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Golf Ball Selection 101: How to Choose the Right Ball for Your Playing Style

Published on 06/23/2023 · 15 min readPicking the right golf ball can actually do a lot for your game! But how to choose? Golf Experts Armana Christianson and Jorge Arteta break it down.
By Curated Experts Armana Christianson and Jorge Arteta

Photo by Jill Rose

tl;dr: Many different factors can help you to figure out what type of golf ball is going to be the best fit for you. Surprisingly, launch monitor statistics like compression rating, spin rates, launch angle, swing speed, and ball carry distance aren't always useful in finding the right ball, especially for high-handicap golfers and beginners. Instead, a ball’s attributes, like its construction, compression, spin, feel, and distance—among many others—can guide you to the ball that will give you the best performance, from drives to short game spin. Whether you feel comfortable buying a premium ball, want low spin, or want a soft ball, it's completely up to you and what your game needs!

How do I know this? I have been a golf professional and teacher for over eight years, have managed golf courses, and played in mini-tour events. I’ve been fortunate enough to teach students of all levels and ages, from seven to even 80 years old. One of the ways I help students is by using my experience with playing many types of golf balls to assess which balls might be a good fit for a player’s needs. I do the same thing at Curated by helping customers sift through the many good, bad, cheap, and very expensive golf balls available. If you're serious about your game and want to develop it, there is a “right” ball for you—and I can help you find it. So, which one is right for your game?

Photo by Cristina Anne Costello

Learn the Pieces of a Golf Ball

In order to understand what kind of golf ball fits your specific needs, you need to learn more about how golf balls are made. Knowing all of this will give you a deeper understanding of the construction of a golf ball, and what the various golf ball brands are saying when they put descriptions on their boxes. More importantly, this knowledge is the gateway to understanding how a golf ball’s parts may differ between brands and models.


You've probably already seen those videos of someone cutting open a golf ball, so you likely know there is a core in every ball. This hard rubber center is surrounded by one or more layers, followed by the cover. The core of the golf ball is generally made of compressed and molded rubber, and takes up most of the space inside the ball. After impact, the core will help to retain the energy released into the ball to propel its launch, direct accuracy, and influence speed.


On top of the core, but underneath the ball's cover, are several layers made of either rubber or plastic which perform a couple of functions:

  • Layers work to keep moisture out of the core because when water gets inside, it can negatively impact the way a golf ball performs.
  • A golf ball’s layers, specifically how many it has, will also affect attributes like ball speed, spin, and feel. Simply put, the amount of layers in a ball will allow players to create more or less spin and also help with ball speed retention.

Photo by Jaime Gasca


What are golf ball covers made of? The cover of the golf ball is its outer layer, usually made of either Surlyn (a trademark polymer material developed by DuPont) or urethane (a softer and less durable material). In general, Surlyn works to help a golf ball gain more distance, but it does this at the expense of spin, meaning the ball will not spin as much. Surlyn is also a material that is cheaper to use. In contrast, urethane covers allow the ball to spin more, have more control and accuracy, and cost more.

Why are there dimples on the cover? A golf ball’s cover is also patterned with dimples. I’ll spare you the complicated physics of ball aerodynamics and just say that these dimples reduce drag as the ball flies through the air, ensuring smooth sailing. On average, golf balls can have 300 to 500 dimples, but not all golf ball manufacturers use the same configuration when designing their dimples. Rather, there can be quite a lot of differences between them. Attributes that can vary include: the number, alignment, size, and depth of the dimples, or even the geometry in their ball patterns and designs, which can also vary from model to model.

Expert Tip: For golfers looking for more distance from their golf balls, it may be useful to consider balls manufactured with dimple patterns that are targeted toward reducing drag.

