Understanding Golf Ball Compression for the Layperson
Golf ball compression is a foreign concept to many amateur players. Most players don't take the time to research which type of golf ball best suits his or her game. Understanding every element of your equipment and how each pieces fits your game is critical to lowering your scores over time. Here are a few tips to consider before buying that next sleeve of golf balls.
Swing Speed and Compression
The majority of amateur players have swing speeds lower than 90 mph. They will not benefit as much from the same golf balls their favorite professional players use as they would from a ball with lower compression.
When you hit a golf ball, the force of your club at impact causes the ball to lose its round shape for a millisecond. The ball becomes "flatter" due to compression, much like how a basketball flattens when dribbled on the ground. Your golf ball then expands back into shape as it flies toward your target. This transfer of energy translates to a boost in distance that can differ widely depending on the swing speed/compression rating relationship.
Traditionally, higher swing speeds (for example, PGA Tour pros) over 100 mph benefit the most from high-compression golf balls. The opposite is true for slower swing speeds who "should" use lower compression balls.
A Shift in Opinion
Recent research has prompted manufacturers to question traditional beliefs about golf ball compression. For example, Titleist believes that golf ball compression has less to do with a golf ball's performance and more to do with feel. Qualities like dimple pattern and spin rates have a bigger impact. Therefore, the world's leading golf ball manufacturer suggests that players with slower swing speeds don't need lower compression golf balls.
Does it really matter?
Do you have any idea what the compression rating is for your current golf ball? Most manufacturers no longer list this information on their packaging. You are more likely to see info on spin rates, cover durability and mantle construction. This distinction alone suggests that marketing focus has shifted away from compression and toward other performance characteristics.
However, many companies -- including Titleist -- offer golf balls with different compression ratings. Golf ball selection is still a highly personal process where feel reigns supreme for most players. Manufacturers understand this and do all they can to offer different "flavors" of the same performance tech (dimple pattern, mantle construction, etc.) to appease every golf ball feel palate.
(Photos via Titleist.com)