Gear test: Best golf balls 2017

Golf Equipment

Six months? We've conducted our most comprehensive balls test. Find out which models stood out for our panel...

Throughout the 2017 season we have been conducting the most in-depth ball test we’ve ever attempted.

So why did we decide to test balls over a six-month period? Well, in previous years we’ve attempted to test balls in a day and it just didn’t feel like we had the opportunity to put each ball properly through its paces.

We’re all avid golfers here at NCG with most of us playing in competitions at our home clubs and plenty of social golf.

Best golf balls 2017 – The testers

Best golf balls 2017

We picked five golfers from the office with a nice spread of handicaps:

  • James Savage (me) – 17 handicap
  • Craig Middleton – 12
  • Steve Carroll – 11
  • Dan Murphy – 3
  • William Shucksmith – +3

Best golf balls 2017 – The methodology

Best golf balls 2017

We each golfer two dozen balls, one from each brand, to test each month, it meant each would get a proper run out with every type of shot being played in every type of condition.

It also meant we had to limit the balls we were testing to a total of 10 models:

(Prices as on americangolf.co.uk as of September 2017)

We asked the brands which models they wanted us to feature. So we ended up with a nice mix of premium balls and a few at a lower price point.

Players were free to test each ball out as they saw fit but each had to be played for at least 18 holes over the course of a testing month. Specific feedback was asked for on each ball looking in particular at performance off the tee, iron shots, around the greens and putting.

Testers were also asked to comment on how quickly and easily the ball scuffed up. We feel the most important questions came at the conclusion stage where we asked the testers which balls they would buy…

Best golf balls 2017

Best golf balls 2017 – The results, James Savage (17)

How did you test the balls each month?

I liked to test each ball for two rounds of 18 before switching. I felt this gave me the best chance to notice the performance characteristics.

Did anything surprise you?

How many I lose each month. I’d need to buy about a dozen every two months. That’s £250 a year. Ouch.

Did you notice a big difference between the premium and non-premium balls?

It was more in the feel and durability where I thought the premium balls excelled. Just how they feel in your hands and look is different. I found the cheaper balls did scuff up a little bit quicker.

What characteristics were most important to you?

Ball flight off the tee was the most important thing to me. It’s the weakest part of my game. When I’m happy off the tee, I tend to score well.

Did you notice an improvement in scoring with the balls you preferred?

Absolutely. I lost fewer and seemed to make all my best scores with the balls which I was most happy and confident with.

If you were price-conscious which ball would you buy?

For around £30 I’d be looking at the Callaway Chrome Soft X.

If money was no object which ball would you use?

There were two stand out performers – Pro V1 and TP5. I found these to be very similar – excellent off the tee, great feel with iron and chip shots.

Best golf balls 2017

Best golf balls 2017: Dan Murphy (3)

How did you test the balls each month?

I judged the balls over entire 18-hole rounds, which tend to throw up most conceivable situations. Whether that’s driving into a headwind or a delicate downhill chip.

Did anything surprise you?

With non-premium models I expected to lose finesse on shorter shots. But the real difference was performance in the wind.

Did you notice a big difference between the premium and non-premium balls?

The non-premium balls were a little more floaty in flight and tended to climb in strong winds.

What characteristics were most important to you?

Control in the wind is huge for me. I don’t want a ball that climbs or looks like it has stopped going forward. I actually like a firmer feel off the putter too.

Did you notice an improvement in scoring with the balls you preferred?

If it makes a difference on one shot then that’s important to me. It’ll also effect my confidence levels on the next shot.

If you were price-conscious which ball would you buy?

I’d be shopping around for good deals on buying premium balls in bulk.

If money was no object which ball would you use?

It’s hard to see past Pro V1 because of the huge trust factor in its favour. but I’d be equally happy using the TP5or the Z-Star XV.

Best golf balls 2017: Will Shucksmith (+3)

How did you test the balls each month?

I used each ball for nine holes in a round. Sometimes I played a handful of holes with both balls to aid comparison. I chipped and putted with both balls around the putting green.

Did anything surprise you?

In the grand scheme of things, how similar they are. Unless you are hugely tuned into your game it can be hard to differentiate.

Did you notice a big difference between the premium and non-premium balls?

I found the cheaper balls harder to control consistently. They were more unpredictable.

What characteristics were most important to you?

Flight and distance. If I can hit it long off the tee and control the ball flight with my irons I’m happy. From 100 yards I like a softer feel ball but these days most balls are pretty firm.

Did you notice an improvement in scoring with the balls you preferred?

It definitely helps me to be playing with a ball I perceive that I like. This will be a ball I have used a lot and trust.

If you were price-conscious which ball would you buy?

Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X

Callaway Chrome Soft X is a good cheaper option offering decent value.

If money was no object which ball would you use?

The Pro V1 or TP5x. The Titleist is better for lining up putts.

Best golf balls 2017: Steve Carroll (11)

How did you test the balls each month?

I had each in play for two weeks at a time. I play in a lot of competitions and wanted to give each ball some proper time in that environment.

Did anything surprise you?

You read lots about how much different balls are to their competition. It’s easy to be cynical but there was a lot of variety in the characteristics between some of the models.

Did you notice a big difference between the premium and non-premium balls?

I was surprised at how well some of the non-premium balls held up in comparison with their more expensive cousins in terms of performance. The real difference was durability.

What characteristics were most important to you?

Stability. I play at quite an exposed course that is frequently buffeted by the wind. A couple of these balls moved quite a lot in the breeze.

Did you notice an improvement in scoring with the balls you preferred?

It’s probably all mental, to be honest. If I felt confident with a ball I was in a better frame of mind to play well.

If you were price-conscious which ball would you buy?

The Callaway Chrome Soft X. There’s very little to dislike about it.

If money was no object which ball would you use?

The Titleist Pro V1– as an all-round package it’s just fantastic.

Best golf balls 2017: Craig Middleton (12)

How did you test the balls each month?

I switched after nine holes. This gave me a better chance to get more reliable feedback due to the fact I am more consistent in the same round than I am from one day to the next.

Did anything surprise you?

I never thought I’d be able to lose 116 golf balls in 5 months.

Did you notice a big difference between the premium and non-premium balls?

I noticed a difference around the greens with premium balls. They were easier to control and had better results.

What characteristics were most important to you?

The feel around the greens. I would hit one in five good tee and iron shots – they are more about the strike and not the ball. I’m comfortable around the greens so making sure I had the right ball there was more important.

Did you notice an improvement in scoring with the balls you preferred?

I felt I could swing more freely having a ball I could trust while not worrying too much about the end result.

If you were price-conscious which ball would you buy?

I think for close to £30 you can’t look past the Chrome Soft X.

If money was no object which ball would you use?

The TP5. Scoring-wise this was the best ball for me. Around the greens I often felt like I had the ball on a piece of string. Great off the tee too.

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