Does the cover’s thickness matter? Thickness is also a factor in the way the cover affects the performance of a golf ball. The typical thickness of a golf ball cover is 0.030” to 0.070”. Depending on where the thickness of the cover falls within that range, as well as its material-type, there will be differences in distance and spin. For example, a smaller golf ball will generally fly further than a larger one even if the weight is equal. However, a ball with a thicker cover will have more durability than one with a thinner one.

Photo by Pablo Zalazar

What Are the Different Types of Golf Balls?


A distance ball will normally have two to three layers, will likely be made of Surlyn, and will be a harder ball. This type of ball is mainly targeted toward beginners who haven’t developed their game to the point where they need to spin the ball—at least not yet. For these players, it’s more important to get the ball in the fairway as much as possible.

Spin Control

A ball with more spin control will normally have three layers. Will have more use of Urethane in the materials and will spin more because of the material and three-piece layers. This ball is more for the average player or mid handicap player.

Tour Performance

A tour performance golf ball will have four or more pieces and be made with Urethane materials. This ball is designed for the advanced/tour level player or players with higher swing speed. The extra layer allows it to provide maximum spin on greenside shots and lower spin off the driver for distance.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Golf Ball?

Ball Construction

A lot of times, golf balls will be described by how many pieces they are made of. I'm sure you've seen a one-piece golf ball, two-piece golf ball, and even a five-piece golf ball. You most likely won't see a one-piece ball for sale—they're used at putt courses and sometimes at driving ranges. Being all one piece, these one-piece balls have a really firm feeling on impact and aren’t good for use on the course. You’ll want to take advantage of the technology that comes with multi-layered balls. Let’s take a look at what each type of ball construction offers:

  • Two-Piece Balls: As mentioned above, two-piece balls are generally sold as distance creators. If you really don't have a concern about accuracy and you just want solid distance, this could be the ball for you. Be wary that by seeking out those longer distances, you'll be giving up feel and workability of the ball. It's also a good ball to use if you want to limit the spin you have.
  • Three-Piece Balls: A three-piece ball will have that extra layer allowing for a little spin and more forgiveness. Golf balls in this category will be mostly made of urethane materials to provide for added spin. They will be more expensive than a two-piece ball, but they will be more accurate. There will be some durability sacrificed since it is made of urethane but for the mid to average-level player this is the most popular type of golf ball.
  • Four-Piece Balls: Four-piece or more (five or six-piece) balls have an extra middle layer and are generally designed for Tour-level pros with high swing speeds. Four-piece balls are prized by advanced players because they provide high iron spin and lower driver spin. These balls are also the ultimate golf ball for greenside spin, control, and distance for a player with higher swing speeds.

Skill Level

Here's where things get interesting. A lot of times, with golf equipment, we choose based on our swing speed, but with a golf ball, unless you are swinging 100 mph or faster like a Tour player, it's not as important. Most modern golf balls are going to have low-compression cores that are just as firm as the high-compression ones. This means that no matter your swing speed—even those more moderate swing speeds—you can choose to use almost any golf ball and you'll be good. So if you're testing golf balls and checking for greater distances between various brands, there isn't going to be much of a difference.

A lot of this part is personal preference. Do you like to play shots that bump and run around the green? Or do you prefer high-spin shots? Do you need something that allows you to hit a variety of shots? How does it feel on impact? Does it have a soft feel? Or do you feel like the ball is too firm? The best ball for you is going to be the one that plays to your strengths and helps your weaknesses.

  • Beginner (High Handicappers): This type of golfer is just starting to play or doesn’t play often. They have a high handicap, meaning it's one that is 20 or higher. The golf ball they use really won’t matter. They might not be able to feel the differences between a budget ball and an expensive ball. They can stay with a less expensive ball and save money, such as a two-piece or distance ball.
  • Weekend Warrior (Mid-Handicapper): This type of golfer can play once a week or more. They have a handicap between 10-19. This golfer should be aware of some of the characteristics of a golf ball, such as spin around the greens, durability, and how it feels when putting. If they have the budget, then some of the more expensive golf balls might be right. Generally, players in this category can have a mid-level golf ball and still play well, such as a three-piece ball made of urethane materials, or a spin control ball.
  • Tour/Advanced (Single-Digit Handicapper): This type of golfer plays four or more times a week. They have a handicap of nine or lower, which puts them into the smallest category of golfers. Low-handicap golfers will generally be pickier with all their equipment, including their golf balls. Players in this category are more suited to four-piece or more golf balls with maximum spin control and lower spin on the driver.

