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How much of a difference does a "premium" ball make?


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This is a question I often ask myself, as a cheapskate. I hate paying for golf balls (which get damaged or lost easily).  I typically pick up 10-20 balls/round (usually while I am waiting for a tee to clear): some are super nice (Pro V1/TP5X/Tour BXS) and a lot are $2 balls: Titleist Velocity, Callaway Supersoft.  Plenty more are $1 Pinnacles and Top Flites.  You get the idea.  I literally have 300 balls now and no need to buy anything soon. 

 

What is a player losing by going with a cheaper ball:  2-3 yards in 1/2 swing wedge distance?  Putting accuracy? Driving distance?  How much?  Put it another way: let's say you gave your typical 15 handicapper (lets say 110mph swing speed)  a Pro V1 and a Velocity. What would be the difference in score during the round?  1 stroke?  3 strokes?  Negligible? 

 

What level of golf do you need to play at to get a benefit from a premium ball? 

 

 

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IMHO player loses more playing random balls than cheap balls.   I do be believe from experience and data that balls do behave very differently. Playing random balls will make thing much less

I've just decided to try to find a support group to help me quit posting on golf ball threads like this one.  This thing where I continually try to convince other bad golfers that they need help but w

There's a massive difference 100 yards and in. That's where the additional layers and material composition start being activated.   Players of all hadicaps will do better with premium balls.

I'm not comfortable spending more than 30 bucks a box although I will occasionally splurge on a box of AVX here and there.  You won't lose much in terms of performance if you decide to stick with the cheaper stuff in most cases unless you're really picky and want your ball to have it all ie: soft feel, long distance and drop and stop spin on the greens.  You may have to sacrifice one of those characteristics with a cheaper ball, but if you feel as though you are getting the most out of your game, then that's all that should matter.  

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Low-level hacker here, but I can generally hit cheaper balls better.  I'm working on my slice, but if I get lazy or sloppy with a shot, a PV1 or something similarly "premium" will enhance any error in my swing.  I've gotten better - I managed to play a PV1 for 3 holes, until some jerk on the opposing fairway stole the ball.  The only balls that I've noticably lost distance on are old wound balls, a few odd lower-end Nike balls, and my most recent dozen of Taylor Made Noodle Neons.  Top Flites specifically have always been unpredictable for me, so I've learned to avoid them.

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Ping G400 5-U

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Various trinkets, ball markers, and white wooden tees

 

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great to know!  

 

7 minutes ago, HappyGilmoresBoots said:

Low-level hacker here, but I can generally hit cheaper balls better.  I'm working on my slice, but if I get lazy or sloppy with a shot, a PV1 or something similarly "premium" will enhance any error in my swing.  I've gotten better - I managed to play a PV1 for 3 holes, until some jerk on the opposing fairway stole the ball.  The only balls that I've noticably lost distance on are old wound balls, a few odd lower-end Nike balls, and my most recent dozen of Taylor Made Noodle Neons.  Top Flites specifically have always been unpredictable for me, so I've learned to avoid them.

 

Great to know!  I bought some used "better" balls on eBay just now (Srixon Z-star XV) for $18/15 balls: I will report back

 

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Just my two cents on your original question is I honestly think new premium balls are a waste of money for most who aren't a single digit handicap. The scenario you pose with a 15 capper using a Pro V1 vs a Velocity is negligible unless he's a short game sevant.

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1 minute ago, nitram said:

Just my two cents on your original question is I honestly think new premium balls are a waste of money for most who aren't a single digit handicap. The scenario you pose with a 15 capper using a Pro V1 vs a Velocity is negligible unless he's a short game sevant.

And how many 15 hdcp do you know are short game savants?

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14 minutes ago, nitram said:

Just my two cents on your original question is I honestly think new premium balls are a waste of money for most who aren't a single digit handicap. The scenario you pose with a 15 capper using a Pro V1 vs a Velocity is negligible unless he's a short game sevant.

Single capper here so I can't speak for myself, but I do play with a 14 that moved to a distance ball (I think the velocity) from a high end ball (ProV1 equivalent) as he was desperate for distance. The rock does go farther for him, bit it also has really changed the way he plays the game as he has lots of trouble holding firm greens with short irons and wedges. He typically has to play to run it on. For him, he is happy with it as he feels he really needs the extra distance more than control, but the difference in he shots from the two balls is very noticeable.

