waste of money.

The best way to find out which ball is best for you is to get fitted. That means going to your local golf mega-store or club with the necessary fitting facilities and a wide variety of balls to try out.

Within each brand, there should be a ball that suits your swing speed, preferred launch angle, and the amount of spin you require on short shots from 100 yards in.

If you don't have access to a ball-fitting center, here is some general info about golf balls that may help you find the right one for your current level of play:

  1. The more expensive the ball, the more pieces (layers) it consists of. Pro V1's, Callaway Chrome Soft, Taylormade Penta TP, Srixon Z-Star and the other $40+ per dozen balls are all 4-piece balls. They typically have an outer layer that help you spin/stop the ball with your wedges. If you can't control your wedge shots to that extent, these expensive balls are not for you. If you spray your tee shots left and right, you will be wasting a lot of money on lost balls and see very little difference in what these balls are designed to give the top-notch player.

  2. Balls with names like Power Distance, Burner, Superhot, Mojo, Gold Distance, and Distance whatever are geared towards weekender/hackers. Most of them are two-piece balls that don't spin a lot, either on drives or pitches. They are designed to get the maximum distance and go as straight as possible. A lot of them have low-compression cores that allow players with swing speeds around 90mph and under get the most distance out of their limited club head speed. They typically sell for $20 or less. Noodle is as good as any if you are a hacker and don't want to blow your paycheck on Pro V1's that will end up in ponds, backyards and lost among the trees.

  3. There are some really good three-piece balls in the $25 range. These balls try to combine the characteristics of the high-end balls and the low-end Superburnerdistanceflystraight variety. Bridgestone e6 is a great option for players with swing speends around 95mph (like myself). Price is around $26, distance is about as good as it gets for that speed of swing, and if you know how to do it, it gives you plenty of spin around the greens. Not nearly as much spin as a Pro V1 or Chrome Soft, but enough to slow down runaway chips and stop full pitches in their tracks. I have also had similar results with Callaway Hex Chrome/Chrome+ (if you can still find them) as well as Taylormade Project (a).

  4. XYZ brand balls often work best with XYZ brand clubs. Which clubs do you think Titleist uses in their labs when they let their robots hit thousands of balls to optimize the design of the a particular model? Taylormade? Titleist balls are optimized with Titleist clubs, Callaway with Callaway and Taylormade with Taylormade. That doesn't mean that the ball does not perform with a different brand's clubs. The point I am trying to make is that you shouldn't shy away from trying the brand that matches your driver. You may be surprized to find how they complement each other.

  5. Balls feel different. One ball may get you great distance and enough spin, but you may not like the way it feels on the clubface. This gets more evident with your putter. Thus, you can read reviews and listen to the recommendations of other players, but ultimately you are going to have to play with a variety until you find your match. If you don't want to spend the money buying a dozen new balls, trying them out just to find you don't like them, you may want to consider buying a mixed bag of refurbished balls and then trying to play with the same model for a few weeks and then move on to the next until you find one you really like.

  • 1
    +1 for diving into the pros/cons of low-, mid-, and high-end golf balls. Price is important because there is an obvious break-even point (ie, how expensive? vs. how are your skills? -- or how many golf balls do you lose a round?) in which buying a high-end golf ball is a waste if you are prone to lose golf balls (or your skill level is too low to reap the benefits of said golf balls). On the other hand, if one's skill level is adequate, improving the type of golf ball will provide benefits to improve his/her game, and would be worth the price. I've experienced point 5, and 4 is insightful. – user527 Jan 21 '16 at 13:41
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    Correct. You should invest in better balls as your game improves, otherwise you may not reap the necessary rewards from working on your game. I have worked my way up from $15 Noodles to $26 e6's to $38 Chrome Softs (discounted) and I occasionally play Pro V's when I find them abandoned or get them as gifts. I have yet to benefit from Pro V's vs. Chrome Soft. That may be because I am still not able to intentionally land my ball 15 ft past the hole and spin it back to within 3 ft. I do, however, get more out of the Pro V's on chip shots. Not enough to spend the extra $1 per ball--to your point. – Nick P Jan 22 '16 at 2:16
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I wondered about this the other day too, should you play to your strengths or try to get a ball which improves upon your weaknesses? both approached have merit in my opinion.

I was speaking to one of our Juniors the other who is himself a scratch golfer discussing balls. His opinion was that most mid to high index players don't get all that much benefit from playing super expensive balls if they don't have the swing speed, or touch around the greens to make the most of them.

At the end of the day, part of a ball choice is about personal preference, do you want a soft feel around the green? or do you want a flyer from your driver with no spin? what would give you most pleasure? How many do you lose? How many can you afford to lose!? it's all preference.

My pro and a separate fitter have both said to me that scoring is more about your consistency than your best game and have suggested taking a consistent ball can be part of that.

In terms of buying, I recently moved from playing ProV1 to playing a far less expensive mid range ball from a company called Vice, I would recommend their products as they have a wide range of balls, from the pure distance balls to some very soft feeling ProV1 type balls at a fraction of the price if you order 60+.

