Myth vs. Fact – Soft Golf Balls
Golf Balls

Myth vs. Fact – Soft Golf Balls

Myth vs. Fact – Soft Golf Balls

Written By: Frank Simonutti, Wilson Golf

Differentiation of golf balls is a difficult proposition. The United States Golf Association rules for equipment set limits on ball initial velocity and overall distance which limits the design of the golf ball. Because all manufacturers design golf balls to approach the USGA limit for initial velocity and overall distance, it is very difficult to make a ball with significant distance advantage that conforms to USGA regulations. As a result, there is a significant level of parity in golf ball performance.

With most golf balls approaching the initial velocity limits defined by the USGA, the challenge becomes how to continually develop golf balls that are longer than the competition, are noticeably different from other golf balls, and stay within the USGA conformance regulations.

wilson-balls-mgs-forum

Options for golf ball differentiation include:

  • Spin rate: Most balls exhibit comparable spin rate as well as distance within the same product category (2-piece Surlyn, 3-piece Surlyn, multi-layer Urethane). A large number players are unable to discern differences in spin rate. Further, for many players a high spin rate (specifically off the Driver) is detrimental as it results in magnification of hooks and slices. For most high handicap golfers, high greenside spin is not discernible, and the benefits of straighter ball flight is a more beneficial performance attribute.
  • Dimple pattern differentiation: Golfers generally are not concerned with the dimple pattern, unless the pattern includes non-conventional shapes. Non-conventional shapes have generally not been well received or successful.
  • Feel: A performance attribute that can be perceived by golfers of all handicaps.

We have conducted a significant amount of testing of golf balls to determine feel preferences.  Golfers of all ages and handicaps evaluated balls of different compression in blind testing – and test results have shown the following:

  • 70+ % of golfers prefer a softer feeling ball compared to a harder feeling ball.
  • This percentage is constant regardless of the handicap of the golfer.

There are multiple contributing factors that contribute to the feel of a golf ball, but the largest factor contributing to ball feel is ball compression.

Wilson-DUO-100

What is Compression?

Compression is a measurement of the deformation of the golf ball under a static load. As the deformation of the ball increases, the compression value decreases. In more basic terms, the lower the compression, the more a ball deforms upon impact with the golf club, and the greater area of the ball that comes into contact with the face of the golf club.

golf-ball-compression

  • Compression is calculated based upon the deflection/deformation of the ball under an applied load of 200 lb. Every 0.001” increase in deformation is equivalent to a decrease of one compression point.
  • Compression is calculated using the formula:
Compression = 180 – (deformation x 1000)

(A core or ball CAN have a compression of less than zero).

golf-ball-compression-chart

The lower the ball compression, the softer the feel of the ball.

Technology/Construction

To achieve the best overall performance it is necessary to optimize the ball construction to result in the softest feel with the longest distance and spin performance products for all levels of golfer.

wilson-2-pieceTo develop a soft feel, low compression 2-piece golf ball it is necessary to design the ball components as follows:

  • Golf ball core: To produce a soft core that will produce low compression and high ball velocity, it is necessary to maximize the size of the core and to maximize the level of materials that are reactive components in the rubber core.
    • The largest possible core size is necessary to produce the low compression. The core is the primary contributing factor to producing a low compression ball and the volume of the core should ideally be at least 80-82% of the total ball volume.
    • Maximizing the level of reactive materials in the golf ball core is necessary to maximize the velocity of the core. The lower density of the larger core and the use of heavier non-reactive (inert) fillers allows for a core comprising greater than 96% of reactive material
  • Golf ball cover: The cover comprises a Surlyn ionomer composition and needs to be as high modulus (stiff) as possible to provide ball velocity. The limiting factor is that if the cover material is too stiff, the impact of the club will result in excess flex of the cover and result in brittle failure of the cover.
  • Dimple Pattern: To optimize flight performance, a dimple pattern needs to be designed to maximize the flight performance of the ball velocity, launch angle and spin rate of the ball that results from the construction. Low compression 2-piece balls will generally have low spin rate and high launch angle compared to harder compression balls, and the dimple profile needs to be designed to maximize carry distance of the golf ball.

