Depending on whom you ask, the timeline and players vary but there’s a version of events leading to the emergence of soft golf balls that goes a little something like this.
Precept made the Lady. Dudes loved it, but you know…ego. And, so, Lady spawned Laddie. By the time Bridgestone made the RX, golf companies had figured out that, performance implications aside, golfers liked soft golf balls. DUO was born. Callaway transitioned from SR-1 to Chrome Soft and in doing so created the ball that changed the ball that Bridgestone had arguably already changed, and well, here we are.
Depending on your affinity for soft golf balls, you can credit or blame preference-driven golfers whose penchant for whacking marshmallows inadvertently created the fresh hell that is the nebulous world of soft balls.
Feel and Compression
Just to bring everyone up to speed here; soft feel is primarily the result of low compression. Compression is a measure of how much a ball deforms under load. The harder the ball, the less it deforms.
Most of you won’t care about that but somebody was going to ask. Discard the info entirely or toss it in your back pocket for trivia night at the country club (is that a thing?). Either way, what I’m guessing you care about is the correlation between compression and how soft (or firm) a golf ball feels.
It’s All Relative
It should be simple but with different brands using different metrics (ball compression versus core compression, for example) and throwing the word soft around like dollar bills at Rachel’s Steakhouse (Google it…or better yet, don’t), feel has become an entirely relative concept made more difficult to quantify by the fact that there’s no agreed-upon starting point.
Did I lose you there? Let’s try it this way:
Define soft. Put a number on it.
I’m sitting on a mountain of golf ball compression data and I can’t do it. What chance does the average golfer have?
Is DUO Soft+ soft? Soft is in the name, so it must be. How about Chrome Soft or Chrome Soft X even? Soft is in the name there, too. Does the X mean extra-soft?
ERC Soft, Soft Response and Supersoft – what could be softer than Supersoft?
Nothing – at least nothing we’ve found so far.
That’s a true story. Credit to Callaway for keeping it simple. It really is super-soft.
Some of the others? Not so much, because they’re not so soft. And that’s before we get into balls where even if soft isn’t in or implied by the name (looking at you, Bridgestone), the box still says soft.
Everything in the OnCore’s ELIXR delivers a soft and pure feel. There’s nothing in the Pro V1 literature about pure-ness but it does offer a very soft feel. The Srixon Z Star…it goes far and feels soft.
If you believe everything you read, then damned near every golf ball is soft.
In reality, the soft balls I’ve mentioned by name span a more than 50-point compression range from 40 (the softest we’ve tested) to a bit over 90. That’s less than half the deformation. Check my math on this one but half of soft most definitely isn’t also soft.
Ball manufacturers have created a world where anything from 40 to 95 compression gets labeled as soft and anything above 95 is really firm. We seldom measure anything above 105, which tells me that the industry’s scale is broken.
Compression Made Simple
|Callaway Supersoft||Extra Soft|
|Wilson DUO Soft+||Extra Soft|
|Titleist Tour Soft||Soft|
|Callaway Chrome Soft||Medium|
|Bridgestone Tour B XS||Medium|
|Titleist Pro V1||Medium|
|Titleist Pro V1x||Firm|
|Titleist Pro V1x Left Dash||Extra Firm|
What is reasonable to say is that the Pro V1, Z Star and Chrome Soft X are legitimately PGA TOUR-soft. Ironically enough, those balls are solidly 20 points firmer than the Titleist Tour Soft.
As it relates to golf balls, soft is, at best, ambiguous. At worst, it’s a horseshit word that golf brands will attach to just about anything because, if they can’t sell you on performance, there’s a reasonable chance they can sell you on feel.
Said another way, some soft golf balls are soft, some soft golf balls aren’t and, from the outside, it sorta (soft) feels like ball manufacturers might be telling you what you want to hear instead of what you need to know. Frankly, that’s not’s not unusual but if you’re a golfer who chases soft feel, there’s a better than good chance you’ve paid for soft and ended up with something else.
That’s not entirely cool so I’m going to take a shot at putting all of this soft stuff in context for you.
As it relates to our feel discussion, there are four categories of golf balls. The first thing to understand is that any notion of a soft golf ball is relative only to the other balls in its category.
PGA TOUR Soft Golf Balls
Let’s start with the top of the food chain – the urethane-covered tour ball. And by “tour ball,” I mean golf balls that are legitimately played on the PGA TOUR – or at least meet the criteria.
While the softest ball in any tournament will vary based on who is in the field, here’s something to think about. In any given week, the Titleist Pro V1 is likely to be the softest ball in play. If Tiger (or Brendan Steele) in in the field, it’s the Bridgestone Tour B XS. Once upon a time, Bridgestone’s S stood for soft, so it must be soft, right?
Not so fast, Sparky.
The XS is fewer than five compression points softer than the Pro V1 and not much softer than a Srixon Z Star. It still qualifies as the softest tour ball but the average golfer isn’t likely to discern any appreciable feel difference between the three and you’re sure as hell not going to mistake any of them for a DUO.
Callaway’s Chrome Soft X – a legitimate tour ball with “soft” in the name – is several compression points firmer than the Pro V1. In fairness to Callaway, soft is kind of the company’s thing and Chrome Firm doesn’t sound like something anyone wants to hit – and that’s coming from a guy who often plays a ball called Left Dash.
I’d be remiss not to mention that balls with urethane covers may feel a bit softer relative to their actual compression when compared to ionomer (the cheaper material that covers most inexpensive golf balls). That’s especially true off the putter but here’s your takeaway – even the softest balls played on the PGA TOUR are still pretty damn firm.
Why do you think that is?
