Technical Tips

Dec 2017

2017 Golf Ball Reviews and Ratings

Robert Cotter of Instant Golf
by Robert Cotter
Professional Golf Ball Engineer
Director of Swing Instruction, Instant Golf®

... let's look at some of the keys to maximizing distance and unintended side spin control.

Optimal Performance from a golf ball relies on several factors. Here are the most important:

Maximum Compression of the Golf Ball (for your SS) to take advantage of all the incredible spring effect of today's trampoline driver faces.

The golf ball must be launched at the optimal launch angle and initial spin rate.

Most importantly, you must be using a golf ball designed for your swing speed, side spin issues, equipment, goals, etc...

Of these 3 factors, by far the most important for golfers is to Maximize the Compression of the core of the golf ball in order to take advantage of the maximum spring effect of today's incredible drivers.

Think of the core as The Engine of a golf ball.

A car doesn't move until the engine is engaged. In a similar fashion, a golf ball doesn't fly until the core of the ball is engaged. The core gives life to the total ball construction.

The ability to which you can engage the core with the club face determines how fast the ball leaves the club face, ultimately resulting in either optimal distance or poor distance for your swing speed (SS).

In fact, if you are not maximizing the compression of the golf ball given your specific swing speed, then you will not come close to benefitting from the fantastic engineering and performance built into today's golf balls.

Look at the golf ball and its blue inner core in the picture below. It is hardly being deformed and retains most of its circular shape. Maximum energy is not being transferred to the core. The result is a loss of distance and poor spin control:

The ball in the picture below is being compressed much more efficiently! Look at the deformation in that core. This golf ball is ready to explode off the face of that club powered by the core (the engine).

You can be sure the difference in distance will be dramatic compared to the first inefficient hit (even if both swing speeds are identical).

So It is critical that every golfer compresses the golf ball to the full extent of their swing speed.

Compress the core, maximize your momentum transfer
through that core, watch your distance jump dramatically.

ower leaks in the downswing and through impact are the biggest reasons for loss of distance potential. It can't be overstated (more on this later).

ow let's look at the types of Golf Balls on the market today and their constructions:
Golf Ball Constructions

2 Piece Balls

3-5 Piece Balls

  1. Large Rubber Core
  2. Cover (ionomer or urethane)
  1. Core (single or dual rubber core)
  2. Mantle or boundary layer (in green)
  3. Cover (ionomer or urethane)

A few quick definitions:

  1. Ionomer is a thermoplastic (plastic) material that is durable, resistant to cutting, and versatile.
  2. Urethane is a rubber material used for covers. It is very soft, but typically not as durable as ionomer.
  3. Mantle or inner layers lie between the core and the cover. They give ball engineers another variable that can be used to optimize the performance of the golf ball.

2 Piece Golf Balls:

In general terms, 2 piece balls are your distance balls. They come in different compressions from very soft to higher compressions (typically used in long drive competitions).

Because they are made from 2 components, a core (engine) and a cover, they are less costly than the other, more elaborate constructions.

2-Piece golf balls are also lower spinning, which is a blessing and a curse!

Off the tee, the low initial spin reduces hook and slice spin, a great benefit.

However, on approach shots and green side, the firmer covers and lower spin can be challenging.

This is one of the reasons you don't see the pros using 2-P balls, even though under some circumstances, they may be longer off the tee.

3-5 Piece Golf Balls:

There are almost limitless possibilities when a construction has this many components.

These multi component constructions vary from 3-Piece hybrid balls (plastic covered) to premium, "Tour Balls".

The latter have very soft urethane covers for enhanced greenside feel, responsive mantle layers, and variable compression (soft or firm) cores.

4-5 piece balls are typically for players with higher swing speeds that generate higher spin. The additional layers allow for a more optimal ball flight to counteract the traditional effects of excessive spin. They also reduce the spin off the driver for maximum distance.