The resultant golf ball provides exceptionally long distance performance. The combination of the soft core and stiff ionomer cover also results in a low spin rate which results in reduced sidespin and straighter ball flight.

wilson-3-pieceThere are players who prefer a higher spin rate and still prefer the feel of a low compression ball. It is possible, through use of a 3-piece construction, to develop a ball that has low compression/soft feel and achieves a higher level of spin for the players who desire this added performance. The design components for a soft 3-piece ball are:

  • Golf ball center: The center of the golf ball is primarily to provide low compression/soft feel and maintain a low driver spin rate for straight flight. To achieve this, a smaller center with a very low compression (significantly softer than the 2-piece core) is required. As the center is not a significant contributor to the velocity of the golf ball it is not necessary to maximize the density of the core.
  • Golf ball mantle layer: The inner layer of the 3-piece ball is designed to contribute both to the velocity of the golf ball and the spin of the golf ball. The material used for this inner layer needs to provide as much velocity as possible while also contributing to the low compression of the overall ball. Ideal materials for this inner layer are specialty high-performance terpolymer ionomers designed by DuPont specifically for use in golf balls.
  • Golf ball cover: The cover of the golf ball can comprise either Surlyn to produce higher spin than the 2-piece construction, or Urethane to provide maximum spin performance.
    • Surlyn cover: A Surlyn cover for a 3-piece construction needs to be lower modulus than the cover of the 2-piece construction to increase the ball spin but still be stiff enough to provide ball velocity.
    • Urethane cover: A urethane cover needs to be applied to the core mantle combination to produce maximum spin properties. There are two types if polyurethane that can be used as covers for golf balls: cast polyurethane and thermoplastic polyurethane.Either type of urethane can be used, but cast urethane is preferred as it provides better abrasion/scuff resistance and better cut resistance than thermoplastic polyurethane. To achieve acceptable distance performance, the urethane cover needs to be as thin as possible as urethane is a “dead” material and needs to be molded as thin as possible to achieve the maximum possible ball velocity and distance performance.”

ballcompression

The 3-piece ball design performance, for both Surlyn and Urethane covers, is based upon the inner layer (core) having more of an effect on shots with high clubhead velocity (Driver, Fairway Woods, Long Irons) – the high impact on the ball resulting in the core having a significant effect on the ball performance resulting in lower spin rate and straighter flight. As the speed of the club impact decreases, the effect of the core is minimized and the outer two layers become the predominant contributors to the ball performance. This results in higher spin rates (comparatively) as the club head speed decreases – on short iron and wedge shots.

This results in increased greenside performance.

myths-1

During development of low compression golf balls, we have received feedback questioning the performance of low compression golf balls. In particular, with competitors touting low compression balls for lower swing speed players this becomes more of an issue to try to dispel certain “myths”. The comments we have received the most regarding low compression golf balls are as follows:

  • Low compression golf balls are for slow swing speed players.
  • Lower compression golf balls are for play in low temperatures.

To dispel these myths, we have tested low compression balls and compared them to higher compression balls.

MYTH: Low compression golf balls are for low swing speed players.

We tested the Coefficient of Restitution of low compression and high compression golf balls at test speeds of 85 mph (125 ft/s), 102 mph (150 ft/s), and 119 mph (175 ft/s). As C.O.R. is a measure of the energy retained during a collision (such as a club/ball collision) this should correlate to the expected ball velocity at different clubhead speeds.

cor-impact-velocity

Test results show that there is minimal difference in the slope of the Coefficient of  Restitution between the low compression balls and high compression balls at varying test speeds, indicating no reduction in performance at  high test velocity (corresponding to high clubhead speed) and low test velocity (corresponding to low clubhead speed). This indicates the low compression balls will not have slower ball velocity at higher swing speeds and are not for “low swing speed players”.

MYTH: Low compression golf balls are for play in low temperatures

To disprove this contention, we performed Coefficient of Restitution testing at three different temperatures (30°F, 70°F and 105°F). Testing was performed on low compression balls and results compared to higher compression competitive golf balls.

cor-temperature

The results of Coefficient of Restitution testing at various temperatures shows that the low compression balls have C.O.R. that is comparable to or greater than higher compression balls at all temperatures – indicating performance at both low and high temperatures.

Wilson-DUO-100-2

Summary

Testing of a significant number of golfers indicates that low compression/soft feel golf balls are preferred by a majority of players regardless of handicap. With the correct design, low compression golf balls can be produced that have distance performance that is as long or longer than higher compression golf balls.

Wilson has been producing low compression golf balls since 1997, and has continued to make advances in reducing ball compression. This led to the introduction of the Wilson Staff Duo™ golf ball in 2012, and has led an industry shift to softer golf balls that provide exceptional distance performance and better feel properties.

Wilson continues to work to advance development of low compression golf balls through application of new, softer materials and improved manufacturing processes. Our goal is to be the low compression, highest performance golf ball in all product categories.

