Low Compression Golf Balls vs. High Compression – How to Decide Between the Two?

If you’ve played golf enough, you already know that many factors are responsible for placing that much-needed power in your shots to make them a huge success, at least most of the time. At such times, one of the important factors, undoubtedly, is your swing speed. Based on this one factor, you choose not only your golf clubs but also golf balls.

That means if you’re a golfer with a slow swing speed, there is such a thing as a “right” and a “wrong” golf ball for you. Much like lightweight graphite-shafted, highly forgiving golf clubs are the right choice for slow-speed female golfers. And now comes the most popular discussion of low compression golf balls vs. high compression golf balls.

So which kind is better suited for what type of player? But first, let’s cover some basic ground.

What Really Is Golf Ball Compression?

The deflection of a golf ball when struck – how much deflection occurs, that measure of deflection is actually the compression of that golf ball. The compression rating range of golf balls is between 0 and 200. So 200 is when the ball undergoes no compression while 0 is when the golf ball deflects one-fifth of an inch i.e. 5mm.

The majority of golf balls available today have a compression rating between 50 and 100.

Let me explain further to really help you understand this particular term. Take a rubber band as an example. Now imagine that you’re wrapping this band around your three fingers. Then imagine wrapping the rubber band around those same fingers but stretch it while doing so to wrap the band around three times.

When stretched, there is pressure, right? So that pressure is compression. The material is the same, the space is the same yet the pressure varies. So the change in pressure is actually what happens when compression comes into the picture. This is how compression takes form even in golf balls.

A golf ball with a lower compression rating is softer, thus it compresses more for generating more distance. On the other hand, higher compression golf balls, since they don’t compress that easily, require a faster swing speed to be subjected to that compression.

How Golf Ball Compression Affects Your Game – Low Compression vs. High Compression

If your swing speed is above average, you don’t need to bother yourself with the compression rating of the golf balls you’re using. Because, at such times, you compress the ball perfectly well. So it jumps off the clubface and travels the desired distance.

But then if your swing speed is below average, you might be in trouble because then that means you’re unable to compress the golf ball.

So the solution to this common problem is what? The answer takes the form of low compression golf balls of course. With these, despite your slow swing speed, you can maximize your distance potential.

Although there’s nothing wrong with golfers with a faster swing speed choosing low compression golf balls. It’s just that, as a fast-swing player, your game could benefit a lot more with a high compression rating. Otherwise, all that extra energy is only going to go to waste.

Low Compression Golf Balls – Who Are They For?

Taking into consideration swing speed and compression rating, the moral of the story is that low compression golf balls are the best for those with a slow swing speed. So that would be beginners, women (the majority of them at least), seniors, and amateurs.

But don’t think that you cannot use a low compression rating if your swing speed is faster. Just know that you won’t be able to achieve any distance gains that way.

High Compression Golf Balls – Who Are They For?

Certainly, high compression golf balls are specifically targeted toward better, more skilled players. Meaning golfers who prioritize distance AND feel. In short, those with a faster swing speed, which means they can take on the hard feel that comes with a high compression rating.

Due to their faster swing speed, compressing the ball isn’t a problem for them AT ALL.

Does This Mean Low Compression Golf Balls Are The Better Choice?

Once again, it all depends on what your swing speed is. If it’s below average (below 90 mph), then you would benefit the most from low compression.

You should consider yourself lucky right now because back in the days, there was no such option as low compression golf balls. Or let me put it this way, there weren’t enough options. But then, thanks to the advancement of technology, now you have a wide variety of golf balls based on compression rating as well to choose from.

Some Say Compression Rating Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Is That True?

That exact compression rating number is being labeled as an outdated, useless concept these days. To be honest, the golf industry has been subjected to way too many advancements in the last decade or so. New, innovative materials and technologies have come up, which have rendered golf ball compression ineffectual.

So here’s why the compression rating of a golf ball doesn’t seem to matter much.

Because Brands Don’t Provide That Information Anymore.

Most brands responsible for manufacturing golf balls don’t even acknowledge, let alone reveal the compressing rating. And that’s primarily because of the inclusion of modern materials as well as the use of a more advanced manufacturing process.

These factors offer a different feel, due to new developments like the addition of synthetic materials. As a result of which modern-day golf balls, no matter their compression, don’t feel like their older, more traditional counterparts. This means a 60 or 70 compression rating now feels pretty much the same as a 55 compression golf ball.

So the meaning of golf ball compression has, along the way, become obsolete.

Because There’s No Universal Standard for Compression Rating

Different brands adopt different methods for testing the compression rating of their golf balls. The measure of the ball being deformed when subjected to static load is compression. But then how much static load is applied? There’s no pre-set standard load that all golf ball manufacturers adhere to.

