Do range balls go as far as regular golf balls? The simple answer is no. If you want the full scoop, I go into more detail below.
If you were going to hang a picture on your wall, you’d use a hammer and a ________?
If you said “nail,” well done. If you said “umbrella,” you’ve missed the mark.
So what’s my point? Certain jobs require certain tools. An umbrella is helpful if you’re caught in a rain shower, but it isn’t that helpful if you’re trying to hang a picture on the wall.
The same logic applies to golf balls. A regular golf ball is designed for normal course conditions. It’s optimized for ball flight as well as maximum ball speed and carry distance.
Range balls are more or less the crash test dummies of the golfing world. If they had all the features of a premium golf ball, they would be quite expensive to stock and an easy target for the less-honorable golfer to steal. Some golfers already take range balls, so it would be fair to say that inventory loss would only increase if a range was stocked with the latest Callaway ball.
A range ball looks like a real golf ball, but it is essentially a practice ball in disguise. It’s designed specifically for a practice range, so comparing it with a normal golf ball is almost unfair.
Let’s highlight some of the differences between range balls and regular golf balls.
Range Balls vs Regular Golf Balls
What are you hoping to do when you show up at your local golf driving range? Crush golf balls (in most cases). You’re not there to work on your putting, and most of you, if you’re being honest, don’t spend much range time focusing on your short game.
You really don’t even need your golf bag. We all know you plan to hit your driver and maybe a 3 wood or a hybrid. Bonus points if you pull out a few long irons.
This is where the range ball comes in.
A range ball is designed to be hit again and again, by hundreds or potentially thousands of golfers who visit the range. This ball needs to be durable and reliable as it endures golf swing after golf swing.
The range ball isn’t a soft golf ball or a short game ball…it’s a projectile. Unlike a standard golf ball, the range ball is designed to fly off the club face and head toward the distance markers. It doesn’t discriminate based on your golf handicap, it just flies off into the distance (or the stall next to you).
Range balls are designed for driving ranges. With that in mind, you shouldn’t be playing a range ball at your local golf course.
Regular, conforming golf balls serve a different purpose.
Whether you’re playing with a Titleist Pro V1 or one of the best golf balls for beginners, a standard golf ball has premium features that a range ball doesn’t offer. Normal golf balls can actually enhance your golf game.
Tiger Woods doesn’t play with a range ball (though he could), because he has a premium ball that’s been engineered to his strengths.
Regular balls don’t need to withstand the abuse from hundreds of golfers and thousands of hits. As a result, they’re built differently. The assumption is that you’ll lose them after a few rounds at your local golf course. They may not be as durable as a range ball, but they do bring a host of other benefits to the table.
As long as your ball is approved by the United States Golf Association (USGA), you should assume it belongs on the course.
What are the Specific Differences Between a Range Ball and a Regular Golf Ball?
Because they’re designed to take constant punishment, range balls have a much thicker cover than standard balls. They’re built for durability, not greenside spin or a specific launch angle.
Range balls also have much less going on inside. These balls are usually cheap two-piece golf balls with a cheaper rubber or synthetic core.
They’re more or less designed to minimize the special effects of some regular balls, so that they stay visibly intact and ready to take whatever punishment the next golfer doles out.
Range balls won’t give you a better launch angle or extra carry distance, but they will give you simple feedback. Your job is to hit them with your golf club of choice and then to imagine your ball landing right in the middle of the fairway.
The range ball is just a practice golf ball with stripped-back features.
Regular balls, on the other hand, are an investment. You buy a dozen premium golf balls to get the most from their features over a comparatively short period of time.
Regular balls utilize carefully-crafted technology to deliver better results. You can buy golf balls that increase your distance, add spin, etc. These golf balls are designed for competitive play, not practice. Fancy dimple patterns and superior cover materials set them apart from the cost-effective range ball.
Though there are popular two-piece golf balls (the same number of layers as a range ball), many premium balls have 3-5 layers that maximize energy transfer from the club face to the core of the ball.
The trade off, however, is durability. Generally speaking, regular golf balls are only expected to be in use for a few rounds. I wrote another article a few months back on “How Many Hits Can a Golf Ball Take?”
This is the most fundamental difference between range balls and regular balls.
- Priority for Range Balls = Durability
- Priority for Regular Balls = Performance
Golfers rarely complain about the hard feeling of a range ball because it doesn’t count for anything in terms of strokes and gameplay. They know the range ball is meant to be hit, not read.
However, there is some data that suggests that soft golf balls, aka low compression balls, actually go further than harder golf balls (like a range ball). This is especially true for high handicappers or those with slower swing speeds.
I mention this in reference to the original question: Do range balls go as far as regular golf balls? Range balls tend to have a hard feel off the clubface and don’t provide the best distance for an average golfer.
How Do Range Balls Perform Compared to Regular Golf Balls?
Again, it’s crucial to remember that range balls are built as two-piece balls designed to take a beating. Distance, loft or any other niceties of performance are an afterthought.
Compare a range ball with another two-piece ball used for regular golf, and as a baseline, you’ll probably find the regular two-piece gives you at least 10% more distance. This difference is partially due to that thicker outer coating.
Compare a range ball with a more complex, multi-layer golf ball, and the difference grows significantly.
Again, these performance benefits are due to the differences in construction, and the fact that regular balls are designed to get you further, higher, and to cut down on the number of strokes you take to complete a hole.
Range balls, on the other hand, have one main purpose — to take a beating from the most capable golfer down to the Happy Gilmores.
They’re not pretty, they’re not clever, but they are very, very tough. Range balls can take the full impact of your swing and give you a rough gauge as to what you could expect with a real ball.
They’re farm horses, rather than racing ponies, and their thicker outer shell and relatively simple core technology means they’ll keep on coming back for more. Range balls do a decent job of showing swing strengths and deficiencies, but from a performance standpoint, they don’t do nearly as well as a regular golf ball.
Regular golf balls are what you should use out on the course. You’ll benefit from better materials, better energy transfer and better aerodynamics.