Yo, Gear Guy! How do pros decide between standard and ‘X’ golf balls?

Titleist golf balls

Welcome to another edition of Yo, Gear Guy!, an interactive GOLF.com series in which our resident dimplehead (a.k.a., GOLF’s deputy editor of equipment, Mike Chwasky) fields your hard-hitting questions about clubs, fittings, gadgets, bounce, lofts, CG, MOI, and a bunch of other scary acronyms. Got a question for Gear Guy? Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook or email.

Dweingart on Instagram: If “X” type balls like Pro V1x are for faster swingers, why do some pros use the standard model?

The “X” models you’re referring to, like Pro V1x for example are not necessarily for faster swingers. Though they vary depending on brand, Tour models with the “X” designation typically feature a slightly higher compression than the standard Tour model (Pro V1 in this case), making them feel firmer and sometimes produce more ballspeed for the fastest swingers (Tour speeds over 110 mph). “X” models also sometimes provides more spin on longer shots and around the greens. However, lots of players, even long-hitting Tour pros like Jimmy Walker and Adam Scott, favor the softer feel and lower trajectory of the standard Pro V1 and choose that option consistently.

In the case of Tiger Woods, who plays Bridgestone’s Tour B XS rather than the firmer Tour B X, the emphasis is on feel and control rather than the extra distance the higher compression model would provide someone swinging in the 120-mph range. The reason – he obviously thinks that choice will help him shoot lower scores. Most companies, including Titleist, don’t recommend golf balls based on swing speed as much as by overall performance with the emphasis on short game and scoring situations. Personally I choose my gamer based mostly on putting feel since as a non-Tour speed swinger I never see a significant difference in distance provided by any Tour ball I’ve tried. If you sample multiple Tour balls and find the “X” model suits your preferences for feel, ballflight, and overall performance, go ahead and play it, even if you’re not the fastest swinger or longest hitter in your group.

Fnkjames on Instagram: If I go with midsize or larger grips will I lose swing speed or struggle with slicing?

This is one of those traditional beliefs that no longer holds water. Yes it sort of makes sense that a smaller grip would be easier to release while a larger grip would take the hands out of the swing a bit, but as usual when it comes to golf gear, the “rules” don’t actually apply to everyone. In reality some moderate speed swingers do better with and prefer to play an X-type golf ball or Sub Zero driver while some faster swingers prefer the standard models. Same deal with grips – some players swing faster and get better results with smaller grips while other do better with larger grips, regardless of hand size.

If you feel more comfortable with a larger grip try one on your seven-iron or driver and see what happens. You might have more trouble releasing the club or you might find your ballstriking and overall distance improves. I used slightly undersized Tour Velvet grips for about 20 years and always liked them but recently moved to a midsized grip and love the results – less tension in my hands and wrists and a smoother motion. Golf is a personal game and while there are some guidelines that sometimes work for fitting purposes it’s always best to experiment and find out what works best for you.

Nick on Facebook: Thoughts on combining single-length hybrids and long-, mid-irons with progressive-length short irons and wedges?

I understand the desire to potentially combine single-length long and mid irons with traditional-length (progressive) shorter irons, as that’s what I would probably do if I made a switch from traditional-length clubs. The simple reason – longer clubs including hybrids are more challenging to hit for most players than the shorter ones, which are designed for accuracy in scoring situations. It makes sense but there are some challenges to creating this type of set. First you need to make sure the lofts of your hybrids and long irons match up correctly and that distance gapping is correct – suffice to say I highly recommend using a qualified fitter (like True Spec for example) to help with this.

Since hybrids tend to produce higher trajectories and more distance than equivalent long irons and also are typically fitted with lighter weight graphite shafts you very well might need to consider graphite shafts throughout your set to make the gapping work. Then you’ll also need to decide where to begin progressive lengths, though I would recommend the eight-iron as the place to start – that’s typically where scoring shots begin and also where most modern sets with flexible face technology transition to solid face construction. A good potential strategy that might be simpler is to use one-length in the hybrids and long irons, another length for mid irons, and a third for short irons and/or wedges (or at least one length through the seven-iron and another for eight-iron through your wedges). Regardless of what you decide, I strongly suggest consulting a fitter who can make sure the head weights, lofts, distance gaps, and overall feel, among other things, are correct for your swing.