Golf balls buyers' guide

Thomas Tanner
Jan 27, 2022
11 minutes
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Along with your clubs and a bag to carry them in, golf balls are fundamental to being able to play golf - after all, the only objective is to get the ball into the hole.

However, despite them all being round (and usually white) there are hundreds of different golf balls to choose from - each with a different set of characteristics which determine how far they go and how much they spin.

So the question is - where on earth do you start? This guide will break down the decision-making process to help you find the right golf ball for your game.

Before we start, though, the best players in the world blame everything under the sun when something goes wrong - fans, clubs, caddie, conditions - but never their ball. They consider it the most critical piece of their arsenal and the gateway to birdies, and thus victories.

Let's talk about your budget:

Like everything in life, the more you pay for something, the better quality you'll receive - golf balls are no different. At the very top of the market (The Titleist Pro V1s of the world), you can be paying close to £4.50 a ball, which is a lot for what could be less than 10 seconds of use as it flies into the nearest pond!

At the other end of the market, you can get your hands on golf balls, from the same manufacturer, for close to (if not less than) £1.00 a ball.

So be aware of how many golf balls you're going to be using or losing in any give rounds.

How is one golf ball different from the next?

We now know that golf balls can differ massively in price, but what makes one different fro the next you find, buy, or pull out your bag?

The first thing to look at (or rather touch and feel) is the cover of your golf ball. It is here where you'll find the tangible difference between all golf balls.

Premium golf balls will have super thin covers, made from superior materials that have gone through 100s of tests and check to make sure its the best recipe available. Others will have a more superficial rubber compound cover that's cheap and readily available.

Balls with a premium cover will tend to be softer, and you'll be able to feel this with your fingernail. You'll also be able to hear the difference if you drop the ball on a hard surface.

There must be more to it?

And there is. In its simplest form, a golf ball is two parts - a core and a cover. In their most complex, they can be up to five - core, outer core, inner mantle, outer mantle, and cover - with each component playing a finely tuned part in the performance.

The core of a golf ball is where you get the speed and distance from, and the outermost layers deliver the feel and spin characteristics. As the ball drop onto the hard surface in our experiment - the cover and core in the two-piece ball do not compress, whereas the 4-piece construction the multiple layers allow more compression - delivering a different sound.

In the video below, Donal cuts open a couple of examples to should you the different layers of a golf ball. If you want to read more on the difference between premium and budget golf balls, you can do that here.

Why are some so expensive?

Now we know the difference between premium and budget golf balls, we probably can understand why cheap ones are just that - they're simple and easy to build from readily available materials. However, is there that much more going into a premium ball to validate the huge price increase?

The simple answer is yes, more than enough!!

Some of the leading scientists and engineers in the world will be working in the golf ball department of Titleist, Callaway, and the likes - trying to work out how to find another one per cent improvement for their next release.

All of this takes time and money. Millions and millions of dollars are pumped into these teams to make sure their ball is the very best, which leads on to our next point - tour validation.

Yes, most golfers are paid to play a golf ball, so they're going to say its the best, but as we mentioned above the ball is the last thing on the long list of golfers excuses - so for Titleist to have been the number one ball in golf for over a decade, they must be doing something right, rather than writing the biggest cheques!

We have a whole page dedicated to answering the question 'why are some golf balls so expensive?' so more information about the 100+ quality check each Titleist Pro V1X goes though can be found here.

How to choose the right golf ball for you?

Below is a series of quick-fire questions you can ask yourself to find the right ball for your game.

Which ball will give me backspin?

The first thing to ask is why you want the ball to backspin in the first place? If what you want is a ball which stops quicker on the greens, then the softer premium balls are the ones for you. Their covers are made out of a compound called urethane which is super soft to generate a lot of revs to counteract forward momentum when pitching on the green.

What are lake balls?

Lake balls are just that - balls found in the lakes of golf courses. On Golfbidder we have a great selection of lake balls which can save you tremendous amounts against the price of brand new ones - and could get you into a better golf ball for the same price. You can view our range here.

Which balls go the furthest?

The Holy Grail of driver design is high launch, and low spin and the same applies to the golf balls. The only problem we face is that spin is one of the key components for high launch. If you have a high swing speed, you can opt for a lower spinning golf ball as you'll generate enough launch though your high swing speed. However, if you are a slower swinger, it's best to opt for a higher spinning ball which will stay in the air longer, if you're looking to gain distance.

Need help with your alignment?

A four-foot putt for par still counts as one for your total score, so making sure you're appropriately aligned is crucial. There are some balls which come with alignment aids already stamped on them - Callaway Triple Track and TaylorMade PIX, for example. If you struggle with lining up over your putts correctly, why not give them a go?

Do you thin or blade a lot of your shots?

Amazingly there is a minimum size and weight but no upper limits on golf ball dimensions Callaway has developed a ball which is marginally bigger than standard, which means it sits higher off the ground and gives the club more room to get under the ball for proper contact and improved launch.

But I'm not good enough to notice the difference?

Yes, you are! If money was no object and you used a brand new top of the line ball every time, your golf would improve, period. Bear this in mind when you're just pulling old rubbish out the bottom of your bag in a competition.

Should I use the same ball all the time?

Yes. Regardless of which ball it is you should try and use the same ball for all your golf. This way, you'll know what to expect in terms of flight, spin, etc.

How does the #1 ball in golf differs between it versions?

You're probably well aware of the Titleist Pro V1 golf balls - it's been the #1 ball in golf for years - but do you know which Pro V1 one is best for you? You might not even have known there are more than one!

There are three different models at retail (plus more for Tour only), and the graphic below shows how each one differs and what characteristics it'll bring to your game.

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Further reading

If you are spending your hard-earned cash on a dozen premium golf balls, you want some assurances that you are getting your monies worth - as you'd get a lot more balls if you went down the budget option.

The idea of a golf ball is to get you from the tee peg to the bottom of the cup. But like cars, which all get you from A to B, some are more expensive than others.