Do Distance Balls Go Further? Marketing Matters

Srixon Distance Plus Golf ball and box

If you simply look at the marketing of golf balls you would think it was an easy task to pick a golf ball that goes the furthest.

There are a whole host of golf balls that are branded ‘distance’ balls so if your main goal is to find a ball that goes further then surely it always makes sense to simply pick a distance golf ball from the shelf?

Unfortunately things are not that easy when it comes to selecting the best golf for your own game and it isn’t always wise to leave your decision in the hands of those marketing golf balls.

As a general rule golf balls marketed as ‘distance balls’ do not go further according to multiple robot tests. The simple design of distance balls aims to deliver distance that is roughly comparable to premium balls but at a much reduced price but this means compromises in other areas such as spin rates.

So does this mean the golf manufacturers are not being open and honest when it comes to the marketing of their distance balls if they do not go further than other golf balls?

The short answer to that is no and it is simply that the marketers are focusing on the principle focus of the design of distance golf balls and highlighting their ‘strengths’ rather than focusing on their weaknesses compared to premium ‘Tour’ category golf balls.

In the remainder of this post therefore we take you through the ‘small print’ when it comes to how golf balls are marketed to help you be clear on which golf ball is likely to be best for you when it comes to distance rather than leaving you to rely solely on what the golf ball marketers are telling you.

[To check out some of the top-selling distance balls you can find them at the PGA Tour Superstore here:

How Much Further Do Distance Balls Go? They Don’t

To be able to look at whether distance golf balls go further than other ones it is first important for us to be clear about what a ‘distance golf ball’ is.

Historically golfers, looking for spin and control with their irons, and wedges especially, had to use a soft golf ball.

But by using a soft, or ‘balata’ ball as it was called, those players had to sacrifice distance off the tee.

With the introduction of the modern golf ball at the turn of the century however, which features a solid resilient rubber core and multiple layers, players were then able to enjoy the best of both worlds – both distance for long shots and spin for short ones.

So translating that to golf ball design today premium golf balls mean multi-layered 3, 4 or 5-piece solid core balls with a ‘urethane’ cover while cheaper golf balls typically equate to 2-piece ones with a ‘non-urethane’ cover.

And it is this simpler two-piece golf ball design with some kind of ionomer non-urethane cover (typically Surlyn) that manufacturers can often market as ‘distance golf balls’.

So this branding of balls as ‘distance’ ones can almost be seen as a legacy of the time when these simple balls did indeed go further than the ‘balata’ premium golf balls they were compared against.

“Don’t let golf ball manufacturers marketing fool you. If it tells you its low spin off the driver and high spin off the wedge that’s not what we found in testing. What we found is if the ball spins off the driver its going to be high spinning off the wedge. And if its low spinning off the driver its not going to be as high spinning off your wedge.

MyGolfSpy after completing over 60 hours of testing on 37 golf balls hitting over 4500 shots

While the marketing may not have changed the premium ‘Tour category’ golf balls these ‘distance golf balls’ are up against certainly have and multiple tests have now shown that the distance golf balls of today do not go further than others.

MyGolfSpy’s robot testing of 37 balls over 60 hours with more than 4500 shots did not find distance balls going further than others with the lists of the top 5 longest golf balls their analysis found for different swingspeed categories being dominated by premium ‘Tour’ golf balls.

The complete lists of the five longest balls they found for high, medium and low swingspeeds are shown in the table below.

HIGH SWINGSPEED
(105 to 120 mph)
MEDIUM SWINGSPEED
(90 to 105 mph)
LOW SWINGSPEED
(90 mph and lower)
No.1 Longest BallTitleist Pro V1x left dashMaxfli Tour CGTitleist Pro V1x left dash
No.2 Longest BallTitleist Tour SpeedTaylorMade Tour ResponseTitleist AVX
No.3 Longest BallBridgestone Tour B RXBridgestone Tour B XSVice Pro Plus
No.4 Longest BallTitleist Pro V1Callaway Chrome Soft X LSBridgestone Tour B X
No.5 Longest BallSrixon Z-StarVice ProTitleist Tour Speed
Data source: MyGolfSpy

Robot testing (and one of these robots will set you back a cool $250,000!) is used in modern golf to ensure consistent and reliable data is collected as these machines are able to hit the same spot on a clubface with minute precision every single time.

