Monday, March 02, 2009

Golfers constantly debate whether to play a high-end, premium-priced ball or a more standard one. Some spheres are best with fast swings, while other balls benefit slower ones. There are balls that spin like a ballerina and ones that twist more like your Aunt Betty. Which orb is right for you?

Our exclusive research partner, Hot Stix Golf, robot-tested two ball types — a three-piece construction with urethane cover, and a performance two-piece — to highlight differences in launch angle, spin rate and, ultimately, performance. Hot Stix used a 460cc titanium driver, 9.5-degree loft, and a cavityback 6-iron. We tested the driver at four clubhead speeds (60, 80, 100 and 120 mph) and the 6-iron at three speeds (60, 80 and 100 mph). Plots show launch and spin values across the designated swing speeds. Your swing may produce different results (be sure to conduct your own on-course evaluation).

On average, the premium three-piece ball launches lower (blue bar) and spins roughly 200 rpm more off the driver. The three-piece ball also launches lower with a 6-iron (green bar) and produces 400 rpm more backspin. Differences between ball types are likely due to the two-piece ball sliding up the face prior to fully engaging it (higher launch with less spin.) Thus, a lower-spinning ball could help golfers who slice or hook it. Distance-challenged golfers can also benefit from higher launch and less spin. Specific patterns develop based on swing speed differences, too. Both ball types spin twice as fast off a driver at 120 mph swing speed than at 60 mph (and 50 percent more off the 6-iron at 100 mph than at 60 mph.)

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