10 June 2006

Adrift in a Sea of Golf Balls

I'm often asked by my students what kind of ball I prefer to play. My usual response is "lost ones"!! Seriously though, there is an absolute "tidal wave" of choices out there providing you with a full spectrum of performance characteristics to choose from. In this feature we'll try to navigate through them and help you make an informed decision.

There is a lot of buzz in the industry concerning regulating the performance of golf gear, mainly drivers, but ball technology in recent years has brought about huge improvements in performance, and is possibly as much to blame for pro venues like Augusta National having to lengthen their tracks. After all, officials are charged with keeping it challenging for the boys and scores within reason.

F irst, we need to keep this in perspective, these guys are basically straight and long all day! Let me ask you, have you ever stood paralyzed after hitting an errant tee shot, hoping it wouldn't reach that forested O.B. death zone on the right, just to see that it did?,....that technology really hasn't helped you much!

Furthermore, and you might not want to hear it, is the fact that basically every ball or club that has been made since the inception of the game hundreds of years ago in Scotland (not China) is capable of producing par play! It just depends who's on the business end of it!

Now that I've totally taken the wind out of your sails, "which ball is right for me", you ask?

The key is to find the right balance between budget and performance that suits your particular ability. Properly fit, the new technology in balls can enhance your game and provide you with more enjoyment. The following will explain the basic five ball options out there today.
  1. Distance
    Features: Hard cover, low spin rate, long distance
    Playing Characteristics: These balls are designed for maximum distance as the spin rate is low. They will feel and sound hard when you hit them, this being most noticeable when putting and chipping around the green. However, this low spin rate means they will turn less (straighter) as there is less side-spin. The down side is that they don't stop/hold on the green, which is why they are not popular among better players. They suit higher handicap players, short hitters and social players.
    Ball options: Dunlop Hi-Brid Distance, Wilson Ultra, Taylormade Red Max, Callaway Big Bertha Red, Nike Power Distance....basically most budget ball packs.
    Price range: from 150yen to no more than 500yen per ball

  2. Soft Feel
    Features: Medium cover, medium spin, distance
    Playing Characteristics: These balls are designed and marketed to the majority of players out there. Players who require better performance in a golf ball but not at the premium price. They have a higher spin rate and a softer feel than the distance balls and do still posses good distance qualities. Note: any of these balls are capable of sub-par rounds!
    Ball options: Bridgestone Super Newing, Dunlop Xxio, Wilson Staff DX 3, PRGR TR-X Soft Blue, Dunlop Hi-Brid Soft, Miracle Everio, Srixon AD33 , Titliest Gran Z, Titliest NXT, Callaway ERC Hot, Callaway HX Red/Blue, Mizuno Cross Eight C-301, Taylormade Silver Max, Nike One, Mojo.....the list goes on!
    Price range: between 500yen & 800yen per ball

  3. High Spin
    Features: Mid to soft cover, high spin, distance
    Playing Characteristics: These balls are designed for the serious player up to the professional. They have high spin rates as well as good distance qualities. They feel slightly softer than the soft feel but the quality of the cover allows them to be quite durable. The most popular on tour being the Titlest Pro V1 and V1 X. Their high spin rates help them stick to hard greens.
    Ball options: Bridgestone Tour Stage X-01, X-01s, X-01h, Titliest ProV1, Pro V1 X, Dunlop Srixon Z-UR, Nike (Tigers mysterious ball), Callaway HX Tour (56), PRGR TR
    Price range: between 600yen & 800yen + per ball

  4. Ladies
    Features: Medium to hard cover, low spin rate, long distance
    Playing Characteristics: Generally softer compression to suit slower swing speeds. Various color options often available. Seniors and anybody with slower swing speeds may also benefit from using these balls.
    Ball options: Nike Power Lady, Kasco lady, Miracle Everio soft, any ball with 80-85% compression.
    Price range: between 300yen & 800yen per ball

  5. Used "experienced balls"
    Features: Generally the same as above
    Playing Characteristics: Usually true to the data above, but be warned: balls that have spent periods of time under water may have altered performances. Stay away from off colored "yellow-ish" balls. If you make your living with the golf ball, or it is an important game, you might want to shell out and go new, if not just for peace of mind. Good practice ball option and easier on Mother Nature!
    Price range: 50yen to 300yen per ball
In closing, you should note that the ball with the highest price tag isn't necessarily the right ball for you. I also highly recommend using the same balls for putting and chipping practice sessions that you plan to use when playing on the course. Mixing balls with varying spin rates and compressions will leave you yards short or long of your target when it counts! Come see me at the club if you'd like further information, advice or lessons.

Bennett Galloway, 10 June 2006

Previous Columns
  • The Secret to Scoring Well "Shhh.....Don't Tell Anyone"!
  • Hakone, the Gem of Kanagawa and a Resort Golfers Paradise
  • Golf in Japan: A primer to golfing in Tokyo
  • Time to thaw out that golf swing
  • Golf made easy

  • About Bennett
    Bennett is a long time resident of Japan and the Director of Golf for Gotemba Golf Club and Belle View Nagao G.C., in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji. Member of the Golf Writers Association of America and a teaching professional, providing lessons for all ages and abilities, in English or Japanese. He also specializes in in-bound golf tours to Japan with Golf Shizuoka and Golf Hakone.

    Contact Bennett »