Yo, Gear Guy! Should I pick my golf ball and driver based on the highest ball speed?

July 24, 2019
A golfer lines up a drive on a tee box.

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 equipment questions.

A person I trust told me to select my golf ball and driver based on highest ball speed. Makes sense to me, how about you? — Thomas on Instagram

I don’t know if the person you trust is a professional fitter or amateur enthusiast, but while I understand where they’re advice comes from, I can’t say I agree. There are some golf instructors who like to see young players swing as fast as possible in order to develop power and distance and then rein it in later, and some folks share this same philosophy when it comes to choosing a driver or golf ball. And I admit as a player who personally understands the negative effects injury and age can have on clubhead speed and distance, I definitely understand the philosophy of picking the longest options with the expectation that I’ll be able to learn to control them at some unspecified later date.

However, I still select all my golf gear, driver and ball included, with the main parameter being balanced performance, or at least balanced for my game. Recently a golf ball “test,” was published on a golf gear-oriented website, the results of which seemed to indicate that players of all swing speeds achieve faster ball speed and distance from higher compression golf balls (“X” models) and the conclusion the writers drew was that concerning yourself with feel when choosing a golf ball was a mistake and that ball speed should be the main parameter. I knew right away that my personal experience with golf-ball fitting contradicted their conclusions, as I’ve experimented extensively with the Pro V1x and standard Pro V1 models, as well as the lower-compression AVX, and found repeatedly the highest compression Pro V1x model to be not only my least favorite in terms of feel on and around the greens, but also the worst suited to my overall game. Yes, the higher compression and higher launch can be advantageous off the tee, but the higher spin rate (in my case) negates whatever slight ball speed advantages the higher compression provides and also flies too high on iron shots. Worst of all, the firmer feel has a negative effect on my putting and general short-game touch around the greens.

I would say the same thing about driver choice as I did about golf-ball selection but I think you get the idea. If I test a driver that provides the highest ball speed and distance but fails in the accuracy, control, and forgiveness categories, there’s no way it’s going in my bag. Remember, golf is a game that requires a balance of distance and control and not surprisingly, choosing gear that only satisfies one or the other is not a good way to go.

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