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Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti is Global Director of Innovation, Golf Balls for Wilson Sporting Goods. Frank has a degree in polymer Science from Penn State, and has 25 years of experience in golf ball development, the last 21 of which have been with Wilson Sporting Goods.

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti

Frank Simonutti





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      Glenn

      6 years ago

      Switched to Duo long ago. The feel when putting is wonderful. See no negative distance issue. Great value.

      Reply

      Ron A

      6 years ago

      I’ve tried everything from the ProV1 to the lowest of the low end. I now use the Noodle Long & Soft and have excellent results. I found a Bridgestone E6 recently and hit it and really liked the feel. I want distance (of course) but prefer “soft”. I’m pretty good from 100 yards in but, try to pitch and roll rather than spin and stop. My last 4 rounds were 71,72, 79,78 so it seems to be working. I’m an 8 handicap.

      Reply

      Mark

      6 years ago

      I started using Wilson Duo’s as a way to avoid other players picking up or playing my ball. They were great, wonderful feel, comparable distance and great around the greens. Lots of folks are using them now so I’ve bounced around with Titlist, Taylor Made and Callaway. This season I’m back with Wilson Duo’s, by far the best bang for the buck.

      Reply

      Mark

      6 years ago

      I live up in Minnesota and in the Spring and Fall temps under 60 degrees I prefer the lower compression golf ball. It has better distance in cooler temps, and feels a lot better (softer) off the the club face. High compression balls are hard when the temp is under 60 degrees, getting down around 50 degrees it feels like the cheap balls.

      Reply

      Tim Arnold

      7 years ago

      For me straighter is always longer and leads to lower scores by staying out of trouble and on the fairway hopefully. I like to use the Super Soft or Duo in colder weather for straight distance, and the NXT Tour S or Trusoft above 70. Titleist’s yellow color seems to sparkle like it has gold flakes in it or something, very visible in green grass. I have an easier slower swing speed trying to hit to my targets; my game is hit greens or chipping close to the pin below the hole.

      Reply

      kevin hill

      8 years ago

      The club champion reckons the Taylor Made “Distance ” is long but not as much spin on the green

      Reply

      kevin hill

      8 years ago

      thanks for all the information very useful

      Reply

      kevin hill

      8 years ago

      any information which helps with distance i appreciate

      Reply

      Grumpy Gopher

      8 years ago

      Thank you for this really informative article. I use Titleist but I will start using something else i think…

      Reply

      Dick Bruce

      8 years ago

      Ladies and gentalmen, I am 77 years old and have been playing this silly game for over 55 years. I have used almost every ball on the market over the years from the balatta, hit it wrong and make a “smile”, to everything modern. I live on a golf course that short and deadly with 28 lakes. 15 holes have a lake from tees to greens. You can use any brand, any hard or soft, any dimple pattern any driver and any irons and the #1 thing I have found, none of them float. At our ages and ablities it is our jobs to not take this game seriously and if you make 18 and not hurt yourself or anyone else and had fun, what a great day in your life. Try to keep “em” in the short stuff and move over, I’m playing through.

      Reply

      mark

      8 years ago

      This are such wonderful words, I’ve printed them to hang on my office door. That course sounds wonderful. I’d love to know where to find it.

      Reply

      James Featherston

      8 years ago

      Well Said !

      Reply

      John

      4 years ago

      Love your take on golf in your seventies.

      Reply

      joro

      9 years ago

      I have palyed all the new “soft” balls and the ProVi and I find no difference in distance, In fact the Duo is best off the tee because it goes Rabbit on the ground. Of course the ProV stops a bit quicker, but not necessarily that much to be a factor.

      Personally I prefer the Duo Spin. The Chrome is second as far as I am concerned. But you have to let the old habits go and try the new balls as you have tried the new clubs. Soft balls are the future. Especially as we get older.

      Reply

      RAT

      9 years ago

      Great information. I love the Duo and I have tried most all of copycats and none can match the Duo. The new Titleist trusoft and Callaway chrome soft is no where near the Duo. The trusoft and chrome soft scuff much too easily..

      Reply

      Miguel

      9 years ago

      I used to play DT SOLO since I like soft golf balls ever since. Then I found some Wilson 50 elite in a bush and some Srixon Soft Feel as well. I tried Pro V1’s before and I could not justify the price tag for used or new since I am not that good to maximize them.

      With the Solo and Elite and Soft Feel, I prefer the Elite and Soft Feel for the softness. The only thing that throws me off with the Wilson is the dimple pattern. Other than that, this ball is bang for your hard earned buck!

