Buying Golf Balls: How to Choose the Best Golf Ball for You

Published on 07/14/2023 · 17 min readChoosing the right golf ball is crucial for your game. Learn how to find the best golf ball for your swing and improve your performance.
Nate Cox, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Nate Cox

Photo by Sattihip Beach

Most beginner golfers don’t think about what golf balls they are using throughout their rounds, but they really should. Where should you begin? I’m Nate Cox, a Golfing Expert here on Curated, and in this article, I will break down my top golf ball picks for each category along with an overview of each type of golf ball to help you make the best decision on which golf ball is best for your golf game.

A common misconception in the golf world is that if you aren’t a scratch golfer or a pro, there is no point in using the same golf ball every time you tee it up for a round. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Golf is a complex game full of variables, so why wouldn't we want to take one more of those variables out and consistently play the same golf ball? For an amateur golfer, making the decision to play with the same golf ball every time you tee it up can lead to dramatic improvement, but you need to know what the best type of golf ball is for you.

So what does this mean? Do you have to drop $50-60 every time you want a dozen golf balls? No, not necessarily! For many golfers, buying the most expensive golf ball will do more harm than good. For example, if a golfer struggles with slicing the ball, golf balls like the Pro V1 or TP5 may actually hurt them more than help them because those golf balls are designed to spin. This benefits the golfer that hits the ball straight and wants to shape their shots in either direction, but if you slice the ball, you want to decrease the spin to keep you closer to the fairway.

So where should you begin? I am going to give you a breakdown of each category of golf ball, along with the benefits and drawbacks of each type. I’ll also go over who will benefit from each type of golf ball. And I will share my top picks for golf balls in each category so you know what to look for next time you purchase some new golf balls.

Types of Golf Balls

Photo by Antpkr

Before you can know what the best golf ball for you is, you need to understand the different types of golf balls and what they are designed to do. If you have looked into different articles like this one, you have likely noticed that they most often categorize golf balls by the number of layers they have. Though that can be helpful in some cases, it can also be confusing.

For example, there are many golf balls with three layers geared toward the mid to high-handicap player, while the number one ball on the PGA Tour, the Titleist Pro V1, is also a three-piece golf ball. They both use the same amount of layers yet have a drastically different design and are optimized for a totally different level of golfer.

For the sake of clarity and to help you make the best decision for your golf game, I will designate four categories: Tour Performance, Tour Value, Straight Distance, and Soft Distance.

Tour Performance

Tour performance golf balls have the greatest overall performance potential, being designed to find the optimum balance of spin, feel, and distance. This type of ball probably comes to mind when you think of premium golf balls. They are the best option for low-handicap golfers with higher swing speeds and are used by nearly every golfer playing on professional tours.

These golf balls have anywhere from three to five layers and have a higher compression rating than most other golf balls, which means that it takes more swing speed to activate the core of the golf ball to get all of the performance benefits that they provide. If you are a golfer that likes to control your ball flight, these golf balls will give you more ability to do that than any other type.

With a premium ball comes a premium price tag. These balls cost anywhere from $40-60/dozen. However, if you have a high swing speed and want a golf ball that can provide you with the highest level of accuracy, this is the ball type for you.

Examples of Tour Performance Golf Balls:

Tour Value

Tour value golf balls are commonly three-piece golf balls, and they carry a performance level close to what is found in tour performance golf balls. But the compression rating is usually lower with lower spin rates. Most tour performance golf balls are optimized for golfers with driver swing speeds in the 90-100+ mph range, so if you have a swing speed on the lower end of that range or just under that 90 mph mark, the lower compression rating of a tour value ball could be the right fit for you. They will give you a little additional distance due to the construction of the golf ball, though it will not spin as much on approach shots or around the greens.

An additional benefit of a tour value ball is the price tag attached compared to the tour performance golf balls. These golf balls generally fall in the $35-45 range making it a great financial option for the mid-handicapper or the low-handicapper looking to save a little money.

Examples of Tour Value Golf Balls:

Straight Distance

These last two categories are geared more toward the high-handicap golfer with slower swing speeds. This golf ball type has a low compression rating with a larger inner core layer and a thin outer layer. If you are a high-handicap golfer wanting to hit the ball straighter, this is the ball type for you. The large core and thin outer layer combination limits the spin of the golf ball. The benefit of that is that it will not produce as much side spin, resulting in less ability to slice the ball. The drawback is that around the greens, this ball will produce the least amount of short-game spin, so if you are looking for a ball that is responsive around the greens, this isn’t the best ball type for you.

Another notable aspect of this golf ball is that the covers of these balls are usually either a Surlyn or ionomer, rather than a urethane like those found in Tour performance and tour value balls. This means these balls will not feel as soft or spin quite as much off the club face, but they will be more durable and significantly cheaper. Straight distance golf balls often feel and sound a little more “clicky” off the club face because of the different cover material. These are in the $20-30/dozen price range.