Non-Tour Urethane Soft Golf Balls
I was tempted to call this category Value Urethane but with AVX, Chrome Soft and RX/RXS in the mix, a good bit of the category matches the tour stuff dollar for dollar. If price isn’t the differentiator, what is? Very often it’s, you guessed it, feel.
The compression range for this category runs from about 70 compression on the low end to 80 on the high. That’s a bit softer than anything you’re going to find in the tour category but it’s definitely not super-soft. When you look at everything on the retail shelves, you’re really talking about mid-compression balls.
Premium Ionomer Soft Golf Balls
At the risk of digression, for my two cents, Premium Ionomer is an oxymoron. In the ball world, premium and ionomer/Surlyn are diametrically opposed. As soon as you choose one, you can’t have the other. And yet, somehow, here we are…again.
The signature balls in this category are the Callaway ERC Soft and the Titleist Tour Soft. They’re negligibly (less than five points) softer than what you can find in our non-tour urethane category and, frankly, the greenside performance drop-off from urethane to an ionomer cover isn’t remotely worth the slightly softer feel. I suppose you could argue some benefits around spin reduction but again I’d say there isn’t enough there to warrant trading away the urethane cover.
Your favorite ball might be in this group and, hey, no judgment, but understand that the category exists almost entirely to create a mid-range price point. If 35 bucks is the limit of what you’re willing to spend on a dozen balls, you’re probably better off ordering urethane from the direct-to-consumer menu.
Cheap Ionomer Soft Golf Balls
Cheap isn’t necessarily reflective of quality here but it also isn’t not reflective of quality.
Untangle that with the understanding that in the ball world, you often get exactly what you pay for. But, to keep everyone happy, we can say inexpensive ionomer moving forward. Semantics aside, we’re talking about sub-$30 and sometimes sub-$20 golf balls. If you want soft, welcome home, friend.
The category is filled with the likes of Supersoft, DUO+ Soft, E6, Soft Response, Soft Feel, TruFeel. Does anyone else see a pattern? Sure, you’ve got things like Velocity in the mix but this is where the softest balls live. The softest stuff tops out below 60 compression. That’s not PGA TOUR-soft or non-tour urethane soft; it’s legitimate, for real, soft.
Even that Velocity you’ve convinced yourself is rock hard; it’s about the same compression as AVX. It’s not Tour Soft-soft but it’s softer than PGA TOUR-soft.
Really Soft Feel Costs Less
We’re not having a performance discussion today so there are only two correlations I want you to think about right now.
The first is that lower-compression balls feel softer. That should be obvious. If you want soft feel, you want a low-compression golf ball.
The other one is perhaps a little weird. It turns out there’s a strong correlation between legitimately soft feel and price.
The softest balls – Supersoft, DUO+, E6 – they’re all found in the inexpensive ionomer category. As the cost of soft balls increases, so does compression – balls get firmer. By the time you reach legitimate tour balls and premium prices, there’s an argument to be made that none of the balls are actually soft.
Bottom line – if all you want out of a golf ball is the softest feel possible, there’s absolutely no reason why you should ever spend more than $25 on a dozen balls.
If you want tour performance, you’re going to have to spend more and do it with the understanding that while you might find something soft enough for your tastes, there’s nothing in the category that approaches soft.
I’ll ask again. Why do you think that is?
*We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.
Dan3 years ago
I’m a 6ish hcp and driver swing speed is around 90-95. I’ve gamed a whole bunch of different balls, including everything on this list except the AVX, the Left Dash, and the Chrome Soft.
The softer balls I’ve played have always seemed to go further with irons and the hybrid. This was confirmed by the data from both the Today’s Golfer test and the MGS test. However, I have not noticed any difference in distance off the tee among any of these balls. At my swing speed, I don’t think there is any. Quality of strike, course conditions, bounce, the angle at which I hit that tree – all of these override any theoretical possible difference in distance with driver.
The urethane balls do seem to end up closer to the hole from 100 yards in. But I’ve stuck some TruFeels and SuperSofts dead to the pin, too. I’ve spun them back. I shot a 75 with a ProV1x and said, “that’s it. I’m playing this ball.” But a week or so later I shot a 75 with a Wilson Duo Soft+ at the same course.. This is not a humble brag, by the way. That is just straight-up 100% bragging!
The only thing I HAVEN’T done on my ball-testing journey is the most important one: picking a ball and playing it all the time. So, that’s next.
Also, you can get a really good filet at The Cheetah in Atlanta.
Steve-O3 years ago
OK so how about some logic applied to the compression numbers?
Does it not make sense that the higher a compression number the more the ball deforms? Shouldn’t a higher compression ball be softer??? Why doesn’t a lower number = harder, LESS compression!
I know this is the opposite of the current convention but WTH?? To my tiny, albeit logical, mind it this is ass backwards.
Great article Tony!
colton3 years ago
higher compression = harder and that is logical.. think about a tire. The more air you add to a tire (the more you compress the core of a ball) the harder it gets. your compressing the air inside a fixed amount of space will increase the density,psi.
Paul2 years ago
Steve-o, compression refers to how much force it takes to deform the ball, So it takes 100 to deform a firm ball, (Pro V1xj while it only takes 60 to deform a soft,low compression ball (Supersoft).
Brian M3 years ago
Robot comparison of different balls at different speeds, looking at distance and dispersion? Was done using the PXG robot last year. Search YouTube to find it. Great analysis that confirms what MSG has been saying. Firm equals far, and $$ equates to quality which means less dispersion.