Give them a look: https://www.vicegolf.com/uk/

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    +1 Though I find it hard to believe that golf ball selection is "all preference," you provide interesting rhetorical questions to consider. My driver swing speed is ~115 mph so I have no problem there. When I get observed at the shop, their concern is that my RPMs are high, causing me to lose distance. We switched my driver to a lower loft and a stiffer shaft to combat some of that, with the next step perhaps being fitted for a mini driver. A ball designed for distance would help that even more, but I would lose my touch around the greens. – user527 Jan 6 '16 at 13:25
  • I'm inconsistent around the greens, but I have had my moments. Thanks for the Vice link (they're half the price of a MSRP V1)...perhaps a consideration when I play more frequently. The reason I get used golf balls around AA condition on eBay is affordability. $1 USD a ball for a used, but top-tier golf ball is great value when budget is considered. That said, your point on consistency has a lot of merit. – user527 Jan 6 '16 at 13:31
  • When I say 'preference' I guess I mean, you need to work out what you want from the ball, would you 'prefer' less spin off the tee or more spin around the green? if you're hitting at ~115mph I'm guessing you don't have specific distance problems, so perhaps that's not an issue. By preference I also mean do you want to improve your weak areas or improve your strong ones, what would you prefer? – dougajmcdonald Jan 6 '16 at 14:46
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    I see. There is some preference (eg, golf ball color), but wrt your golf game, I thought there would be a guideline as how to choose a golf ball to play to your strengths and/or improve weaknesses. I guess I am looking to dive into these considerations you provide (eg, pros/cons of a golf ball designed for X). Asking these rhetorical questions without any background (and I understand we have the requisite background to fend for ourselves) wouldn't help such a golfer in choosing a golf ball. Yes, consistency, affordability, and skill level are important and notable, but that isn't the question. – user527 Jan 6 '16 at 15:30
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Basically, the golf ball that is best for you depends on what you need out of a golf ball, and that depends on the rest of your game including the course you play on. Without going into a doctoral dissertation on the subject, the two most important factors, IMO, are compression and spin characteristics.

Compression is the "squishiness" of the ball. A low-compression ball is softer, requiring less force to compress. This will keep the ball on the clubface longer, imparting more "impulse" from the clubhead to the ball, and it will also induce more spin as the clubhead has more time in contact with the ball to get it spinning. They also feel softer when hit, which is preferable to many players. But, they will waste some energy of a particularly powerful swing because the softer material won't completely return to its normal roundness until after it's left the clubhead (like bouncing on a trampoline but not straightening your legs fully until you're already back in the air). High-compression balls, almost the exact opposite; less time on the clubhead, less spin, harder feel, faster rebound.

There's considerable debate about the true importance of compression on raw distance; there's not nearly as much in it, all other things being equal, in matching compression rating to swing speed as there is in matching your shaft flex. Most experts say that for the average player it's a question of feel; if you want your swing to feel like there was nothing in its way, go softer. If you want the ball to give you more feedback on ball striking, go harder.

Spin characteristics are a function of practically every aspect of the ball's design, including, as mentioned, compression. A low-compression ball will get more contact with higher-lofted clubs that are swung at slower speeds than the driver, increasing their backspin, which increases their height and reduces their rollout, so they'll drop down onto the fairway or green and stay where you put them. Most harder balls will spin less, and so they won't climb as much or drop as sharply, so they'll roll longer. Great for distance, bad for control.

Higher-quality (and more expensive) golf balls are made with multiple core layers to help give the best of both worlds. Outer layers are softer and compress more easily, inner layers are harder. The net effect is a plateau in the amount the ball can be compressed as swing speeds increase. Off the driver, total compression of the ball is limited by the inner core, so the ball rebounds faster, wasting less energy and spinning less. However, the outer layer will still compress easily enough against the clubface of a higher-lofted club, giving those clubs the additional spin they need for the shot shape golfers want when approaching the green. Mid-grade balls often have three-layer construction (two core layers and outer cover) while the top-grade balls commonly have four layers. These balls also often trade the more durable and cheaper but slicker ionomer plastic covers of two-piece balls for softer covers like urethane, which grabs both the clubhead at launch and the ground on landing to magnify spin at the cost of durability (hit a Pro V1 onto the cart path, or even out of a bunker, and odds are you'll need to retire it after that hole due to the damage the grit has caused to the cover layer).

Dimple pattern can also affect spin, though in a more minor way. The exact number, size, depth and arrangement of dimples on the ball all affect the "boundary layer" of air passing around the ball in flight. Deeper dimples create a thicker boundary layer, reducing friction (the maximum depth of dimples is regulated by the Rules of Golf for this reason). Manufacturers have experimented with varying dimple patterns, with dimples of varying sizes, to create different flight characteristics, some more forgiving, others more consistent.

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How can I choose a type of golf ball to play with? Is there a way to determine what type of golf ball is best suited for my game? (ie, if I can use improved performance around the greens, should I opt for a golf ball designed for feel? or if I can use improved performance off the tee, should I opt for a golf ball designed for distance? or should I opt for a golf ball that provides a blend of both feel and distance?)

The accepted answer is perfect. I'm going to answer from a different perspective: A lower skill level.

Focusing on feel and distance shouldn't be the primary focus. Moreover, buying intricate golf balls will make a negligible difference.

Therefore, the price point of golf balls is important when it comes to choosing a golf ball to play with. As the question notes, a dozen Titleist Pro V1 golf balls cost $62, which comes out to over $5 per golf ball. This is not appetizing for golf balls "that will end up in ponds, backyards and lost among the trees."

If you must buy Titleist or other brand-name three-piece (or more) golf balls, consider buying golf balls used. There are rating guides to describe the condition of the golf ball. I personally recommend golf balls in AAA (or better) condition, but to remain consistent with first paragraph, golf balls in A or AA condition will work just as well at a fraction of the price.

protected by Philip Kendall Jul 31 '18 at 17:02

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