Picking the best golf ball to suit your game, whether you’re a complete beginner or low handicapper, isn’t easy because the golf ball market is saturated with brands all claiming to be the best at one thing or another. So, before we pick out some of the best golf balls out there, let’s go through a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.
Are you a complete novice or low handicapper? If it’s the former, “keep the price low because you’re going to lose golf balls when you’re starting out. You can have a sleeve of three new balls, and they could be gone after two holes,” Piers Ward, PGA pro golfer and coach from Me And My Golf, explains.
Low handicap golfers, on the other hand, are unlikely to lose as many golf balls (although it happens), which means they won’t mind spending a bit more to maximise distance or improve ball control.
Another important step in choosing a golf ball is to get out on the course to test a few different options. There’s plenty of science behind golf balls, but if it doesn’t feel right or give you confidence, you’re unlikely to play well. Spend some time driving, chipping and putting with different branded balls until you find one that feels right for you. And once you’ve found it, stick with it.
“You need to have something you can rely upon, which is going to be consistent. Because if you’ve got different golf balls in your bag, then every time you lose one and pull another one out, the next ball spins more, then the next ball goes higher, and the next ball doesn’t spin as much. You’re playing a guessing game,” Ward adds.
His other tip is to think about the type of golf ball you’re in the market for. A softer golf ball, for example, will spin more, which is good if you want to have more control around the greens or with your irons. Whereas if you want to hit further off the tee, you may wish to opt for a harder golf ball as it’ll travel further.
We put a range of balls through their paces to see how they looked, felt and performed. All of the below selections were tested on golf courses and putting greens in various weather conditions, from crisp sunny mornings to bitter, wet afternoons.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Bridgestone Tour B XS Tiger Woods edition
This golf ball is the kind that gives you confidence on the tee, but perhaps that’s because we know it’s Tiger Woods’s favourite? Designed for golfers with swing speeds of over 105mph (the average amateur male golfer reaches speeds of around 93mph), it’s probably not going to make a huge difference to your driving distance if you’re a high handicapper. That said, we can’t reach those kinds of swing speeds and managed to shoot five-under our handicap just after lockdown. The ball has a unique, comforting sound when clattered with a driver, although its biggest plus was the extra spin generated with pitch shots into the green. And the soft feel helps with control when chipping and putting too. PGA golf pro and YouTube star Rick Shiels claimed it’s "possibly the best ball he’s ever used" in a recent video. And we couldn’t agree more.
Buy now £38.99, Americangolf.co.uk
Srixon AD 333
This used to be our go-to golf ball when we started playing – mainly because it was good value and consistent – and it’s still a popular choice with new golfers. Why? Probably because the contact feels clean with a driver, iron and putter and it travels well through the air. Although it’s not a ball that spins much, especially when you’re using mid-irons. One other thing to note is that it does give off a clicking sound when hit with a driver, so if you find that noise off-putting, it might not be for you. However, thanks to its urethane cover, it’s a treat around the greens and comes off the putter nicely too. A good-value ball for senior golfers, rookies and high handicappers.
Buy now £18.45, Amazon.co.uk
Decathlon’s soft 500 matt yellow golf ball X12
New to golf? You don’t want to splurge on balls that will end up in lakes, bushes and woodlands. Thankfully Decathlon has a cracking range of affordable golfing gear, making the game, once reserved for the elite, a little more accessible. These soft golf balls aren’t going to make you hit the ball 300 yards off the tee, but for beginners, they’re just the job. They sound a bit clunky when thumped with a driver, although you’d probably expect that from a cheaper ball. What’s handy for beginners is the thick black line on the back of the ball that gives them something to focus on when hitting drives, irons or putts. They are available in various vibrant colours, making them easy to spot when nestled in the rough.