Stephen3 years ago
I think I read an article a few years ago that said that Mizuno did research on feel and confirmed that 90% of feel was based on sound. Therefore theoretically if you align soft feel to a pitch range at a specific speed you can measure it, which then allows you to compare it against compression to see if the make up/material of the balls change the feel and potentially creates a scenario where a firmer ball can also “feel” soft. [New test to add?]
Steve (the real one, pithy and insufferable)3 years ago
Ah, sound, brings up an old test. I was in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah) back in 94/95 and we had some British golf magazines (and a British pro – Hi Simon). The magazine tested three balls for “feel”. The identification was obscured for the testers, also three groups – high handicappers, low handicappers, and professionals..The balls were a urethane covered wound ball (probably a Titleist black or red number, a Surlyn covered wound ball (guessing Titleist DT), and a two piece Surlyn solid (think Top Flite). I’m guessing the magazine didn’t want to identify due to ads/sponsorship. The groups hit a large number of 7 irons (if memory serves) into a green and tried to identify what ball was what. The HH group was only above random chance with the urethane wound. The LH guessed above chance on all three balls, the pros were about perfect. Second test was with a screen in front of the golfers to obscure flight and action on the green. The HH group floundered around random and were eliminated (I think from further testing but the article could have had a darker bent)..The LH group was barely above random on the urethane wound. The pros were above chance on all three balls but certainly not perfect. The final test was with ear muffs on. The LH and pros were unable to distinguish the balls on feel. Note that the balls had a mark placed prior to hitting and the location of the hit on the club was noted by the testers and cleaned off immediately after impact so the golfers were unaware of where each hit was.
tldr: The balls selected as the premium urethane covered wound were the balls struck closest to the “sweet spot” regardless of the actual ball construction. The testers eliminated flight, action on the green and sound. Or course in real life, these things matter but “feel” was “sound”. Hit ’em in the middle and they felt great.
With club construction methods multiplying, sound and vibration are some of the factors in club design.
mikeanthony3 years ago
Such a great, witty and entertaining read … very much enjoyed it, thank you. I did buy Callaway Supersofts once, and while the distance off the tee and irons was noticeable, I felt as though it was inconsistent and too hot at times.
Thomas Berger3 years ago
I tried in the last 4 years about 25 different golfball models.
Now I am so happy. I found my ball!
It is the Titleist TruFeel Ball.
The reason is not the fair price. It is the performance and feel. Very good distance and low spin of my driver.
Have all a good golfing time in this special year.
Kind regards from Germany.
Scott3 years ago
I all way’s felt that golf balls .from $50 to $15 they all go through the same process . So the cost is about the same with that being said the cost of materials can’t be a $35 gap for a dozen balls. rip off
Zimmer3 years ago
I agree. I’m a PGA member, and the balls today are so much better than the wound balls of 30-years ago.
Love the review above yours about the testing done. Reminds me of tests done in the late 70’s early 80’s with cast vs. forged clubs.
I’ve used cheap, soft balls (Laddie, Supersoft) and couldn’t tell the difference between those and Pro V1’s except around the greens… and those cheaper balls still perform more than fine. I’d take them over the Spalding Tour Editions and wound Titliest 90’s or 100’s of the late 80’s all day, every day.
The equipment today is so amazingly good, even the cheaper stuff. Now excuse me while I head off for a round with my half-set of Tom Stewart hickories and Schenectady putter and Bridgestone Laddie X’s… (no joke).
Jonathan3 years ago
Another “too cool for school” article from Tony. He strikes me as the guy who sits at the end of the bar, with no one else around him, who rips everything under the sun. Not impressed!
DelacruzC5D3 years ago
I would contend that what we perceive as a “soft feeling” golf ball might have something to do with sound it makes at impact vs. vibration/feel in the handle of the club at impact. It might be similar to the whole “Nothing feels like a Mizuno”…when probably it should be “Nothing SOUNDS like a Mizuno”. I imagine that if you were to put on a set of ear plugs in and hit a forged vs cast club that looked and measure exactly the same, you would probably have a very hard time to be able to tell the difference.
I had actually just done some testing of golf balls with some short chips and putts with a Snell MTB-X vs TM TP5x vs ProV1. There was something about the Snell that I didn’t like…it “felt hot and hard” coming off the face, but it wasn’t flying farther or rolling longer. I started to go back and forth and found that the Snell made the highest pitch click vs the TP5x vs the ProV1 (lowest pitch click). Because of that, I think I was perceiving that the ProV1 was “sticking to face” longer and “giving me the feel of more control”. All three balls behaved the same. It’s also interesting that the pitch of the click in this situation might be tied to the compression of the ball (according to the MGS 2019 Golf Ball Buyer’s Guide). Snell: 114.3 / TP5x: 104.4 / Titleist ProV1: 104.2. However, I’m guessing it has more to do with materials in the ball vs. the actually compression that’s making the sound difference in the three models.
So, maybe that’s why the “softer” golf balls are perceived as “soft” because of the sound? It would be interesting article for MGS to do an auditory test with golf balls, and process the sound wave pattern in some form or another to see if there is any correlation between a soft feel and the sound at impact.
Steve-O3 years ago
I just purchased a set of Mizuno JPX 919 forged irons. They are right… nothing feels like a Mizuno. I have played high end clubs from TaylorMade, Srixon (forged), Callaway and even JPX 900 Hot Metals. Nothing comes close to the beautiful buttery feel of those 919 forged clubs. It is not hype.
Steve3 years ago
Great article T.C. and wished you had put it out there before I purchased 4Doz DTC balls a few weeks ago. Oncore Elixer was my choice and has been the ball for me for the last couple of years. Not because of the cost, but oberall playability, for me anyway. If possible, can you go back in all these comments to find a Bob and Jeffrey entry regarding a possible test by various swing speeds on some of these balls? I’m partial to Oncore, and would really like to see your results (if said testing takes place) for my 80mph (LOL) driver swing speed.