Additional mantle or casing layers (compared to 2-3 balls) also enable engineers to maximize performance across a wider range of clubs in the bag. Hence, each ball component may affect individual club performance optimally (an added luxury).

The manufacturing process is more intricate and the urethane cover material is costly, hence the price jump for this category of balls.

Yet, for the players that they benefit, they are worth every penny.

So what kind of golfer are you?

Golf ball selection should begin with an honest assessment of your game and your goals.

Let's look at some categories:
Novice or Inconsistent Golfer

If you are new to the game or have been playing for some time but still have inconsistency then this is your category. Your misses may consist of frequent slices, hooks, topped shots, pushs and pulls, etc... Your score is typically 97 or greater for 18 holes and your handicap is over 20 (about 50% of recreational golfers fall in this category). To reduce some of that unintended side spin and compress the ball more efficiently, then you can benefit from a lower spinning, 2 piece golf ball.
Since your goal is to compress the ball most efficiently for your swing speed, 2 piece balls come in a variety of ball compressions.

Recommended 2 Piece Golf Balls for Moderate/Slower Swing Speeds (<=90 mph):
= Expert's Pick

TaylorMade Noodle Long and Soft
  • Soft, extremely efficient core for maximum ball speed.
  • Soft and durable Ionomer cover.
  • Advanced aerodynamics for increased carry and distance.
  • Very long in independent testing (~90 mph swing speeds).

Nike Power Distance Soft

  • Moderate/slower swing speeds (lower compression core).
  • Softened Ionomer cover for enhanced greenside feel.
  • Medium trajectory for optimal carry and roll.
  • Long in independent testing (~90 mph swing speeds).

Recommended 2 Piece Golf Balls for Moderate/Faster Swing Speeds (>90 mph):

Srixon Q Star
  • New model with more distance and accuracy off the tee.
  • Large Energetic Gradient Growth™ core for more Ball Speed.
  • Soft Pana-Tetra enhanced Ionomer cover for excellent feel.
  • Spinskin™ proprietray cover coating for greenside control.

Titleist NXT Tour S

  • New Design with high velocity, low spin core.
  • Low spin construction for straighter ball flight.
  • Soft feeling Fusablend cover with great durability.
  • Trademarked alignment aid (double arrow) side stamp.

Bridgestone e5

  • A soft 2 piece distance ball with great greenside control.
  • The only 2 piece, urethane (like a Tour ball) covered product.
  • Golf Digest "Hot List" award winner.
  • Dimple design promotes shallow ground attack angle for incseased roll.

Intermediate Golfer
You are fairly accomplished but suffer from the occasional big number (a 7 or 8). You're basically a par and bogey golfer with an occasional birdie. Your scores range from the higher 80's to the mid 90's. You have a pretty good handle on your game and are looking to become a little more consistent in order to shoot in the 80's consistently and begin to flirt with the 70's. At this level you have a decent handle on your side spin. You have a basic shot shape (straight, fade, or draw) on your base "good" shot.
This means you are beginning to control the spin of the ball. Therefore, you can benefit from a ball with higher spin, particularly on shots into the green. You would benefit from a 3 Piece Ionomer covered golf ball. This category of ball, hybrids, will afford great distance with a bit more iron and greenside spin.

Recommended 3 Piece Ionomer (soft plastic) Covered Golf Balls:

Titleist NXT Tour
  • Updated with new multi-layer (2 piece) core.
  • Longer distance with great forgiveness on mishits.
  • Shot stopping short game control like more expensive balls.
  • Trademarked alignment aid (double arrow) side stamp.

Srixon TriSpeed

  • Tour Spin Performance in a premium 3-P construction.
  • Low compression Energetic Gradient Growth™ Core.
  • Softer feeling ball construction (64 compression).
  • High launch, low spin for extreme distance.

Bridgestone e6

  • 3-Piece multilayer performance with soft surlyn cover.
  • Dual dimple design promotes more roll on ground contact
  • Inner layer reduces hook and slice spin for straighter shots.
  • Golf Digest "Hot List" award winner.