Buy now £12.99, Decathlon.co.uk
TaylorMade soft response golf balls
If you’ve been playing golf for a while but only get out on the course once or twice a week, usually in summer, this three-layered ball by TaylorMade may well speak to you. It’s soft, meaning it feels lovely when struck with a driver, and gives you a little bit more control with your irons. In terms of mid-range priced golf balls, this was our favourite. It comes with an extended flight dimple, which is supposed to make the ball hover in the air longer but is something we didn’t notice hugely. However, it flew off the tee and kept its line well. What’s more, it’s a spinny little number, which helps keep the ball on the green, thanks to its urethane outer – a material that allows the grove of your club to grip to it. A solid option for mid to high handicap golfers, it’s also available in high visibility colours.
Buy now £21.95, Golfonline.co.uk
Srixon Z star
If you’re a decent golfer that’s struggling with your short game and don’t mind spending a few quid extra to improve, we’d highly recommend the Srixon Z star. It feels like a dream on approach shots and when chipping around the green. In part, this is likely down to the clever spinskin cover and SeRM coating – a chemical added to the outer layer that makes the grooves of your club grab the ball, generating more friction, thus spinning more. Although previous models of this ball were renowned for speed and distance – this doesn’t disappoint on that note either – we noticed our drives were longer than usual. It comes with a 388 dimple pattern to help carry the ball further. A premium ball for a golfer that knows their way around the course.
Buy now £34.99, Americangolf.co.uk
Callaway ERC soft triple track
This ball is a good performer for golfers with slow or medium swing speeds, regardless of handicap. Design-wise, the triple track not only looks the part but has some serious science behind it. The idea came from a veteran golfer who drew three lines on his ball to help him find it. He encouraged his friends to do the same and noticed they started putting better. The rest, they say, is history. Callaway has since embraced the technology, and you may have even seen Phil Mickelson using them from time to time. We noticed a marked improvement in putting, whether imagined or otherwise. The one off-putting thing with this ball, however, is when the alignment isn’t right when hitting the ball from the fairway or rough. Distance-wise it went reasonably well and seemed to roll out on the rare occasion we hit a fairway. An innovative ball for a would-be Bryson DeChambeau.
Buy now £34.99, Clubhousegolf.co.uk
Japanese brand Honma might not be the first golf ball manufacturer you think of when looking for an upgrade, but don’t let that put you off. The Honma TW-X three-piece ball reminded us a little of Titleist’s flagship Pro V1 – only for a fraction of the price. In terms of competitors, it’s up there with other balls in the same bracket. What we liked most about this ball, however, was the low ball flight and incredible amount of spin we were able to generate. It does have a slightly tinny sound off the tee, but that doesn’t reflect the feel, which is fairly soft. Aimed at golfers who swing the club above 90mph, it comes with a 326 dimple pattern – said to ensure a cleaner ball flight. Design-wise, it didn’t blow us away – it looks a bit old-school, and the alignment marks aren’t very prominent – but it’s an excellent all-round ball for a very reasonable price.
Buy now £25.00, Americangolf.co.uk
Made for serious golfers, this premium golf ball is favoured by the big hitters on tour. As we’re sure you could’ve guessed, that means it’s not cheap. What you pay for, however, is its innovative tech update after feedback from tour players. Take the outer urethane shell, which is softer to make it grip the club better. Given our higher-than-we’d-like handicap, we let a low handicapper unleash off the tee. He was impressed with the trajectory of the ball, as well as the distance he generated. We also tested it out from bunkers, mainly, and around the greens and were impressed in the level of check we managed to generate. It has a sweet, muted sound and feels lovely off the clubface when rolling in putts. A ball that will suit proficient golfers that want to maximise control and spin while maintaining distance.
Buy now £41.99, Clubhousegolf.co.uk
The verdict: Golf balls
If we had an unlimited budget, our favourite ball was by far the Bridgestone tour B XS Tiger Woods edition based on feel, spin and consistency. Our second best pick and an excellent ball for the value was the TaylorMade soft response. Of course, it’s worth trying a range of balls out before sticking to one.
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