Why do high handicappers need a better golf ball? We all want a long, straight shot off the tee which lands in the middle of the fairway with a shorter iron shot left to reach the green. We want that second shot to land with enough accuracy and distance to leave us with a short birdie putt on the green.
We want to be able to tap the ball with just enough length to go into the hole or leave us with a tap-in par instead of coming up way short or rolling past.
Mechanics will always play a role in making a great shot, but with a forgiving ball, bad mechanics don’t have to cost you as dearly in how your shot plays out. Before looking at the features of the best golf ball for a high handicapper, let’s define the term handicap.
What is a Handicap?
Handicap is a formula for determining a person’s typical or average score for a round of golf.
The official formula, according to USGA rules, consists of taking the best ten rounds of your last 20 rounds played and calculating the average number of strokes over par.
There are four common levels of handicaps:
- Scratch Golfer. Someone whose average on best ten rounds of their last twenty is near or equal to even par. In essence, they have a zero handicap or no handicap.
- Low Handicapper. This is a golfer who has a pretty good mix of pars in a round, but has a few bogeys mixed in for an average score of around 10 to 12 over par.
- Bogey Golfer or Midrange Handicapper. This is someone whose average score is close to 18 over par, which would average out to a bogey on every hole.
- High Handicapper. Anyone whose average score of the best ten of their last twenty rounds is in excess of 18 over par.
As a person improves their game, their average on the best ten of their last twenty rounds will improve and their handicap will become lower.
Practice will improve mechanics, but the right ball can also help bring your handicap down.
Why do you need special golf balls?
Specially designed golf balls can help improve how the ball reacts when you strike it with your club. There are three components associated with striking a golf ball that will determine how good of a shot you make.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these three components:
Compression is one component that will affect the distance you get out of your shot. “The compression of a ball refers to how tightly wound its core threads are,” according to Golf Info Guide.
Balls with a high compression rating require a higher club speed on impact, which means you will need higher velocity on your swing.
However, trying to force more velocity out of your swing tends to break down mechanics and cause you to whiff, slice or draw.
A balanced and consistent swing on a lower compression rated ball will create a rebound effect when it comes off of the clubface and give your shot more distance.
Along with compression a higher number of dimples that are deeper will also provide more lift and distance to your shot.
One of the issues of straightness is related to trying to force your shot, like we just discussed.
Another aspect of straightness is related to the amount of spin. This is associated with the dimple pattern, number of dimples and depth of the dimples.
Where more and deeper dimples will help you achieve a greater distance, it will also create more spin and you will sacrifice straightness.
To correct straightness issues, you might need a ball with fewer and shallower dimples.
Feel or Spin
This component is something of a balance between the two above. It is related to both the compression rating of the ball, and the softness of club impact, as well as its dimple pattern and depth.
Higher spin will allow for greater control when it comes to shot placement, but any errors you make in your swing will be exaggerated with higher spin.
Lower spin will take away from distance, but will allow you to place a ball more accurately and make it stick to the green.
This typically requires a softer ball which is a little less durable.
4 Types of golf balls
How a golf ball is constructed is essential when it comes to how it will react when it is struck by a clubface.
If you grab a cheap set of one-piece, molded, golf balls or range balls off the shelf and use it to play a round of golf, you will be one of those people wrapping your club around a tree or tossing the whole bag in the water hazard.
For someone who is serious about making quality shots during your round, you will want to consider the 4 different types of golf balls:
2-Piece Golf Balls
Apart from cheap, one-piece range balls, which many amateurs insist on playing, the most common type used by everyday golfers are 2-piece golf balls.
These are made with a single solid, hard plastic core inside a harder cover. The harder feel provides more distance, especially when it comes to rolling.
They are nearly indestructible, which makes them appealing because you don’t have to replace them as often. The major drawback to 2-piece balls is that they are harder to control.
