Choosing a golf ball can be a challenge because many of the golf ball manufacturers tout the same claims. They are all the longest and softest on the market. Buying the most expensive or most popular golf ball doesn't mean that it's a good ball for you. Golfers need to consider their skill levels, swing speeds and ball flights before choosing. Understand golf ball design to make an educated choice.
Golf ball makers use different levels of firmness and different materials in both the core and cover of the ball to appeal to a wide audience. Modern golf ball covers are typically made of surlyn, urethane or elastomer. Surlyn is a hard, synthetic material that is the cheapest and most durable of the three, and it is usually found in the covers of two-piece golf balls. Urethane is a soft, synethetic material with higher-spin characteristics because the club face can "grab" the ball for slightly longer. Urethane covers are used mostly on multi-layered balls. Elastomer is the softest and most expensive choice of cover. This less-durable material covers many of the premium high-performance balls.
Two-Piece Golf Ball
The two-piece golf ball is generally considered to be a game-improvement ball. The ball has a solid rubber core and features a surlyn or urethane cover. Two-piece balls are designed for distance, lower spin and durability. The low-spin characteristics mean less side-spin as well, which leads to straighter shots. The harder cover prevents the ball from being cut or scuffed as easily when mishit or when it collides with a tree, cart path, etc. Two-piece balls are the most affordable type on the market because of their low construction cost. All of these traits make the two-piece ball a favorite among beginners and high-handicappers.
Multi-Layered Golf Ball
A multi-layered golf ball has a small solid or liquid-injected core surrounded by a rubber outer core and a softer urethane cover. Multi-layered balls have a softer feel and a higher potential spin rate. The softer core allows the ball to compress more upon impact, which means the golfer will not lose significant distance when compared to a two-piece ball. These golf balls are more expensive and are less durable because of the softer cover. Multi-layered golf balls are good for golfers who want a softer feel and more control around the greens.
High-Performance Golf Ball
Most high-performance or hybrid balls have a four-piece construction. A four-piece ball starts with a solid or liquid-injected core. The core is surrounded by a layer of rubber then a thin mantle of ionomer. The cover is made of elastomer and often has a dimple pattern of varying size dimples. Manufacturers strategically varied the size, shape and placement of the dimples. This dimple design encourages low initial spin, which is good for driving distance, and higher spin with the irons, good for workability. These balls combine distance, spin-control and feel. High-performance balls are the most expensive on the market and the least durable. This is the ball of choice for professional and low-handicap golfers.
Golf Ball Guide
Two-Piece: beginners and high-handicappers. Retail price: $25/dozen or less as of July 2010. Titleist DT So/Lo, Srixon AD333, TaylorMade Burner, Bridgestone e5.
Multi-Layer: mid-handicappers. Retail price: $26 to 35/dozen. Titleist NXT, Nike One Vapor, Bridgestone B330-RXS, Srixon Tri-Speed.
High Performance: professionals and low-handicappers. Retail price: $36/dozen and up. Callaway Tour-I, Nike One Tour, Bridgestone Tour B330, TaylorMade Penta TP