But many people also find it useful to see what real players find when testing different golf balls as that’s exactly what you will be doing if you decide to try out different golf balls to find out what the longest ball is for you.

Today’s Golfer recently did just that when they put a distance golf ball to the test against a ‘Tour’ ball by getting their pro to compare the results he achieved when hitting shots with his driver, 7-iron and pitching wedge comparing a Srixon Distance ball with a premium Titleist Pro V1.

And the results he got in a controlled environment using a Foresight GCQuad launch monitor proved a couple of things that may be hidden slightly by the fact that no distance ball came in the top 5 of MyGolfSpy’s robot test.

Firstly as we can see from the data above the marketers at the golf manufacturers are not trying to blatantly mislead you they label a golf ball as a ‘distance’ ball.

The test pro’s driver and 7-iron carry distances with the Srixon Distance golf ball were almost identical to what he achieved using the Titleist Pro V1. And it wasn’t a million miles off with the pitching wedge either falling only 5 yards short.

It’s just that secondly, and importantly, a distance golf ball is not going to be able to also give you the spin rates you need if you are looking to also be able to easily stop your shots on the greens, and especially on firmer ones.

And that is because the simpler design elements of distance golf balls – 2-piece and non-urethane cover – allow the manufacturers to sell them at a reduced price compared to premium golf balls which with their more complicated multi-layer, urethane cover, designs are aiming to deliver both distance and spin.

So just remember that while distance golf balls do not go further than other balls they are often not going to be too far off a premium golf ball.

It’s just like with everything in life that costs a lot less you are going to have to accept compromises in other areas and unfortunately the best of both worlds golf ball option – distance and spin – is not cheap in today’s world of complex golf ball design.

[Editor’s note – If you want to know how the physics of golf balls affects distance and whether new or old, harder or softer, heavier or lighter, bigger or smaller ones go further than the other check out our article here.]

Do Women’s Golf Balls Go Further Than Men’s? Wrong Question

One of the other big marketing messages which you also often see when you shop for golf balls is ones that are branded as ‘women’s’ or ‘ladies’ golf balls.

And one of the reasons often cited for a lady golfer to choose such a ball is that it will go further than other balls which you would then assume are meant to be played by men.

But surely a golf ball doesn’t know who is hitting it and therefore it’s not technically possible to design a golf ball that will go further when a woman hits it as opposed to a man?

As a whole women’s golf balls do not go further and there is no aspect of golf ball design that means a specific ball will get extra distance when hit by a woman. Golf balls are marketed as lady golf balls because they are made to suit the slower swingspeeds of the average women golfer which are one-third lower than men.

And it is that last point about swingspeed which is the most important to consider when looking at the topic of women’s golf balls.

One of the key aspects of golf ball design is its ‘hardness’ or its ‘compression’ to give it its technical name.

When a ball is smashed by a club, it changes shape for a split second and how much it changes shape will determine its’ compression rating. And put simply a harder golf ball will change shape less than a softer one when it is hit.

Callaway’s Reva Ball designed for women is the same as a Supersoft Max with different packaging & colour choices.

Where a golf ball sits on the compression scale, between 30 to 110, therefore lets golfers know how hard or soft it is. The higher the number closer to the 100 end of the scale the harder the ball is while a softer ball will have a lower compression number.

Why this number matters is because how fast your swingspeed is has a material effect on how far you will typically hit golf balls of different compressions.

As a general rule of thumb golf balls with a higher compression will go further when played by golfers with higher swingspeeds above 100mph but these players will then correspondingly lose distance with softer balls that players with slower swingspeeds of less than 80mph will often hit further than harder ones.

