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Is it possible to have premium wedge game if you use a budget golf ball?

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Everyone knows that golf is an expensive sport and golf balls are one of the costs of playing, but do you really have to use expensive golf balls to give yourself a chance to play your best?

Most golfers have gone to their local golf store and bought the 15-ball pack, and they soon find out that budget golf balls are not designed with feel in mind. But are they really that bad for your game? Do they spin that much less on wedge shots, making getting up and down even more of a chore?

To find out, I tested four relatively inexpensive golf balls that are widely available at golf shops across the country, as well as four premium golf ball models.

Spin Test: Budget Balls v. Premium Balls

The four budget golf balls I tested were:

To perform the test, I hit multiple wedge shots from 60 yards and selected the highest-spinning shot with each golf ball model. I wanted to see the maximum spin value I could achieve with each ball. As a PGA Professional and scratch golfer, I feel confident that the results are reflective of how each of the balls will perform for most golfers.

Before we get into the results, let’s first discuss the ideal amount of spin a golfer should generate from 60 yards.

To keep my test as unbiased as possible, I contacted a few teacher and fitter friends of mine on Twitter. You probably recognize at least a few of their names. They are some of the most knowledgable teachers and fitters in the world, and use Trackman on a daily basis. They offered their thoughts on the optimal ranges for spin, launch angle and landing angle on shots from 30-60 yards. 

Andrew Rice (@andrewricegolf)

  • Suggested Spin Rate: 6,500-9,500 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 26-30 degrees

Kirk Oguri (@kirkoguri)

  • Spin Rate: 6,000-8,000 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 28-30 degrees

Jon Sinclair (@jrsii)

  • Spin Rate: 6,700-10,000 rpm
  • Landing Angle: 32-38 degrees

Cool Clubs (@coolclubs)
Fitters: Mark Timms, Justin Nelson, Allen Gobeski, and Rob LaRosa

  • Spin Rate 6,000-7,400 rpm
  • Landing Angle: 38-41 degrees

Based on their expertise, it seems that golfers need spin rates of at least 6,000 rpm, as well as launch angles around 28 degrees and landing angles in the mid-to-upper 30-degree range to create ideal stopping power from 30-60 yards. 

The Test: Budget Balls

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 3.51.58 PM

For those of you interested, I hit the 60-yard shot with the four budget balls with both my 56- and 60-degree wedges, which are the same model and have the same shaft. You can see the results in the Trackman screen shot above. I found that the 56-degree wedge tended to spin more than the 60-degree with every ball except Callaway’s SuperSoft because of something called spin loft, which I will explain in more detail in next week’s article.

My peak spin rates with the four different balls ranged from 5031 rpm to 7266 rpm with my 56-degree wedge, which is a huge range considering that I only selected the highest-spinning shot. Here’s how the balls measured up.

TaylorMade AeroBurner Pro

  • Peak Spin Rate: 7,266 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 23.7 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 37.8 degrees

Titleist Velocity

  • Peak Spin Rate: 6,540 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 25 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 31.9 degrees

Nike RZN Red

  • Peak Spin Rate: 6,410 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 23.5 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 28.9 degrees

Callaway SuperSoft

  • Peak Spin Rate: 5,031 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 24.8 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 28.7 degrees

The Test: Premium Balls

Next, I took four premium golf balls and hit the same basic shot, also looking at peak spin rates with each model of golf ball. The balls tested were:

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 3.52.15 PM

With the premium balls, I found that I carried the shots about 4 to 5 yards longer on average. The extra distance created a little more spin, but nothing that would skew the results. I also did not hit shots with my 60-degree wedge this time, as I learned from my budget ball test that my 56-degree was the higher-spinning wedge for this shot.

Peak spin rate for the premium balls ranged between 7,639 rpm and 8,298 rpm, a considerably tighter range than the budget balls offered. Here’s how the premium balls measured up.

Titleist Pro V1

  • Peak Spin Rate: 8,298 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 22.1 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 37.7 degrees

TaylorMade Tour Preferred

  • Peak Spin Rate: 7,828 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 21.3 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 36.2 degrees

Bridgestone B330 RXS

  • Peak Spin Rate: 7,682 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 23.2 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 38.1 degrees

Srixon Z-Star XV

  • Peak Spin Rate: 7,639 rpm
  • Launch Angle: 18.9 degrees
  • Landing Angle: 34.1 degrees

Conclusion: Don’t be cheap with your balls

As you can see from my results, budget balls simply do not spin as much as premium golf balls. So while you might be saving as much as $26 per dozen on your golf ball purchase, my test shows that you could be losing as much as 3,267 rpm of spin on the 60-yard wedge shots that are often crucial to your score.

To put that in perspective, imagine if shots with your driver started spinning just 1,500 rpm more or less. It would completely change your ball flight off the tee. I’m here to say that adding just 1,500 rpm of spin around the greens can completely change your wedge game, too, and help you achieve a more ideal wedge trajectory for increased stopping power.

I know that golf is an expensive game, but if you’re looking to perform your best on the course one of the worst places to save money is on your golf ball. That’s why the best golfers in the world exclusively use premium golf balls, and why I recommend that serious golfers use them as well.

One last thing. Keep in mind that the spin rate numbers from the test represent the highest-spinning shots recorded with each golf ball model. So if you’re hitting a shot from the rough or have a dirty or wet club face, you will have even LESS spin than you see in this test. Clean your grooves and club faces before each shot so you get the most out of your wedge game!

