The Ultimate Guide to Buying Golf Balls

Before you head to the course, find the right golf ball for your unique playing style.

There’s a certain science to a successful round on the course. Ball speed. Launch angle. Spin. A series of mechanical factors coalesce when clubhead meets ball.

Want to achieve explosive distance off the tee? How about fine-tuned control on the green? Some serious technology is packed into your golf ball — and you can learn to use it to your advantage with this how-to buying guide.

Golf Ball Essentials

Spin Golf Balls Vs. Distance Golf Balls: Golf manufacturers typically categorize balls as “spin” or “distance.”

Simply put, spin golf balls offer better control, precision and stopping power around the green, while distance golf balls offer, well, distance. They deliver more consistent flight and trajectory off the tee.

Dimples: Your golf ball is covered with small indentations, known as dimples, which both reduce drag and control ball trajectory. They may seem simple, but you shouldn’t overlook their importance: A smooth-surface golf ball would travel only half as far as one with dimples.


Larger, more shallow dimples promote higher ball flight. There is no specific number of dimples on golf balls, though they typically have about 500. Keep in mind, dimples are traditionally spherical, but some brands have engineered the shape of these indentations to help the ball fly farther and straighter.

Golf Ball Covers: The outermost layer of your golf ball is made of Surlyn or urethane:

  • Introduced in the 1960s, Surlyn is an ionomer resin that’s often found on distance golf balls. It’s harder and more durable than urethane, but doesn’t provide much backspin — a drawback for low-handicap golfers. In short, Surlyn-cover golf balls are a great choice for beginners.
  • Urethane is softer and generally offers higher spin and improved control. Though softer than Surlyn, skilled golfers often prefer urethane for its shot-shaping potential.

Golf Ball Cores: When it comes to your golf ball, what’s inside counts. Two-piece golf balls often come with both a Surlyn core and cover. More advanced balls have a rubber compound core, which sometimes includes materials like tungsten or titanium to enhance performance. Liquid cores are also available.

Golf Ball Inside

Golf Ball Layers: For traditional and lower-end golf balls, it’s simple formula: A large core for distance wrapped in a Surlyn cover for durability. This two-piece design is great for beginners and novice golfers, but more specialized multi-layer balls can help give you an edge on the course.

  • Two-piece golf balls offer durability with low spin and a reduced curve.
  • Three and four-piece golf balls promote higher spin rate for better greenside control, and they allow skilled golfers to play more complicated shots. These balls are comprised of a soft cover and one to two mantle pieces that cover a liquid or solid core.
  • Five and six-piece golf balls are available for advanced golfers looking for optimal spin and control.

Compression Rating: A ball’s compression rating is the measurement of how much a ball will compress against a clubface at impact. Compression ratings of more than 100 are appropriate for golfers with high swing speeds who can carry drives more than 140 feet in the air. Golfers with slower swing speeds should opt for a ball with a compression rating between 80 and 90.

Golf Ball Extras

Tour Golf Balls:  Golf balls marketed as “tour” have been played by professionals. These balls meet all United States Golf Association standards for construction, including both weight and size.

High Visibility Golf Balls: Bright colors make it easy to keep track of your golf balls. Neon yellow is a popular hue.

Personalized Golf Balls: You can add your own touch to your game with personalized golf balls. Available from a variety of brands, personalized balls can be customized with names, monograms, phrases and much more.