To put that into perspective the average swingspeed on the PGA Tour is 114mph while the average male golfer averages a swing speed of approximately 90-93mph which is just below the 94mph average swingspeed on the LPGA Tour.

Women, senior and junior golfers meanwhile typically record swingspeeds of between 60 and 80mph.

So what you can often find is that golf balls that are labeled as ‘women’s or lady golf balls’ are marketed as such because the golf ball manufacturer has designed them to best suit players with lower swingspeeds which the averages say will include a lot of women golfers.

And softer golf balls typically get players with slower swingspeeds more distance because they will typically launch higher and stay in the air for longer than harder balls which then results in more distance.

There is of course a lot of physics behind this (which you can read more about in our detailed analysis of whether certain golf balls go further than here) but in brief the key part of softer golf ball design is that by compressing more under the low pressure of slower swingspeeds ball speed, loft, carry and therefore distance will be increased.

The rest is just marketing when it comes to ‘women’s golf balls’ and indeed it is interesting to note that Callaway’s Reva golf ball is effectively a ladies’ version of Callaway’s Supersoft Max ball.

It is the same ball, just with different packaging, colour choices and alignment patterns!

“When we look at what impacts the performance differences of a golf ball, it starts with the golfer, then it goes to the clubs and then it ends with the golf ball. At no point in time did I have to outline gender because the golf ball doesn’t know, doesn’t care.”

Jeremy Stone, VP of Golf Ball Marketing at Titleist

So what does this all mean when it comes to choosing the right golf ball for you whether you be a female or male golfer?

In short it means you should ignore the marketing and focus on finding the right golf ball for you and and finding one that gives you a good balance between distance and spin if you need it.

Your swingspeed will give you a good guide as to where you should start looking on the compression scale but remember that’s not the only relevant factor.

How you strike the ball also affects the distance you can get with a hard or soft golf ball in addition to your swingspeed.

So we would always recommend grabbing a few different balls if you can, which you think are likely to be most suited to your swing, and test them out to find whether one goes further than the others if that’s the key decision point for you.

Gender has nothing to do with it so women golfers may easily find a golf ball, that is not stamped as a ‘ladies’ golf ball, best suits their game and gets them the most distance.

And similarly it is just as feasible that a women’s golf ball could be the best choice for a lot of slower-swinging men out there!

[Editor’s note – To see what golf balls the top women pros are using check out our detailed analysis of the balls being used by the top 50 LPGA players here.]

Final Thought

With over 1200 options on the golf ball market today it’s not hard to see why many golfers can find the choice a bit overwhelming.

And with each of them marketed in slightly different ways, whether that be as a ‘distance’ or ‘ladies’ golf ball, it can add further confusion to an already seemingly massive amount of choice.

Do remember however that while distance is vital in modern golf, and a few extra yards through choosing a different golf ball is not something to overlook, it is not the only factor to consider when making your final choice.

Picking the right ball for your game does not simply mean finding the one which gets you the most distance off the tee or with your irons.

Pro tip: Always play the same make and model of ball during a round. If you change ball type mid-round testing consistently shows the new ball may be shorter, it may be longer or it may be less consistent.

How it performs around the greens is just as critical, and more so as you improve, and as a consequence you should always choose your golf ball from the green backwards.

In other words see how it first ‘feels’ and sounds off the putter, then when chipping and pitching, with your irons and then finally with your driver.

And if you are just starting out, or haven’t yet developed a repeatable swing or short game, just buy the cheapest low compression or soft feel golf ball.

Don’t waste money on something more expensive with a urethane cover until your game improves a bit!

[Note – Just so you know, and we are upfront as an affiliate program participant, Golfing Focus earns from qualifying purchases made through links on this page.]

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Graeme Hay

Graeme Hay is the owner of GolfingFocus.com. Graeme started playing golf when he was only 4 years old and has loved the game ever since. A single figure golfer all of his adult life and a member of Royal Troon Golf Club he lives in London and still enjoys playing whenever he can with friends and family.

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