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

88 Comments

88 Comments

  1. Benny

    Dec 26, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I liked this article even though it is something many of us already knew. I am also a believer that spin helps around the green. Pros can turn spin on and off more than us and also hit the ball MUCH harder than you Armchairs. Lets face it, most of us here suck so a cheaper ball probably works fine for us. I remember 5 years ago Golf Digest has a winter article “Best Ball for the Bang” and NXT’s won. Maybe this was a bought article, maybe not, all I know is I have shot just as low a rounds with NXT’s and Prov’s. All this really proves is opinions are like a-holes, we all have one and many of us are them. Thx as always WRX for helping me laugh on the couch!

  2. Ted

    Oct 1, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    More interestingly, the TM Aeroburner Pro was within 600 rpm of the Tour Preferred, and with a better descent angle. Mr. Stickney carefully said “you could be losing as much as 3,267 rpm of spin”, but that’s true only by comparing the highest spinning premium ball, with the lowest spinning budget ball. The difference is much, much smaller if you look at the highest spinning budget ball and compare to the lowest spinning premium ball.

  3. KN

    Sep 23, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Great objective test results, Tom. I only wish you had used the 60 degree wedge on the premium balls, just for consistency’s and (my) curiosity’s sake. Your test results have confirmed what I have believed for over 15 years now, and that is the most important piece of equipment in your golf game is your golf ball, because you use it for every shot. Why not give yourself the best chance for the best outcome by arming yourself with a ball that will perform capably and consistently? I believe that as soon as you can both come through impact square and make contact on the center of the clubface more often than not, you should employ a “premium golf ball.” My game totally changed when I made the switch from a harder “budget ball” to the Titleist Pro V1. Yes, I put the range time in to improve my long iron game, my driver, and especially my wedge shots (of course, on the range, you’re stuck with whatever brand your local driving range chooses to serve you, but it’s the swing I’m talking about), but when I did hit the links, I absolutely noticed an immediate, positive effect. Indeed, the benefits of a $50/dozen ball is probably going to be lost on a beginner or a high handicapper. There is a learning curve to these purebreds. That doesn’t make those that use these high-end balls better people. It just helps make them better golfers.

    • JR

      Sep 24, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      I disagree with that statement. A smart golfer knows what his ball will do and plays to its advantage and capabilities. For example let me play out a scenario for you. You are in the exact same spot and chip with a wedge while you have a prov1 and a budget ball. Knowing you can cause backspin on a prov1 and get the ball to walk back 1 foot you shot 1 1/2 feet past the hole. The ball bites and rolls back 1 foot and you are now 6 inches from the hole for an easy putt. Now knowing your budget ball will roll 4 feet instead of spinning and biting you shot 4 1/2 feet short of the hole. The ball lands and rolls 4 feet and you are now 6 inches from the hole for an easy putt.

      At this point in both cases you have a 6 inch putt, and the only difference is the cost of the ball. So in reality to tell people to buy the most expensive ball because it will work is hog wash, because anyone knowing what their ball will do and doesn’t do, should and smartly play to that balls ability. If it rolls, you shot short and watch it roll to the hole. If it spins and stops dead then aim closer to the hole. In either case, if done smartly you will get the same outcome, a short putt.

      • KN

        Sep 30, 2015 at 7:54 pm

        That’s a nice story, but it’s only that: a story. Not every pin is nicely plunked onto the middle of the green so you can “roll” your budget ball up “4 feet” to “6 inches from the hole for an easy putt.” Ever short side yourself? Ever put your budget ball in a bunker right next to the pin? Ever have to fly a sand trap or a hazard and stop it cold? These may be more stories to you, but I’ve seen and done all of these successfully, thanks to my Pro V1. So if you’re okay with hitting your second shot onto the green, then watching it run right through and off the back, keep playing your Top Flite or Wilson or Slazenger or whatever. I guess you’ll have to learn to “roll” it up to the hole, no matter what the ball encounters on its way there. Part of learning how to play golf is learning how to control your golf ball. You’re only advocating controlling ONE aspect of it: roll. What about spin, direction, height, speed, deflection, etc? Your whole rebuttal is based on a fantasy “scenario,” then you try to tell me that “reality” is: Don’t tell people to buy superior-performing products, because we are only as good as the ball we play. (?!?) Your argument is invalid.

        • JR

          Oct 1, 2015 at 8:07 am

          So my scenario is an extreme example, but don’t sit here and act like those things you list out can’t happen with a ProV1 or any other high end ball. I’ve seen plenty of ProV1 roll off the back of a green on a chip, just as I have budget balls. I’m not saying learn to play the roll either. I’m saying learn to play your ball. I’ve seen good players take a crappy budget ball and get the spin they want out of it and play just fine with it. What I’ve never seen is an average player take a ProV1 and use the ball to its advantage.

          I’m in no way saying don’t buy ProV1s or any high end ball. I’d buy them myself if they were cheaper, but it is naive and extremely disappointing to read how people think they are incapable of playing golf without a high end golf ball. That is simply not the case. If you can’t play golf or shoot your average score with any random ball, then you sir, are not that good of a player in my opinion. I have seen scratch golfers play cheap, expensive, budget, lost n found, and all other kinds of balls and still shoot their average. You don’t have to use the most expensive ball just to be good.