Skilled Golfer

You are a skilled golfer and have a handle on most aspects of the game.b Your handicap is <12 and you score in the 70's and low 80's. You have command of your swing, spin, and hit the ball with authority and consistency. Your touch around the greens is excellent and you have a handful of birdies per round to offset your bad hole. You need a ball that is long off the tee but provides the feel you desire for the shots around the green and putting; the scoring shots. You can benefit from a 3-5 Piece performance ball with a Urethane cover.

Recommended 3-4 Piece Urethane Covered Golf Balls:

3 Piece Balls:

Titleist Pro V1

  • #1 Ball on Worldwide Tours.
  • Soft, durable, Urethane Elastomer(TM) cover.
  • Larger, faster core with ionomer casing (mantle) layer.
  • Drop-and-Stop(TM) greenside control.

Bridgestone B330-RX

  • Optimized for swing speeds < 105 mph.
  • Soft urethane cover for Tour caliber control.
  • Large, lower compression core for straighter distance.
  • Longer and softer than the original B330-RX
  • Also available; B330-RXS with very soft, extra spin cover.

Callaway HEX Chrome

  • Excellent Value in a 3 Piece urethane covered golf ball.
  • Proprietary S-Tech low compression core for soft feel.
  • HEX dimples for max dimple coverage and flight stability.
  • Duraspin urethane cover for exceptional short game spin.

4-5 Piece Balls:

Titleist Pro V1x

  • More PGA Tour wins than any other golf ball.
  • Soft, durable, Urethane Elastomer(TM) cover.
  • Low Spin & Increased Velocity for Long, Straight Distance.
  • Drop-and-Stop(TM) greenside control.

Taylormade Lethal

  • 5 Layer design for optimum spin control off every club.
  • Engineered to deliver optimal performance in Distance, Launch, Control, Spin, and Feel.
  • High Launch/Low spin for maximum carry and distance.
  • STA-White™ urethane cover for soft feel on wedges/putter.

Bridgestone B330-S

  • Dual Mantle design for High Launch/Low Spin off driver.
  • Very Soft urethane cover for added greenside control.
  • HEX dimples for max dimple coverage and flight stability.
  • Duraspin urethane cover for exceptional short game spin.

By using the Selection Guide above, you now have a better understanding of the various approaches to maximizing the performance of golf balls for many different types of players.

The different ball components and materials can be modified into what seems like an infinite array of sizes, compositions, and compressions, all with the goal of making a golf ball that strikes the balance between driver distance, spin control, and short game/putting feel.

Now, having worked with golfers on ball fitting and flight optimization for ~20 years it is no secret that many golfers are interested in more distance off the tee.

Maximum Driver Distance is achieved through having a ball launch condition that has:

High Launch Angle with Low Spin

The diagram below shows a visual representation of what I am talking about.
Hence, where would you rather play your second shot from?? (Hint: It's in Green!):

You can also see that the Blue and Red lines in the diagram fall short of this equation.
Every PGA and LPGA Tour Pro is in the "Green Zone" above. The fact is their livelihood depends on it.

A Tour Pro's equipment is matched perfectly to their swing speeds, but they also have Repeating Golf Swings that enable them to refine and optimize their launch conditions.

Be sure they get every inch out of the golf ball product they tee up in tournaments.
Throughout this report, I have described in detail the importance of Compressing the
Golf Ball on every shot, but particularly with the driver. This assures you are activating the core of the golf ball for maximum explosion off the club face.

This allows you to maximize the Ball Speed off the brand and model of golf ball you are playing.

Because without maximum ball speed for your swing speed, you will not be able to achieve the desired High Launch/Low Spin condition needed for maximum distance (in Green above).

In fact, getting maximum distance from any of the products listed above is contingent upon compressing the core. It is critical.



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