The perfect golf ball for a top golfer may not be the best choice for a less-skilled player. Different golf balls have different characteristics, and some balls are made with the skill level of the player in mind. When you visit the pro shop, don’t buy the most expensive balls. Consider a number of features, and match those against your game to make sure you pick the best ball for you.
Golf balls have different compression ratings, which refer to the density of the ball. The lower the compression rating, the denser the ball. This makes them travel farther when you hit them. However, you lose accuracy with low-compression balls. Higher compressions balls provide more control and accuracy. In between these two are medium-compression balls. Low-compression balls are rated 80 or below; medium-compression balls have a 90 rating, and high-compression balls come with a rating of 100 or higher. These numbers appear on the ball, under the brand name.
In addition to compression, you’ll want to consider the ball’s material. Balls are made from one to four pieces of material. One-piece balls are the cheapest and are usually used for range balls. Two-piece balls are the choice of beginner and intermediate players. Three-piece balls provide more spin and are used by advanced players and some intermediate players. Manufacturers have recently introduced four-piece balls, which will benefit advanced players even more.
Ball covers also come in different materials. The harder the material, the longer the ball should last, withstanding some mis-hits that can nick or cut the ball. When a ball gets nicked or cut, it affects the ball flight path and trajectory. Balls with softer covers provide more spin, but are more easily damaged. Top players use these soft balls, which are more expensive and need to be replaced more often.
Many golf courses sell used balls retrieved from water hazards by divers who do this for a living. You can get very high-quality balls for a low price. These balls come with no guarantee, because they may have been sitting in the water for a very long time, but for the average player, “experienced” balls can be the best bargain. Your shop may sell X-out balls, so named because the manufacturer has crossed out the wording on the balls. This happens when there is a cosmetic defect on the ball, such as a misprint of the lettering or uneven coloring. These balls are otherwise perfect and are a good value.
You can buy golf balls in a variety of colors, with bright pinks, yellows, oranges, and greens available for easy spotting on the course. These colors do not affect the play of the ball, but pink balls often signify a lower-compression for ladies play.
If you are a beginner, look for a low-compression (80 rating), two-piece ball with a hard cover. This will give you the best combination of control, distance, and affordability. If you are an intermediate player and want to experiment with a new ball, buy one with a higher compression (90 rating), or one with a softer cover, or choose a three-piece ball. You might limit your use of soft-cover balls to par-three holes, where you’ll need more backspin than distance. Advanced players should look for high-compression (100 or higher), three- or four-piece balls with soft covers.