        • Kuba

          Oct 1, 2015 at 8:17 am

          This made me laugh. Are you seriously pissed off because you pay top dollar for a ball and based that as why are as good as you are? That is like saying go buy the best, most expensive clubs and you will take 10 strokes off your game. You realize that is what you are arguing right?

          Neither point is good. ProV1s can over shoot a green just like budget balls, and I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen budget balls bite and stop dead on a green just like a ProV1. You don’t need a ProV1 to be the best.

          The ball you play does not make you good player. Your skill is what makes you a good player.

  4. Mr. Wonderful

    Sep 22, 2015 at 8:28 am

    First off, nice article. I like how you explore the spin rate of the ball and the effects it has on wedge play. However; those are not budget balls. Budget balls are sub $20 a dozen. More like $16 a dozen, or even cheaper. A real budget ball would be Nitro Blasters for example $8 for 15 balls, and Wilson makes a ball that is even cheaper than that. I’ve played with the Nitro ball and will tell you that it will roll and roll forever off a diver, but the spin is not there around the green and you tend to get way too much roll. So that is one reason why I agree with this article.
    Second, this doesn’t appear to take into effect the club used or the skill of the player. I have a good friend who has an excellent wedge play and he has very low spin. He has basically mastered his particular wedges, and balls that he uses (ProV1s of course). So that tells me that even high class balls don’t always get the spin, the club itself plays a huge roll.
    Third, is my conclusion. My conclusion based on your article and what I’ve seen, is to play your wedges and stick with one ball, regardless of price. Playing a Nike ball on one hole and a Titleist on the next hurts consistency, and you’ll never really improve the wedge play. However; if you practice using the same ball, budget or not, and learn how to work your wedges, it really doesn’t matter what ball you use…

  5. Lefty19

    Sep 22, 2015 at 7:42 am

    Nice article- please take those same golf balls used and see what happens with the Driver….

    Thanks,
    David

  6. Anonie

    Sep 11, 2015 at 7:08 am

    None of the balls were hit at the recommended angles. Does that mean the fitters are wrong?

  7. marcel

    Sep 7, 2015 at 2:21 am

    there is a reason why similar tests are not done by pros with trusted consistent swing. youd realize that the cheap ball does the trick.

  8. KK

    Sep 6, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I would say that although it depends on your game and the course, higher spin balls offer more versatility and ability to attack and reach pins in tight positions. That’s never a bad thing.

  9. birly-shirly

    Sep 6, 2015 at 4:38 am

    Testing is good. Data is good. But how about the interpretation? There’s nothing in here to suggest that the serious scratch golfer’s needs might be different from the serious mid to high handicapper. Nor is there any account taken of different playing conditions. I get the point if you’re always playing baked out, fast running tournament conditions – but that’s not everyone, not even on wrx. I think that’s where some of the negative comment is coming from.

  10. Steve

    Sep 5, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    Backspin on a pitch or chip almost always leaves the mid to high handicapper father from the hole then if he just pitched or chipped a ball that runs out a little. I have played in a lot of A,B,C,D player scrambles and watched the majority of A and B players using “Pro Balls” leaving just about every short pitch and chip short while the C and D player are knocking their “Noodles” close enough to save par for the group…and yes I am the famous B player that handed the so called 4 handicap A player a ” top flite “and said “Try chipping with that, we need to score lower to be in the money”.

  11. michael

    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:51 pm

    I use the noodle plus easy distance for swing speeds 80 mph and under and it works fine for me yes a little more roll out but for the price its not that bad. I don’t see how this test is valid any ways its people like myself that need a better spinning ball. There are more people with my swing speed than those with the so called slower swing speed. We need a ball that performs better at our swing speed than other players.

    • Joshuaplaysgolf

      Sep 5, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Umm…80mph is a pretty low swing speed and would be considered a ‘slower swing speed’ as you put it. Nothing wrong with that, but you completely contradict yourself in saying that people with slower swing speeds need different balls, and then indicating you play a noodle…a softer ball and definitely a budget ball. Nothing about this article is invalid. He tested 8 different balls and posted the numbers. Those are facts, not opinions. The clown David Ward saying ‘how much did titleist pay you for this?’ HE JUST PUT UP THE FACTS, AND FOR ALL THE BALLS, not just titleist. Also, for all of you over reacting, read the whole article. It says at the bottom ‘why I recommend that serious golfers use them as well.’

      In no way would it be effective for a high-handicap player to use a prov1. Totally valid that you will probably lose more than you can afford in a round, and again, there is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t matter how good you are, just that you love the game…but don’t come on here crowing about in valid tests or titleist bias simply because you don’t have the confidence to put the upper level of equipment in play. It’s like looking at a test between a cavity back and blade iron, and saying the numbers of the blades are invalid and biased because, well, I’m not good enough to hit blades and I don’t like that the science says they preform better. Simply put, if you have the ability to consistently hit the little ball before the big ball, your going to get better results out of a higher-quality ball. Yes you can compensate for roll, but not every shot allows you to let the ball run out 10-20 feet. Sometimes it’s essential to be able to stop the ball as quickly as possible, and that can be the difference between getting up and down, or 2 putting for bogey. For those trying to shoot low scores, again, who this article is targeted towards, it matters. Don’t get sad over facts.

