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Best Golf Balls

Updated November 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 27 Models Considered
  • 10 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 186 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best golf balls

    Last Updated November 2018

    In many sports, all the players must use the same ball. A basketball player can’t stop the game to grab his or her favorite ball before an important three-point shot. In other sports, like golf, players can pick their favorite brand and model of ball, so long as it conforms to the general rules of the game. That personalization makes selecting the right golf ball a key part of playing well and enjoying your time on the links.

    Even though all golf balls look similar, various models have slight differences in construction that make them work well for certain aspects of the game. Although more skilled players can take advantage of these differences better than beginners, everyone can benefit from playing with the right golf ball.

    An average golfer’s ball will have roughly a 125 mph exit velocity off a driver and travel about 200 yards.

    Golf ball specifications

    To fit within the rules of the game, a golf ball must conform to certain specifications set up by the sport’s two main governing organizations: the United States Golf Association (USGA) and a group of companies known as the R&A.

    These rules have been in place for decades, and every reputable golf ball manufacturer follows them precisely.

    Occasionally, you may find a trick or novelty golf ball that is smaller than the allowed size. While such balls may be fun to try on occasion, we recommend against using them regularly.

    Your golf game will not improve from using equipment that doesn’t conform to the regulations.

    • Size

    A golf ball must have a diameter of at least 1.68 inches.

    • Weight

    A golf ball must weigh 1.62 ounces or less.

    • Shape

    A golf ball must have a spherical shape.

    • Dimples

    A golf ball’s dimples must be symmetrically arranged.

    • Color

    There are no regulations about color for a golf ball. Although most are white, you will see orange, yellow, pink, and other colors, too.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The USGA website maintains a list of golf balls that conform to the standards and rules of the organizing bodies of the sport.

    Golf ball types

    Nearly every golf ball looks the same on the outside, but there are significant differences among golf balls on the inside. The design and materials used for the interior of the golf ball play a huge role in determining the flight characteristics of each different type of ball.

    Golf balls manufactured today consist of one to five layers of material.

    One layer

    This is a simple, cheap golf ball that consists of a solid mass of material. You’ll often see this type on a putt-putt course, and they might show up at a driving range.

    A one-layer golf ball doesn’t offer the distance or control of a multi-layer ball.

    Two layers

    A two-layer golf ball has a cover with a solid core of material inside. These balls can go a reasonably good distance, but players may have more difficulty controlling the flight path.

    Two-layer golf balls are relatively inexpensive.

    Three layers

    This type of golf ball consists of a rubber core, a thin layer of soft or liquid rubber, and a cover made of a soft, plastic-like material.

    Players can control the ball flight better with this type. It doesn’t tend to travel quite as far as a two-layer ball, but that distance difference is negligible for most players.

    Four layers

    This type of golf ball has a rubber core, two soft middle layers, and a thinner outer layer than that of a three-layer ball. The two middle layers are what enable the ball to spin effectively.

    Advanced players like the mix of distance and control they get with a four-layer ball. A beginning player probably won’t have the skills necessary to take full advantage of these more expensive golf balls.

    Five layers

    This type of golf ball is relatively new. It was designed to provide the highest level of distance and spin, even more than the four-layer ball. Some advanced players love the five-layer golf ball, while others can’t find a significant difference between them and four-layer balls.

    Again, this type of ball is more for advanced than beginning players. These golf balls are the most expensive.

    EXPERT TIP

    When searching for your favorite golf balls, buy three-ball sleeves of a few different brands so you can test them without spending a lot.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    A golf ball with a soft cover material, such as balata or urethane, should allow the golfer to generate extra spin on iron shots.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    Average golfers use golf balls with a compression rating between 80 and 90. Experienced golfers want a ball rated 100 or higher.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Golf ball prices

    You can spend anywhere from less than $1 to about $5 per golf ball. Used or X-Out golf balls fall at the lowest end of that range, while four- and five-layer golf balls are the priciest. Most recreational golfers may spend around $1 to $2 each for new golf balls.

    New golf balls are often sold by the dozen, or you can buy a sleeve of three if you want to try out a particular brand or model without buying too many. You’ll pay more per ball when buying a sleeve than when buying a dozen.

    X-out golf balls

    These are balls that a manufacturer has chosen not to sell under its brand name, literally printing an X across the brand name on the ball. X-Out balls have some sort of imperfection that resulted from the manufacturing process. This could be as simple as a misprint of the brand name or a malformed dimple.

    New X-Out balls are cheap, usually about 40 cents to $1 per ball, and sometimes come in a large bag. They work fine for beginning golfers.

    Value-level golf balls

    Occasional and beginning players will be fine with value-level balls. These don’t give you much feel when making shots, but most beginners don’t have that type of skill anyway. These golf balls cost between $10 and $25 per dozen.

    Premium-level golf balls

    Players who are just beginning to learn how to spin the ball and are seeking more shot control will want to try premium golf balls. Most golfers who play once or twice a week will use this quality of ball. Some of these balls have specific strengths, like tour-level balls, while others will just be good all-around golf balls. You’ll spend $20 to $40 per dozen for premium-level balls.

    Tour-level golf balls

    Designed for the most advanced players, tour-level golf balls provide the highest level of spin and shot control. Some models are designed specifically for distance, while others are designed for feel. Inexperienced players don’t have the skills to take advantage of tour-level balls. Expect to pay $35 to $60 per dozen for these.

    Golf ball testing shows that balls travel farther in warm, humid weather than they do in cool, dry weather. A headwind of roughly 20 mph decreases the natural flight of a ball by 20 to 25 yards.

    FAQ

    Q. What do golfers mean when they refer to the “feel” of the golf ball?
    A.
    Advanced golfers prefer to feel like they can control the ball flight off the club face and will look for golf balls with that quality. This usually involves being able to properly spin the ball for approach shots. It also can refer to the amount of compression the ball has off the club face. A ball that compresses more easily will have a greater level of feel than a harder ball that doesn’t feel as though it compresses.

    Q. What does “compression” mean with reference to a golf ball?
    A.
    If you’ve ever seen slow-motion film of a baseball or golf ball being struck, you’ve seen the way the ball squashed against the bat or club. Because golf balls are so hard, you wouldn’t think they would compress, but they do. Most advanced golfers feel as though they have better control over the flight of the ball if it compresses more. Manufacturers give golf balls a compression rating from less than 65 to over 100.

    Q. Why do golf balls have dimples?
    A.
    The small indentations, or dimples, on the surface of the golf ball play a big role in its performance. The dimples cause turbulence in the air around the ball, creating lift and reducing drag, so a dimpled golf ball travels farther and straighter than a golf ball with a smooth surface would. The dimples give the golfer more control over the flight of the ball. Dimples first appeared on golf balls in the early 1900s.

    Q. Should I worry about playing with a nicked or scuffed golf ball?
    A.
    For golfers, a nick that penetrates the cover is different from a scuff (or abrasion) on the surface of the golf ball. A nicked ball won’t fly as far. On the green, a nick could cause the golf ball to veer off line during a putt. So try to avoid playing with a clearly nicked or cut ball. With a scuffed ball, a more skilled golfer may notice a decreased ability to precisely control the ball, but it probably wouldn’t affect a recreational golfer’s game all that much. Some people hold onto scuffed or nicked balls for use on holes with water hazards.

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