I’m the Steve that caught the “typo” error, as you called it, regarding the Titleist TS1 for slower swing speed players.
Seth3 years ago
I played, almost exclusively, Titleist Tour Balatas back in the day. Not having played seriously since they were available, where should I start my search for a ball… Anything out there compare to these in favourable ways?
Chris3 years ago
I, too, played the old balata balls and loved the feel. I play the Callaway Chrome Soft now.
Mackdaddy93 years ago
Thanks Tony. I split time with ProV1 & Rxs. I find I hit the Rxs 3-5 yards longer with irons and wedges. The Pro V1 is longer with driver and 3 wood. I hit way more irons so I tend to gravitate towards the Bridgestone ball.
Can you tell me the difference between B Rxs and B xs for comparison?
Scott Harrison3 years ago
I have been asking this question of late as well and looking into it – Been playing the XS and LOVING it, but did the Bridgestone Vfit for kicks and the free sample and they recommended the RXS.
The XS is firmer than the RXS. XS compression is slightly lower than a ProV-1. I move between the XS and ProV1. Both are awesome. Like the feel of the XS better.
The RXS is very similar to an AVX or Chrome Soft from a compression standpoint, but to me the RXS does not feel as “soft” as a Chrome Soft and I can tell little difference off the club between it and the XS. Chrome Softs have always felt noticeably soft to me and iron distances were off. Not seeing that issue with the RXS..
Like the article says, compression really does not do much for you. To me feel has more to do with how the cover, mantle, and core of the ball interact with each other than the compression alone. That and characteristics of the strike of the club.
This is very anecdotal from an, at best, average golfer, but hopefully it helps.
Jordan Evans3 years ago
Not confusing at all. Soft balls don’t go as far or perform as well as multi layer urethane covered golf balls with a higher compression design. That is why the male and female pros that play the game for a living don’t use them.
So the two takeaways for me are don’t confuse feel for performance and that there is no need to overpay for soft feel.
Rod Long2 years ago
I’ve been using Skytrak in the golf studio almost every day since the pandemic. I’ve always preferred softer feel. Experimented with several balls and concluded that yes…higher compression goes farther BUT not straighter. I can play with the Wilson Duo+ Soft and not miss a fairway or gain 10+ yards with a ProV and be in the junk. Also the distance penalty is severe with off center hits with a high compression ball.
GJ3 years ago
I agree hitting a soft ball sometimes feels like butter. But off the same tee box i will then hit a tour ball and it doesn’t feel like butter but when I get up there to them “butter” is a minimum of 7 or 8 yards behind the tour ball. Agree soft is slow and short. On a side note Tony will you throw in a couple of popular range balls just so I know exactly how rock hard those things really are .
Bob3 years ago
I would love to see and in depth review of balls hit by a robot at varying speeds so that guys could see (based on their swing speeds) what type of performance they might expect. For example, a Wilson Duo at 70 mph, 80 mph, 90 mph, 100 mph. A Pro V1 at 70 mph, 80 mph, 90 mph, 100 mph. A Chrome Soft at 70 mph, 80 mph, 90 mph, 100 mph. You get my drift. Feel is personal but ball performance based on swing speed might give buys a better idea of which balls might work best for their swing speed. It would narrow down which ones for them to try.
Jeffry Lester3 years ago
Right on BOB!! That’s what I definitely would want to see!!
Peter3 years ago
Like “black label” and “premium”, weasel words to sell a product
Blake3 years ago
I would add for the balls to be hit by a short iron, long iron and driver. I have found the “soft” balls may not fly as far with driver but go a club longer with the irons. Curious if that plays out in a controlled setting.
Matt Blankenship3 years ago
I loved this post. One of your best!
I think “feel” is subjective and as such, there are premium balls that I prefer over others. Currently, I like TP5x and Snell MTBx. ProVs are great balls but to my game (2 handicap) they aren’t any better than the two I mentioned and not worth the additional cost, which, granted, is minimal.
What I really want to relate is a story when I tried a few “soft” balls. I was trying the SuperSoft one day. It seemed to really go a long way. I had a pitching wedge to a pin about 125 yards away. I put my normal swing on it and the ball rocketed away. By rocketed I mean it landed on a pool deck some 40 yards behind the pin. Luckily, no people or property were injured but I was totally clueless on how far that ball was going to go.
After the round, I went a hitting bay with a launch monitor. Not surprisingly, after my experience on the course, the SuperSoft was about 10 yards longer off every iron and the spread between short and long had expanded to nearly 30 yards. Interesting enough, the ball was about 10 yards shorter with my driver. The balls never made the course again and the ChromeSoft, after MGS study, has never made it to the course either.
I do love finding “soft” balls, especially Callaway balls, as they are great fun to try and hit over the lake we live on. You had “Find It, Cut It.” I have “Find It, Hit It In The Lake.”
JQ3 years ago
this guy is trying to humble brag for sure……(handicap 2)…..165yard PW..lol..
Neil Murphy3 years ago
Completely agree with your findings for both Callaway balls. I had exactly the same experience. I, too, measured both ball performances on my Trackman. The super soft spun 1200rpm(!) less than the proV1 with a 7 iron!
The super soft spun on average 3300rpm with Driver, hence the ballooning ball flight and reduced carry distance.
Mark M3 years ago
Well written article Tony. Your references are hilarious.
Thanks for the work that goes into what you do. Looking forward to more about golf balls and those compression numbers.
