For most of us, picking the golf balls we use is about as scientific as grabbing a few from the bargain bin or playing ones we find on the course. But not all balls are created equal. It is true they are all 1.68 inches in diameter. After that, things get complicated. There are different designs, different covers, different compressions and different dimple patterns. Golf balls are made for certain swings, so if you want to shave some strokes, it is important to find the right one. It might take some trial and error, but here is some information to make your selection a little easier.
It is a simple rubber core surrounded by a plastic or urethane cover. These balls are the easiest to find. They typically have low spin and are made for distance.
Who should use them: The beginner or average hacker with a 20 or higher handicap.
Suggested two piece balls: There are many on the market. Bridgestone, Callaway, Titleist, MaxFli, Nike, Pinnacle, Srixon, Precept, Wilson, Slazenger and Top Flite are some of the main brands with good ones.
Average cost: $10-$15 per dozen
Take the two piece ball and add a cover (enhanced rubber or a liquid) between the rubber core and the outer cover. It is supposed to give more spin control for golfers who want distance and a soft touch on the greens.
Who should use them: The midrange golfer who can shoot in the 70s or 80s and can hit a target fairly consistently.
Suggested three piece balls: We found the Srixon Trispeed and Bridgestone e6 to be highly recommended by experts.
Average cost: $25-$30 per dozen
It has a two piece core, a thin mantle layer and a urethane cover. These balls are not necessarily used for distance, but they are susceptible to spin. When Tiger Woods spins a ball back 15 feet at the Masters, he's using a four piece ball.
Who should use them: Professionals or low handicap golfers.
Suggested four piece balls: Titleist is a leader in the market. The Titleist Pro V1 is one of the most played balls by low handicap players. Srixon, Nike, Callaway and Bridgestone are also used.
Average cost: $40-$45 per dozen
When a ball is struck at impact, it compresses — or squishes — before jumping off the club. Balls have compressions between 70 (hackers) and 110 (professionals). The lower the number, the less club speed it takes to compress the ball. The number is either stamped on the ball or on the package. Compression doesn't matter as much now due to technology, but it is a factor. If your club speed isn't fast enough to compress the ball, it can feel like a rock coming off the club.
Is there really a ladies-only golf ball? Coloring a ball pink doesn't make it a ladies ball. It's all marketing. A ladies ball is simply a low compression ball designed for slower swings. These balls are sold to male golfers as well, but they are called "Laddies'' by some companies. And FYI, not all ladies have to use ladies balls. Michelle Wie hits a Nike 20XI, which is a four piece high compression ball.
Target golfer: The slicer
Advantages: The ball has a dimple pattern that creates a horizontal spin when struck by a golfer who tends to slice. There are shallow dimples around the center of the ball and deeper dimples on each end. The shallow dimples create less lift while the deeper dimples work with the shallow ones to create less drag, so the outcome is a lower, straighter trajectory. The Polara also has a line on the ball that faces the target when teed up.
Disadvantages: The ball won't carry as far as a normal ball. And when the ball is in the fairway, it is not likely to be lined up properly toward the target. The ball is not approved by the USGA.
Cost: About $30 per dozen
Target golfer: Legally blind
Advantage: The balls are brightly colored and easy to see off the tee and in the fairway. Some are multi-colored. They come in all types of styles, but most are two piece balls geared toward average golfers. There are also low compression balls for slower swings.
Disadvantage: It looks like a ball from a putt-putt course. But if it helps a sight-impaired golfer play the game, it doesn't really matter.
Cost: $14.99 per dozen
Target golfer: Those who tend to find the water hazards no matter what or those who own driving ranges with lakes or ponds.
Advantage: You don't ever have to worry about losing a ball in the lake again. It is a two piece ball with a low-density solid center that allows it to float.
Disadvantages: You have to take the heat from fellow players when you tee up a ball that says "Floater'' on it. It doesn't travel as far as a regular ball. And boy would it be embarrassing to lose your floater ball in the woods.
Cost: About $3 apiece
Types of balls