      • michael

        Sep 5, 2015 at 9:28 pm

        I have played for over 40 yrs and I have been a single and more recently and mid handicap due to work etc… But my statement was and is that most slow swing golfers do not need to be playing a prov 1 or a high priced ball to be successful or to be able to put spin on a short shot. The ball I used I hit a nice shot from 89 yards and it spun just fine for me I am not looking to be on the tour I am looking to get my ball at least 10-20 ft from the hole and may be closer if the pin is not a sucker pin. I am proud to use a budget ball as you say. I cannot afford and really don’t want to pay that amount of money for a ball that does not suit my game. I understand he used 8 different balls but my comment is about slow swing golfers that could use a golf ball that does not cost up to 50.00 a dozen and is not designed for that type of swing speed. I have a problem with ball makers that make a ball that is not made for the majority of players such as myself yet you have titleist stating that their most expensive ball is for my swing speed which it is not. Even the DT solo is not designed for my swing speed it is designed for the swing speed of 85-95 mph. So I would challenge the person that made this test to find or test golf balls for the people that swing in my speed range. with balls that are in the 20.00 per dozen range. Then show me how this can help my game. By the way I have put the so called upper golf balls in play and to be honest I was not that impressed especially at that price range. I feel that a golf ball that performs well should not cost that amount of money.

        • parker

          Sep 13, 2015 at 2:50 am

          I have a significantly higher driver swing speed than michael but I also use “budget” golf balls with great success… it’s literally apples and oranges. At the end of the day, the individual needs to choose a ball and play the ball based on the expected results. A “front of the green and roll” golfer has the potential to play as well as a “drop and stop” golfer. But I would posit from my own experience that spin and check, no matter how you get it, gives a golfer much more margin for error. But what do I know, I’m a high DD handi and I don’t buy premium balls… I “free” them from my local driving range 😛

  12. J Brent

    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Personally, I love the a lot of the viewpoints you offer on your website Tom. Some really good stuff even if I don’t agree with everything based on my personal experience. The actual spin data from your shots is really interesting since most of us do not have a trackman to hit with. Why can’t people appreciate the fact that this is supportive information? I read stuff like this to see if there is something I can learn, rather than to be an armchair a$$ who wants to find something to bitch about. Keep up the great work!! It’s amazing how many people I run into that will comment on info they have seen on your website.

    • Tom Stickney II

      Sep 5, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Thx J…I just try to do articles that make people think. I don’t know it all but I’ve spent 22 years teaching full time in the lesson tee so I know something. Armchair guys are everywhere; if they really knew anything we’d be reading their articles.

      • Shallowface

        Sep 6, 2015 at 1:06 pm

        Wow. That’s one of the most arrogant statements I’ve ever seen here, and that’s saying something. Really disappointing.

        • WILSON

          Sep 8, 2015 at 12:25 am

          sounds like something a butthurt 15+ handicap armchair know-it-all would say. Leave the instruction to the professionals, please.

          • Cliff

            Sep 8, 2015 at 12:44 pm

            There’s a good saying “people who can’t, teach”

          • Shallowface

            Sep 8, 2015 at 2:29 pm

            Not at all. I just find it interesting how threatened the WRX authors (not just Mr. Stickney) are in general by the idea that someone may have a different point of view.

            The free exchange of ideas is a good thing, and occasionally you’ll find someone whose main goal is getting themselves over. But at least those posts offer food for thought.

            • Tom Stickney II

              Sep 8, 2015 at 10:13 pm

              Shallow– have no problems with criticism or people whom disagree with my opinions but uneducated posts are tiresome. I have no reason to try and “get myself over” as I’m happy where I am professionally.

              • Joe

                Sep 23, 2015 at 8:12 am

                I don’t know why you guys continue to write at all with all the arm chair cowboys…. Keep up the good work!

        • KN

          Sep 23, 2015 at 5:31 pm

          Enough with the drama, shallow. Pull up your big-boy pants, read the FREE professional statistics and advice, and come to your own conclusions. So sad you’re disappointed, but save it for the ladies and the Solheim Cup (no offense, ladies).

  13. EH

    Sep 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Whatever suits your game. For me, budget golf balls = roll out and premium balls = check up. I rather have control around the green.
    The results may vary based on your experiences, but data backs it up.

    • Steve

      Sep 5, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      I would think if you like using premium balls you actually need to practice with it more then if you just keep using the budget balls as you learn quick how the budget balls rolls out, but you need to learn when a premium ball may stop….(and it is usually a lot father from the hole then you want). Most 15 or above handicappers are going to play stop, run, stop, run with a premium ball, might just move down to a 12 if you used a budget ball till then.

    • Craig Clark

      Sep 6, 2015 at 9:40 am

      Want the best of both worlds? Try the Maxfli U/6 at Dicks Sporting Goods. Urethane covers. 6 layers. Spins like a Pro V-1. (or better). I’m a 2 handicap and folks tell me I can get up and down from a trash can. (Which is where my irons hit it sometimes). The Maxfli gives me complete control of my short game – I know what it’s going to do every time, from any lie. And the best part is I just bought 2 dozen for $45.00. (BOGO). A couple of years ago the Maxfli was the only ball tested by the USGA to be rated Low Spin off the driver and High Spin off the wedge. It’s a super golf ball…

      • Fred

        Sep 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm

        The Maxfli U6 is soooo underated. I play ProV1’s and find the Maxfli U6 to be as good or better than the Prov1 around the greens.
        Now, if they only sold them in Canada.

      • rer4136

        Sep 17, 2015 at 12:36 pm

        Glad that someone spoke up about the Maxfli U6 line of balls. The U6 LC is a great ball for slower swing speeds and has incredible feel around the green. Give it a try and I believe you will like it.