Reggie Stecher3 years ago
First, check this out ballnerds : https://youtu.be/JT0wx27J9xs “How Hard Can You Hit a Golf Ball”
As for the article, I think the scale of softness, compression, and deformation need to be more clearly defined. It took me a couple passes to determine if the way they were being used is conflicting.
“… soft feel is primarily the result of low compression. Compression is a measure of how much a ball deforms under load. The harder the ball, the less it deforms.” …. would be better stated as “The harder the ball, the less it deforms, the higher the compression rating”. High compression [rating] : low deformation is counter-intuitive.
It should be stated that compression and deformation, as used, are inversely related. To me compression IS deformation, it’s elastic deformation, so one-in-the-same. But apparently industry usage of high/low compression is the rating based on force to compress, not actual compression levels. So then, soft ball : high deformation : low compression RATING : soft feel. All other variables held equal.
The scale itself would also be helpful; compression has a scale of 0 to 200. “0” being a ball deforming >= 0.2 in, “200” being a ball that does not deform. Higher scale rating : high compression : lower observed deformation or actual compression given a force. The rating is fit to the amount of force required to cause deformation, so “high” compression is actually hard and is more difficult to compress, yet dubbed high compression.
Thanks for all the work you do at MGS! I’m looking forward to publication of the data later.
David Silkroski3 years ago
I keep looking for Maxfli Green dot 🙂 or maybe Club Specials?
J.L.-53 years ago
Had a golf buddy who always yapped how he played better with the $45 balls and the lower cost ones cost him strokes. He was about a 14/legit handicap,even though he said he was a 6. He had this “ foot-wedge” that worked well for him. One of our other buddies was a good golfer but only played about 4 times a year. He got sick of the “yapper” tellin him to switch to the $45 ball, save strokes. He bet the yapper he would beat him with a range ball. Yapper laughed n took bet. Lost by 5. Epilog,you can shoot 72 with ANY ball. It’s all your talent level in my opinion
Jay3 years ago
Thank you for “clarifying” this often misunderstood term. It’s nearly impossible to explain to my fellow golfers why with their swing speeds and their skill level that a “soft” golf ball works perfectly well for them, and it would be an unjustifiable expenditure for them to purchase a premium tour ball. The “soft” golf balls just don’t work nearly as well as premium balls for me. – and contrary to what they may think, it’s not about being a ball snob.
If I could play a cheaper ball with the same characteristics as a Tour ball, I sure would. I can explain the urethane cover vs ionomer, but compression is a completely different conversation, especially when they were trying to decipher Chrome Soft vs ERC Soft vs Supersoft – “But they’re all soft, right?” Um, well, kinda…but not exactly….as per your article, which is a good go at trying to explain this ambiguous term.
I bounce between the ProV1, V1x and AVX, depending on mood and time of year. I’ve ventured into the Bridgestone and Srixon families, as well as the non urethane covered balls, just to see if they measured up to the Titleist brand at the Tour end of the spectrum, but it only becomes a confusing and expensive experiment and I’m yet to feel a need to move over to another brand. With a moderate swing speed (95) and a low (+) handicap, it becomes more and more critical to find a ball that gives considerable distance off the driver and low lofted clubs, green approach stop-ability, short game consistency and at my advancing age high visibility – that means it’s going to be a Tour ball with a high vis urethane cover.
When I have ventured into the low compression non-urethane balls, it was usually during the cold winter months just because I wasn’t looking to score low, it was simply to get some rounds in. That’s when I do want to hit a ball with a softer feeling in the hands on off-center shots (especially with 3 layers of clothes and winter gloves), and to play an even brighter colored ball under gray skies, which can be more important than the other performance qualities. But, I can say, those low compression balls do feel like marshmallows and it feels like an utterly different game than the one I normally play, just like playing with vintage clubs or SGI clubs, it’s still golf, but it’s just not my normal game.
The other real world consideration for my less skilled golf buddies is losing balls, certainly something that I know they suffer each round. Gees, some of them lose a ball or two every other hole or so, which can interpret into a very expensive and depressing round if you’re playing a premium ball. If I lose one a round, I’m steamed, but I remember when that was the case for me when I was in the early stages of learning to control my shots, especially with those old balata rubber band balls that would spin into oblivion compared to these new balls. I tell my friends that it’s more important for them to work on their skills and to just get an affordable ball that feels good and looks good to their eye at this point in their golf life, and if they improve to a higher skill level, then it will be worth spending more money on a ball. But what about the golf ball companies that tell them that they should play a better (Premium) golf ball to improve their game? From time to time I’ll toss them a premium ball or two and ask them to tell me if their scoring is improving with those balls or not – after they go into the water or deep into the woods, they concede. Maybe if they’re moving towards the single digits, hitting lots of GIR/FIR, and chipping with greater accuracy, then we can talk, but until then, it’s going to be looks, feel, and price – not necessarily in that order.
Thanks again for this article, I will do my best to use your information to educate others who ask me this very question.
Ron H Fovargue3 years ago
I do appreciate the honesty and sense of humor. I am a late player to the game. Yes. Premium ball Does make my best shot better. But for now it is price, distance and can I find the darn ball. ?
Alan Connor3 years ago
Always preferred the feel of softer balls but could get no spin or check so I always played short, then last month tried a harder ball and low and behold check spin now playing up to the pin and not flirting with the front bunkers.
