A few months back we learned a brief history about the golf ball and how an evolution of equipment has been mirrored by the development of the players and a growth of the game.
It is interesting, however, that these ‘hardware’ improvements are not necessarily the panacea for better play. The average score by the best players is just one stroke lower than it was 20 years ago.
Today’s golf ball will not become unplayable due to moisture and will not lose its shape through impact by a player or an object. New materials and construction have solved most durability issues. These hi-tech substances also go a long way in resolving a complex problem.
Perfection would be a multi-personality golf ball; a ball that is Clint Eastwood and Hugh Grant, a tough guy with a sensitive side. Unfortunately, ladies, we don’t know a guy like this, and there isn’t a perfect golf ball either.
Speaking in broad terms, two types of golf balls have been produced in recent years. One that would help players hit the ball farther (hard) and the other offer more control (soft), specifically on the shorter shots around the green.
To illustrate a couple of points, let’s use another object lesson. Go find a small stone, a marshmallow, a ping-pong paddle and a tennis racket (or, just use your imagination). Strike both the stone and the marshmallow with the ping-pong paddle. Which travels further?
Next, place the ping-pong paddle on the ground and take five large steps away from it. Try to throw the stone so that it comes to rest on the ping-pong paddle. It’s a lot easier with the marshmallow.
Finally, hit the stone with the ping-pong paddle and then again with the tennis racquet. What I want you to experience here is the rebound of strings in the tennis racquet. The flexibility (or compression) creates energy and sends the stone a greater distance. Granted, a golf ball is only on the face of the club for a fraction of a second, but the principle is the same.
This seems like a tough assignment; we want the flexible to be rigid and the rigid to be flexible. We want to have our cake and eat it, too.
Historically, this has been a hurdle for ball manufacturers. However, golf ball manufactures have been making tremendous improvements in order to satisfy the desires of passionate golfers. Through blends of unique materials (urethane or zynthane to name a couple) and different combinations of ingredients, we may be close to locating the perfect golf ball.
Here is a short list to help you find your best choice. If you are looking for maximum yardage and don’t care about feel (marshmallow) around the greens, a safe bet is to choose a ball with something like ‘distance’ or ‘straight’ in the title. Try the Titleist Velocity or the Pinnacle Gold.
Perhaps you need distance, but you don’t want to make a large sacrifice when it comes to feel. You know how hard it is to toss a rock onto the face of a ping-pong paddle. Try a Bridgestone E-series balls, a Callaway Chrome, or one of the Titleist NXT balls.
Or, you might be the type of player who does not need more distance. You want a ball that performs well around the greens and is consistent. Try the Callaway Speed Regime, the Nike RZN, and the Titliest ProV1.
Technology has helped all of us to become better players. No more feather stuffed hacky-sacks, no more rolled up tree sap, and most balls made today are produced consistently (just 10 years ago, or so, you didn’t always know what you were going to get). Now, it’s up to us to be the best player that we can be. So, grab your clubs, try a few different types of golf balls and enjoy this great game!
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.