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.
TWO-PIECE GOLF BALLS
Examples: Bridgestone e6, Callaway Warbird, Callaway SuperSoft, Srixon AD333, Srixon Distance, Srixon Soft Feel, TaylorMade RBZ, Titleist Velocity, Titleist TruFeel, Wilson Duo.
Two-piece golf balls are ideal for beginners and high-handicap golfers with slower swing speeds. These balls are designed to fly straighter and spin less than multi-layer balls.
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.
3 PIECE GOLF BALLS
Examples: Bridgestone Tour B, Callaway ERC Soft, Kirkland Performance+, Srixon Z-Star, TaylorMade Project (a), Titleist Pro V1, Titleist AVX, Wilson Staff Model.
The 3rd layer in a 3 piece ball is the layer that sits between the core and the cover and provides added performance for the golfer. These balls also tend to have a softer cover too which helps impart more spin on the ball at impact. These balls are great for better golfers, from pros to mid-handicappers, there are three-piece balls for your game.
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 generate far more feel and spin around the green yet 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.
4+ PIECE / MULTILAYERED GOLF BALLS
Examples: Callaway Chrome Soft X, Mizuno RB Tour, Srixon Z-Star XV, TaylorMade TP5 (5 piece), Titleist Pro V1x, Vice Pro Plus.
A multi-layer ball, like a 4- or a 5-piece item, features a thin outer layer that is typically made of urethane. This soft material provides ample short-game spin by allowing the clubface to "grab" the ball, while the intermediate layer(s) between the core and exterior allow more spin and control on well-struck iron shots.
Upside: A 4-piece ball has a multi-core construction. The core is made up of 2 different materials which offer better precision than 3-piece balls. 4-piece balls are known to offer the drop and stop action, absorbing the shock of the impact through the core and helping achieve greater distances.
Downside: 4-piece balls are expensive compared to 3-piece balls. This is mainly due to the fact that they have an extra middle layer. If you don’t have high swing speeds, it is best not to choose a 4-piece ball. These balls are better left for professional golfers who have the skills to make use of them.
Expert advice: "If you feel you are ready to move up from a 3 to a 4/5 piece ball but are unsure which, our selection of Pearl Grade used golf balls are a great option. You can try out all the top models at less than half the price of new."-- Simon Mansfield, Managing Director, Ace Golf Balls Ltd.