Golf ball compression has always been a fascinating topic within golf ball discussions. Frankly, it’s confusing and unless you spend hours and hours understanding, testing, and applying it is virtually impossible for you to keep up on it nor truly understand it.
The great news is that I will explain EVERYTHING that you need to know regarding golf ball compression but more importantly, give you the answers in whether or not you need to worry about it or not when it comes to choosing your golf ball.
First let’s start with the straight up definition.
Compression is “the action of compressing or being compressed.”
Alright good, that’s pretty straightforward. Think of it as compression is the act of squeezing something. Squeezing an orange, a baby squeezing a toy, a dog chewing on a tennis ball, squeezing a stress ball, compressing data on your computer to free up space and make your computer run faster (wait...does this really work?? I’m not so sure, I think it maybe a way for technical support to get us off the phone when something isn’t working...just saying).
More importantly and the reason why you are reading this is...YES, a golf ball compresses and when and how much DOES matter to you!
If you grab any golf ball and try to squeeze it I’d be willing to bet that you will not be able to, not even a little bit. Even if you stepped on it you will not be able to. Even if you put your golfing buddy on your shoulders and stepped on it you wouldn’t be able to. (If you can, send us videos and I will retract this statement...I’m still waiting...)
So when does it compress? Quite simply a golf ball compresses, at impact, between your golf club face and your golf ball.
(Wow that’s pretty cool – there is no way that I would have ever thought this happened at impact, did you?)
We now know that a golf ball compresses at impact with your club and it means “something” important for you but what exactly does that mean? Every golf ball has a different compression level which is many times measured down to the hundredths BUT I am telling you it is not necessary to drill down to that level of detail, PLUS it would literally make you fall asleep. (I fell asleep twice researching this topic.)
What I do want you to understand is that every golf ball has number associated with its compression level and it usually ranges from 30 – 100. Years ago, manufacturers actually printed the golf ball compression rating on the covers and/or denoted different compression ratings with the red/black numbers. Today, golf ball manufacturers stopped advertising compression levels of their balls because there was a negative stigma associated with a lower compression golf ball. To me that is a bunch of garbage, if a lower compression golf ball helps your ball go farther then how awesome is that!
Your swing speed and golf ball core (not cover)
Swing Speed – higher the swing speed, more force at impact, more a golf ball will compress.
Golf ball core – harder golf ball core will compress less vs softer golf ball core will compress more. On this one I will dig a bit farther – If, at impact, a golf ball compresses more there will be a GREATER amount of energy transfer from the club head to the golf ball causing the golf ball to SPRING off the club face resulting in maximum distance. If a golf ball compresses less at impact then you will have much less energy transfer from the club head will be lost in that additional compression.
A big misconception exists around golf ball compression and golf ball cover hardness. Often times they are referred to interchangeably BUT the truth is they are very different. Compression refers to the inner core whereas cover hardness refers to how hard the golf ball cover actually is.
Hard Cover – creates less spin, less feel, and stop ability around the green
Soft Cover – creates more spin, more feel, and more storability around the green
There is a point at which almost everything will either explode, break, or crumble based on the amount of force exerted on that object. On the other hand, just before the point of explosion, that object would be at maximum energy generation. This is the key to achieving maximum distance from a golf ball. If you pick a golf ball that matches perfectly to your swing speed then you will get maximum distance. The problem is we amateurs don’t have the time or money to spend on figuring this out.
Let’s try keep it simple and break it into 3 different groups - Low Compression, Medium Compression, High Compression golf balls.
When you golf in extreme heat (90+ degrees) the higher compression balls will have a lower compression rating vs the lower compression balls will have a higher compression rating
When you golf in extreme cold (under 50 degrees) the higher compression balls will have a lower compression rating and the lower compression balls will have a higher compression rating.
Compression is just one of many factors that you need to consider when picking a golf ball. That said, use the quick guide below to narrow down your golf ball choices.
Low swing speed (<85 mph) - Pick a low compression ball
Medium swing speed (85 - 104 mph) - Most golfers will fall into this categoy. Pick mid compression ball, however, if you are toward the higher end of the spectrum you may want look at a higher compression ball and vice versa.
High swing speed (>105 mph) - Pick a high compression ball
In order help you make your choices, we'd done our best to tag our our balls based on factors such as compression, spin, construction etc.
Almost all manufactures, most notably Bridgestone has put more emphasis on compression and fitting golf balls based on swing speed. The idea, as we had explained above is that a golfer with a slower swing speed will find it easier compressing a lower compression (soft) ball, thus getting better distance than with a high compression tour ball.
Who doesn't subscribe to this philosophy? Only the world's no. 1 golf ball manufacturer (it's Titleist in case you are wondering). Titleist insists that there is no significant difference in how much a tour pro and your average weekend hack compress the ball regardless of the ball's compression rating. Instead when fitting the ball they say to put the most emphasis on what balls works best for shots around and into the green.
So who's right and who's wrong? I have no idea! My guess is everybody is a little bit right and a little bit wrong. We think you should consider compression based on your swing speed, BUT, don't over analyze this one factor. If you have not done so already, also check out our blog on golf ball spin.
There you have it - everything you need to know about golf ball compression. Hopefully, this will help you in that never-ending quest to pick the correct golf ball for YOUR game. Remember that each and every one of you has a unique swing, style, and approach to this amazing game. Continue to try to do whatever you can to maximize, but do not go overboard to the point where you forget to buy your golf balls or forget to book your tee times! If you need any help with picking the right ball drop us a message and we'll do our best to help.
Kent Evans is a passionate golfer and Sr Golf Writer at Two Guys with Balls. Kent blogs about various golf topics that interest him.