      Reply

      proside

      9 years ago

      I think the article is fair. It attempts to explain two things. One, that actual performance between relative low/high compression balls is negligible save for low temps where the high compression type is more consistent to other temps. Secondly, that there is a fair bit more to actual performance than just the core compression.
      The second point likely explains why some people feel, rightly or otherwise, that the umbrella phrase (relative) hard/soft cores perform better or worse for them. We could easily go through all of this again focusing on the mantle cover or the core volume etc. until we give up. In the end it come back time and again to our perception of which ball pleases us.
      I almost always score better on the front despite my perception it’s my worst 9 of the day. The opposite is true for me on the back.
      People will play the ball which gives them confidence at a certain level in their golfing life. In the end, I would argue that the ball in play is of the very least of relevance in any particular game.
      By the way, has anyone noticed the horror show of grip dilapidation on the courses? The ball is the last moment in the swing and it’s flight is predicated on everything that comes before it.

      Reply

      Jon

      9 years ago

      This article is filled with corporate/marketing talk. “70% of golfers prefer a low compression ball” out of how many? What was the swing speed spread in that data? I would imagine that at least 70% of golfers don’t swing faster than 100mph where high compression balls are supposed to make a difference. How many shots were hit at each swing speed? Where are the distance numbers? Spin rates? I appreciate the attempt, but these graphs are not very good (3 points for each ball? really?) and practically meaningless without more data. What was the compression of the ball used for your graphs? What ball was used? Was it one brand or multiple? /rant

      Reply

      leftright

      8 years ago

      They gave “tour pros” balls with no markings and they couldn’t tell the difference, gave clubs of different swing weights and they couldn’t tell the difference in subtle changes. I’m a scratch golfer and all I know a Callaway Chrome soft goes further than a ProV1 and I think it’s because it’s slightly softer but I can’t tell which is which when I hit them and I’ve been playing 45 years. I’ve won bets on Swing weight and forged versus non-forged irons. Golfer would be humiliated because their ego’s outweigh their rationality.

      Reply

      Regan

      9 years ago

      I’ve been using the Maxfli Softfli, 35 compression, and it’s been very soft and long. Love the feel from tee to green. About the same price if not lower than the Wilson when 2/$25.

      Reply

      Gilbert

      9 years ago

      There is an old line in golf, ‘if it looks good, feels good, and you like the results, use it’. The manufacturers have taken over the sport like no other sport. The USGA has no control or backbone. People, use what fits. You shouldn’t be spending an arm and both of your legs.

      Reply

      Dan

      9 years ago

      Loved ur article, answered a lot of question I had about the low compression balls. I have been experimenting with this summer. Both the Callaway Chrome soft and Titleist NXT soft are great. Callaway may be a little longer. Keep up the great work.

      Reply

      purplegolfer1234

      9 years ago

      Hard,soft,rewashed,found,lake balls -all the same to me .I can one as deep into the woods or lake as I can the other

      Reply

      Mike

      9 years ago

      My experience this year with the Snell tour ball has been great. Several of my friends have purchased balls from them too. Now comes the winter test. Here in the high desert its get down to the twenties….. Will keep you posted in the spring

      Reply

      Kona Tom

      9 years ago

      Excellent /informative article. Much appreciated. I used Pro V1 for many years and then tried Snell balls at dramatically lower price point. I immediately felt it was a softer feel ball but maintained the same distance as Pro V1. Until reading this article I could never understand why.

      Reply

      robin

      9 years ago

      Titleist even put out a softer ball ,after telling everyone we should all be playing a Pro V for all swings what a joke.
      Go Wilson more majors than anyone.

      Reply

      Larry Shelby

      9 years ago

      I suppose these tests were done before Titleist came out with the DT Trusoft ball.
      They sent me a sleeve for trial before they came on the market and I believe they are an exceptional “soft” ball.

      Reply

      Steve

      9 years ago

      While I like the test and the data. Does it seem obvious only to me that this is a sales pitch for Wilson? No other manufacturers are named. I realize the guy works for Wilson but I MySpy claims to be data driven and impartial…mostly.

      Reply

      Dr Tee

      9 years ago

      Precept Laddie (a little hard to find in AZ except for Van’s) about 10 yards longer than ” premium” balls, feels great, and spins just as well around the greens for me at least.

      Reply

      Dennis

      7 years ago

      I’ve been playing precept laddies for 3 yrs now least expensive on the market. Good distance, great feel ,plays well around the green. If it had a polyurethane cover it would be the best ball ever made. Why don’t mfg stop all the bs about golf equipment. They all have to meet the same set of usga specs. Makes it impossible for anyone to out shine any other. Remember there is only one real variable in golf. Its on the grip end of the club. You and your swing.

