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.
- Balata is a type of natural rubber and the softest of all other cover types, Balata is less cut resistant. However, with all other aspects of construction being equal, a Balata-covered ball will spin easier and is preferred by players who demand maximum feel and control. This means more control over shots where the action of the ball is critical.
- Surlyn was the first and most durable cover material that revolutionized the construction of the golf ball when it was introduced in the early 80's. It is a trade name for a group of thermoplastic resins developed by the Du Pont Corporation. Most manufacturers of durable covers use either Surlyn or a similar material blend. The emphasis today is to provide both durability and feel.
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.
- Zylin is Spaulding's version of Surlyn, an inexpensive, durable synthetic polymer plastic used as a cover material on certain Top Flite and Strata golf balls.
- Elastomer is a polymer which has the elastic properties of rubber and is a material used in the formation of golf balls, most notably made by Titleist™. A variety of this material is also used in the manufacture of Winn™ grips, and for inserts on the face of some putters.
|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.
2 Piece Golf Ball
~ 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
- The fact that they spin less is both the best and the worst thing about the 2-Piece Distance Balls. It’s your best advantage when teeing off and on long shots where you want more distance and a straighter ball flight, but the less spin they produce to get those results also provides less control around the greens. They may also launch higher since their firm polymer cover tends to slide up the club face just a little at impact. Another strong advantage though is that they are much less expensive, usually around a dollar a ball or less and their tough cover last longer so you spend much less on 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
- The lower compression rating of these balls can produce greater distance for golfers with moderate swings speeds (about 80 to 100mph, and the lower spin rate does provide more accuracy, but that “softer feel” does not necessarily translate into better control and more feel around the greens.
Examples: The Dunlop LoCo; Maxfli Noodle; Nike Power Distance Super Soft; Precept Lady and Laddie; and the Titleist DT SoLo.
~ Two Piece Performance Balls
- These balls make the attempt to provide the advantages of higher priced balls but at the 2-Piece ball price. Their larger cores mandate the balls have a thinner cover which can add to the ball’s compression and provide greater distance, but these balls still cannot provide the spin control of the more expensive multi-layer 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.
3 Piece Golf Ball
~ 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.
4 Piece Golf 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.
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.
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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.
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.
- If you’re a beginner or a high-handicapper, or you generally lose a lot of balls and can benefit most from more distance and straighter shots, then stick with the 2-Piece Ball Category and shop for Value Performance Balls generally costing less that $20 per dozen.
- If you’re a mid to low-handicapper who has some control over your game and is looking to take the next step in scoring better through shaped shots and control around the green – then try the 3-Piece Ball Category and shop for Premium Performance Balls for between $20 and $40 per dozen.
- If you’re a low-handicapper or scratch golfer, with a higher swing speed, and you like to shape shots and need that quality control around the greens – then the 4-Piece Ball Category or the Taylor Made Penta 5-Piece Ball should be your choice- and you’ll want to shop for the Tour Performance Balls which will run north of $40 per dozen.
- If you’re a woman or have a very slow swing speed (less than 80mph) – then the balls in the "Women's Balls" Category will benefit you the most.