The value assigned to a single compression point during the deforming action of the ball is not the same by every brand. So it’s only logical to assume that a compression rating of 60 of A brand might just be 70 for brand B and 55 for brand C.

Frequently Asked Questions About Golf Ball Compression

What Is the Function of Golf Ball Compression?

During impact, a golf ball is compressed (that means flattened). Now when the compression is low, this golf ball travels farther because of the higher energy transfer from the club to the ball.

The compression rating of golf balls manages the impact of the golf club and speed. It paves the way for flexibility, which allows the ball to recoil instead of just breaking apart.

Who Should Be Using Medium Compression Golf Balls?

A medium compression rating is the most suitable for mid-handicap golfers. Those who prioritize both feel and distance, and not just either one.

The best part about mid-compression golf balls is that they have a middle-range price tag too. So it’s actually a pretty sweet (and by that, I mean reasonable) deal for an advanced golfer who cannot afford to spend a huge sum of money on premium (euphemism for expensive) golf balls while also not compromising on distance AND feel.

How Is Golf Ball Compression Measured?

The compression rating is actually the measure of how much any given golf ball compresses when it’s subjected to standard load. The range lies between 0 and 200. 200 being the no-compression zone while 0 means the golf ball compresses one-fifth or two-tenth of an inch (5mm).

Please note that each compression point on the scale is equal to 1/1000th of an inch.

What About Golf Ball Markings?

If you look at a golf ball, you’ll see plenty of markings there. These include the name of the brand, the type of ball it is, and its compression rating. Any value between 0 and 200, the most common range being between 50 and 100, is the compression measure of that golf ball.

Some manufacturers also provide this information on the packaging of the golf balls.

Does Weather Have Anything To Do With Golf Ball Compression?

When the weather is cold, golf balls with a higher compression rating feel like a rock. Simply because of the cold temperature and density. No wonder it’s highly recommended to play low compression golf balls during extremely cold weather to add more flexibility to the ball from your club.

What Makes A Golf Ball Compress More or Less?

It’s your swing speed that creates the compression, along with the core (and not cover) of the golf ball. In the case of the former, a higher swing speed means greater force during impact, right? And more force generates more compression.

Moving on to the core of the golf ball, a harder core compresses less, obviously. On the other hand, a softer core is subjected to higher compression. And when the compression is more, so is the energy transfer to the ball from the clubhead. This, in turn, compels the golf ball to jump off that clubface and travel maximum distance.

On the flip side, when the compression is lower during impact, less energy is transferred. Hence, distance gains cannot be achieved that way.

Now please don’t go about mistaking core for cover. Both are different, thus not interchangeable terms. Compression is the internal core of the golf ball while the hardness of the ball is actually the hardness of the cover.

With a hard cover, you get less feel, spin, and stopping power on the green. And soft cover gives you more feel, spin, and stopping power on green.

How to Maximize Distance From A Golf Ball?

It’s simple, plain physics – there comes a point where almost anything breaks or explodes depending on the force exerted. So right before that point of breakdown or explosion, there takes place max. energy generation. And that’s when you get the opportunity to unlock your distance potential from the golf ball.

Now you know understand why it’s so very, very important for choosing golf balls that are suitable for your particular swing speed? Only when they match perfectly to the swing speed you produce can you achieve your desired distance. Hence, the compression rating of golf balls (low compression is best for slow swing speeds for maximizing distance).

Can Playing the Wrong Compression Golf Ball Affect the Game?

Well, it actually depends on your swing speed. For slow-swing golfers, a softer i.e. lower compression rating seems like the best choice. Because, that way, you get increased velocity and decreased spin out of the golf ball. No doubt, a softer ball like this feels more in tune with your swing tempo and more efficient.

But then if you choose a firmer i.e. higher compression golf ball, your slow swing speed may not be able to compress its core as much as it should. Therefore, having an unfavorable impact on the control, spin, and launch of the ball. It would be too firm, which means too much backspin and too little velocity off the tee.

Final Thoughts

Developments and technology in golf are not only a part of golf clubs but also golf balls. This should explain why it’s becoming more and more confusing and challenging to choose the right set of golf balls based on one’s swing speed, handicap, and other such crucial skills. Compression rating is one such factor that plays an important role.

I have discussed all there is to know about the comparison between low compression and high compression golf balls. The former works the best if your swing speed is below average (below 90 mph). While a higher compression rating means faster swing speeds can generate the force required for compressing the ball enough to make it travel the desired distance.

Carolyn Heller’s highly resourceful blog, Golf Depends, could easily become your go-to platform for the most authentic, practical golf-related content. It’s where you begin to appreciate the sport and learn how to improve your game with more positive results and less frustration. [View all posts by Carolyn Heller.]

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