3-Piece Golf Balls
This type tends to have a solid rubber or liquid core with an enhanced rubber second layer, and then a durable molded cover.
These are softer than 2-piece balls and offer more spin, which gives the golfer a little more controlled performance when comes to placing a shot.
The drawback is that higher spin means that slices and hooks tend to be worse and you will need a higher amount of club speed to get distance.
4-Piece Golf Balls
The layers on this type each perform a different function in order to create a softer feeling ball with extended length and increased control. The inner core is typically solid rubber to provide distance. The next layer is designed to transfer energy into the core.
The middle layer is meant to help with distance but achieve a greater level of spin and control around the green. The cover is usually thinner urethane material, which soft, yet durable. These tend to contain between 300-400 dimples.
You get more distance with less swing speed and greater control. Their main drawbacks are the same as 3-piece balls with the addition of being a little less durable.
5-Piece Golf Balls
Like the 3 and 4-piece balls, 5-piece balls utilize more layers to achieve both greater performance and increased spin separation. These are typically tour-level balls, which deliver the most control and distance available.
These types will feature a high speed core, with three energy transfer and spin producing layers wrapped around it and then they will be finished off with a softer urethane cover.
The drawbacks of this type are that they are less durable, which means you will have to replace them more often, and you might have to win a few tours in order to afford keeping them in your bag.
Most Forgiving Golf Ball
What is the most forgiving golf ball? This is the question that usually comes up when discussing how a high handicapper can bring down their score.
There are four factors which contribute to what makes for a more forgiving ball:
- Construction. More distance for a lack of club speed and accuracy makes a 2-piece ball a bit more forgiving for those who need a little more distance from their shot. In addition, the increased spin of multi-layered balls will make them a little less forgiving when it comes to slicing and drawing.
- Dimples. A higher number of dimples and the deeper they are will increase lift as well as add distance to your stroke.
- Compression. Since less compression allows for better performance when badly or weakly hit, a lower compression ball will help overcome the lack of swing control inexperienced players tend to have.
- Spin. High spin balls are harder to control if you don’t know what you are doing and those with higher spin separation will exacerbate slicing and drawing tendencies. A ball with lower spin will fly a little bit straighter, but it will run on you and not sit down on the green as well.
Combining these factors into a balance, the most forgiving ball is going to have fewer layers of construction, have more dimples, a lower compression rating and lower spin.
Best Golf Balls for Low, Mid and High Handicappers
To determine the best ball for the various levels of handicappers is a little bit difficult. There are different styles of play involved, different issues of distance and control to be addressed and any number of other variables that contribute to their higher average score.
We can only look at the more common tendencies of the various levels and suggest which ball will be most forgiving in those instances.
Best Golf Ball for 10-15 Handicappers
These handicappers tend to have good distance on their drives, decent control with their irons and have a pretty good short game. Their shot strategy and club selection might need some fine tuning as well as various parts of their game.
These golfers can sometimes improve their game using types with a higher number of layers, higher number of dimples, medium compression, and higher spin in order to gain a little bit more control over their shots.
Best Golf Ball for 15-20 Handicappers
These handicappers are likely to have pretty good distance off the tee and have better shot placing ability with irons as well as in their short game than do less experienced players.
However, when compared to those in the level above them, they will still lack some control over their mechanics and will require a more forgiving ball. The best type for these players should be a 2 to 4-piece ball with a high number of dimples, medium to high compression, and medium to high spin.
Best Golf Ball for 20 and Over Handicappers
Twenty and over handicappers can include a pretty broad range of issues in style of play, swing mechanics and shot placement.
As a general rule, these golfers tend to have a lower swing speed, so they do not drive as far off of the tee, they do not have full control and accuracy when it comes to using their irons and shot placement on their short game is lacking.
The best golf balls for senior high handicappers, and other high handicappers, will want to be one of fewer layers or pieces with a higher number of dimples to get lift and distance, high compression to overcome lower swing speed, and low to medium spin.