Compression Rating

What does ‘compression’ mean? When we talk about the compression of a golf ball, we’re talking about the way a ball’s shape is impacted when it comes into contact with the golf club's face during a swing. At the moment a ball is hit, the force of impact causes the ball to contort out of shape and then rebound back as it releases energy after the hit. Compression is the amount a ball compresses under that force. The range of compression is scored from 30 (the softest feel) to 120 (the hardest feel). Generally, the softer ball will have less compression, and the harder ball will have a higher compression rating.

  • Low Compression: A low-compression ball like the TaylorMade Tour Response, Bridgestone e6, Titleist Velocity, Callaway SuperSoft, or other balls that don't break the bank should be fine for most casual golfers off the tee, hitting iron shots, wedge full swings, and short-game wedge shots (chips to medium-length pitches).
  • Medium Compression: Medium compression golf balls include the Titleist AVX, Callaway ChromeSoft, and TaylorMade Tour Response. Despite being more middle-of-the-road, these all have outstanding qualities.
  • High Compression: These golf balls include the Titleist Pro V1x, Callaway Chrome Soft X, and TaylorMade TP5x Pix. Generally, they all carry a compression rating of 90 or higher, meaning they are designed to allow for more control and accuracy.

How to figure out which compression is right for you? Average swing speeds (between 85 and 105 mph) will benefit from a lower compression ball, while faster swing speeds (over 105 mph) will want a higher compression for more control, accuracy, and greenside spin. Think lower compression for distance, and high compression for providing more control.

Expert Tip: Knowing your swing speed can go a long way towards helping you find the right golf balls for your game. Helpfully, there are a variety of swing speed monitors that make it possible to find out your swing speed either on the range or at home. Some of these include the Sports Sensor Swing Speed Radar, the PRGR Portable Launch Monitor, among many others.

How Much Should You Expect to Spend?

  • Budget Option: Beginner golf balls can range from about $15 to $25 a dozen. This type of ball is usually a two-layer ball and is harder than the more expensive models. It’s made for durability and hitting the ball long but doesn’t offer much in terms of greenside spin or control.
  • Mid-Range: More middle-of-the-range balls will cost about $25 to $40 per dozen, are made with higher-quality materials, and usually have a three-layer cover. The majority of golfers will be using these balls as greenside spin and distance combine to make these golf balls versatile and playable for the masses. This type of ball is available in soft compression or high compression, depending on the player’s preference.
  • Top-Tier: Advanced/Tour-level players will need to budget for around $40 and higher per dozen. These balls are engineered with the best of the best technologies to suit the games of these highly advanced players. Normally these will be balls with four or five layers for optimum spin control and distance. These balls are made with the best urethane materials and will be produced under demanding quality control.

Photo by Kindel Media

How to Choose the Right Golf Ball for You

Now that you know a bit more about the benefits of different golf balls, here are three sample customers, each with specific needs, and some recommendations as to what might be the best golf balls for them.

Roger: Beginner Golfer

Roger is a beginner who wants to give golf a chance and become a good player someday. He does not need to spend a lot as he cannot feel the difference between an expensive or cheaper-priced ball. Like other beginners, he tends to lose a lot of golf balls in the water, trees, or thick rough.

Features John should look for:

  • Less expensive balls like the two-piece
  • Refurbished golf balls that are still good but easier on the wallet
  • Golf balls that are of different colors because white is not the only color anymore

Recommended: Wilson Velocity Distance, Callaway Warbird, and Volvik Power Soft.