Examples of Straight Distance Golf Balls:

Soft Distance

You may have guessed this, but soft distance balls are pretty dang soft. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the softest feeling balls off the club face because they will have either an ionomer or Surlyn cover. But that does mean they have a very soft compression rating. These balls are best suited for a high-handicap golfer with slow swing speeds that need as much help from the ball as they can get to hit the ball farther.

These golf balls also come with the same affordable price tag as the straight distance balls.

Examples of Soft Distance Golf Balls:

What is a Compression Rating, and Why Does it Matter?

Before I get into my top recommendations for golf balls in each category, it is important to understand the role that compression rating plays in choosing a golf ball. If you can understand what type of compression rating you need in a ball, it makes picking the right golf ball that much easier.

Compression rating refers to how easy it is to squeeze, or compress, the core of the ball. That compressing of the core of the golf ball is what helps to launch the ball and give it its speed coming off of the club face. You can think of the core of the golf ball as the engine that gives the ball energy to move. Just like a car engine has an optimal speed to be operating at, low, medium, and high-compression golf balls each have an optimal swing speed. Tour performance golf balls have a higher compression rating than a tour value ball, and tour value golf balls have a higher compression rating than either of the distance categories.

Compression rating is measured on a scale between 30 and 120. The higher you go on that scale, the higher the compression rating and the harder the golf ball will be. Golf balls at the lower end of the scale are optimized for slower swing speed because it takes less force on the golf ball to compress the core, meaning that it will maximize distance for someone who doesn’t hit the ball very far due to slow swing speed. A tour performance golf ball will have a compression rating of around 100, meaning that it takes a lot more force to compress the core of that golf ball. These tour level golf balls perform best for golfers with swing speeds around 95 mph or more. If you have a slow swing speed, you will not generate enough force to the core of these kinds of golf balls to get the performance benefits from them, so it would be better for your golf game to choose a golf ball with a lower compression rating.

Understanding compression is imperative to selecting the right golf ball to improve your golf game and make you more consistent.

My Expert Golf Ball Picks

So we are finally here. My top picks for each type of golf ball so you can have a great place to start when trying to find the right golf ball for your game. I will give you my top two options for each type of golf ball with an overview of why I believe these are the best options in each category. If you would like to read more about any of my picks, see pricing, or even purchase any of these balls, you can click the links for each option or find them at Curated.

On to the picks!

Tour Performance

Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x

The Titleist Pro V1 (left) and the Pro V1x (right)

The Titleist Pro V1 has been the number-one ball on all major professional tours for years. For the more highly skilled golfer, this is hard to beat. The Pro V1 is a three-layer urethane Elastomer covered golf ball with a high compression rating. If you are a golfer who likes to work the ball and control the spin, this ball will let you do that without a problem.

What is the difference between the Pro V1 and the Pro V1x? The Pro V1x is a four-layer golf ball rather than a three-layer ball like the Pro V1. This extra layer is designed to make the Pro V1x spin more. This Pro V1x also has a slightly higher compression rating making it the firmer of the two balls.

If you prefer a harder ball that spins a little bit more, then the Pro V1x would be the right ball for you. Also, if your swing speed is up around the 115 mph mark the Pro V1x would likely be the better choice for you. If you prefer a ball that is softer and spins less, you should go with the Pro V1.

TaylorMade TP5/TP5x

The TaylorMade TP5 (left) and the TP5x (right)

The TaylorMade TP5 and TP5x are some of the only five-layer golf balls on the market, and they are a personal favorite of mine. I have played with the TP5x for about five years now. I have tested many other balls over those years, and nothing beats them. I have a driver swing speed in the 113-115 mph range consistently, so for me, the higher compression rating feels right. I do enjoy the soft feel of a TP5, but the TP5x does not feel too much firmer, and it allows me to spin the ball a little more, which is desired for my clubs that are fit with low spin, low launch shafts.

These golf balls are high-compression balls, but it’s easy to control the spin on them. They are very easy to work in either direction for the low-handicappers that like to work the ball. The difference between the TP5 and the TP5x is similar to the Pro V1 and Pro V1x. The standard TP5 is going to be softer and spin less than the TP5x.

If you are a golfer that wants a premium tour level ball and you have a moderately fast swing speed (85-100 mph), I recommend using the Pro V1 or TP5 as they will perform better for you than a Pro V1x or TP5x.

Tour Value

TaylorMade Tour Response

The TaylorMade Tour Response holds the lead for me in the tour value section. You get pretty close to all the performance of the TP5 but in a softer and cheaper three-piece golf ball rather than a five-piece ball. The cover of this ball is also 100% urethane, which is softer than its ionomer or Surlyn counterparts. This means that the softer cover will help you spin the ball because the grooves of the club face will be able to grab the cover of the golf ball more effectively. It will, however, also mean that this golf ball will be less durable than golf balls with that ionomer or Surlyn cover.