 

Having said that, you can find plenty of value balls that spin as much or more the premium balls, what you can't find is a value ball with the same combinations of characteristics (short game spin, driver no spin, launch etc) so you have to decide what you prefer.

 

 

 

 

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It makes a ton of difference. All around, the premium balls don't make sacrifices or excel in one category at the expense of another.

I don't buy pro v, but I play them when I find them. They are very consistent in performance. They're long, feel good, spin well, and you can't really criticize a shortcoming.

When I buy premiums, I usually go with Srixon bc of price per performance.

Your premium tour balls, whichever manufacturer, will outperform their cheaper siblings.

Go hit a nitro side by side for a few holes. You'll outdrive the nitro, the iron will both go longer as well as stop, the pitch will feel better and spin, and the putt will roll straighter and just feel better.

Not your imagination.

 

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Manufacturers usually, if not always, put their best dimple designs on premium balls. Manufacturers optimize the spin from tee to green on premium balls. After a ball is hit, dimples and ball spin dominate the flight performance. For cheaper balls, they will not care much.

Aesthetically, premium balls usually have a seamless dimple design, which may help a stable flight. Even if it doesn't help, seamless dimple design looks better for me.

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3 hours ago, pallmall said:

Manufacturers usually, if not always, put their best dimple designs on premium balls. Manufacturers optimize the spin from tee to green on premium balls. After a ball is hit, dimples and ball spin dominate the flight performance. For cheaper balls, they will not care much.

Aesthetically, premium balls usually have a seamless dimple design, which may help a stable flight. Even if it doesn't help, seamless dimple design looks better for me.

Just for the record, I played a few 9-hole rounds with a Callaway ERC with the triple-track printing (supposedly after they spent millions increasing QC), scuffed it up, then cut it in half, and the inner core was still visibly off-center.  Measuring it with my calipers, it wasn't more than .5mm off, but still enough to look like something was just a toad's hair off.

What's In The Bag?

Srixon Z565 Driver, 4W, 4H

Ping G400 5-U

Ping Zing BeCU Putter

Hyundai Equus Alignment Sticks

Bridgestone e6, Noodle Neon, or Titleist TruSoft balls

Various trinkets, ball markers, and white wooden tees

 

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11 hours ago, 2bGood said:

IMHO player loses more playing random balls than cheap balls.

 

I do be believe from experience and data that balls do behave very differently. Playing random balls will make thing much less predictable particularly 100 yards in. I am not just talking a few feet, but the difference between holding a green and running off into a bunker. 

 

So even if you go with found balls, group them together by type and try to play similar balls all the time.

This is the most important thing in my mind. 

 

Yes, certain balls will work better for certain people, premium balls may be more consistent and give you more control and/or more distance (depending on how well they fit your particular swing/game), but a mid to high handicapper probably isn't consistent enough in their own game to have it make a huge difference (speaking from experience as a shaky 11 handicap currently). 

 

What does make a difference is having a reasonable expectation of how your ball is going to behave, especially from 100 and in and around the green, as 2bGood said.  Even putting can be wildly different between balls.  I've had rounds in the past where I started with a softer ball, lost it and started playing a ball I found that was much firmer.  May or may not notice a difference off the driver or irons, but gotten on the green and blown the first putt with the firmer ball 10 feet past the hole, or hit a chip than ran out twice as much as I thought it would.  I stocked up last winter and played the same ball all this year, and I honestly believe it saved me a couple strokes per round.

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I have found that if I switch from a premium ball to a mid tier ball during a round (ie. from Z Star to QST) that I actually have to take something off of my putts because the mid tier ball seems to have more bounce effect off of the putter face than the premium ball. I find no real discernable difference if I switch but stay within levels (ie. pulling out one premium ball for another).

