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 ball?

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.

Spin Rate

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 rpm.

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 quality.

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's swing.

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 0.

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 say.

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 over time.

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 yards.

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 distance.


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.

To find out more, and other interesting facts on golf matters, why not go to http://www. thegolfprofessor. com


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