THE FOUR TYPES OF GOLF BALL
The argument can be made that there are as many golf ball construction types as there are individual models of balls. But for the sake of simplicity, let's break it down to four. Categories two and three below (two-piece low compression and what we're calling "two-piece performance") feature a variety of balls designed for average golfers. Your mission: Identify a category you like, and try the balls within that category to find the one that addresses your different needs.
1 TWO-PIECE DISTANCE
Examples: Callaway Warbird; Pinnacle Gold; Slazenger Raw Distance Fusion; Top-Flite XL Pure Distance; Wilson Jack.
Upside: They spin less, and that means less slice and hook. They also may launch higher because the firm polymer cover tends to slide up the clubface slightly at impact. Harder covers are less likely to show damage from abrasion, too. The biggest benefit: They're cheap, not much more than a dollar a ball and sometimes less.
Downside: They spin less. That's a problem around the greens, but it also could prevent slower swingers from generating enough lift (or carry). As for feel, generally, it's going to be more croquet ball than feather pillow.
Expert advice: "The firm cover and high compression yields a ball with high velocity, high launch angle, low spin and firm feel. However, golfers are sacrificing the attributes of spin and feel."--John Calabria, vice president of research and development for TaylorMade.
2 TWO-PIECE LOW COMPRESSION
Examples: Dunlop LoCo; Maxfli Noodle; Nike Power Distance Super Soft; Precept Lady and Laddie; Titleist DT SoLo.
Upside: Because they're easier to compress, low-compression balls can improve distance for moderate swing speeds. Some balls in this category offer low spin to improve accuracy and softer covers to improve feel.
Downside: Soft feel may not translate into more spin on short greenside shots.
Expert advice: "The cores are more resilient while keeping the compression soft."--Dean Snell, senior director of research and development for TaylorMade.
3 TWO-PIECE PERFORMANCE
Examples: Callaway CB1 and HX 2-Piece; Maxfli A3; Srixon Hi-Spin and Soft Feel; Titleist NXT and NXT Tour; Top-Flite Infinity; Wilson True Velocity.
Upside: Some in this new genre tout large "springy" cores (A3, NXT Tour and Infinity, for example). Balls with large cores have thin covers, and that can make it easier for the core to compress when the ball meets the clubface. In theory, this leads to more distance.
Downside: Like the two-piece low compression balls, these balls may not offer the same spin advantages on short shots as the multilayer urethane ball.
Expert advice: "We are squeezing the last bits out of two-piece ball technology. This type of ball is definitely going to give most players enough performance. It probably provides 80 percent of all a ball can do."--Tom Kennedy, vice president of research and development for Top-Flite Golf Company.
3/4 MULTILAYER CONSTRUCTION
Examples: Ben Hogan Apex Tour; Callaway HX and CTU 30; Maxfli M3; Nike TA2, Double C and One; Precept U-Tri and Tour Premium; Srixon Pro UR and UR-X; Strata series; Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x; Top-Flite Tour; Wilson True Tour V and Elite.
Upside: Each layer enhances a performance aspect. The soft cover enhances feel, the firm inner mantle improves energy transfer to the core and the core itself promotes distance. Urethane-covered multilayer balls are softer than two-piece balls and can spin more on chip shots and bunker shots. Urethane is just as soft as balata but is more durable and consistent.
Downside: Not all multilayer balls have urethane covers or even the same type of urethane cover, and some are designed for tour-level swing speeds (105-120 mph). Furthermore, urethane actually slows the ball's spin rate slightly, decreasing its distance potential for slower swingers.
Expert advice: "These balls behave like balata on the green and still have the distance of a hard two-piece ball. Of course, if you want it all, it's going to cost more."--Mike Yagley, vice president, product management for Callaway.