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High handicapper checking in here -- I can't tell much of a difference from the tee or longer irons, but I can definitely tell a clear difference in shorter irons and wedges into greens and on chips. I get more backspin with premium balls and it affects how I'd play those shots. When I strike the ball well (which, again, high handicapper, so I definitely don't do that anywhere close to 100% of the time) I'm able to stick anything from 150 yards or so in where it lands or on one bounce with an MTB-X, and get chips to check up the way I want. That just wasn't the case with the balls I'd been using before, like Callaway Supersofts, Superhots and Warbirds. I've done some side-by-side testing playing the same shot, and the ball does definitely make a difference for me. 

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1 hour ago, chippa13 said:

I have found that if I switch from a premium ball to a mid tier ball during a round (ie. from Z Star to QST) that I actually have to take something off of my putts because the mid tier ball seems to have more bounce effect off of the putter face than the premium ball. I find no real discernable difference if I switch but stay within levels (ie. pulling out one premium ball for another).

Good point, I was just using softer/firmer as an example, but cover material/compression/etc. all contribute to a different feel off the putter that can be hard to adjust to mid-round.

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Anyone above a single digit probably can't make much use of a premium ball. It makes a huge difference but you have to know what you are doing. 

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28 minutes ago, OakRockHacker said:

Good point, I was just using softer/firmer as an example, but cover material/compression/etc. all contribute to a different feel off the putter that can be hard to adjust to mid-round.

Putting would only be impacted by cover material and cover thickness. Compression wouldn't play into it because if you're compressing a putt then you're doing it wrong.

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20 hours ago, RoyalMustang said:

 

 

What level of golf do you need to play at to get a benefit from a premium ball? 

 

 

 

50 years ago guys shot 65 with golf balls of significantly less quality than today's least expensive balls.

I don't believe there is any significant shot making and, or, scoring benefit to buying expensive versus inexpensive balls.

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I don't know but in my experience, I have broken 80 a few times using premium balls (tp5x, prov1, chromesoft) or entry level balls (dt trusoft, soft feel and supersoft). I just seem to just adjust to them on the approach or around the green. Less spin on entry level balls, more spin on premium balls. Off the tee I cannot really feel any difference. 

 

The best round of my life, was with a Supersoft. 

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27 minutes ago, TLUBulldogGolf said:

Anyone above a single digit probably can't make much use of a premium ball. It makes a huge difference but you have to know what you are doing. 

I'd respectfully disagree with this, and think high handicappers can definitely benefit around the green. Personally, I've found that with a "premium" ball I can hit more confident chips and pitches knowing they'll consistently check up. With a ball that spins less around the green, I had a tendency to roll them way past the hole or to try to overcorrect by that problem and winding up duffing or being way short. I believe switching balls helped me improve by a few strokes per round. 

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15 minutes ago, Fairway14 said:

 

50 years ago guys shot 65 with golf balls of significantly less quality than today's least expensive balls.

I don't believe there is any significant shot making and, or, scoring benefit to buying expensive versus inexpensive balls.

 

I mean you are welcome to believe that but there absolutely is. Short game spin alone makes a huge difference. I don't think they played firm, 12+ stimp greens back then. I would agree it's probably very minor on your average muni though. 

 

4 minutes ago, eric61 said:

I'd respectfully disagree with this, and think high handicappers can definitely benefit around the green. Personally, I've found that with a "premium" ball I can hit more confident chips and pitches knowing they'll consistently check up. With a ball that spins less around the green, I had a tendency to roll them way past the hole or to try to overcorrect by that problem and winding up duffing or being way short. I believe switching balls helped me improve by a few strokes per round. 

 

I was probably a bit to over-arching with my statement, but most high handicappers I've played with are happy to make solid contact on a chip rather than worry about spin. 

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Titleist 917 F3 15* VA Composite Drago 75-X
Titleist 818 H2 19* Tensei White 100-X
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11 minutes ago, TLUBulldogGolf said:

 

I mean you are welcome to believe that but there absolutely is. Short game spin alone makes a huge difference. I don't think they played firm, 12+ stimp greens back then. I would agree it's probably very minor on your average muni though. 

 

 

I was probably a bit to over-arching with my statement, but most high handicappers I've played with are happy to make solid contact on a chip rather than worry about spin. 

 

I believe short game spin and, or, shot control comes from making square-solid ball contact, not from ball type.

