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Should you play one type of golf ball?
Welcome to Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, a GOLF.com series produced in partnership with Cleveland/Srixon Golf. In this edition, we explore whether or not it makes sense to swap out a different golf ball model every now and then.
Let’s start with some good news. Most of us can use whatever golf balls we want, whenever we want. We’re even allowed to change golf balls during a round so long as the one-ball rule is not in effect. Which by the way, the one-ball rule happens to be a “Local Rule”, meaning it’s up to your local tournament committee as to whether or not you’re able to switch up your golf balls, or if you have to use the same ball model throughout the entire round.
Having the freedom to choose a different golf ball whenever you want is for sure a good thing, but it’s not always the right thing. Let’s look at a few instances where it might be a good idea to switch things up, as well as couple reasons for sticking with what you have.
If you play on dramatically different conditions from one course to another, sometimes switching to a different golf ball is a good idea. Maybe you occasionally play a course with softer-than-normal greens and you’d rather have less spin and more distance off the tee and from the fairway. Or, things could be in reverse: the occasional links-style course that you play is nothing like your home track, and its harder fairways and even firmer greens put a premium on having more spin. Remember, different golf balls will react differently depending on where you play.
When facing windy conditions, you usually want to keep the ball lower and play one that spins less in the air. It’s possible you can find a ball with similar greenside spin (when compared to your gamer) that at the same time, spin less off the tee. Srixon’s Z-STAR and Z-STAR XV are prime examples of two golf balls that have very close short shot spin rates, but the XV produces a considerably flatter trajectory with the driver. Or, maybe you want a bit more trajectory in less-than-ideal conditions from the fairway? The Z-STAR DIAMOND might be the ticket. Point is, all three models in the Z-STAR line have subtle differences in flight/spin characteristics but feel comfortably similar from one to the next. This make it easy to switch without opting for a completely different ball with a very different feel and performance. Golf ball manufacturers know we have these kinds of needs, which is why you’ll often find two or more models in the same ball line.
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Ball manufacturers offer many of their golf balls in not only white but in multiple colors, patterns and sometimes with built-in alignment aids. Trying a different color can be refreshing on the eyes, but it also makes sense depending on weather conditions. Yellow/orange golf balls are easier to see in cloudy or foggy conditions, and some golf balls have unique design optics to improve your focus and better your putting.
Unless you have access to a launch monitor and can hit a variety of golf balls on the golf course, you probably won’t know what you don’t know about how other golf balls will perform. This is why we’re such big proponents and fans of golf-ball fittings. It’s a quick (and sometimes free) way to see how different golf balls react off the face with all your clubs. It won’t take long to see if you’re shorting your driver by a few yards and/or are generating too much/too little spin with your short shots.
Using the same ball because you’re too stubborn to try something newer/better isn’t a good idea. This is especially true if you’ve upgraded some other clubs in your bag. A new wedge, irons, woods, etc., warrants at least a consideration for a new golf ball to best take advantage of whatever new technology you just picked up.
Tour players sometimes make golf ball changes based on their equipment, and on rare occasions, switch to a softer/firmer golf ball based on where they play. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unheard of. For the rest of us, an open mind is generally a good one to have and trying different golf balls, even if only to see how each works for you, is definitely worth your while.
There’s something about familiarity that tends to make some of us play better. When it comes to golf balls, it’s easy to stick with one model because in actuality you’re not going to use the exact same ball every time you play. You can start with a fresh iteration of whatever ball you wish seemingly as often as you want — that’s not something we can do with our clubs that eventually wear out, get damaged or in some cases become obsolete to new technology. With golf balls, it’s feasible to stick with what you like because you know how the ball responds, how far it flies and how much it spins. Those factors alone have kept many of us playing the same ball for years at a time.
This is only true if you already play inexpensive golf balls. Why switch and pay more for anything else? If you don’t play an inexpensive ball and you lose a lot of them every time you play, stop what you’re doing and go with something easier on the wallet. A good rule of thumb is, if you lose more than a sleeve a round, it’s probably not the golf ball that’s the problem — it’s you. Consider booking a lesson before shelling out hundreds of dollars for premium golf balls every year. Also, as a bonus, sometimes opting for a golf ball you aren’t afraid to lose will end up helping you play with a bit more confidence. And with more confidence, usually there are more good shots than bad ones, no matter what ball you use.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below!
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