Does the Golf Ball Affect Distance?

best golf ball for distance off the tee

Our regular four ball group was waiting to tee off on the first and we were discussing the different golf balls that we use. One question that caused some debate was “does the golf ball affect distance?”

The answer is yes, the golf ball does affect distance and the distance that a ball travels is affected by the way that it is struck and by the elements. So the type of ball, the player and the weather all have an impact. This article takes a look at those variables and looks at how to choose the right golf ball for you and your game.

There are several pieces of equipment which combine to play a round of golf.  Which golf clubs to buy is often the source of much discussion but something which is often overlooked, especially by beginner golfers, is the golf ball.

You will use the golf ball on every hole you play, regardless of the outcome of each shot.  You may lose a ball and need to use a replacement but if you have purchased a set of golf balls from the pro-shop, golf store or online, you will still be using the same type of ball.

However, have you ever questioned the type of golf ball you are using?  Have you considered how the golf ball you are using affects the distance you can hit the ball?  As your golf game develops, these are things you must consider and using the ball most suited to your game could lead to an increase in distance.

If you have ever spent time at the driving range, you will have used the balls provided.  Have you noticed any differences when using range balls in comparison to the balls you use when playing a round of golf?

Golf Balls vs Range Balls range balls

You may have spent many hours at the driving range and thought to yourself ‘I’m sure I hit the ball further than that with the driver on the golf course’.

The fact is, range balls are not going to be of the same quality at your local golf club as the balls you use when on the golf course.  Depending on the quality of the balls you use and the standard of your play, the differences may be minimal but will still be there.

Range balls are purchased in bulk and tend to be two-piece golf balls.  Some may even have a rubbery feel to them when compared to a ball you would use on the golf course.

In most cases, you may not find a great deal of difference between the distance you can achieve with a range ball and a normal golf ball when using the mid-irons.  A two-piece golf ball is often optimised for use with irons and therefore you will see little to separate them with the ball you use on the course in terms of distance.

Range balls often have a harder cover on them than premium golf balls and will therefore fly faster off the face of wedge shots.  This means the carry on a range ball when using wedges will be longer than the carry when using a quality golf ball on the course.  However, the backspin will be significantly less on the range ball and this will increase the stopping distance greatly.

So, in terms of wedges, you could not expect to see the same outcome in terms of distance and control of range balls and premium golf balls.

When using a driver, you will find the opposite is true in terms of carry.  The range ball will not fly as far when using a driver, mainly due to a reduction in ball speed.  Many people believe they hit the ball further with the driver when using a range ball but this is not true.  A premium golf ball will always travel further off the driver.

Clearly you need to make a similar contact when using both balls for the results to truly comparable but in most cases, you will find a range ball travels further then a premium golf ball when using wedges, roughly the same for irons and not as far for drivers.

Does a golf ball fly farther in humidity?

The simple answer to this question is yes, the golf ball does fly farther in humidity.  It is a common misconception that because the air feels heavier when the climate is humid, the ball will not travel as far as it would in normal conditions.

You can feel the humid air more than normal air but in terms of hitting the golf ball, you are actually hitting the ball into thinner air.  Dry air is made up of nitrogen and oxygen molecules and water weighs less than that which means the ball will travel farther in humidity.

For a better explanation, Titleist and FootJoy conducted a study and in the words of Steve Aoyama, a scientist at Titleist, “Air that is hot or humid is actually lighter than air that is cold or dry or both. Heat reduces the air’s density by causing it to expand.  Humidity also reduces density because water vapor is lighter than dry air, so the more water vapor in the mixture, the less dense the air.  So, forget how the air feels on a hot, humid day. It is actually lighter, and will allow the ball to fly farther.”

In many cases, the difference between hitting the golf ball in humid conditions compared to normal conditions could be as little as one yard.  However, if you find yourself arriving at the golf course in very humid conditions, be prepared for the ball to carry a little farther than anticipated.

How does the temperature affect golf ball distance?

golf ball distance and cold weatherAnother weather condition to be aware of when playing golf is the temperature.  When the temperature is cold, the golf ball will not distort and compress as much as it would in warm temperatures.  This means the ball will not travel as far in cold weather as it does in warm weather.

In addition, you are likely to be wearing more clothes when playing in cold weather and this could restrict your swing resulting in less distance on your shots.

Playing at Elevation

The higher you go when playing golf, the thinner air the becomes and this means there is less drag on the ball when it is in the air.  Therefore, the golf ball will move more easily through the air and does not slow down as quickly, resulting in more distance.

Does golf ball quality matter?

Golf balls are manufactured differently depending on whether you would like to hit the ball farther or have more control.

Basically, the higher quality the ball you purchase, the more control it will give you but some top of the range balls will also see an increase in distance off the tee.  However, the majority of golf balls are designed with either distance or control in mind and gone are the days of cheaper golf balls being made with durable distance covers but without any short-game feel.

Today, the debate centres more around the type of golf ball you need to use for your game.  If you are struggling for distance off the tee and reaching the green in regulation is a problem because you cannot hit the ball far enough, you should opt for a distance golf ball.

These have lower spin rates thanks to a harder outer shell and this results in a longer shot.  However, the balls designed for distance are often more does golf ball quality matterdifficult to control.  You may be achieving a longer distance than ever before but your accuracy is suffering.

Control golf balls, or low compression golf balls, have a softer feel when hit and due to their increased spin, they are easier to control.  If you have no trouble achieving distance off the tee and you are looking for a ball which offers more control on shorter shots around the green, you should opt for a control designed golf ball.

However, thanks to the developments in golf ball design, there are many balls on the market which offer compromise between the two.  You can buy a box of golf balls which have been designed as an all-rounder for under $30 whereas this would have been impossible 20 years ago.

Obviously, if you purchase a box of cheap golf balls made by a manufacturer you have never seen before, it could affect the distance you can hit the ball.  Much like range balls, a cheap golf ball could see you hitting the ball a shorter distance with the driver and for a beginner golfer this can be disheartening.

The best advice is to always use a golf ball which is best suited to your game.  That way, you are sure to hit the ball a distance you expect while also having the desired control for the quality of your game.  If you are unsure how the golf ball you are currently using is affecting the distance you are hitting the ball, do not be afraid to ask for some help at your local golf club.

Once you start using a suitable ball, it is advisable to stick with it and not continuously change as that is when you will begin to see differences in the distance the ball is carrying.