Which ball?

When I was a little kid and played golf, the golf ball wasn’t as resilient as the golf balls of today. Those ball covers were made from balata (a rubbery gum substance from a tree grown in South America) with rubber band-like windings tightly wrapped around a small rubber liquid-filled ball.

For an inquisitive kid, it was always fun to cut the cover off of a well-used ball (using a pocket knife, of course), watch the rubber band windings fly everywhere; and then, take the smaller rubber ball and have some goofy fun with it. The liquid inside was rumored to be acidic, so I never cut into that smaller ball for fear of one of my hands being melted off – ha!

The few occasions I found a lost golf ball (Titleist or Maxfli) in good condition, I cherished this find. Most of the time, those better balls became known as my putting balls. Of course, it’s not legal in the game of golf to exchange another ball only to putt, but as a 12-year-old – and just playing with a couple of buddies – we didn’t care.

Those older golf balls did not hold up well after a poorly struck golf shot. If a player would hit one thin, the golf club would put a “smile” on the ball, which could actually reach into the rubber bands, making the ball virtually useless after that one poor shot. After striking a tree or a cart path, that ball was history. Gone today are the older Titleist 384 Tour, Maxfli HT, Spalding Dot and a host of other sweet, little, dimpled old friends.

Today’s golf balls live a much longer life. Although the Tour players continue to go through a dozen or so golf balls in one round (mainly because they don’t pay for them), amateur golfers could virtually use the same golf ball for six or seven rounds of golf before losing any performance benefits. Sadly, the new balls can be lost as easily as the old balls – with the exception of one.

The company OnCore has created a golf ball with a GPS chip inside, which is still in the testing stages. This ball’s feature would allow for a player to locate the golf ball via a smart phone. No way would these golf balls be considered conforming to the USGA standards. OnCore is presently pushing its conforming golf balls. My golfers actually did a testing session for the company, and they liked the new ball fairly well.

Titleist is still ruling the roost in the golf ball market. I wouldn’t say because it is a better ball than the competition, but that’s where it sinks the bulk of its advertising dollars. The public responds well to its marketing.

Titleist pays its Tour players a pretty good penny to play its ball, but so do most of the other ball manufacturers. This year on Tour, Ricky Fowler changed from a Titleist ball to the TaylorMade.

Mizuno Golf has introduced a globally sold ball for this year. It is a four-piece construction style and is being offered in a spin version. The X series will allow for a little more distance. I’m interested in seeing how well they do.

Bridgestone Golf shows continual steady growth on the Tour and in the sales market. My CACC Golf Team uses the Bridgestone Tour B and the Tour BX golf balls. In fact, our Trojan golfers have been proudly using Bridgestone balls and gloves for the past 17 years now. Personally, I swear by the Bridgestone brand.

One of the features that I find especially helpful in the Bridgestone ball is found in the patented dimple pattern, which cuts through the wind more efficiently than any other golf ball. Personally, I tested the Bridgestone ball’s wind resiliency on the par 3, No. 8 at Willow Point Golf Course on a very windy day. The wind was blowing hard from left to right. I teed up a Titleist Pro V1 ball and aimed that shot to the left side of the green, hitting an 8 iron.

In the air, the ball was blown from the left edge of the green, across the green and landed in the righthand bunker (and yes, I did hit it well). I then teed up a Bridgestone XS golf ball and started that shot on the exact same line. The Bridgestone ball was blown from the left edge of the green and landed onto the center of the green. Both balls traveled the same distance, but the Bridgestone ball was not affected by the side-wind as rudely as was the Titleist ball.

For golfers who have been playing for more than 30 years, have you noticed that today players find higher-quality balls more often than 30 years ago?

I remember in the 90s that during a ball search, I was sure to come out of the woods with two Pinnacle balls, two Top Flites and one or two others of less-than-stellar qualities. Today, although the balls may not always be in pristine condition, I now find a few Titleist Pro V1s, Bridgestones, TaylorMades, Callaways and, of course, a range ball that someone had stolen from the practice tee. 

I remember 30-some-odd years ago, Top Flite sold 15-, 18- and 24-ball packages for a quarter of what someone would pay for a dozen Titleist Pro V1 balls now. These Top Flite balls were found all over the place. It’s obvious people will look harder for a $5 golf ball than they will for a ball they spent 75 cents on.

This all being said, I truly believe that many people are playing with a higher-dollar golf ball than with what they need to be playing. Some people buy and play the higher-priced ball for confidence or ego, when they would be just as well served by playing a lesser-priced golf ball. Titleist’s Velocity, new AVX or the DT would serve the masses just fine.

For most golfers, the lesser-priced ball will work just fine and likely will not raise anyone’s final score for the day.

Hey, if you normally shoot 85 for 18 holes and choose to play a Bridgestone Tour B X ball or a Titleist Pro V1, fine. Although I suggest giving other balls a test round, I’m just happy to see golfers out on the course.

Hopefully, our winter weather has come and gone, and we can all get a little sun on our skins before long. I myself am looking forward to playing more golf this year with fewer than four layers of clothing. Wishing a great golfing year to all of you.


~ Dave Jennings is the men’s golf coach at Central Alabama Community College.