21 Oct 2004
Students frequently ask me which ball they should use. There are several factors to consider when making this choice.
One thing to consider is cost, as the price of a dozen balls can vary from around $12 to more than $45.
How the golf ball feels to you is another. Some balls are designed to have a very soft feel, which can be important for your touch around the greens. Other golf balls are designed with a harder cover and feel to maximize distance.
If you are trying to maximize control, to eliminate slices and hooks, you will want a ball designed with a low spin rate to counter the amount of spin you put on the golf ball.
One of the most important things to consider in choosing a golf ball is finding one that helps you get the optimum launch condition. Let me explain this with a personal story.
At a golf tournament a few years ago, I was struggling with my distance off the tee. I usually hit the ball straight but had lost a lot of distance with my driver.
I was puzzled, because my irons seemed to be going their normal distance.
This was in the early years of the introduction of the launch monitor. A lot of testing had been done on both the PGA and the LPGA tours, and the result was some hard data.
Three things were measured: the ball speed coming off the club-head (this is different from club-head speed), the degree of launch angle and how much backspin was created.
Titleist was at the tournament with their monitor, and I had the chance to test my launch conditions. The results revealed why I was losing distance with my driver.
Compared to the average LPGA tour player, my ball speed with the driver was the same, but my launch angle was only 9.7 degrees, compared to their average of 13 degrees. My spin ratio was also low, with a spin rate of 2900 rpm's compared with the tour average of 3000 rpm's.
The bottom line was that I was not keeping the ball in the air long enough to get the maximum distance I was capable of with my ball speed.
The advice was to use both a higher-lofted driver (to increase my launch angle to 13 degrees), and to play a ball with a high spin rate (to keep the ball in the air longer).
I immediately changed to a driver designed to launch the ball higher and switched to a balata golf ball, which at that time was the highest-spinning soft ball Titleist manufactured. The soft ball allowed me to keep my feel around the greens, which was important to me.
The results were immediate. I gained 20 yards on my tee shots without any adjustments to my golf swing.
You need to determine what is most important to your own golf game when you choose what type of ball to use. All of the manufacturers make several different types of balls. Do a little research on their Web sites to find which ball meets your requirements, then try a few different ones out to find which one you like the best.
Keep in mind that your choice may change because of the conditions when you are playing in. If you are playing under wet, slow conditions, it is important to keep the ball in the air as long as you can. If it is very windy, you might want to switch to a ball designed to lessen the spin, so that the wind does not affect the shot as much.