Which golf balls go the furthest?

By Ian Hardie
NZPGA Professional

I remember as a young golfer, eagerly reading the latest golf magazines from cover to cover as soon as I got a copy, as that was one of the few ways to get golf information in those days.

Just like they are in golf magazines now, the pages were full of adverts from golf equipment companies trying to entice you to buy their stuff.

Back then, golf clubs were significantly more expensive (in relative terms) than golf balls were, so as good as they looked, there wasn’t much chance of a junior golfer getting any of those anytime soon.

Buying a new golf ball to play with though, was something that was financially in reach on the odd occasion.

This meant that the adverts I paid most attention to in those magazines, were the ones for the latest and greatest golf balls.

The most amazing thing about them was that nearly every golf company claimed that their new golf ball went 10 yards longer than any other golf ball.

These days it’s pretty difficult to make claims like that so most of the golf companies seem to be trying to blind us with science to get us to buy their golf balls.

But if you go to the golf course and ask any golfer ‘which golf balls go the furthest?’ you are guaranteed to get an answer or at least a lively debate from them.

So, which golf balls go the furthest?

My answer is – none of them!

At least not any of the ones approved for use in normal competition by the governing bodies of golf around the world.

Which is probably about 95% of the golf balls available out there.

You’ll realise why I say that at the end of this article but before then, let’s have a look at a few key facts which will build a picture for you as to how this can be.

The two world governing bodies of golf, the R&A and the USGA, have a very well defined set of rules and testing procedures (if you have nothing better to do one day – you can read all about them here: www.randa.org/RulesEquipment/Equipment/Equipment-Submissions), which are designed to keep the development of golf balls controlled.

Controlled in their words means: ‘So that there are no major performance differences between brands.’

Getting the idea yet?

A quick look at some of the rules around ‘approved’ golf balls, tell us things like: The diameter of the ball must not be less than 1.680 inches (42.67mm).

We all knew that though – didn’t we?

If a particular ball weighs more than 1.620 ounces avoirdupois (45.93 g) when weighed on the Ohaus electronic scale then that particular ball fails the weight test.

You probably knew that too though, right?

Here’s something you probably weren’t aware of though.

To test a golf ball’s performance, they actually use 24 identical golf balls.

All of which are required to be maintained at 75° F +/- 1° F (23.9° C +/- 0.6° C) for a minimum of three hours prior to testing.

I’m not sure 24 golf balls is enough to establish a standard but I suppose it would just take too long if they used more.

Here’s where things start getting interesting.

The velocity of the ball shall not be greater than 250 feet (76.2 m) per second … while doing that test a maximum tolerance of 2% will be allowed.

This means that they are all going to come off the club face at pretty much the same rate, which of course leads us to my personal favourite.

The overall distance of the ball shall not be greater than 317.0 yards … A maximum test tolerance of 3.0 yards is associated with this test.

That’s using their testing equipment of course, as we know that out on the golf course, the golf balls can go much further.

By the way, if you think that 3.0 yard tolerance is going to make a big difference, it is in reality around 1% of the total distance, which isn’t that great.

The testing methods (plus a bunch of other stuff that you can read about on that webpage) are used to determine the overall distance and symmetry of golf balls for a given set of launch conditions to allow a golf ball to be added to the ‘approved for play’ list.

As I said earlier, 95% of the golf balls that are available to you will conform to the above rules.

Which means there are golf balls out there that will go further but you aren’t able to use them unless you play golf on your own a lot.

However, if you want to play in almost any competition from the PGA Tour all the way down to the Sunday stableford at your local golf club – you will need to use a conforming golf ball.

So, which of the conforming golf balls go furthest?

If we use a bit of logic and the above information, we can be confident in thinking that, firstly, none of the golf companies are able to have a golf ball approved for play that goes any more than the maximum distance the performance testing guidelines allow.

And obviously, none of the golf companies would be silly enough to try and market a golf ball that goes significantly shorter than all the other golf balls available for play.

Which to me means that the ones you buy at your local golf shop will all perform somewhere in that top range of tolerance at around 317 yards to 320 yards – this is on the official testing equipment of course.

You may not be able to get that sort of performance just because you buy that particular golf ball or because the advert in the magazine claims it does.

So, which golf balls go the furthest?

They’re all in fact pretty similar in terms of distance but of course, there are more aspects that need to be considered than just distance when it comes to using the best golf ball for your golf game.

I’ll take a look at those things another time, until then, the golf balls that go the furthest for you will be the ones you hit the hardest!

Play well.