Iain Hutchinson3 years ago
I used Chrome Soft for 2+ years, but had recently changed to Titleist AVX. For greater spin around the greens. Recently I noticed a special offer for Maxfli UFLI soft balls. A 4 piece urethane covered ball. I read the comments which were extremely positive. So I took the plunge and order 4 dozen at $12 dozen (normal retail is about $20 a dozen). I have now played 2 rounds with them and although they feel softer off the tee I am not noticing any real loss of distance, the approach shot spins seems good and the feel round the green/putting is also good. Your excellent article highlights the difference in ball coverings but does not mention 2, 3 or 4 piece make up which I believe is a key component of the performance. Bottom line is I have never come across a 4 piece soft ball with a urethane cover before and have been surprised by the performance of this ball and really liked the cost per ball ratio.
Steve3 years ago
Again I’d like to see some comparison data/info on the so called second level golf balls. The Callaway Diablo Tour, Srixon Q-star Tour, Taylormade Project A
Basically the balls that are slightly less expensive than the Pro V1’s of this world. These are the ones you can get for a very good price when places like Dick’s has a sale. Got the Diablo Tour for $15 a dozen if you bought three.
Alex3 years ago
Yup. Although it appears TM no longer offer the Project A and has the new Tour Response.
Kacy3 years ago
Where does a “lady” ball fall here? I played a Precept Ladies iQ180 ladies ball I found last week and I nearly drove the green (are these legal?). I usually use a Callaway Warbird or similar cheapish balls. The distance I got on that ball was ridiculous.
Large chris3 years ago
Great article, funny haha a well.
No idea how soft as marshmallow balls ever took off, I tried the lady precept….. why would I want something like that? Is it that I don’t play enough squash or raquetball to appreciate the gooieness?
Jason3 years ago
I really did love playing the Precept Lady! Never like the Laddie as much—probably a mental thing. The only ball I’ve loved as much as the Lady are Snell’s now. Feeling nostalgic after that initial shoutout!
Stevegp3 years ago
Great article, Tony. Thanks. Your efforts are appreciated.
Donn Rutkoff3 years ago
article is a bit hard for me to read due to the large photos every few sentences..
Gregor3 years ago
I don’t know about anyone else, but my penchant for softer balls is definitely related to the weather. I’ll play as soft as possible in cold months, even moving to a none tour model, as spin around the greens is unimportant when they are soft as hell at that time of year. Mid summer though, when the courses run super fast and the temperatures are high, I find that even a ProV1 is too soft, and I’m playing an X model of some sort. Also in this seasonal switch, is a move to yellow balls in the fall when possible, to make them less loseable in the fallen leaves..
Marty A.3 years ago
As a 58-year-old beginner, I’ve tried all kinds of golf balls, from expensive to inexpensive. One of my first posts her on MYGOLFSPY was looking for educated advice on what golf balls to try, and everyone had an opinion, often very different. However, I found that low-compression soft golf balls had a really good response to my beginner swing so I used Callaway Supersofts (40 compression) until I found the Wilson Staff Duo Soft at 29 compression. I bought those on a whim, and now their Duo Optix golf balls are my faves. I can get them at a very low price and for me, they work . . . and that’s what really counts!
Marty A.3 years ago
. . . oh, and I forgot to mention that I lose so many golf balls every round that the price point on the Optix REALLY works for me! LOL
Gene Kennedy3 years ago
I’ve played most of the inexpensive “softer” balls on the market. At 71, 12hcp, I found the Titlest Tour Soft works best for ME, though being mid-range in price. What I got from your article, you get what you pay for. MY thoughts, if you’re older and have a handicap over 18 Pro-V1’s won’t help.
Lou3 years ago
MGS is a proud proponent of DTC golf balls, particularly, Snell. Therefore, it was interesting that you didn’t throw DTC, except for a brief mention of OnCore Elixir into your thoughts. What did come through loud and clear was that MGS concluded, well over a year ago, that soft equaled slow and short and nothing since, or in the future, is going to change your mind. So, why write so much on soft? Most everyone playing golf wants more distance so why not spend your golf ball experience more on long in every category from slow swingers to blazing fast?
Monty Martin3 years ago
Tony, I had a big problem with the above article. The problem had nothing to do with the subject but the ads that kept interrupting the article. NRA ads after NRA ads kept popping up. Don’t get me wrong, I am a gun owner and believe in the 2nd amendment, but I am totally against the NRA. This totally messed up the the whole article for me. Your article was golf related why then could you not have golf related ads. Just saying.
MyGolfSpy3 years ago
The ads you are referring to are based on your personal search behavior. Every person will see different ads based on their personal habits.
RC3 years ago
Now THAT was funny!
TonytheNoble13 years ago
I go Netflix (3) and an Audi advert. I don’t subscribe to Netflix and had three Audis before I retired and got a Mazda. Great article, in our part of the world (Johannesburg, South Africa) we have hard and fast greens in winter, so a hard ball is not the one to use.
don3 years ago
lol I got wallet sand bathtub ads
RT3 years ago
What a commercial for callaway … Is that the reason they shut down their ball plant in Carolina?Balls out of round etc. trying to get soft softer?
Tony Covey3 years ago
To the best of my knowledge, Callaway has never had a plant in the Carolina’s. Their USA-made balls come out of Chicopee, MA dating back to the acquisition of TopFlite.
Joe3 years ago
I would like to see a list of compression numbers for these soft balls..
Al P3 years ago
Totally agree. For a site that is the premier place for numeric values on everything from clubs to carts, I thought that not having the compression numbers was pretty weak.
Chris Nickel3 years ago
We’re not far away from releasing information gathered during the establishment of #BallLab which will include additional statistics and measurements.
Also, for the record we did provide numerical compressions ranges for each of the described categories.
Jon3 years ago
I thought Tony wrote that compression numbers are based on varying criteria among manufacturers. That might be why giving numbers would be of little value—that there is no uniform standard for testing compression.
