Are Premium Golf Balls Worth It? Price vs Performance? 2021 Balls Tested
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Testing Methodology: Each ball was struck 5 times with driver and PW with any particularly poor strikes re-taken. Average readings from Flightscope Mevo are shown below.
hours of testing
With a dozen golf balls costing anywhere from $20-$75 maybe you’ve asked yourself is it worth paying the extra to get a premium ball like the Titleist Pro V1.
I’m going to run you through the reasons why you might want to use tour balls and also why they may not be right for you.
Let’s take a look at the reasons why you might want to fork out $4 (or more) per ball.
Pros of Premium Golf Balls
Feel is a subjective measure. I have played golf with people who claim they can’t tell the difference between different types of balls.
Personally, I find that a little hard to believe as a cheap two-piece ball feels massively different from a premium three, four or even five-piece ball.
Hitting wedge shots, chip shots and putting is much better, I find, with a better quality golf ball.
This is a measure of how hard it is to deform the ball at impact. It will form a major part of how the ball feels. The rule of thumb is that the slower your swing speed then the lower compression ball you need to select.
Premium quality balls tend to be higher compression since they are designed for better players. They will usually have a higher swing speed.
Premium balls are not necessarily going to be the very longest however they will offer the best compromise between distance and spin.
Since good players will generally not have an issue with distance anyway they don’t need a ball that maximizes this aspect of its performance.
Better golfers will be able to impart more spin with iron shots on a premium ball than they would with a cheaper ball. Especially those with higher swing speeds.
This will help greatly with their approach play and short game. They will be able to access more difficult hole locations than they might with a lower quality ball.
Cons of Premium Golf Balls
The biggest downside, for most people, with using premium golf balls is their price.
Titleist Pro V1s will sell for around $50 per dozen. Equivalent balls from other manufacturers will be around that price point.
If you’re the sort of player that is losing three or more balls per round then you could be racking up a hefty bill just to replace balls you lost.
You don’t want to be feeling stressed about losing the ball when playing shots. If you are starting to worry about the cost of the balls you are losing then there are two solutions.
- you are going to have to improve your game significantly
- start using cheaper balls.
Conversely, even good players can run through a number of balls per round. This is more likely to be because at the first sign of damage they might replace that ball with a new one. This can also get pretty expensive if you’re placing a brand-new TP5 on the tee every few holes because you played a shot from a bunker.
The design of expensive golf balls in comparison with their cheaper cousins means they are more likely to get damaged during a round of golf.
Premium balls featuring urethane covers will damage quicker from bunkers, cart paths or trees.
I know I’ve already listed this as a benefit of using an expensive golf ball. However, high handicap golfers may find that using a ball with high-spin rates merely increases the amount of hook or slice they put on their ball. This puts them further into trouble. They may be better off balancing the advantages of stopping the ball quicker on the green against how often they find themselves in trouble.
If you are absolutely desperate for distance then a tour ball is unlikely to get you the yards you want.
For one thing, you probably don’t have the necessary swing speed to maximize your ball speed with a premium design ball.
You might be better off with a mid-priced ball that is designed primarily for distance.
It is also likely that you would need to make swing changes in order to get more ball speed rather than simply swapping the make and model of ball.
Does Color Affect Golf Ball Performance?
The simple answer is no. The color of a golf ball has no effect on its playing characteristics, only how humans see it.
For example, if you’re playing on frosty mornings you might choose to have a different colored ball such as yellow or orange. This will stand out much better against the frosty ground.
There have also been a couple of designs such as TruVis and Pix which attempt to make the ball stand out more when you are addressing it. TruVis has been around since 2009-2010 and was originally available on some Srixon balls.
If like me, your eyesight is not the best then you may find it easier to follow the flight of a colored ball. There is definitely less of a stigma attached to using colored balls these days than there was 20+ years ago.
Premium Balls on the Cheap
Is it possible to lower the cost of premium golf balls?
Yes in several ways.
When manufacturers introduce an updated version of their ball the older version still in stock at stores is often reduced by 10 to 20%.
However, golf balls probably don’t get replaced as often as clubs with some manufacturers producing new sets of irons every few months it seems.