When Rod gets better, he will appreciate what a quality ball can do, but for now, he should buy the cheapest available and enjoy learning. These golf balls provide a lot of value and are fun to play with as a newer golfer. The recommendation is a selection of two-layered golf balls that have a lot of durability and won’t sting the wallet as much when a ball gets lost in the woods or water.

Cindy: Mid-Handicapper

Cindy is a mid-handicapper that takes weekly golf lessons and competes in a weekly league. She keeps a close eye on her budget but still seeks a golf ball that will feel and perform well. She also likes some spin for her chipping and is looking for a durable ball.

Features Cindy should look for:

  • Either a two or three-piece construction
  • Golf balls that offer extra spin around the greens
  • A ball with a higher level of technology that offers more features and advanced materials.

Recommended: Srixon Soft Feel, TaylorMade Tour Response, and Wilson DUO Professional. These balls are made with better materials and have more layers, making them an excellent value for their mid-range price point. They will also offer good greenside spin and distance.

Matthew: Low-Handicapper

Matthew is an advanced golfer with a single-digit handicap. He competes in weekly mini-tour events and competitive amateur tournaments. His search for new balls is not constrained by the price of top-tier golf balls. He needs a ball that he can trust, that will do what he wants it to do, and will be consistent in quality.

Features Matthew should look for:

  • Advanced balls that offer maximum spin around the greens
  • Three, four, or five-piece layered balls
  • Balls that provide a strong combination of spin and distance with high-quality materials.

Recommended: Titleist Pro V1/V1x, Callaway Chrome Soft, TaylorMade TP5. These golf balls are considered high-end and are popular among Tour/Advanced players.

Photo by Peter Drew

Closing Thoughts

Have you ever putted with a golf ball that you didn't like? Not great. Take some of these options to the putting green, and if you're really paying attention to the feel, you'll notice which are the best golf balls for you. And after you've taken it around the short game area, choose the couple that you like the best and test them on the course to see how you play overall with them.

After you've tested and made a decision that doesn't consistently give you the hooks, stick to it! Don't keep switching golf ball brands. Don't play that random golf ball you found somewhere either. If you want consistency in your game and you want to practice improvement, keeping that golf ball the same will help you achieve this. Even if this means paying the price for that dozen golf balls that work, it's going to be a worthwhile investment in your game.

If you have any questions on finding the right golf ball for your game, chat with a Golf Expert here at Curated.

Ask them a question – you'll get a custom response within 24 hours!
Armana Christianson
Golf Expert
Jorge Arteta
Golf Expert
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Written by:
Armana Christianson, Golf Expert
Armana Christianson
Golf Expert
I'm a professional golfer who has spent the last 4 years traveling the country and working towards the LPGA. I played competitively in high school, winning class A state. I then played golf on scholarship for Creighton Univeristy and University of Nebraska Omaha, my hometown! ​ Throughout the years and many equipment changes, lessons and fittings, I have learned a lot about golf, the swing and what kind of equipment is necessary. It's taken me years to gain this kind of knowledge, so I'm excited to help you with everything that I know!
Jorge Arteta, Golf Expert
Jorge Arteta
Golf Expert
Love golf. Started later in life in my mid-thirties. Retired from General Management positions with The Home Depot and H&R Block to go to Professional Golfers Career College in Orlando and graduated as class valedictorian and quickly became a Director of Golf, teacher, mini-tour player, and YouTube channel creator. Truly enjoy providing advice and guiding people with the proper equipment, fitness, and general training to become a good golfer. Have played the Old Course in St. Andrews twice, played in Hawaii, Pebble Beach, and Torrey Pines. Learned from many great mentors and instructors and I do not apply just one method to learn golf, there are many variables to a good swing and proper equipment and I enjoy sharing that knowledge. ​

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