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Srixon F65 3-wood

Srixon H65 3, 4 hybrids

Mizuno MP63 5 thru 9-iron

Cleveland RTX 48-52-56-64 wedges

Scotty Cameron Classic III putter

 

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30 minutes ago, Fairway14 said:

 

I believe short game spin and, or, shot control comes from making square-solid ball contact, not from ball type.

 

There is absolutely no data to support that claim. Those things certainly help but that's only part of the equation. 

Edited by TLUBulldogGolf

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Titleist 917 F3 15* VA Composite Drago 75-X
Titleist 818 H2 19* Tensei White 100-X
Mizuno MP-69 3-PW PX 6.5
Titleist Vokey SM7 Jet Black 54* S PX 6.5
Titleist Vokey SM7 Jet Black 60* M PX 6.0
Special Select Squareback 2 w/ IOmic

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Downwind holes I have no chance of stopping the two-piece or value priced balls from rolling off the back of the green.  This is the biggest reason for me.

 

Long irons and chipping around the green it is helpful to have a premium ball.  I've come to depend on having a premium ball in these situations.  Pro V1X or Pro V1 for me.

Driver: Titleist 915 D2 9.5° Graphite Design YS-6+stiff

Wood:  Titleist 980F 17° Aldila NV stiff

Hybrid: Titleist 909H 21° Aldila Voodoo stiff 

Irons:  Titleist 716 AP2 4- W  DG AMT S300

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7  54°,  58° DG S200

Putter:  Odyssey White Hot #1 Tour

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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The idea that only "high spin" single digit players need a premium golf ball, which is repeated constantly here by guys who don't use a premium ball, is just nonsense.  The player who doesn't generate spin thru his swing needs MORE help from the ball, not less.  A ball that is spinning less is harder to control, period; this has ZERO to do with your index.  The idea that anybody is better off by virtue of less spin is only true for the tiny percentage of players who spin the ball too much; the rest of us need MORE spin, not less. 

 

I get it 100% if a player doesn't want to pay $50 a dozen for ProV1's.  And using the SAME BALL ALL THE TIME is by far the most important ball-related choice a player can make.  But the idea that "I'm not good enough to use a premium ball" is just silly and unsupportable by any good science.  It's no different that any other part of the equipment equation in golf; if you don't want to pay for properly fitted clubs, that's 100% fine, but don't say "I'm not good enough..." or, worse, "I don't need to...".  The former is bass ackwards, and the second is flat out stupid.

 

I'd add this: "Premium" doesn't necessarily just mean the spin rates around the green.  Testing shows wide variations in dispersion, and premium balls are typically have tighter dispersion.  Cheap balls behave like cheap balls; unpredictably and erratically.

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What you're losing depends on your game perspective and skill. 

 

I could play a cheaper distance ball but don't need distance as much as want ball control around the greens.  Yep, properly compressed, the extra 2-5yrds is nice, but with premium balls if the user has a decent game he enjoys less dispersion.  Most of all though we capitalize on control, makes $4 per ball worth it to me.  In view of the fact, I very seldom lose balls, one ProV or AVX ball may last me upwards of 5-7 rds before its shag bag bound; that reduces the cost per ball.

 

A few of my buddy's, however, don't value premium ball control because they don't have the skill to capitalize on the ball.  They do like playing them, just not paying for them.  They tend to lose one or more balls per round. 

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22 hours ago, RoyalMustang said:

This is a question I often ask myself, as a cheapskate. I hate paying for golf balls (which get damaged or lost easily).  I typically pick up 10-20 balls/round (usually while I am waiting for a tee to clear): some are super nice (Pro V1/TP5X/Tour BXS) and a lot are $2 balls: Titleist Velocity, Callaway Supersoft.  Plenty more are $1 Pinnacles and Top Flites.  You get the idea.  I literally have 300 balls now and no need to buy anything soon. 

 

What is a player losing by going with a cheaper ball:  2-3 yards in 1/2 swing wedge distance?  Putting accuracy? Driving distance?  How much?  Put it another way: let's say you gave your typical 15 handicapper (lets say 110mph swing speed)  a Pro V1 and a Velocity. What would be the difference in score during the round?  1 stroke?  3 strokes?  Negligible? 

 

What level of golf do you need to play at to get a benefit from a premium ball? 

 

 

Premium balls allow a larger margin of error to get optimal performance

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