Do Low Compression Golf Balls Go Further? Pros and Cons
Do low compression golf balls go further? For the high handicapper, the answer is usually yes. However, as with most loaded golf questions, the answer isn’t as cut and dried as one might hope.
Many golfers don’t realize the importance of the golf balls they choose to play with. For some, it’s Pro V1 or nothing at all. For others, a Noodle golf ball is more their style (usually because of the price point).
Since most of our readers aren’t PGA Tour players, certain golf balls probably shouldn’t be in their bag (yes, we’re talking to you.)
It’s time to start thinking logically about the golf ball you’re going to use in your game. As you embark on this journey, one of the first factors you need to consider is a golf ball’s compression rating.
Compression can affect feel, spin, ball speed, ball flight, and control. All of these factors influence the distance a golf ball will travel.
A talented golfer with a high swing speed don’t need the same ball as a golfer with a slow swing speed, so the original question isn’t a simple yes or no.
So what type of golfer are you? And what ball will help you maximize your talents? Let’s do a golf ball compression deep-dive to help you determine the best golf ball for your game.
What is golf ball compression?
When someone talks about golf ball compression, they may be referring to one of two things (or both).
1. The ball squishing/deforming/compacting when it hits the club face.
2. Whether or not the core is “softer” or “harder” (the density of the ball).
Because golfers aren’t always clear in their discussions, it’s important to determine what they actually mean when they refer to lower compression or higher compression.
When a player hits a golf ball, the impact of the hit compresses the ball and “activates” the core. High compression golf balls require a fast swing speed in order to achieve the best energy transfer via the core. Low compression golf balls are designed for golfers with a slower swing speed. Because the ball is less dense, it is easier for them to “activate” the core of the ball.
Most golf balls have a compression rating (though some manufacturers no longer share this metric publicly). A ball with a compression rating of 90 or above is considered to be a high compression ball. There’s probably a mid-range compression category of 80-90 (though some would consider this low compression). Any ball with a compression of 70 or lower would be considered a low compression ball (or a soft golf ball).
This website has a helpful (though slightly outdated) chart highlighting some of the most popular golf balls and where they fall on the compression scale.
The lower the compression of a golf ball, the softer it will ‘feel’ and the higher the compression, the firmer it will feel at impact. Some recent technology developments have led to a softer ball feel even when the compression is high, but generally speaking, softer balls have a lower compression.
So do low compression golf balls go further?
Low compression golf balls are often advertised as distance balls (a marketing phrase that appeals to most golfers). There is some truth in this statement, but buying into the idea that a low compression ball offers the most distance for all golfers would be a mistake.
Most PGA Tour players would avoid a lower compression ball. Take some of the more popular tour balls, for example. A Titleist Pro V has a compression rating of over 100 and a Bridgestone Tour B X has a compression rating of 98. These multi-layer balls require a fast swing speed to activate the ball’s core, but they produce more distance if a golfer has the ability to maximize their energy transfer.
If a player with a high swing speed plays with a low compression option, they’re probably leaving some distance on the table. Ironically, a “distance golf ball” isn’t what they need for their game, since most of the golf balls that are labeled this way are designed for the average to below average golfer.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of low compression golf balls.
Pros of low compression golf balls
There are lots of reasons why low compression golf balls are a fan favorite. Let’s focus on the three key attributes when it comes to choosing golf balls: distance, feel, and spin.
1. Low compression golf balls add distance (for many golfers)
Low compression balls are perfect for a beginner golfer or a senior golfer with slow to average swing speeds.
Recommended Reading: The Most Forgiving Golf Ball
For golfers that meet the previous criteria, a soft golf ball will travel further than a high compression golf ball because there will be more compression at impact. This means each swing does a better job of activating the ball’s core and maximizing energy transfer.
This is likely the biggest benefit of low compression balls. Added distance off the tee is a huge help to those with a slower swing speed. We’ve even highlighted some of the best golf balls for slow swing speeds.
That being said, there are other factors that influence distance (like where on the clubface you hit the ball), but generally speaking, a low compression golf ball will add some yards.
2. A nice soft feel on each hit
We all like positive feedback. The ‘feel’ of a golf ball refers to how the ball feels when it strikes your clubface. A soft feel has grown in popularity recently and is a stark contrast to the rock-like range balls that people were hitting in the 80s.
Some golfers feel like they have better control with a soft golf ball. The jury’s still out on that.
3. Higher spin rate
Low compression balls often have a higher spin rate than firmer ones. Spin rate is just how much the ball spins after it’s been hit with a golf club. A higher spin rate can be beneficial to some golfers, but others would actually prefer low spin.
A higher spin rate will influence ball trajectory and greenside control. This means, when the ball lands on the green, it is less likely to bounce or roll away — that is, if you know how to utilize the spin.
Spin rate is a hot topic amongst golfers, so it should be noted that the spin rate can also be viewed as a con.
Cons of low compression balls
As we’ve hinted at in the previous section, some pros can also be viewed as cons. Or as the expression goes, “there are two sides to every story.”
Some of the features of low compression balls can be pros for some golfers, and cons for others. One such feature is the spin rate.
1. Too much spin
Low compression golf balls, as we’ve said, tend to produce a high spin rate, which can be good for some. Others find it harder to control a ball with a higher spin rate. If a golfer can’t utilize spin properly, it can actually hinder their game.
Contrary to the first pro, too much spin can actually result in loss of distance, which of course makes the point of using a low compression ball for the sake of distance null and void.
So, if added distance is important to you, but a higher spin rate is not, it’s a good idea to try a few different low compression balls to find which will work best for your needs.
Some popular choices include the Srixon Soft Feel, the Pinnacle Soft or the Callaway Golf lineup (start with the Supersoft, but the ERC Soft are also worth exploring).
2. Too soft
A soft feel is helpful for some players, but those with a fast swing speed can actually suffer from a ball that’s too soft.
Nobody wants to leave distance on the table, and that’s what can happen if you pair the wrong golf ball with your swing speed. It’s worth noting that balls like the Callaway Chrome Soft X are soft, but still useful for tour-level players.
Closing Arguments on the Pros and Cons of Low Compression Golf Balls
Some golfers swear by low compression golf balls. I’m one of them.
The only way for you to answer the “Do low compression golf balls go further” question is to test some for yourself. If you have access to a golf simulator, this is a great place to try a variety of different low compression options to see which ones do the most for your game. This controlled environment will keep factors like the wind or your annoying friends from influencing your performance.
Got thoughts on this topic? Please share them in the comments below.