      Reply

      Wally

      9 years ago

      Great article! I have been using low compression golf balls this season almost exclusively. Generally use Wilson Duo, but have used Callaway Supersoft and Chrome Soft, also Titleist NXT Tour S. Where I notice the difference is in the putting, especially with the Wilson. When you strike it, virtually no sound (click) but you still get a good roll and it feels butter soft. I’m sold on the low compression ball theory.

      Reply

      Fozcycle

      9 years ago

      Thanks Frank, I have 2 dozen of last year’s Duos in my closet. They will be put in play very shortly.

      Reply

      mark

      9 years ago

      In order to prove or disprove golf ball manufacture’s statements regarding distance and spin claims, wouldn’t this be the perfect opportunity to use robot or air cannon testing. I’m all in favor of testing clubs with actual players, I get it, but under scientific, repeatable conditions wouldn’t it be great to see if for example at 90 mph club speed, duplicate club path and angle of attack positions and 2 degree open face, what ball compression reduces spin ( or what ball type, 2-piece or 3-piece and so on)?

      Reply

      Andrew

      9 years ago

      Where does it say that a robot was not used? How would they be able to test 3 different swing speeds if a robot were not used?

      Reply

      1badbadger

      6 years ago

      Shooting balls out of a cannon rather than being hit with a golf club tests the aerodynamics of the ball, but it doesn’t test the energy transfer on a ball struck with a club. Testing should be done using a combination of both robotic and human methods. Because a robot can produce perfect impact every time, the differences between models will be smaller. A human swing has tendencies, and it’s these tendencies that create a bigger difference in certain models.

      Reply

      Robert

      9 years ago

      It would be useful to see 45 mph and 65mph for slower swing speeds as with lower compression balls, I do see distance increases in iron shots. I would like to hear more about what 4 layers or more (FG Tour) does for playing characteristics.

      Reply

      Scott king

      9 years ago

      Maybe a list of both low and high compression balls would have also been helpful. I am sure MGS has one. Or a link to a previous article showing the compression of different balls.

      Reply

      Chris Gregory

      9 years ago

      I just loved the yellow Wilson Duo. Soft like butter and great for my hands and elbows on impact.

      Reply

      Troy

      9 years ago

      Personally I play the Chrome Soft and really enjoy it. I played the Pro V1 for years and it also performed well for me. My driver swing speed is 93-100 depending on how the stars are aligned. My short game is about the same with both balls. I switched to the CS because it seems to perform as well at a better price point. So can I take away from this article that the Titleist claim that the V1 / V1x is for everyone is basically marketing?

      Thanks for another great GolfGeeks article! I love them.. Keep em coming.

      Reply

      Kenny B

      9 years ago

      Myth #2, Low compression golf balls are for play in low temperatures, is both proven and disproven depending on how you view the wording of the myth. Clearly from the graph, the low compression ball works better in low temperatures which is why I switch to a low compression ball in the winter. So, low compression balls ARE for play in low temperatures. The graph also shows that a low compression ball works as well as a high compression ball at summer temperatures. I can’t dispute that, but when the temperature rises, the ball “feels” mushier to me; something I don’t like. Maybe the Myth #2 should read: “Low compression golf balls are ONLY for play in low temperatures.”

      Reply

      Dennis Corley

      9 years ago

      I was going to say the same thing. The graph shows the low compression ball outperforming the high in lower temps.

      Reply

      Benjamin Lee

      9 years ago

      One thing which is interesting to me is how some balls are longer for some players than others. For example, my swing speed is around 100mph. In regards to premium balls, every ball company fits me into their lower compression ball and higher spin ball (ProV1), however, I am quite a bit longer with the higher compression lower spin balls (ProV1X).

      Reply

      Guy Crawford

      9 years ago

      Cool article. That pop up that say enter to win the Fly Z makes me enter my email every time even though I’m already subscibed. hope springs eternal ;-)

      Reply

      Jack rogers

      9 years ago

      Analysis covers full shots onĺy. What about comparisons of initial velocity spin rates on less than full shot pitches and chips?ie green side control. Thanks

      Reply

      Bob Pegram

      9 years ago

      Jack – Agreed. Spin behavior around the greens can make a huge difference in scoring.

      Reply

      Chris O.

      9 years ago

      This is an awesome read! Thanks for the info!

      Reply

      Alex

      9 years ago

      Wooo supersoft!

      Reply

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