This is where we discuss in great detail, the design and manufacture of the various balls available on the market today. Through dedicated research and development and the advancement of both materials and technology, manufactures have learned that they can control the performance of a golf ball by constructing multiple layers or “pieces” designed specifically to perform at the expected impact velocity of various swing speeds.
So, what does that means when you’re standing in the golf shop trying to decide which ball will most help your game?
Understanding how each ball is designed to perform will help you to make a more educated decision on which ball is best suited for your game based on your unique swing characteristics.
This page is pretty long so make good use of the Table of Contents and the built in navigation links to find your way around the page. The TOC will link you to each section and we provide you also with links to get back to the TOC as well.
~ Non-Standard & Novelty Balls
~ 2-Piece Low Compression Balls
Now let’s learn more about Today’s Balls
~ USGA and R & A Regulations
Following the original standards set by the R&A (Royal & Ancient of St. Andrews), on January 1, 1932 the USGA (United States Golf Association) set the current standard for today’s ball. It can weigh no more than 1.620oz. (or 45.93 grams), and have a diameter of at least 1.680 inches (42.67mm), and it must perform within specified limits for velocity (250 feet per second), distance, and symmetry. Any ball that does not conform under rigorous testing by both the R&A and the USGA may not be used in competition.
The exception to the USGA standards set in 1932 was the acceptance of the use of the smaller ball (often called the “British” Ball) until 1990 in tournaments under the jurisdiction of the R&A.
~ Non Standard and Novelty Balls
Although there are some non-conforming balls designed specifically to give golfers an “edge”, for the most part Non-Standard & Novelty Balls” are used primarily for practical jokes to play on your fellow golfers or amuse anyone who may happen to be watching.
You cannot use of any these balls in formal competitions, but they can be fun when used at the right time during informal play. Now let’s take a look at these Non-Conforming & Novelty Balls and see what they do.
~ Air Flow Aerodynamics
So what purpose do the dimples serve on the surface of a golf ball? It turns out that the “turbulence” they cause in the air flow over the ball’s surface help it to travel straighter and farther than if the surface was smooth like a ping pong or pool ball.
The ball’s velocity, launch angle, and spin rate are all determined in that millisencond of impact when the ball is struck by a club, and they all influence its trajectory and how it behaves both in the air and when it hits the ground.
As the ball travels through the air it is affected by the two major forces of lift and drag and it turns out that dimpled balls travel farther and straighter than non-dimpled balls due to the combination of two effects:
Now stay with us on this part ‘cuz it gets pretty technical
This video visually illustrates the impact
dimples have on the flight of a golf ball.
It’s critical to use a ball in good condition because these forces and their affects on the ball’s flight occur at such a small level that any defects to the ball’s surface from scratches or dirt can negatively impact the ball’s performance.
~ Golf Ball Terms
~ Golf Ball Types
~ Golf Ball Compression
You may notice some golf balls show their compression ratings of 80, 90 or 100 etc. Originally, manufacturers used this as a measurement of the quality of 3-piece balls, back when a long piece of rubber was stretched around the core. Usually about a 20 meter piece of rubber was stretched to approx. 20 times of its original length and was then wound around the core to give the ball its desired compression. People thought that the tighter the rubber was wound, the better the ball performed. This thought gave rise to the belief that a ball’s compression had a direct affect on the ball’s distance and performance. This belief has all but been rendered obsolete though with the latest technology employed in making today’s golf balls.
~ The Golf Ball Cover
Today's golf balls have covers made from a few different materials, such as Balata, Surlyn, Zylin, or Elastomer. Manufacturers keep searching for that perfect combination that will create the ultimate ball that serves the needs of every golfer out there. Since that challenge is logistically impossible to achieve, ball makers have given us the staggering variety of balls available today. <p>When it comes to the cover, however, the choice is some form of rubber-like material that behaves in a manner consistent with how the manufacturer wants that ball to perform, whether a distance, control or spin ball.
These are the four cover materials used most often in today’s balls.
This durable cover offers better cut and abrasion resistance than the Balata cover. A Surlyn covered ball generally feels harder than Balata covered balls and that “hardness” of this cover material accounts for a lower spin rate.
~ Golf Ball Construction - Peeling Back The Layers
2 Piece Golf Ball
3 Piece Golf Ball
4 Piece Golf Ball
Golf ball manufacturers spend countless millions on research and development and the construction of golf balls in an attempt to meet the needs of every golfer and every swing type out there. The result is the sometimes overwhelming variety of golf balls available on the market today.
We have already discussed the basic design and the purpose behind their construction, but now lets peel back the “layers” and see what they actually put inside these various balls.
Golf balls today have anywhere from one to five layers or pieces in their construction, depending on the desired performance the manufacturer is attempting to achieve and what level of golfer they are trying to target. Now let’s take a look at what comprises each of these balls in their basic design.
~ One Piece Golf Balls
Are made with only one material from the cover right through to the core. Golf balls which are referred to as “one-piece” are simply constructed with the same type of material, from the external layer right through to the core. These balls are typically made from a solid piece of Surlyn with dimples molded into the outer surface. They are inexpensive, very durable, and the lowest quality balls available. On impact with the club face, the one-piece ball has a softer feel, making them the perfect choice for driving ranges and for absolute beginners just taking up the game of golf who are not yet ready to invest any “real” money in the balls they use.