  14. munihack

    Sep 4, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Tom-
    Your response sadly is typical from a person who doesn’t pay for golf balls. I may be wrong but Johnny Miller won his British Open with a surlyn ball as did John Daly. And touring pros play what their contract allows. Your atricle refers to playing your best and I gave you evidence I am doing it with a ball that spins less than a pro v. The point I am trying to make is the amount of spin matters to the extent you can control it. Not every golfer has the skill to control 60 yard wedge shots no matter the ball. Most of them would benefit from managing their game so they don’t have that shot to begin with. To extend your perspective more the old balatas spun more than pro v’s so they should have been the ball of choice between the 2 but we all know how that turned out.

    • Steve

      Sep 5, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      You cant argue with mellonhead, he has never been wrong, he is the smartest person he knows

  15. Jason Alcock

    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:46 am

    I did a blind test on myself by accident. I was sure that I was playing my usual Srixon ZX ball. I played 12 holes and was pretty miserable with my game around the greens. Unbelievably the ball was just not working right, a reject in some form. So I decided to swap balls, even though this one was unmarked.

    Looking closely before I ditched it, the penny dropped, the ball was actually a loose Srixon AD333 from my bag, one I had accidentally covered the ball model marking with my alignment mark.

    I’m definitely not a “feel” player and only mid-handicapper. And while I adapt to playing a budget ball (especially in winter) I’d still agree that the added control is worth the money.

    • mario

      Aug 15, 2016 at 10:48 pm

      Well my perception is quite the opposite… The Z star is a rock, same as a Pro V1x and is nasty around the greens. The AD333 tour is only a budget ball by its price, but is pretty much as long as the V1 -no difference with the irons, maybe a loss of 5 yds with the driver into the wind-. It’s the best all around ball I could find so far especially for shaping iron shots and for flop shots.
      The Wilson DX2 goes the extra mile down this road, being the softest thing I’ve ever come across. I only use it when the course is rock hard but I shot 69 the first I used one (playing out of 4).
      And I have really no interest for marketing speech saying that the 333 tour is for swing speeds of 80-95mph. I swing a solid 105 and the ball reacts fantastically. I could not bear the sound of the Z star on my driver, felt like damaging it.

  16. dapadre

    Sep 4, 2015 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for this Tom. But in all honesty speaking from personal experience and seeing other hackers, you dont really get all the advantages of a good spin/3 piece ball UNTIL your ball striking is good and repetitious enough. In fact I have seen and experienced that these high spin balls actually can hurt a golfer in that it will also exaggerate slices and hooks. Its hard to say at what level but I would argue that if you are above 15 HCP, there is really no need. Once you can control your club face a bit better, then yes. Just my humble opinion.

    • parker

      Sep 13, 2015 at 3:00 am

      I agree with your comment in principal, but I have actually witnessed with my own eyes a premium ball HELP my 60 yr old high handicap father GAIN distance in his iron shots. In his case, left and right was never his problem, he struggled mostly with fat and thin shots. We have both noticed that with higher spinning balls (not necessarily “premium”) that the added spin adds a “float” of an extra 5-10 yards, and also a nice stoppage effect. We are both always amazed at how for the two of us, the Srix Z* doesn’t fly very high, but goes far and always stops on the greens.

      I’m convinced that if you can sort out left/right issues in your game, more spin is better than less.

  17. Ironhorse723

    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:53 am

    Wilson DUO…end of discussion. I’ve always been a super high spin player, now instead of clubbing up so that I can account for the backspin bringing it to the front of the green/pin I can go right at it. One hop and sits. Excellent ball that flies forever!

    • dapadre

      Sep 4, 2015 at 10:38 am

      @Ironhorse723, I have to agree with you here. By the way you also have the new DX3 spin (thats what its called in Europe, not sure whats is called since here in Europe the Duo is called DX2 soft) which is actually a DUO but 3 piece with more spin. Im using it now and if you like the DUO, you will absolutely love this one.

    • NotSoFast

      Sep 5, 2015 at 9:38 pm

      Agreed. I’ve been playing the Duo for three years and frequently toss a ball to the guy who inquires what I’m playing. Most love it and switch from their premium ball saying they like the feel and performance of the ball from driver to putter and especially their wallet.

  18. KS

    Sep 4, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Great article Tom. I just have to comment because you see it time and time again. I typically think more of the golfing community but responses here prove we are not all gentlemen. You try to do some testing, you are a professional in your field and write a great article that isn’t necessarily a one size fits all but is very informational and often a good starting block. From the start the armchair quarterbacks bash the article, typically miss the point of it and often discount the writers credibility. It would be great so see people contribute respectfully rather than a know-it-all a$$hole but in todays world that must be asking too much. Keep on writing Tom. Good reads whether it fits me and my game all of the time or not.

  19. Jayw

    Sep 4, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Recently, my golfing friends and I have been in search for a good performing golf ball at a decent price. Our driver swing speeds vary from approx 90 to 105 max. We are all retired and play a lot of golf. The PRO V1 and V1X’s are definitely fantastic golf balls from tee to green. However, they are too expensive for our budget. The results from your test are basically what we have experienced in normal play with inexpensive vs expensive golf balls. I would like to see results from this test performed on many more (brands) of inexpensive golf balls. I believe that there are some inexpensive’s out there that perform just as well as the expensive for lower swing speeds, i.e., 90-105. The only way to know for sure is to test many different brands. We’ve also tested some Lady golf balls that spin like crazy. More testing would be much appreciated.