Bobbers3 years ago
I’d really like to see how the “soft” balls stack up performance-wise to each other particularly for those of us with slower swing speeds. How do the measure up in distance, around the green, while putting, etc?
You’ve done a great job on the marketing and hype, next step is to take the balls to the course and see how they compare.
Brandon3 years ago
I get what you are asking, but the overall message of this article is if you are buying a soft ball, it is NOT for performance. You are buying it because it is cheap. So there is no point in comparing the performance, just buy some you like based on your own criteria (feel, colour, price, etc.) and how the work for you.
The “PGA TOUR SOFT” category are not actually soft balls is the other message. If you are buying balls below this tier it is because cost is more important than performance or you lose so many balls that there is minimal difference in what you play.
Dave Nicholas3 years ago
It would be nice to see a listing of compression values for all of the brands discussed in the article as well as the direct to consumer brands such as Vice, Snell, and others. It would also see the relationship between swing speed and compression values. Thanks for your great work!
john young3 years ago
BOTTOM LINE INTEREST OF MOST GOLFERS… for my swing speed… what ball gives me the best distance… and what do I lose in distance, if I want a softer ball… or do I lose anything at all… THANKS
Tony Covey3 years ago
A soft ball is a slower ball. It’s physics…it’s why you don’t see legitimately soft golf balls played on tour. The fitting for swing speed story is often told and understood backward of its reality. On ball speed alone, a soft ball is going to be slower for most golfers. At roughly 80MPH and above, a soft ball is going to cost you speed. As club speed increases, so does the risk of over-compressing the ball (not compressing the ball isn’t anything anyone should worry about). Excessive deformation causes speed to drop even more.
Depending on your launch and spin characteristics and some of the design details, it may be possible to overcome the soft penalty through a reduction in spin. But, keep in mind, launch and spin are largely linear – a ball that’s low spin off a driver, is going to be low spin off an iron. Basically it’s low spin until you get around the green, at which point the relationship between cover and the next layer determines spin properties.
There are low spin, high compression, urethane balls on the market, so anyone who likes the launch characteristics of a soft ball can probably find a firm ball with similar characteristics and not give up any speed.
That said, for slower swing speed players, a high compression ball is going to feel really firm and that does cause some to look for softer alternatives.
JP3 years ago
This write up was awesome. I joined a club at the start of this season and durring my evening rounds tend to spend a few minutes looking for ammo for my wife, and free ProVs for myself (perks of playing with rich retirees). And I have been so confused about the things I find, everything is soft this extra soft that or nonsense abbreviatinos that maybe mean soft? it definitely feels like the industry is leaning towards a “slap soft on it and make it as confusing as possible mentality”. I just feel like it used to be a little simpler when I was a teenager learning to play.
that said, I would say at the moment my favorite blend of firmness, softness, distance, and feel have to be the AVX and the limited edition Titleist EXP-01 (would make that my go to if I could get more)
Jon C2 years ago
I am a 71 year old 16.5 handicap with a 82 MPH driver swing speed (tested 1/20/21) I believe there is more to distance than swing speed so robots might not be the absolute best tester. Launch angle and other swing nuances also have an effect. I feel I fall into the category of those who do better with a non-tour ball. I have played a Pro V1 and don’t get the distance of a tour soft, soft feel or most of the lower end Bridgestone balls. At least in this reply you acknowledged that for some the low spin of a ball might overcome the softness.. I think this is true for the majority of senior golfers with slow swing speed. You seem to direct your articles at low handicap high swing speed players leaving out a large segment of golfers. I have also found balls I have played have different characteristics such as some are lower flight some are straighter, some spin less and some more. These can all have an effect on distance. In my testing The ProV1 and Kirkland signature come up about 3-5 yards shorter on average than a tour soft. On 150 yard par 3s with a hybrid I actually lose a little more.. I also hit it the tour soft and soft feel straighter. I agree with the article saying what is soft? and can see where a very low compression ball might be a detriment. The Duo soft Pro (urethane) is the slowest/shortest ball I have tried. The 29 compression Duo got good distance for me but was hard to keep straight (with my imperfect swing) off the driver. On the other hand I have rediscovered the Bridgestone TreoSoft which began showing up at Meijer this summer. I played this ball in 2017-18 until I couldn’t find them anymore. They do not appear on Bridgestone’s website and but have new packaging. Meijer has not been able to keep them in stock as they have sold out each time they show up. Cheap at 16.00 they play very well. They come off low to mid-high and I can hit them as far as any ball I have. Also the straightest ball I have ever played. Not the best stopping power on the greens but not the worst either. Off a lofted wedge from 60-70 yards they stop on a bounce or two. I can’t spin back a prov1 either. I really don’t notice much difference. The recent Golf digest article on golf balls has some enlightening stats on average golfer and what they notice about premium balls which seem to put things in more practical terms. Average golfers don’t usually notice much difference from a premium ball to a cheaper one.
I emailed Bridgestone about the Treosoft and haven’t gotten a reply yet. Would like to see something written about this ball. Supposedly 90 compression which supports some of what you are saying.
Mark Liquorman3 years ago
At the very beginning of the article, under “FEEL AND COMPRESSION”, it defined compression as how much the ball deforms.
So, is deformation good or bad? I don’t know. There should have immediately been a paragraph explaining the consequences and benefits of such deformation; perhaps in context of slower vs higher swing speeds. Something beyond the nebulous term “feel”.
Dick Read3 years ago
Great article. To say you have taken the confusion out of the “soft” ball story is, well, confusing. Really good info about softness and who is on 1st base.
