Your Golf Ball Questions – Size And Weight

You may not realize that all golf balls are not created equal. Although they all look pretty much the same once you take them out of the box there can be quite significant differences even between the same model of ball.

The two lawmaking bodies for golf the R&A and the USGA laid down quite specific rules for all golf equipment and that includes golf balls.

Every year manufacturers send samples of their products to be tested so that they can be added to the conforming balls list. If a ball is not submitted or fails the tests then it will not be valid for use in competition.

Golf Ball Questions

What Is The Diameter Of A Golf Ball?

The diameter of a golf ball may not be less than 1.68 inches (42.67 mm). The rules regarding the size of golf balls were only standardized in 1990. Prior to this, there had been two camps. The R&A allowed balls with a diameter as low as 1.62 inches while the USGA stipulated a minimum diameter of 1.68 inches.

Events organized under the R&A rules such as the Open Championship would allow players to use the “British” ball. In contrast, events organized under the USGA rules would only allow the “American” ball. It meant US-based players would often switch when coming over to play the Open Championship.

This was because the smaller (1.62 inches) ball tended to travel a little further than the larger (1.68 inches) ball.

While the rules weren’t finally brought into line until 1990 as early as 1974 the R&A made the 1.68-inch ball mandatory in the Open Championship. In fact, the two bodies had floated the idea of a compromise 1.66-inch ball in 1970 but that idea was withdrawn.

How Much Does A Golf Ball Weigh?

According to the Rules of Golf, a golf ball must not exceed 1.62 ounces (45.93 g). There is a tolerance however when testing the balls as there are usually some slight weight discrepancies even from balls in the same box.

Mygolfspy has regularly shown that there can be some variation between even the same golf ball model.

Is There A Maximum Number Of Dimples On A Golf Ball?

There is no limit on the number of dimples on a golf ball. Most balls tend to have between 300 and 500 dimples although there have been some balls produced with over 1000 dimples!

The governing bodies do limit the size of the dimples however in terms of radius and depth. The dimples themselves must be symmetrical and must also be arranged in a symmetrical pattern. 

This is due to a lawsuit that the USGA settled out of court some years ago with the manufacturer of Polara golf balls. This is not the same company that produces the current Polara golf ball

titleist and srixon golf balls
Titleist and Srixon golf balls

What Is The Conforming Ball List?

The conforming ball list is just a list of golf balls that have been tested by the USGA/R&A to meet the requirements laid down in the rules of golf. This means these balls are allowed for use in competitive play. Anyone found using a ball not on the conforming list will be disqualified.

In professional and elite amateur events a local rule is usually used called the one-ball rule. This means that the player must use the same make and model of golf ball throughout their round. This is to prevent someone from swapping to a particular style of ball that may be more suited to the weather or ground conditions on a particular hole.

Do Bigger Golf Balls Go Further?

No, quite the opposite at least with the driver. A recent study by Golf Monthly showed that using a larger golf ball (the Magna) resulted in less distance with the driver although irons did tend to go further mainly due to the fact that the Magna span less than a normal (1.68 inch) balls

Do Lighter Golf Balls Go Further?

It may seem somewhat counterintuitive but for fast swingers, a heavier golf ball will actually increase their distance. This is why we see an upper limit for the mass of the golf ball.

For slower swingers a lighter golf ball will actually produce more distance but as they aren’t hitting the ball that far to begin with there is probably no need to set a lower limit.

Dave Tutelman goes into quite detailed explanations of how lift, drag and weight affect the distance a golf ball will go.

Are All Golf Balls The Same Weight?

Due to the vagaries of manufacturing processes and quality control, golf balls are not all exactly the same weight. Most manufacturers do however try to get as close as possible to the limit. This is because for higher swing speeds a heavier ball will produce more distance.

Are All Golf Balls The Same Size?

Since the limiting factor on diameter is a minimum it means manufacturers are able to produce golf balls that are larger than 1.68 inches. However very few have bothered to do this. One of the few recent attempts was the Magna ball from Top-flite. This was a relatively low compression model which meant it probably would result in less distance with the driver although the reduced spin would probably lead to a little game in distance with science.

Are Golf Balls Limited In Other Ways?

Other factors are also tested such as the initial velocity of the ball and its total distance using test apparatus to ensure a standardized result.

Can You Buy Non-Conforming Golf Balls?

The Polara is probably the most famous non-conforming ball. The design of the dimples causes the ball to fly straighter than a normal conforming ball would for the same impact conditions.

Your Golf Ball Questions – Size And Weight: Conclusion

Hopefully, you are now better aware of the differences that can exist between different golf balls and that’s before we start talking about the materials they are made from, how many layers they have or whether they are high or low compression!

It’s taken many years to get to the point where the governing bodies have standardized the rules on golf balls. I hope they can reign in the big hitters slightly to stop classic courses from becoming obsolete.

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