It is the most used piece of golf equipment and every golfer can easily identify one. But, how much do you actually know about what is inside a golf ball?
Over generations the construction of a golf ball has changed drastically. Long gone are the days of the feather, wooden or rubber-wound golf balls, yet even in the last decade they have evolved significantly.
Nowadays the inside of a golf ball will look different depending on the brand and model you choose. Modern golf balls have varying constructions designed specifically to achieve certain playing characteristics. Different golf balls will suit certain types of golfers and budgets.
Golf balls range from one-piece, all the way up to six-piece This refers to the number of layers used to create the ball. Each layer will have been added for a specific purpose, normally relating to the compression, spin rates or similar.
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One-piece golf balls
A one-piece golf ball is by far the cheapest and easiest to produce. It is made out of one material, normally surlyn, and the dimples are created by using a mould.
The performance of one-piece balls is significantly lower than any other and it is rare to find them still being used on the golf course, because they would only be suitable for a complete beginner. It is slightly more common to find them on a driving range, but even they now commonly use cheaper two-piece alternatives.
If you were to cut these golf balls open it would not be very exciting. You would just see a solid piece of white(ish) surlyn.
Two-piece golf balls
The most common golf balls used by recreational golfers, two-piece balls have a large synthetic rubber or polymer blend core. It is then covered by a thin plastic layer, commonly ionomer.
Modern technology has recently enhanced the performance of two-piece golf balls massively. Manufacturers are using specially blended polymer cores to create lower compression ratings and unique dimple designs to improve aerodynamics. These traits allow for two-piece golf balls to travel longer distances, even for golfers with slower swing speeds, and they have a soft feel on impact for full shots.
The inside of a two-piece golf ball will show one large block of rubber or polymer in a singular color. The exact color will vary representing the type of material used in that model of golf ball.
Golfers might be surprised to learn the inside of their golf ball could be a bright color, such as pink or green. The color itself will typically have meaning to the manufacturing company, with a certain color representing the specific characteristics of the material blend used.
Multi-layered golf balls (three-piece or more)
The innermost layer, referred to as the core, of multi-layered golf balls is slightly smaller than a two-piece ball to make room for the additional layer(s), but the material is similar. It is still typically a rubber-based material, although some brands even infuse liquid.
The core is then wrapped in either one or more thin layers of blended rubber material, before being covered by either an even thinner layer of ionomer or urethane. When cut open multi-layer golf balls will have a few different colors inside. The large central color will be the core, then you will see thin rings of different colors representing each layer of the golf ball.
Each layer will have a specific purpose depending on the specific golf ball. It could be anything from transferring energy to the core, creating improved feel or enhancing short game spin. Multi-layered golf balls are favored by golfers with a faster swing speed, because they have the necessary power to activate each layer of the golf ball for optimal results.
Not strictly inside the golf ball, but it is worth considering the outermost layer too. We mentioned earlier that a golf ball is typically covered by a thin layer of either ionomer or urethane.
Ionomer is normally the cover of choice for two-piece golf balls and some three-piece ones too. It has a firmer feel, especially on short game shots, but it does transfer energy better to produce the fastest possible ball speeds. It will result in less spin, which is excellent for club golfers that typically prioritize distance and a straighter ball flight.
Urethane produces a softer feel and greater spin. This allows skilled golfers better distance control and more precision around the greens. Urethane is more expensive to produce than ionomer, so you will find this cover material on the more premiumly priced multi-layered golf balls.
So - what is inside a golf ball?
Hopefully we have helped you understand a little bit more about what is actually inside the golf ball that you are playing. Golf balls are surprisingly complicated, but it is helpful to understand the basics of how the construction inside affects the performance characteristics.
The technical answer to what material is inside a golf ball is incredibly complex. Golf manufacturers spend millions of dollars testing various blends of materials to produce the results they want. The exact materials will depend on the type of golf ball and probably consists of several polymers most of us will have never heard of.
The short answer though - it is that it is mostly rubber.