If you have a swing speed in the 85-95 mph range and need that softer core to hit the ball farther, this ball could be perfect for you. Or if you have a swing with speeds slightly above that but would prefer to save around $10 per dozen on golf balls, then this is an excellent option for you as well!

Titleist Tour Speed

The design of this golf ball is, as the name would suggest, to produce speed. Titleist is known for outstanding performance in all of their golf balls. They reformulated the core of this golf ball to maximize the energy transfer from the driver club face for more speed, leading to more distance. A third layer also aids in that energy transfer, but when hitting a short iron or a wedge, it helps create rotational energy, increasing spin to help you control and stop the ball around the green.

If you feel like the Tour Response would fit your game from the description above, then the Tour Speed would be another great option for you to try. They are designed for the same type of player. You really can’t go wrong with either one.

Straight Distance

Now we get into the ball types that are optimized for many high-handicap golfers. If you struggle to create speed with your golf swing and are fighting a slice much of the time, this category is for you.

Titleist Velocity

If distance is your main priority and you aren’t as worried about creating spin, this ball is a great fit. The Titleist Velocity is a very long golf ball. This ball is a two-piece ball, consisting of the core and the cover, meaning that it becomes much easier to compress the core of the golf ball to produce distance. It is only a two-layer golf ball, which also decreases the spin. This can be a hugely positive attribute for the golfer that struggles with slicing the ball. The downside is that you won’t be able to spin the ball much around the greens, so you have to accept that there is a give-and-take.

It may be well worth it for your game, considering they are much more affordable than premium options, sitting at the $30 mark. A unique aspect of this ball is that you can get it in many colors, such as standard white, matte blue, matte orange, and matte green.

One thing to keep in mind about this ball (and balls in this category) is that they have harder covers than the premium tour options. They will feel harder and sound more “clicky” off the face, which may be a downside for some. For others, it may not matter at all. A benefit of a harder cover is that it will have better durability than many of the tour level balls.

Callaway Superfast

This may be the best value on the list. For $30, you can get 15 golf balls rather than the standard 12, not to mention they perform comparably to the Titleist Velocity. This golf ball feels softer off the face than the Velocity golf ball, which is a positive, but it is not quite as fast off the face. It still boasts low spin off the tee when hitting driver, which, again, will help the golfer who struggles with slicing their driver. However, this ball will not create much spin around the greens. The Superfast also comes in red and yellow if you like to express yourself through your golf ball or need help seeing and finding the ball while playing.

For a straight distance ball, this ball is optimized for a slightly faster swing speed. If you are looking for the benefits that this ball can provide and you have a club speed of 90-100 mph, this is an excellent option.

Soft Distance

So you are a higher handicap golfer that needs help with distance. How should you know whether to look for a straight distance golf ball or a soft distance golf ball? Well, these soft distance golf balls will have the lowest compression ratings on the market, great for high handicappers and beginners. That makes them perfect for golfers with much slower swing speeds. Additionally, if you don’t struggle as much with a slice and want something softer, these soft distance golf balls may be the right fit for you.

Srixon Soft Feel

The Srixon Soft Feel has been a staple in the golf ball market for years. This is a two-piece golf ball with a soft core and a thin cover. What is unique about this golf ball is that, though the core is one piece, it transitions from being very soft in the middle to firmer around the edge. This means it allows it to have a very soft feel at impact but still has enough rigidity in the core to produce a lot of speed and distance.

These balls will spin more than the straight distance balls listed above, so they won’t help the golfer to fight the slice as much, but you will be able to spin the ball around the greens more than the likes of the Titleist Velocity and Callaway Superfast.

This ball is definitely not optimized for a golfer with a faster swing speed, but if you are a golfer that struggles to generate speed and therefore struggles to generate distance, this ball is a good option with a great, soft feel.

Callaway Supersoft

Similar to the Srixon Soft Feel, this low compression ball is made to help the golfer produce speed off the club face while also providing a soft feel. The supersoft is also a two-layer golf ball with a soft compression core and a thin, soft hybrid cover.

This ball is perfect for the golfer who needs help with distance due to a slower swing speed but still wants to be able to spin the ball with their wedges. Understand that you won’t produce the level of spin of a tour performance or tour value ball, but you will be able to spin these more than a straight distance golf ball.

In terms of pricing, these golf balls sit at the $25 per dozen mark, making them a great option for your golf game and your wallet.

How Do All These Golf Balls Compare?

Though not all of these balls are created equal, it can be helpful to see the comparison of compression, the swing speed they are optimized for, and the price point in one place. Here is a chart with helpful information comparing each of the balls in this list.

Golf Ball Comparison Chart:

Next Steps For Choosing Your Golf Ball

If you feel like you need a little bit more help choosing your golf ball or want to ask an expert some questions to help you decide on the right golf ball for you, connect with a Curated Golf Expert, like myself or one of my fellow Experts at Curated.

Curated experts can help

Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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