Review: New (golf) balls, please!

Tour pro Andrew Raitt marks your card on what's best for you

Andrew Raitt
Wed, 20 May 2009

Review: New (golf) balls, please!

Which ball should we tee up? Tour pro Andrew Raitt has some great advice

Which golf ball should we use? Does it matter as long as it's round, has dimples and conforms to The Rules of Golf? Maybe our choice is governed by golf ball snobbery? Golfmagic’s latest addition to its team, European Tour pro Andrew Raitt, was tasked with helping us make the right decisions.

MUCH HAS BEEN WRITTEN about the importance of being fitted for the clubs we used and I can testify that throughout my career it was only in recent years that its importance came to my attention.

Titleist's latest 2009 ProV1x with new alignment marking

And while much has already been documented about this relatively new feature introduced to golf little of merit has been identified about the importance of using the right golf ball so we thought I would start my new role with Golfmagic on giving a Tour pro's perspective and helping amateur golfers discover what's best suited for them.

Faced with a selection of options behind every pro shops counter, we all have our favourites. For whatever reason, be it dreams of aspiring to our golfing idols or merely price point, there's a reason that we always reach for a certain brand.

What is it that makes us loyal to a brand of golf ball? My own experiences suggest that, as with golf equipment, amateurs are often too quick to define themselves into a category of golf ball without enough care and attention.

Keeping up to speed with the latest technological advancements is something that few of us have time to do. Yet each brand and each model has its benefits to our games. It was this very issue that led to a conversation on ‘Which ball best suits my game?’ and subsequently I was tasked with divulging an insider’s view as to what works best for you.

What Tour pros use

Tour professionals tend to choose the ball they will use on a number of different criteria to the amateur. As for all golfers, the sound the ball makes when struck by a club is crucial. The crisp, solid sound of a well struck iron shot is something that all players strive for and Tour players know their game is good when this strike is almost guaranteed.

TaylorMade TP Red

If a ball is too soft or too low in compression the sound is different and a Tour pro will naturally try to hit the ball harder to achieve this sound and feel. But trying to over-hit means a loss of control and can have disastrous results, especially when your livelihood depends on it!

Amateur golfers have one big advantage when choosing their golf ball. - choice. However, all the top pros, indeed almost all the regular Tour golfers are contracted to use a certain ball, at least one from a range from a certain manufacturer.

Sometimes a contract will include everything a player uses - clubs, bag, shoes, balls and headwear. The more equipment a player uses from one manufacturer, the more money he will be paid to endorse and promote that product.

This means that a player contracted to Srixon or TaylorMade, for example, may prefer another type of ball but be obliged to use a ball from that manufacturer. The good news for them is that each of the manufacturers have a range of balls and they are all so good that a player will become accustomed to the way it behaves.

Ten years ago I had a contract when playing the European Tour with a manufacturer that tied me to their ball. That year Titleist brought out the Pro V1 and I was, effectively, giving up 30 yards of the tee. Playing a practice round with Justin Rose and Warren Bennett in Germany in the TPC of Europe, I was consistently behind them off the tee. But after nine holes they both tried the ball I was using and they, too, finished 30 yards short of their other drives.

Callaway Tour i ball if you're looking for spin

With this in mind, the ball you choose to play your golf can really make a difference to your game!

From my early days in junior golf, then four years playing collegiate golf out of the University of Nevada and the last 15 years as professional, Titleist has been recognised as the No.1 ball in golf.

Apart from short periods when I contractually used another brand, I have always chosen to play a Titleist ball and so do nearly two-thirds of players on all Tours across the world. However, several manufacturers now provide some serious competition as their products have improved immensely.


I have been asked to compare and contrast the balls of four main manufacturers for your benefit and try to simplify the choice for you. Titleist, TaylorMade, Srixon and Callaway all have a choice for the better golfers among you and can be put into two brackets - a softer high spin category for those who have less clubhead speed at impact and a lower spin ball for golfers with a faster clubhead speed.

First category

Titleist Pro V1, TaylorMade TP Red, Srixon Z Star and Callaway Tour i.

These balls are all designed to help a player that is looking for spin and control. They are constructed individually and will feel a little different to one another, but all have similar characteristics.

For golfers that generate clubhead speeds of less than 110 mph with their drivers, these are the balls I suggest will give you the best balance between distance and control.

Second category

Titleist Pro V1 X, TaylorMade TP Black, Srixon Z Star X and Callaway Tour iX.

The balls in this category are for the golfer that generates a clubhead speed of over 110 mph. When producing that sort of speed in your swing, the balls in this category will not spin too much.

If a ball creates too much spin it can cause a number of problems - especially for a pro. It can cost distance off the tee, it makes playing in the wind very difficult and can makes getting to certain pin positions more demanding and risky.

The emerging Srixon Z-Star favoured by players with lower clubhead speed

For example, if a pin position is only five yards from the back of a green and the greens are receptive, to get a ball that generates a lot of spin to finish close to the hole, we may have to risk flying the green to land ball past the pin and allow to suck back when it lands.

Ball manufacturers spend millions of dollars on research and development and they are all very good products. And when we have a choice in life, human nature means that some golfers will prefer one over the other.

Select on swing speed

However, I would suggest that if you know your swing speed, you choose a ball from the categories I've suggested that suit your game.

And if you play each weekend, I'd suggested buying a sleeve of each and over a period of a month, try each of them for at least 18 holes, makes compare and make your comparisons.

At the end of the month you will have a much better picture in your own mind of which one you like most and more important - why it suits you.

Good luck and play well! FOOTNOTE: There are many more golf balls on the market including Nike and Bridgestone but initially we've just identified these four leading brands. Hopefully, will get round to an analysis of the rest in future articles.



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