  20. JeffL

    Sep 4, 2015 at 3:59 am

    Just today, I hit a Wilson Zip (75 cents or so per ball) to a small back tier in a green, a full sand wedge 90 or so yards downwind. It hit just about pin high, bounced 7 feet or so, then backed up a few feet. Do I want more spin than that? If it backed up a few more feet, it would have rolled down to the lower tier.

  21. CD

    Sep 4, 2015 at 3:28 am

    Tom, how are you a scratch golfer? Don’t you have to give up having a handicap when you turn pro? Isn’t that the point of the PAT?

    What does construction of the have to do with it? Eg I can get a range ball to back up on grass from 60 yards, but the distance is down through the bag. This is despite a ‘hard’ feel (granted that might be sound I’m hearing, but these are two piece range balls)

    • Stretch

      Sep 4, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      All golfers whether pro or not should have a handicap. Whisper Rock in Scottsdale has a lot of members that play the Tour and all have a handicap.

  22. ders

    Sep 3, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    I am nowhere near good enough to use a good golf ball. From anything greater than 60 yds out I aim for the center of the green and I’m happy if I hit it. A few months ago I was playing a par 3 course by myself and played 2 balls: a proV1 vs a sports authority tommy armour 2 dozen for $10 ball. The crap ball tended to roll off the back of the green, the titleist rolled off the front of the green. There were more back pin placements that day so I shot 2 strokes better with the crap ball. I’m sure if I tried the same test on a course that I was hitting a driver, I would have sliced the high spinning proV1 into the trees on the right on the first hole.

  23. jcorbran

    Sep 3, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    Just curious as to why you used a Bridgestone b330 rxs for swing speeds under 105 mph and a Srixon z star xv for swing speeds over 105 mph?

    • Fruity

      Sep 4, 2015 at 3:37 am

      Because that’s how those are recommended.

      • jcorbran

        Sep 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm

        he chose 1 ball for the slower swing speed and 1 ball for the higher swing speed so 1 ball was not the correct choice, according to the manufacturer, skewing the numbers, should have chosen both balls for same swing speed either way.

  24. Desmond

    Sep 3, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Some budget-minded, offended folk here…

  25. Steve

    Sep 3, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Mellonhead,
    As per your expert all but one of the budget balls were within range

  26. Munihack

    Sep 3, 2015 at 10:14 pm

    This article is arbitrary. First who wants a 60 yard shot? Second anyone who studies golf balls at all knows they are designed to behave differently with a driver vs. a wedge so the 1500 rpm comparison makes no sense. Third spin only helps if you know how to use it. In my case I am shooting the lowest scores of my life with a top flite gamer soft which I started to use in January as a winter ball. My first round I tied my personal best on my home course with a 64 (my hdcp is +2). It replaced the 330 rx I used last year. It is longer off the tee and chips and putts consitently. And the non sale price is $20 per doz. Any instructor who says everyone needs pro v spin is a salesman.

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 3, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Muni–

      If that was even close to true then pros would be playing the distance balls as well since they can get anything they want.

      • Fruity

        Sep 4, 2015 at 3:36 am

        Exactly, Tom.

      • brian d

        Sep 4, 2015 at 1:04 pm

        Tom,

        But isnt that more because pros know how to control their spin and know exactly how their ball will react due to the perfection of their strike? I watch alot of my friends use premium balls and when they chip its a crap shoot. Sometimes the ball checks up way short and some times hops past the hole and rolls out. I have found using a cheaper ball to help at least as an amateur, since I know on my chips, I wont get any check. I use my loft to get the ball to stop and I have found I have been more consistent due to eliminating the “odd spinner” ( the ball that checks up 10 feet short when I feel I hit it the same as the ball tha trolled out.

        Also, I am sure pros need the spin more, as they are playing on rocket fast greens with fairly difficult pins where you need spin to even think of getting it close. Most courses will have a few tucked pins, but I feel most amateurs are more trying to get the ball on the green, or even on a specific quadrant of the green vs throwing it over the top of the flag.

        My guess is if a pro wanted to use a distance type ball, their sponsor would still stamp “prov1” or make them a Prov1 that reacted similar to say a nxt tour.

  27. John Grossi

    Sep 3, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I remember an old tour pro was asked by an amateur, how he could spin his shots like the pro. The pro said that the amateur should be moving the ball forward, not backward. I let most of my shots run out. If I short side myself, l throw my 60 up hopefully within 10 ft. to have a par chance. Also, I can hit a low compression ball further then the prov v. I know how it reacts on all my short shots. I agree people who are paid to play golf should be using the top spinning ball, however not the amateur.

    • Fruity

      Sep 4, 2015 at 3:40 am

      Unfortunately, what this doesn’t explain is how the DIMPLES react differently to the air, drag & lift.
      Many of these softer balls actually fly LOWER, whereas the harder balls fly higher. Just look at the box of dozen of the Pro-V, it’s all explained right there. So when they talk about getting fit, it’s going to involve how the players hit their balls high or low, as well.

  28. Ken

    Sep 3, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Well, I’m a 65 year old 8.2 HC and play our course at 6500 yards. Today’s round was one of my best … a 74. On the first hole I teed up a ball I found (since I wasn’t sure where in the hell it was going), it was a Nike PD Soft. I putted out on 18 with the same ball. With the right ball, I may have shot a 62 … I guess!

