Golf balls should be custom-fit, too
Among the best players, there is as much or more talk about reining in golf ball technology as there is club technology. Jack Nicklaus has suggested using a special restricted-flight ball for the Masters to protect the integrity of Augusta National.
For us average golfers, I would argue that improvements in golf balls has contributed to our enjoyment of the game even more than improvement in clubs.
Remember when you started the game as a youngster, and thin shots would tattoo those old wound balatas with a huge “smile,” leaving the ball completely unplayable? Or how some of the balls in your bag would be out of round from getting hit too hard for too long?
On the opposite end of the spectrum were the rock-hard Pinnacle Golds and Top-Flite XLs. You couldn’t hurt them, but you also couldn’t control them on the greens. They sounded like pebbles striking a tin shed when you hit them with your putter. And we all wondered why we couldn’t spin the ball like the pros!
Today, the market is crammed with balls that promise distance off the tee AND feel on the green. What a concept!
But buyer beware: Just because you drop $50 for a dozen balls doesn’t mean they are the best pills for your pain.
In order to reap the distance benefits of the high-end offerings like Nike’s new One Platinum, you need a high swing-speed that will lift the ball without excess spin. Hitting down on it with your driver or hitting with too slow a swing will impart more spin—like an iron shot. You’ll still appreciate the tremendous feel around the green, though.
For most golfers, Nike’s new Ignite is a better choice: Still very respectable softness for touch shots, but designed to spin less and get up higher even at lower swing speeds. At around $20 a dozen, the Ignite is meant to compete with recent personal favorites like the Maxfli Noodle, Slazenger Money, and Titleist SoLo.
So how much of the golf ball hype is, well, hype? According to Frank Thomas, former Technical Director for the USGA, “No matter how hot the ball, the combination between the ball and the club’s coefficient of restitution determines how far the ball flies. If anyone tells you they get 20 extra yards with a given ball…it’s absolute nonsense.”
In short, when you get fitted for clubs, don’t forget to get fitted for balls, too. It’s the combination of swing PLUS club PLUS ball that will result in the best possible performance.
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