~ Two Piece Golf Balls
This is the type of ball preferred and used by most golfers out there because most of the people who play this game do not swing their drivers in excess of 90mph, or shape their shots, or need “checking” action and backspin on the greens. The two piece ball provides extra distance and usually less spin to minimize errant shots due to the dreaded side-spin amateur golfers often put on their ball from off-plane swings.
Two-Piece balls consist of a single solid core of some type of hard plastic, resin, or high-energy acrylate and are then typically covered in tough, cut resistant Surlyn (a specialty plastic proprietary to the Du Pont Company). This ball is preferred by the “everyday” golfer because it combines great durability with a straighter shot and the maximum distance their slower swing speeds can achieve. The trade off is that, due to their lower spin rate, these balls are more difficult to control on shots into and around the green.
This is the ball of choice for those looking to add both accuracy and greater distance with the driver and long irons. These balls also tend to be tougher and more durable so short of losing them in a water hazard, long grass, the woods, or someone’s backyard, patio, or swimming pool, they can be played longer before needing to be replaced.
The 2-Piece ball category can be broken down into the three subcategories of Distance, Low Compression, and Performance:
~ Two Piece Distance Balls
Examples: The Callaway Warbird, Pinnacle Gold, Slazenger Raw Distance Fusion, Top-Flite XL Pure Distance, and the Wilson Jack.
~ Two Piece Low Compression Balls
Examples: The Dunlop LoCo; Maxfli Noodle; Nike Power Distance Super Soft; Precept Lady and Laddie; and the Titleist DT SoLo.
~ Two Piece Performance Balls
Examples: The Callaway CB1 and HX 2-Piece; Maxfli A3; Slazenger Tour Platinum; Srixon Hi-Spin and Soft Feel; Titleist NXT and NXT Tour; Top-Flite Infinity; and the Wilson True Velocity. Price range.
~ Three Piece Golf Balls
Three-piece balls usually have a softer outer cover, one or two inner layers, and a solid or liquid core. These “extra” layers give these balls a higher spin rate which helps to provide more control and the ability to “shape” shots into and around the greens. The sacrifice for that control is a softer ball that will cut more easily and will not last as long in play. Tour Professionals, Scratch Golfers and Lower Handicap Players who can shape and control their shots prefer this type of ball.
This ball gives the better players more control over their short game, yet still provides enough distance for players with the higher swing speeds. The prices are starting to climb though as you enter this category, and the softer covers will not last as long in play, but generally speaking the skill level of the players this ball targets will lose less balls in play.
Example: The Titeist Pro V1 is a good example of a preferred Three-Piece Ball.
~ Four Piece Golf Balls
This ball takes all the benefits and performance of the Three-Piece Ball just one step further. To that basic design of the Three-Piece Ball manufacturers have added a second firm mantle layer. This additional layer transfers more energy at the moment of impact into the core for more low spin distance, but retains the high spin rate on less impactful shots for better control around the greens. <p>Only players with exceptionally high swing speeds (in excess of at least 105mph) will benefit from the “extra” layer of these balls as it takes a powerful impact to compress the ball enough to reach the benefits that deep core can provide.
Examples: Ben Hogan Apex Tour; Callaway HX and CTU 30; Maxfli M3; Nike TA2, Double C and One; Precept U-Tri and Tour Premium; Srixon Pro UR and UR-X; Strata series; Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x; Top-Flite Tour; Wilson True Tour V and Elite.
~ Five Piece Golf Balls
Just like the Four-Piece Ball improved on the benefits provided by the Three-Piece Ball, Taylor Made has now pushed the envelope just a little further by adding another layer and introducing the Taylor Made Penta - 5-Piece Golf Ball. That “extra” layer improves on the “additional” layer in the Four-Piece Ball by adding more distance for the higher swing speeds that can “reach” the inner core at impact, while still providing the soft feel and spin required to shape and control shots into and around the greens.
~ Wrapping It Up
Golf Ball Manufacturers learned that by taking into account which layer of the ball will be affected by compression at various impact velocities, they could optimize each layer to perform at the expected level of compression.
That means that by adding layers designed to target various swing speeds, they can manufacture balls that can provide a low compression inner core for greater distance at those higher swing speeds, a soft cover and first inner layer for the short shots, all while the second and third layers are optimized for play with the mid irons.
In short – the more layers a ball has the more “The Better” players will benefit from its use. But if you don’t swing the club at least in excess of 100mph and/or you can’t “shape your shots” by controlling trajectory and side spin, then don’t (yet) waste your money on the cost of these balls. Stick to the less expensive balls and give yourself time to learn better technique while you enjoy the game at your current level.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It's pretty certain that Golf Ball Technology will continue to push the envelope as new materials and technologies are discovered, so we’ll see what the future holds, but for now this is a pretty complete education on the Golf Ball as we know it today.
~ Choosing The Right Ball
If you’ve taken the time to read through all of the material above, then it’s pretty clear you take your golf seriously and spend some time refining the game qualities that will improve your play and enhance your enjoyment of the game.
With that said, the basic questions asked at the bottom of the Golf Balls Page will still be your guide to finding the right ball – but now with the added benefit of knowing a little more specifically which balls in each category will appeal to you the most.
Get as technical as you desire, but always remember the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep It Simple Stupid), because too much analysis in choosing your golf ball, just like in over-thinking your swing, will only bring confusion, frustration, and heartache.
Now take your new knowledge and understanding of the golf ball to an educated purchase of your next dozen balls.
Use the Amazon link below to find your favorite ball or one you think you'd now like to try based on what you just learned here on our Golf Balls Details page.
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