Ball tested: Top-Flite XL Distance
Tested for golfers with average driving distance of: 125 yards or less (carry + roll) / 126 to 195 yards (carry + roll) / 196 to 245 (carry + roll)
Specs: Construction – Two-piece; Cover – Ionomer; Core – Polybutadiene; Dimples / Pattern – 332 in seamless design
Some manufacturers do not reveal or emphasize the compression ratings of new golf balls. Some models are now designed and marketed to fit and appeal to a golfers preferences for price, distance, spin, feel and control.
Price as tested (new): $12.99 per package of 18
Ball notes: Before selling Top-Flite to Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2012, Callaway transformed the brand once derisively labeled “Rock-Flite” into a relevant 21st century ball maker. Top-Flite’s three-piece Gamer V2, now the Gamer and Gamer Tour models, established a newfound credibility among avid golfers seeking a little feel and spin to go with great distance.
But fret not, Rock-Flite lovers. Top-Flite’s legendary XL is alive and kicking. Specifically, it’s called the XL Distance, a traditional two-piece value offering that delivers long drives and fairway shots. Anything else (i.e., softness, greenside spin) should be considered a bonus.
It’s hard to argue with the price or durability of the Top-Flite XL Distance, which is built to take a pounding without scuffing, cutting or losing its shape. The brand may have progressed since the 1980s, but Top-Flite hasn’t completely forsaken its roots.
On the clubface: Now this is what we call a Top-Flite. None of that urethane-cover, low-compression mushy stuff here. The XL Distance is unapologetically solid, tee to cup, producing a “thwack” that practically screams power. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an ’80s vintage XL to compare it with, but we’d say the new version is slightly softer than its predecessors. It’s still one of the harder balls on the market today.
Off the tee: Unlike many of today’s golf balls, the Top-Flite XL Distance isn’t geared to maximize distance for players in a specific clubhead speed range. Nope, this one promises big (or bigger) yards for anyone. Our tester swings the driver at around 95 mph and enjoyed a modest but meaningful yardage boost over his usual ball (a “premium” model). While carry distance was similar, the XL Distance provided additional roll. Accuracy and sidespin appeared about average vs. the competition.
From the fairway / rough: Make a wedge shot back up with the Top-Flite XL Distance? Not gonna happen. We did find, however, that the modernized version is a little softer and stops more quickly than the “Top-Rock” of yore. More importantly, the ball launches with good height to mitigate the lack of spin, and it’s probably a few yards longer than most balls off the irons. Naturally, it’s very long and gives plenty of roll with hybrids and fairway woods.
Around the green: About what we expected. Not nearly enough spin to play specialty shots that hop and check, but adequate performance for a distance ball. You’ve basically got two greenside options with the Top-Flite XL Distance: a high pitch or a low runner. And let’s face it – in most situations, one or the other will work just fine.
Bottom line: At less than $1 per ball, the price is practically unbeatable. As for performance, the Top-Flite XL Distance delivers on its brand and model promise of, you got it, distance, distance and more distance. Add a modicum of feel, unheard of with the old Top-Flites, and it’s a rock-solid pick in the value category.
Value/Recreational/Distance – Designed for mid- to high-handicap golfers with swing speeds below 90 mph; typically feature two-piece construction and firm covers; promote greater distance over high spin rates. Examples: Pinnacle Gold, Slazenger RAW Distance
Premium – Designed for low- to mid-handicap golfers with swing speeds of 90-99 mph; typically feature multi-layer construction and medium-soft covers; happy medium between Value/Recreational and Tour categories for distance and spin qualities. Examples: Titleist NXT Tour, Callaway HEX Diablo
Tour/Advanced/Performance – Designed for low-handicap and professional golfers with swing speeds in excess of 100 mph; typically feature multi-layer construction and soft covers; promote greater spin rates and enhanced feel over distance. Examples: Titleist ProV1, Bridgestone Tour B330