Choosing the right ball is critical to cutting your golf handicap. A ball impacts your game almost as much as your clubs, so it’s important to choose a ball that’s right for you. Below is a six-step process for selecting the right golf ball, a process I often review in my golf lessons and golf tips. It’s a relatively new selection approach. But first, let’s review the standard historical approach to choosing a golf ball.
Standard Selection Approach
With this approach you chose a golf ball going from the tee forward. In other words, you hit balls from the tee and observed their performance characteristics. You based your decisions primarily on control and distance, depending on their preference.
This approach was appropriate when ball-manufacturing technology was simpler. Here were your options.
1. If you wanted the ultimate in control, you chose a three-piece with a balata cover. It offered high-spin rates, soft feel, and good maneuverability, but it lacked durability. I used to recommend this ball in my golf lessons and golf tips for players with low golf handicaps adept at shot making.
2. If you wanted the ultimate in distance, you chose a two-piece ball with a Surlyn cover. This ball would travel far and last a long time. Unfortunately, its lack of spin greatly reduced control, especially around the greens. I used to recommend this ball for players with high golf handicaps who needed distance more than control.
3. If you wanted something in between, you choose a three-piece ball with a Surlyn cover. With this ball, you sacrificed a little control for more distance and durability. This ball worked relatively well.
This process worked well for a long time. But it’s less appropriate for evaluating today’s golf balls, which incorporate the latest advancements in technology.
Breakthroughs in Technology
Ball manufacturing technology saw several breakthroughs in the 1990s and beyond, complicating selection. Multilayer balls, like the Top-Flite Strata, which provide less spin for more distance and a softer cover for better control around the greens, hit the market in 1996, followed by Titleist’s Pro V1–a solid-core, distance ball–in 2000. Nike’s One and Titleist’s Next also debuted in the last 10 years.
While these balls all represented technological breakthroughs, they challenged the standard approach ball selection. Basically, you still chose a ball from the tee going forward based on distance and control.
A New Selection Approach
Today, there’s another approach to choosing a ball. This approach is based on going from the green backwards. It’s proving more appropriate for today’s game. Below is a six-step methodology for choosing a ball based on this new approach.
Step 1: Define Your Needs.
First, you need to (1) assess your game, (2) define your needs, and (3) decide what you want and don’t want from a ball. Defining your needs is crucial to choosing the right ball. Remember not everyone with the same ball-striking ability, golf handicap, and/or swing speed will play the same ball. Ask yourself such questions as “Do I need more distance?”, “Do I need more control with my irons?”
Step 2: Chose Test Balls
Select several balls you want to test. Base your decision on your defined needs. Try selecting balls from each category–multilayered, two-piece, and super soft, low compression–to see how they test. Remember not every manufacturer’s models of the same type ball will react exactly alike.
Step 3: Test from the Fringe
Take the test balls to the fringe of the green. Hit some chip shots and pitch shots, and observe the results. See which balls hit the green and “check” and which hit the green and release. Then, hit some putts and sand-shots. Observe performances. In general, the multilayer balls will feel softer, fly a bit low, and stop or check more on the green than their two-piece counterparts. Super-soft balls will roll the farthest with the least amount of spin after hitting the ground.
Step 4: Test from 100 Yards
Take the balls and move out into the fairway to the 100-yard marker. Test each ball from that point and observe each ball’s checking and releasing characteristics after it hits the green.
Step 5: Test Balls from 150 yards
Now, take your balls out to the 150-yard marker and hit from there. Observe the results. Use the same criteria to evaluate each ball.
Step 6: Test Balls from the Tee
Go to the tee box and hit the balls with your driver. Look for drives that reach their apex or highest point quickly and then level out and carry far down range. What you don’t want to see are drives that start low and then shoot up like a jet plane taking off. Such shots indicate that the driver has added too much spin to the ball, resulting in shorter drives that hook or slice more.
Now, obviously you can’t necessarily go out onto the course to do all this testing. Your local range or practice area will work just fine. Once you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to choose. Base your decision on the most meaningful combination of performance qualities–meaningful to you, that is. For example, golfers who base their iron play on shots that hit and bite close to where they land will probably prefer a multilayer ball, even if it means sacrificing a little trajectory and distance.
Remember a golf ball impacts your game almost as much as your clubs. If the ball you choose doesn’t feel right after selecting it, try another. Give each ball a fair trail.
Choosing a ball that’s right for you, as I say in my golf lessons and golf tips, takes some work, but it’s well worth the effort. Having the right ball is crucial to improving your game and lowering your golf handicap. It also helps build self-confidence. Choose wisely.