The whole “pro”, “beginner”, “game-improvement” stuff is all marketing. Nothing more.
No golf club, no golf ball, no golf bag, knows that a pro or beginner is using it.
Name any other consumable item that has a pro or beginner line. Would you run faster or jump higher if Nike came out with “pro” Air Jordans? Do you throw 10mph faster if you use a pro baseball? Why can’t I find pro canned corn in the supermarket?
What really constitutes a beginner golf ball?
The cover? The amount of layers? If a single-digit handicap wanted to use it, would it hurt his game?
Look at how they’re marketed:
- beginner golf ball: 2-3 piece construction, Surlyn cover
- pro golf ball: 3+ piece construction, urethane cover
The reason a “pro” golf ball costs more is because of the urethane cover.
We’ve talked about golf balls and what drives their costs before. For starters, it costs more to make; if there’s a rejection at the factory, urethane can’t be recycled. It has to go straight to the reject bin (those with only inkjet issues can still be sold, usually at a reduced cost).
It’s also true that a urethane cover spins more, due to its softer nature. Urethane’s softness allows the cover to “catch” on the clubface, which creates more friction, which creates more backspin (no, tour-like backspin doesn’t come from the grooves!).
But does that mean that only pros should use urethane-covered balls? Should only “hackers” (I hate that word) use Surlyn-covered cheapie balls?
Absolutely not. There’s a guy on my league that’s a +1, and the closest thing to a “pro” ball he uses is the DT So/Lo, a “hacker’s” ball. He doesn’t try to get max backspin; he’s comfortable landing the ball on the front of the green and letting it roll to the hole. The takeaway:
Knowing your game, what you can and can’t do on the course, is a powerful tool.
There’s another guy who’s a -5 and he only uses whatever he finds on the course! I don’t think he’s paid for a ball in two years. The takeaway:
Regardless whether you want a pro golf ball or a beginner golf ball, cost doesn’t always equal performance.
So, how should golf balls be fitted?
Titleist, the maker of the #1 ball (sales) in pro golf, doesn’t bother fitting for distance. They know, as Golf magazine used to show, that there’s little difference between any style of golf balls as far as distance is concerned.
What they do is, they have a flow chart that guides buyers to a ball they’d be comfortable using.
The key point in the chart is your feelings on spin. If you want spin, or at least, the possibility of creating spin, they steer you towards the Pro-V lines- the ones with the urethane covers. If spin isn’t that big of a deal, they steer you towards the other balls in the lineup- those with Surlyn covers.
Instead of saying “they have a flowchart”, I should say “they had a flowchart. It was originally published in Golf magazine (back when it was actually good), but I can’t find it anywhere. So, I made my own…
From there, they suggest buying sleeves of different models and taking them to the course. They start you just off the green, hitting chips:
- Hit chips with each model. Eliminate those that don’t sound/feel/perform as you expect.
- Go back and hit 50-yard pitch shots. Eliminate those that don’t sound/feel/perform as you expect.
- Go to 125 yards and hit full shots. Eliminate those that don’t sound/feel/perform as you expect.
- If you still have 2 or more models, go to the tee box and hit drives. Again, eliminating those that don’t sound/feel/perform as you expect.
- If you still have 2+ models, go to the putting green and hit putts; if you can’t break the tie, choose the less expensive model.
You might say “well, Bridgestone fits for distance”. So, what? What’s going to help with your score: getting a few extra yards off the tee, or a ball that responds to you from the scoring clubs (short irons and wedges) down to the putter? Unfortunately, distance sells, so people go that route.
The point is, there’s no such thing as a pro golf ball, nor is there such a thing as a beginner golf ball.
Does the ball you’re looking to buy work for you, and do you like the price? If you say “yes” to both, then that’s your ball.