  29. Joe

    Sep 3, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    There is a flaw in this test, that is that people were the only testers. People are not consistent, a more complete test would have included Iron Byron. Iron Byron is consistent and would have been a truer test.

    • other paul

      Sep 3, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Iron Byron doesn’t swing like a human and is therefore irrelevant in this test. Do you really think you are the first person to think that a robot should hit all test shots? Yeesh.

      • Joe

        Sep 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm

        You are making my point. Iron Byron does not swing like a human, therefore, test with Iron Byron are consistent with no variation. People have a wide variance in their swings and are inconsistent.
        That is why I suggest that both methods be used for comparison. Consistency is what counts.

  30. Jimmy

    Sep 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Since when is $27 a dozen considered a budget ball. I never pay more than $20. Anyone who pays $4-$5 and isn’t a pro level golfer is just insane. They’re simply not good enough to make solid contact and get 8000 rpm out a pro v1. Definitely a case the Indian not the arrow. Save you’re money buy cheap balls. You’ll have more fun because you won’t be worried about the cost of losing a ball.

    • Christestrogen

      Sep 3, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Or go to any used golf ball site and get AAAA perfect used prov1s or b330s for about $1 each…..
      ***During the majors they typically have ridiculous sales.

  31. Nolanski

    Sep 3, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    I notice the differences myself. The best spin around the green I’ve gotten is with Bridgestone E5(cheap) but they are like hitting a wiffleball off the tee so I stopped using them.

  32. Charlie

    Sep 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Not an endorsement, as mentioned earlier…

    Lostgolfballs.com

  33. Southpaw

    Sep 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Interesting read, I usually read most of the articles on wrx but bottom line is that it is the golfer and not the ball. Same with clubs, its always the golfer and not the equipment unless you have a huge gash in the side of the ball or scuff its your fault you didn’t put it close. I play penta tp urethane, stops and spins just fine. When will we blame ourselves for not being great at this impossible game haha….. When you hit it 15 past the hole was it your putters fault??

  34. LD

    Sep 3, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    How many strokes am I giving up per round with my budget wedge game?

  35. Scooter McGavin

    Sep 3, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I feel like I can save myself some time with these articles. Seems like whenever the question is “Should you spend more money on your golf game?” the answer is always yes. I wiff the ball twice and then top it 10 ft., do I need to get fitted? Yes… Do I need an extra thousand rpm of spin around the green? Yes… Is it worth spending $400 to get 4 more yards out of my drives? Yes.

  36. T Young

    Sep 3, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I enjoyed the article, but would love to see this done on a larger scale. More than 4 balls, and more than one brand of wedges. Titleist, Cleveland, TM, PING, Scratch, Mizuno, Callaway wedges with all the premium balls vs a handful of budget balls, would be a fantastic read. Thanks again
    -T

    • petie3_2

      Sep 17, 2015 at 12:09 am

      I used to have a slice. Had it for 40 years. Cured it in 20 minutes. Hit a small bucket of balls, a 7 iron is fine, a driver is better, with a camcorder and Tripod recording it from behind, so you can track visually the path of the clubhead through the ball. If you think you are coming straight through the VCR will show you an outside-in path and a slice. Be your own teacher. I’m 71, a 13 handicap and shoot 77-84 normally.

  37. Scott

    Sep 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    7000 rpm’s with the aeroburner pro? Sounds like a good deal to me. Enough to make you consider it if cost is a factor…and it certainly is for me. So I’m not sure this is such a no-brainer since our decisions aren’t made in a vacuum.

  38. Blazman11

    Sep 3, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I’m a believer that the middle tier priced balls (with exception of chrome soft) should never be purchased. There are too many premium ball offerings and many sales available for us to save a considerable amount of money.

    Always take advantage of the proV buy 3 get one free promo in the spring.

    Srixon and Nike usually run buy two get one free deals on their top end balls at some point.

    I picked up a few dozen of the Wilson Staff provx equivalent for $20 a dozen over the winter and they are fantastic balls.

    I do personally think the provx is the best ball for me. I get the most distance and green side control with this ball. However there is no need for me to play a provx during every single round since there are casual rounds mixed in and that’s when I pull out the Zstars. If I’m playing by myself or in early spring when I’m not testing new/different clubs even cheapies like a Duo or used balls are fine.

    Bottom line is just be a smart consumer. There are so many very good options available that will allow you to play premium balls at a $20-30 price point per dozen.

  39. Jamie

    Sep 3, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    I don’t think this article means that if you are playing a goat path to go out and buy some Pro V-1’s and your wedge game will dramatically improve. There are other factors that can change spin rates…the type of fairways and greens that you are playing on can have a dramatic effect on spin as well.

  40. Jordan

    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    The answer for most players is in the middle. For a 10-25 hcp the best balls to are most likely NXT Tour, chrome +, e6, project a – balls that spin nearly as much as tour balls, are more durable, and cost less. In my own Flightscope tests, NXT Tour and Pro v1 differ in only a few hundred RPM on partial and full wedges, and only differ on driver distance by a few yards. If money is no object, play a Pro v1, if not play NXT Tour or Chrome +. You’ll sweat it less when you lose them.