The second option which I’ve used on more than one occasion is logo overrun balls. Most major ball manufacturers will offer some form of customization option where you could add a company logo. With larger orders, they may print some extra to allow for errors.
You may be able to pick up balls such as this for 25% to 50% off the normal price!
Refinished and lake balls. There is a huge industry involved in recycling golf balls found on the course or in water hazards. These will often retail for around half the price of the new ball. Of course, you may find the quality is not quite up to a brand new one. However, realistically, unless you are an elite golfer are you going to notice?
Are Premium Golf Balls Worth It? Price vs Performance?: Conclusion
Ultimately it is a personal decision whether to use premium golf balls.
You may feel that your game isn’t sufficiently developed to justify using premium balls or they may just be too expensive.
Whatever you decide my advice would be to find a ball that you like. Then stick to playing with that ball so you can build confidence in its playing characteristics.
Golf Ball Comparison Chart
Please note that I realize my driver spin is higher than it ought to be and I’m trying to address it!
|Brand/Model||Driver Spin||Driver Carry||PW Spin||PW Carry||Feel|
|Titleist Pro V1||5300||188||5900||84||Good|
|Titleist Pro V1x||5800||183||6250||83||Too Hard|
|Srixon Z-Star XV||5700||190||5800||80||Too Hard|
|Taylormade TP5x||4900||188||6000||75||Too Hard|
|Bridgestone Tour B RX||5900||185||5250||84||Good|
|BridgestoneTour B RXS||5060||191||6100||90||Too Hard|
|Callaway Chromesoft X||5600||180||6200||78||Too Hard|
|Srixon AD333 (for comparison)||5850||186||7800||83||Too Hard|
As you can see there isn’t a great deal of difference between the different balls with regard to my driver carry distance which I realize is fairly pathetic especially for a five handicapper! The wildly varying spin is down mainly to the inconsistencies in my swing I would suggest, rather than any design features of the ball.
For example, I got much more spin on the Pro V1x than on the Pro V1 when in reality you expect to be the other way round! Here is a comparison of the Pro V1 and the Srixon Z-Star.
Feel is more of a subjective assessment based on playing the ball for a few rounds. I am mainly referring to how it feels on short-game shots and putting since none of the balls are so hard that they felt like rocks with the driver! I have basically listed which balls I would be happier to play with as good while the ones I felt were a little too firm for my taste I have listed as too hard. This is not to say that I couldn’t play reasonable golf with them but I just prefer the other balls.
Not totally surprising as the ‘x’ versions are designed for players with much faster swing speeds than I have. As I said elsewhere in this article you really need to try and pick balls that are designed for your clubhead speed and then pick a ball that you prefer based primarily on how happy you are with it when pitching, chipping and putting.
I found the pitching wedge results interesting too. I’ve never been one to generate a lot of spin and these numbers back that up. A really good ball striker might be looking for 10,000 rpm on pitching wedge swings.
For me, the biggest takeaway from this exercise was to highlight just how bad my swing is. Am I going to be able to make the necessary changes to my swing to improve my numbers and also make them more consistent?
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
What is the best golf ball for an average player?
That really depends on how you are defining ‘average’. Are we talking average handicap or average swing speed?
Probably the simplest way to pick a golf ball to suit your game is to look at your swing speed and pick a ball that is recommended for that speed. For example, most tour performance balls such as the Titleist Pro V1 and Taylormade TP5 will be designed to work best for swings in excess of 105 mph.
An average handicapper is unlikely to have that high a swing speed. They would be better off picking a ball that is designed for their type of swing.
All the manufacturers would love it if you went out and bought their most expensive ball. The reality is for most golfers that the ball will make little to no difference to your score. With one caveat, I would always try to play with the same make and model of ball once you have decided which one you prefer.
Should I use soft or hard golf balls?
This really comes down to what feels best to you. In particular when chipping or putting. Try some different makes and models and see which you like best around the greens. The general rule of thumb to follow would be the speed of swing would determine the best compression ball for you to use.
The slower your swing the lower the compression should be. For faster swingers, a higher compression ball is usually more appropriate.