Is The Golf Ball The Real Reason For Longer Drives ?
A Little History First
To determine this point, we have to travel back in time and see
how the original golf ball was formed.
The original golf balls as most of us know, were made from goose
feathers stuffed into a round leather ball. It is estimated that
those could be hit as far as 170 yards with the modern club.
The next technological advance was the gutta percha ball. This
was made from tree sap or rubber and compressed into a round mould.
A modern club can hit this about 200 yards on average.
The Haskell method was to improve the ball construction, by having
a soft core, and winding thin rubber around this core. This ball
can be hit around the 225 to 250 yard range.
Further advances saw the introduction of a liquid core with a soft
balata cover. However the ball became misshapen after several hits
on it. It is rumoured that the great Ben Hogan passed his golf balls
through a metal ring to check for roundness.
The modern golf ball has taken several leaps forward from those
days. This golf ball is mainly made with a surlyn or a urethane
cover, which offers the same feel as a balata covered ball.
Surlyn is a synthetic, highly resilient, durable material that
is used in the majority of golf balls in the industry. This material
provides for a golf ball that will stand up to the durability test
that the avid golfer demands, while allowing many different options
for spin & distance combinations. Could last for many rounds of
golf, assuming that you did not lose the golf ball first.
The core is formed with a mixture of polybutediene and other compounds
to give this soft core. Over the past four years, golf ball technology
has evolved from a primarily wound-ball construction to the solid
core/two piece construction to the double-core/four piece construction.
The distances achieved with this ball can be in excess of 300 yards.
But Is That all There Is To It ?
No, there are still a few more key points to understand, like dimples,
the affect of spin, compression, storage conditions, and the rules
that govern golf ball construction.
How do dimple patterns affect the flight/trajectory of a golf
Dimples provide the lift needed to get a ball airborne. Without
them a golf ball's performance would be severely restricted. Golf
balls come in a variety of different dimple patterns. Some promote
a higher flight trajectory that many golfers need, while others
promote a lower, more piercing trajectory. In general though, balls
with deeper dimples will tend to have a lower trajectory. Deeper
dimples create more turbulence in the boundary layer, which makes
it more difficult for air to flow over the ball creating less lift.
Those with shallower dimples typically will generate a higher trajectory.
Dimple pattern - the dimple pattern on a golf
ball does not affect the spin, it creates the aerodynamic lift that
allows a spinning ball to remain in the air longer. Varying the
dimple size also affects the aerodynamics of a ball. By matching
the dimple pattern and the construction of a ball, manufacturers
can optimise the resulting trajectory for both distance and control.
It is the combination of the lift and drag properties of the ball,
as well as its speed, launch angle and spin rate, which will dictate
the flight path or trajectory of the ball, and thus the distance
it will go.
A perfectly smooth golf ball with no dimples would travel about
130 yards when hit with a driver by a good player. On the other
hand, a ball with well-designed dimples, struck the same way, will
travel about 290 yards.
Dimple design has changed significantly over time, from random
patterns, to formal rows, to interstitial designs. The depth, shape
and number have all been varied and tested.
A golf ball's spin rate refers to the speed it spins on an axis
while in flight, measured in revolutions per minute (rpm). Spin
rate off a driver generally ranges between 2,000 and 4,000 rpm,
while the average, cleanly struck wedge shot spins at about 10,000
Spin generates lift, thus a shot's spin rate directly influences
how high the ball flies and how quickly it stops after landing.
Beyond the manufacturer s hype, there are real differences in ball
construction affecting driving distance, approach control, putting
roll, balance and cost.
Modern balls are made to very high standards of consistency and
In driver shots, an excessive amount of spin will cause the ball
to soar, resulting in a loss of distance. Too little spin will prevent
lift and reduce carry. Keeping the amount of spin at an appropriate
level and hitting shots that trace ideal parabolic paths are the
formula for maximizing distance.
The manufacturer can affect the spin rate with a variety of methods.
The main way appears to be by having a larger softer core, which
in turn provides more spin less distance. Another method is to have
the soft core encased in a mantle cover. This cover can be harder
and thicker. The more flexible this cover the more spin.
Compression of a golf ball gradually became more of feel thing
In the end the constant high quality of 2-piece balls made compression
as a quality index obsolete
Today the term compression is used in combination with a number
ranging from 0 to 200. This figure tells us by how much a golf ball
is deformed under a compressive force.
Although this term is now becoming obsolete it is still important
to understand the importance of compression with regards to a golfer
As golf balls are mass produced, all 3-piece balls and some 2-piece
balls are measured by their compression and rated accordingly.
In order to do so balls are pressured with a standard weight. A
ball, which does not deform is rated Compression 200, a ball that
lets itself be deformed by 2/10 of an inch or more is rated Compression
Standard Compression rate of a golf ball is 90 or 100. The lower
the Compression rate the softer the feel. Most balls are subject
to a rating by compression.
Surveys have shown that low speed swing players should use a ball
with a Compression rate of 80. Average speed swing players should
use Compression 100 and high speed swing players Compression 110.
However, new golf balls do not have an actual number, and prefer
to say low spin rate or long distance. So read the label as they
How long can a golf ball last under normal storage conditions?
Under normal storage conditions (70-80 degrees Fahrenheit) a golf
ball can last forever. However, it must be understood that certain
factors can affect a ball s overall performance.
Golf balls can lose their performance characteristics in cases
of extreme heat or cold, and their construction is such that even
under normal storage conditions, there can be a loss of performance
But Is It The Ball Or The Club That Provides The Distance?
There are of course many factors, which have a direct impact on
increased driving distance over the past 2 decades. Such factors
as fitness, materials, courses, and technique, have helped increase
the driving distance over the years.
Every manufacturer has developed a golf ball which has specific
characteristic built in, whether it is distance, spin or mixture
of both. The manufacturer is able to do, as they want to the ball.
The Trend is going to a balance between spin (rpm) and higher launch
angle and hence more distance.
Tests were carried out by Nick Faldo using a modern golf driver,
on a gutta percha ball, and the ball did not travel more than 150
When he used an old wooden golf club, and a modern golf ball, the
ball travelled more than 260 yards.
This showed that the modern golf ball is definitely the key to
Golf balls are distance balls, constructed to stop quickly on the
green, with less of the risk of slice or hook into trouble that
a pure spin ball brings. Recent advances in construction technology
are spawning a new breed of balls that can do it all, such as the
Titleist ProV1, and Callaway Hex.
SLOW SWING (often called Ladies or Senior) balls are designed to
optimise driving distance for less powerful players with slower
club head speeds.
Most balls are imperfectly balanced and thus do not putt completely
true. Premium quality balls may be manufactured to higher quality
control standards and thus less likely to randomly wander off track.
Try to find out which modern affordable golf ball meets your style
of play. It is better to play consistently with a ball you can afford
than to play competitions with a premium ball that you cannot afford
to practice with. Balls with cuts or used until no longer spherical
add nothing to your game. Better to play an affordable ball and
replace it regularly.
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