An extract from an article I recently read described a particular golf ball as ‘a three-piece, multi-component technology with a very soft compression ZG process core, ionomeric casing layer, softer thermoset urethane elastomer cover, and spherically-tiled 352 tetrahedral dimple design’
Describing it, with obvious passion and relish one of the team of 75 engineers and scientists said, “It’s important to remember that no single element of design can determine the performance of the golf ball. There needs to be a symbiotic relationship between all of the elements.”
I feel bad now about how badly and how frequently I kept hitting this particular brand.
However, my question – ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ does not mean, ‘Which golf ball is right for you?’ . This is another country altogether. This answer consists of you answering a series of questions on your attributes such as – handicap, swing, gender age, height, star sign and so on and so on and so on. A computer then analyses all these variables and produces your perfect match. Sounds like a personal ads column entry – ‘easygoing M seeks GB with similar interests. Likes sports, looking for a yang to my yin, a Hardy to my Laurel, an Ernie to my Bert, a Wise to my Morecambe, a Ball to my Cannon. I don’t expect the relationship to me a long one – they rarely are with me. Just some fun and a few laughs. No strings attached. ‘
I don’t mean this type of ‘Which golf ball do you use?’ question. I mean – ‘Which golf ball do you use on a day to day, ‘fancy a knock’ type basis?’. Or, ‘It’s the Ystrad Mynach Cup on Sunday (one of the key days in the Barged Golf Club calendar) which ball will you be losing in the trees on the third?’
Let’s go through the process – I suspect your golf bag is a little like mine. There are a number of pockets for golf balls. They all have a certain place and purpose. You cannot mix the balls up, although through wear and tear one ball may be relegated to another pocket.
The ultimate. The top level – it’s not even a pocket. It’s the brand new golf ball level. The pinnacle, but not the ‘Pinnacle’ levels are pristine balls in a box. These were perhaps prizes, or more likely, presents for Christmas or fathers’ day. These are the balls I never use. The balls I’m keeping for some special occasion or ‘keeping them for best’ as my mother used to say. I’m not sure what ‘best’ would be. If I do ever have the luck, and develop the talent, to play at the Open at St Andrews, I suspect I may well be given a few free packs of Callaways.
Starting at the nadir. Somewhere in a forgotten part of my bag there is a pocket containing golf balls that I would be reluctant to open the zip of and put my hand into. Inside this golfing room 101 are balls that have been found, given to me by well-meaning people or somehow just apparated into my bag. These balls are weird and maybe not so wonderful. There are a few Donnay Pro Ones, some Penfold Commandoes (I could probably take them to the Antiques Roadshow next year), Dunlop Locos, a Pinnacle Gold distance and a Precept Laddie. Also in this tardis-like pocket I encounter the occasional ‘decent’ (Nike, Callaway, Mazuno) ball, but they all have a cut in them and I vaguely remember I’m keeping them for an occasion where I will use them. Maybe to give away to adoring fans when I win my first Major, or perhaps if I’ve already put two balls in the lake and don’t want to lose another decent ball I’ll choose one of these?
In another pocket – the ‘halfway house, ‘Morrisons’ pocket (not Aldi or Lidl, not Waitrose or Ocado), are some proper balls with minor defect – some TaylorMades or Bridgestones I’ve used once, or found. Or some high-end Nikes with marker pen or horrid logos, or some mid-range Titleist with tiny nicks. These are probably the ones I’d use after work on a Friday to play nine holes before a quick drink.
Now I come to the toppish end. This is not quite the Dom Perignon equivalent, but it’s definitely not the ‘Tesco Finest Vintage Cru’. It’s more a fine Moet…… Stop it. