Select Your Preferences
Using the proper equipment for your game is an important part of living up to your potential on the golf course. While it is certainly true that no amount of great equipment will ever hit the shots for you, it is possible to make the game just a bit easier by using the right gear. Having quality equipment isn’t just about buying the most expensive products on the market, either – it is about finding pieces that fit your game in order to get the best possible performance from your swings. When you use the right equipment, you will be able to let your true talent shine through without being limited by having the wrong clubs in your hands.
Of course, there is much more to golf equipment than just clubs. In addition to the 14 clubs that you are allowed to carry, other items that can affect your performance include golf shoes, gloves, balls, and even the clothing you wear on the course. In this article, we are going to focus on the golf ball as one possible area of improvement. Using the right ball for your game can have a surprising impact on your scores at the end of the day. You don’t want to be fighting against your ball in addition to the golf course, so make sure the ball you are using is a perfect fit for how you swing the club.
Playing golf in the 21st century means you have countless golf ball options available to you on the market today. There are a few leading brand names which dominate most of the sales, but there are many different models within those brands for you to consider. At first, it can be a little overwhelming when trying to pick out a golf ball simply because there are so many choices. However, once you learn the basics of what is important in a golf ball, and how to match golf ball characteristics to your swing, the process becomes rather easy. With just a little bit of homework and investigation, you should be able to find a ball that meets your needs perfectly.
Cost is a large determining factor for many players when picking out a golf ball, but you shouldn’t buy your next dozen based only on cost. Obviously you will be limited by the budget that you have in mind for this purchase, but there are usually a number of different ball styles to pick from even among models with the same price point. Buying the cheapest ball on the shelf is usually a bad idea, but buying the most expensive ball isn’t necessarily a great idea either. Take your time to study up and only make your purchase when you are sure you have settled on a ball that will maximize your performance on the course.
Any golf instruction that is contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
It’s (Almost) All About Spin
To chart spin rate is going to be the main point of discussion when you are working on picking out your next golf ball. Spin rates vary wildly from ball to ball, depending on their design, the materials used in the construction of the ball, and the intended market for that model. Some balls are meant to spin as much as possible, while others are designed to limit spin as the ball moves through the air. While it might seem at first blush like you would want the highest-spinning ball on the market, that is not necessarily the case. Depending on your skill level and the style of your game, a lower-spin option may be able to lead you to lower scores.
It is important to remember that spin rate not only refers to backspin, but to sidespin as well. When you strike the golf ball with any of your clubs (other than your putter), there is guaranteed to be some degree of backspin put on the ball when it takes off into the air. However, along with that backspin is going to come some degree of sidespin. It is that sidespin that is largely going to determine the quality of your shot. If you strike the ball squarely in the center of the club face while swinging right down the target line, you may be able to impart almost all backspin with very little sidespin to speak of. This type of shot will fly straight and it will stop pretty quickly when it lands (depending on course conditions). Golfers who can regularly repeat this kind of quality strike will benefit from all of the backspin that a high-spin ball has to offer.
On the other side of the chart coin, however, are the shots that aren’t hit perfectly. If you are using a high-spinning ball and you make a poor swing, the sidespin that is passed to the ball at impact could send it curving dramatically off-target. For example, players who fight a slice consistently put left-to-right spin on the golf ball by swiping across the ball from outside-in at impact. Making this mistake with a low-spin ball could result in a slight fade to the right, while making the same swing with a high-spin ball could generate a huge slice that sails into the trees. In this case, you could make the same exact swing and wind up with two very different results based solely on the ball that you have decided to play.
It should be clear by now where this discussion is going. If you are a good enough golfer to control the spin on your shots most of the time, you can use a higher-spin rate ball in order to stop the ball quicker once it lands. However, if you are a less-experienced or less-talented player and you struggle with hooks or slices, a high-spin ball is a bad idea. The high spin rate encouraged by the golf ball will only serve to send your shots farther off line. Essentially, simply by picking the wrong ball, you will be making the game significantly harder than it already is. Be honest with yourself regarding the quality of your swing at this point, and then pick a golf ball to match. As your game improves and you become more adept at controlling your swing, you can always move up into a ball that offers you more spin.
The most-common mistake that is made by golfers when purchasing golf balls from a chart is reaching for the top-of-the-line brands automatically because they are the ‘best’. Usually these are the balls that you see the professionals using when you watch a tournament on TV, and they generally come with a price tag in the $40 - $50 range. Of course, most golfers have almost nothing in common with professionals, and therefore they are not able to take advantage of the spin and other characteristics that these golf balls present. Buying these premium golf balls actually makes the average player worse, since their poor swings are punished harshly by spinning well off-line.
Thanks to the wide-variety of options on the market today, there is certainly a golf ball on the shelves of your local golf shop that will work perfectly for your swing. That ball might be the most-expensive one they carry, or it might be one of the discount models. Your job is to look past the marketing and the price tags so you can find the right ball to lower your scores.
Where do you play golf? This question is extremely important when it comes to picking out a golf ball from a chart that will serve your game well day after day. Golf can be a completely different game from one climate to the next, so it is crucial that you tailor your ball selection to the weather and course conditions that are prevalent in your area. In fact, if you live in a region with dramatic seasonal weather changes, you may want to have one golf ball model that you use in the summer and another that you use during the winter months. The best golfers are those who can react to the course conditions and adjust their games to match – and part of that adjustment is making sure you are using the right equipment for the job at hand.
Generally speaking, you want to use a ball that will maximize carry when you are playing on soft turf conditions. So, for example, if you live in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. where rain is common, maximizing your carry distance is vital. By contrast, if you live in the Southwest where desert conditions are prevalent, you can use a ball that stays lower to the ground in order to allow for plenty of bounce and roll on your drives.
This same concept also applies to wind. Playing golf on courses that are frequently wind-swept will dictate that you keep the ball low to the ground as often as possible. A high-spin ball in windy conditions is going to be a bad combination, as you will have trouble keeping your shots down out of the wind. For instance, the links courses that are found throughout England and Scotland often are guarded by windy conditions, meaning you would want to play a game that is lower to the ground than you might play on a calm, American-style course.
Take some time to think about the courses you play most often, and the condition of those courses throughout various times of the year. Would your game benefit from being able to hit the ball high in the air, or would you be better off playing the ball lower to the ground? There is no right or wrong answer to this question, as playing styles vary from golfer to golfer. However, if you don’t take course conditions into consideration when picking out your golf ball, you are missing a chance to customize your game specifically for the course in front of you.
If you aren’t sure what style of golf will best suit your game, you can always pick up a couple different models to test out on your favorite courses. Try to find a ball that offers a high spin rate along with one that will produce less spin and give them both a try. Most likely, you won’t even need to play a full round before determining which ball gives you the best chance at success. If you are a serious player, you might want to have two golf balls ready at home at all times so you can pick the model that will suit that day’s conditions perfectly. If you wake up and the wind is blowing, take the low-spin ball to the course for that round. When the weather is calm and the course is softer, use the high-spin ball and let it fly.
While the rules of golf are essentially the same no matter where in the world you play, the most-successful style of golf will vary dramatically from region to region. You shouldn’t try to force your style of play onto a course that is asking for another method – instead, you should work hard to adapt your style (with the help of the right golf ball) to that day’s challenge. Ignoring course conditions is a decision you make at your own peril. Accept the fact that golf is different from course to course and choose your equipment to match appropriately.
Going High Tech
In the past, the only way to decide on a golf ball was to take it out on the course with you and test it under ‘game’ conditions. While that is still a good idea, there is also the high tech option of going through a professional ball fitting process. The ball fitting process is similar to the club fitting process that is offered at most golf shops these days. A professional fitter will measure your swing characteristics on a computer and then use that data to recommend the right ball for your game. A golf ball fitting session shouldn’t be the only factor you take into account when picking your next ball – however, it can go a long way toward narrowing down your choices. Among the data points that will likely be collected during this process are the following –
· Spin rate chart. This is the big one, so you will want to be sure you get a clear picture of what kind of spin rates are offered by each ball that you test. Not only do you want to measure spin rate coming off of your driver, but you should also take a look at the spin generated by your iron shots. Most players would be best served to find a combination of low-spin on the driver and higher-spin on the irons, but you may have to compromise in one area or another to get a ball that performs adequately on all of your shots.
· Ball speed chart. Another important factor to consider is how fast the ball comes off the face of your clubs – especially your driver. A good ball fitter will measure several models coming off the face of your driver to determine which offers the greatest ball speed. Of course, ball speed correlates strongly with overall distance, so a faster ball speed should lead to extra yards down the fairway.
Some ball fitters will have you hit the actual golf balls that you are considering (which is ideal), while others will just have you hit range balls in order to collect data that can be used to recommend different ball options. While it would be great to be able to hit the balls that you are thinking of using (the data will be more valuable), range balls can work to at least give you some strong options.
Remember that you should never trust your entire golf game to the opinions of a computer. The information provided during a ball fitting session can be extremely helpful, but you also need to use your own feelings and instincts when picking the ball you will use. Even if a certain ball model is technically the perfect choice for your game, it just might not feel right to you when it comes off the club. You need to combine the technical with the feel element of the game in order to select a ball that you will trust when the pressure is on.
Short Game Matters
Most of the discussion when it comes to golf ball fitting revolves around the full swing. Unfortunately, that means that many golfers underestimate the importance of picking the right ball for their short game as well. If you pick a ball that works great in your long game but you can’t chip it or putt it successfully, your game will take a step backwards. You should only consider using a ball once you are sure that it will work for your short game just as well as it does for your full swing shots.
So how do you know if a ball is going to work for your short game? Since you can’t really measure stats like ball speed and spin rate for the short game (you could, but they wouldn’t mean anything), you will be left to using your own feel to decide whether or not you like a particular ball. Depending on the cover material and other design elements of the ball, you will notice that each ball has a unique feel coming off the face of your putter and wedges. Some players like a softer feel, while others prefer a harder ball. Either way, you need to make sure that the ball you are putting in play is a match for your preferences.
One of the key ingredients to using the right ball for your short game is getting the proper amount of spin on chip shots. Some players like to chip the ball aggressively toward the hole while relying on spin to stop the shot near the target. If that sounds like you, it is important that you use a golf ball which comes in on the softer side of the scale. However, if you like to play bump-and-run style shots which don’t require backspin to stop, a harder ball will work just fine. Also, putting from long range is another skill that will either be enhanced or harmed by the ball that you are using. Lag putting successfully is key to shooting good scores, so you should be looking for a golf ball that helps you roll your putts the right length, even from all the way across the green.
To test a variety of golf balls in your short game, try to buy sleeves of three balls instead of entire dozens. That way, you can try out a number of different ball models without having to spend hundreds of dollars in the process. Put each ball through a variety of short game tests with your putter and wedges before settling on one or two that you like best. With the leaders in hand, you can then move out onto the course and see which one performs best in the full swing. Hopefully, through some testing both in the short game practice area and out on the course, you will be able to settle on a ball that meets your needs perfectly from tee to green.
Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the importance of the golf ball. If you are one of those golfers who simply uses whatever ball they can pull out of the trees, you are missing a great opportunity to lower your scores. Using the right ball can have a profoundly positive effect on your game, and using the wrong ball can be just as impactful in a negative way. Take some time to research a variety of ball models and pick out the one that matches up with your game while also staying within the restrictions of your budget.