Gear insight: Ball myths busted

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Armed with a TrackMan and three willing golfers, we quash several commonly-held beliefs about balls...

Last month, we tested over 30 of the best and most popular balls on the market.
We recorded the data of over a thousand shots using a TrackMan launch monitor,  two low-handicap golfers and a professional (Moor Allerton GC’s James Whitaker).
Our goal was to find out how the three main ball categories performed both against one another and to see how some of the most commonly-held beliefs about balls stood up to the data.
NB we refer to balls priced at £22 and under as value, £23-30 as mid-range, and over £30 as premium

The myths

Distance (value) balls go furthest

Of the 50 longest drives we hit…
46% were from the premium category
17% were mid-range
37% were value

What the pro thinks
In theory, value balls should come out on top here. These balls are high compression so, if hit hard (with a swing speed of over 105mph), they will compress well and power off the clubface. However, if the swing speed is lower than 105mph, the chances are that they will not compress on the clubface enough. When this happens, the ball stays round and has a glancing blow, resulting in lack of direction and distance.

Our conclusion: FALSE

Premium balls spin more off the driver

Of the 50 lowest-spinning shots we hit…
36% were premium
33% were mid-range
31% were value

NB Of the 50 highest-spinning drives, 36% were premium, 38% were mid-range, and 26% were value

What the pro thinks
Distance balls can work very well for fast clubhead speeds as the faster the swing speed, the more compression there is on the clubface. However, given that the average golfer has a swing speed of below 105mph, for most players, a distance ball won’t do its job. Matching the club speed to the correct level of ball compression is vital.

Our conclusion: FALSE

Premium balls go straighter

Of the 50 straightest drives…
48% were premium
20% were mid-range
32% were value

What the pro thinks
Any golf ball, hit squarely and correctly will go straight. However, in the real world, each and every golfer and shot is different. We all have different swing paths, but again, compression is key. If the ball compresses onto the clubface you get a straighter ball flight as you are avoiding it rolling across the clubface and then losing direction.

Our conclusion: TRUE

Harder balls come off the face faster

Of the 50 balls with highest velocity…
50% were premium
12.5% were mid-range
37.5% were value

What the pro thinks
I have a test that illustrates this well. Drop a marble and a rubber ball on the floor from the same height and see which bounces highest. It is always the rubber balls because it compresses onto the floor more than the marble. It creates higher energy and results in a higher bounce. The same applies to golf balls. Balls with compression matched with the swing speed of the player come off the face fastest.

Our conclusion: FALSE

Premium balls fly higher

Of the 50 highest-flying shots…
34% were premium
40% were mid-range
26% were value

What the pro thinks
This really depends on the angle of attack. If the ball is hit with the intent to launch high, it will fly high, if the ball compression and the swing speed are both correctly matched. Should the ball compression not be correct for the swing speed – for example, if the swing speed is too slow for the ball and it fails to compress enough – the ball will not fly off the clubface with enough energy. Therefore it will also fail to have enough height.

Our conclusion: FALSE

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