But how does softness in golf ball matter for performance? Understand swing speed, impact, launch angle etc, all important factors..
Expensive and time consuming to buy sleeves/boxes of all the brands, then test enough to find right ball for YOU.. The article has helped narrow field considerably. Think you missed Taylormade and Snell in story..
Have i missed good article relating soft vs firm in performance for the players?
Thanks for all you do. Great awesome articles and reviews, completely unlike cut and paste reviews by Golf and Golf Digest.
Brandon3 years ago
Nobody can tell you the best performing ball for you. If testing balls is too much work, then pick something from last year’s buyer’s guide and stick with 1 ball for consistency’s sake. I picked 4 balls to test, all 4 “work” there are definitely some I prefer and play a bit better with. I’ll hit a few random urethane balls I find on the course, but I don’t worry about buying every ball to find the optimal one.
Kam Fleming3 years ago
Great article and well placed Rachel’s reference.! Ever sense your first ball review last year I’ve been on a quest to find the appropriate balance between cost, performance and feel. I can confirm your findings that cheaper, non-urethane balls lack the green side performance and stopping power. So thanks, for the great work!
Tony Covey3 years ago
Thanks for noticing. It’s not easy to work the preferred strip club of the golf industry into a conversation about golf balls.
Steve3 years ago
If you can afford steaks at Rachel’s theater of the performing arts, then you can afford to play a urethane ball… My two cents…
Antonio DalBello3 years ago
Would love to see compression numbers.
Charlie3 years ago
For me, soft feel off the putter is preferred, but I am not willing to give up performance on full shots to get it. My putter has a face insert that gives me soft feel from a ProV 1x. Problem solved.
Dave Richards3 years ago
You should have mentioned that the duo soft has a “ground-breaking” compression of 29!
If you want a truly soft ball, this is it.
JR3 years ago
I’m a ball nerd. Love ’em. Can’t.stop buying ’em. And frankly, I play just as well with the “soft” balls as I do with the tour balls. Clearly says something about my -12 game but that aside. I actually often game the Pinnacle line and have had some of my best rounds. Thanks for this piece, Tony. Always a good read.
Derek Gzaskow3 years ago
How is that Pinnacle soft?
Dave3 years ago
You should have mentioned that the duo soft has a “ground-breaking” compression of 29!
If you want a truly “soft” ball, this is it.
Steve S3 years ago
Bottom line is that balls at the top of the spectrum (higher compression) go father and spin more around the green…for virtually every golfer. As far as cost goes there are always deals to be had and I have paid less than $30 a dozen for top line balls when I buy at least 3 dozen. Dick’s, Galaxy, Rockbottom and others always have deals in late Dec-March. So I have stopped buying “cheaper” balls.
BRUCE B...3 years ago
I really enjoyed the article. Very well done. Thanks.
Wayne Kozun3 years ago
How do any of these balls rate, softness-wise, to the old Titleist Tour Balata ball? And is there a difference between balls with a soft cover, and a soft core or whatever you call the non-cover part of the ball?
Any suggestions on which ball to use when playing with hickory shafted clubs? The person I bought my hickories from said to use soft balls and don’t hit too many range balls.
vincent schiavo3 years ago
You might want to consider playing a guttie…
Evan3 years ago
If you have the compression values of all of these balls, why don’t you post them? Add them to the compression table in the article. Maybe, just maybe, companies will take notice, and instead of using ‘soft’ in their names, they will start using number values instead.
Chrome Soft 45, Bridgestone E6 43, etc….
Wouldn’t that be something?
Tony Covey3 years ago
I’m working my way through the data we’ve collected to date for ball lab. At some point, we’ll be posting individual ball reports as well as a simple comparison chart.
Al P3 years ago
Thanks for this comment. I didn’t read down far enough to see your reply on posting a comparison chart before I posted my initial comment..
Keep up the great work!!!
Randy3 years ago
I guess the same reason they don’t put the loft number on irons, so they can say our 7 iron goes farther than their 7 iron.
Joe F3 years ago
David Temple3 years ago
I think it sad that you have not considered balls bought directly via email such as VICE. The Vice Pro Soft doesn’t seem to have been considered YET it is a premium quality ball!
Tony Covey3 years ago
It wasn’t included in this piece, but the Vice Pro is in our database. Haven’t tested the newest version…there were some issues with the 3 dozen of the original we tested for #BallLab.
Hector Cyre3 years ago
Uh, David… last time I ordered five dozen Snell golf balls I could have sworn it was by email. Glad Vice works for you, but at least one DTC ball is cited in the list in this article and I’m pretty confident more will be covered in the full ball test report.
Shawn3 years ago
David, It could be not an oversight but market share. When golfing I find golf balls all the time and BY far Callaway is the most lost golf ball in golf. I can say at least 40% of what I find are Callaway. Vise is maybe 2% ProV would be in the 15-20% range. And yes I do hunt for balls, I just can’t help myself I have to look for them.
Check'rd Past3 years ago
All performance data aside,There is nothing like a well struck soft golf ball. BUTTER!!
derek gzaskow3 years ago
Great article. so who wins the king of soft ? Supersoft, DUO+, or E6 Soft??
Barry3 years ago
Great article and well written but now I think I’m gone soft!
Ron3 years ago
Well if I was confused before, (and I was) I’m now totally lost. Cheaper soft is really soft? Pay more and they are kinda soft? But not really? What about performance? Is soft better or not really? Confusing subject made more confusing by the writing style….
Mark Liquorman3 years ago
I agree. I’m still confused.
Arthur Biladeau3 years ago
Would you please include Taylor Made “Noodle Long and Soft – The Original” in your discussion of soft golf balls? Thanks very much.