    • Philip

      Sep 3, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      I’ve found that the recent non-urethane balls are really closing the gap with the $$$ balls. It is only recently that my level of game has gotten good enough to use the spin to stop in 2-3 yards on the green. I used to choose balls based on feel around on the green (Titleist still wins for me, even the current NXT Tours). My overall favourite ball are the HBTs, however, I’ve used some Hex Controls I’ve found among the trees and I find they bite the greens and cut the wind just as good as the HBTs. Currently I’m using NXT Tour S because I wanted a yellow ball in the fall with early dusk and I love ’em. I’m at the point I often get a round or more out of a ball, but I’m in no rush to burn up more expensive balls.

  41. Bobby

    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    This is all bs it all depends on if you want to check the ball or let it run out ……I’m a scratch golfer and use top flights …this test makes no sense at all

    • Miguel

      Sep 3, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      I don’t know but I have shot my best scores with Pinnacle’s and Dt Solo’s. I never buy Premium golf balls and if I use them, they are the ones I find from the bushes. I can never justify paying for a premium golf ball when I can shoot low 80’s and high 70’s with my cheap used Pinnacles.

  42. Greg V

    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    What about balls in the mid-price segment, such as the Bridgestone e6 and Titleist NXT Tour that a lot of mid-handicap players use?

    • Jordan

      Sep 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      Greg, NXT and Chrome + are really, really similar to Pro v1 in spin rates in my Flightscope testing within 300-400 RPM. The extra cash goes to the softer feeling cover, and a few yards of driver distance (like 1-3 yards if your SS is 100-105).

  43. Mat

    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    Agreed. If you can’t be bothered to pay $1 additional per ball, you are doing it wrong.

    • Ted

      Oct 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      Mat, I play occasionally with some high handicappers that lose 6-10 balls a round. That adds up. And even if you can afford it easily, it can still leave a psychological scar.

  44. Steven

    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Tom,

    Thanks for another great article, but I have two questions.

    First, is this relevant for mid and high handicappers who can’t put that much spin on the ball regardless of what ball they play?

    Second, you tested the balls from 60 yards out, is that the yardage where concern for a high spinning ball begins?

    Thanks.

    • Mat

      Sep 3, 2015 at 12:11 pm

      Question – does the high handicapper hit a ball with that much spin? Are we talking good shots, I assume?

  45. Jonny B

    Sep 3, 2015 at 11:56 am

    If price is the major determinant for not buying tour-caliber balls, try shopping for used balls online. LostGolfBalls routinely has Mint Condition prior-gen proV1s for under $20/dozen. They have any ball you would probably want to play, usually for 1/3 the cost of new. There are a few other sites out there like LGB as well.

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My custom Vokey SM8 wedges are in and have been on the course for a few weeks now. I talk through the whole experience of starting with a Vokey fitting on a Titleist Thursday, custom ordering my wedges on the WedgeWorks website, and playing the wedges out on the course.

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The Wedge Guy: Has the game changed forever…or just “theirs”?

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I’m betting no one saw this coming through all the build up of how Winged Foot was going to be a “true” U.S. Open test – narrow fairways, deep rough and firm, fast conditions. I’ll bet very few had Bryson DeChambeau in their list of “most likely to”, even if you are an ardent fan of the young man.

No, I’m thinking most of us never saw it coming…I know I certainly did not. As I watched this year’s edition of our national championship unfold, I was struck by a number of oddities and acceptances.

First of all, with fairways “as narrow as 30 yards”, I thought surely these tour professionals would respect the gnarly rough and display an atypical set of shotmaking talents and skills, showing us finally that they can hit accurate drives when they have to.

Boy was I wrong. Did you notice how many were missing fairways even when they hit fairway woods and irons from the tee? That really shocked me, to be honest. I just believe that PGA Tour professionals would be able to navigate tee shots into 30-yard-wide fairways at a much higher percentage that we witnessed. The field average was closer to 25% than 50. But they proved that their strength and power can muscle the ball out of even that kind of rough with enough control to “tame” an otherwise beast of a golf course.

The other “acceptance” we all need to realize is that these guys are simply amazing around and on the greens. Their exquisite talents and skills allow them to hit a remarkable variety of recovery shots – chips, pitches, bunker shots, run-ups . . . Their talents are borderline mystical. And their putting skills are just as impressive. These guys (and their caddies) read greens with astounding accuracy and just do not seem to hit very many bad putts. Their misses more often look like the ball “wanted” to go in, but it just wasn’t to be.

So, what can we “mere mortal” golfers learn from all this?

I believe the first takeaway is that we play a totally different game than they do. Very few of us recreational golfers have the strength to continually muscle the ball out of even “normal” rough to put it in a position to successfully finish out the hole with a par or better. For most of us, I have no doubt that our best scores come when we hit the fewest shots from the rough. I challenge all of you to keep track of your “strokes lost” when your tee shot does not leave you in the fairway with a clean lie and open shot to the green.

Secondly, we do not have anything close to their skills around the greens. If you miss greens, you are more likely to make bogey or worse than to save par. Leaving the distance thing out of the equation, this is the largest chasm between the skills of tour player and regular amateurs. Day in and day out, these elite players get up and down more than 50% of the time, and very few amateurs approach 30% from my research. What’s the moral of that story? Spend more time practicing your creativity and execution on the shortest of shots…that is, IF you really want to lower your scores.

Finally, these guys are so darn good with the putter in their hands…It certainly doesn’t hurt that they putt on pool-table-perfect greens most of the time. Or that they have a great caddy to help them get an accurate read on most every putt. Or that they focus on positioning their approach shots and recoveries to give themselves the best look at the hole. But also realize that they practice incessantly on this part of the game.

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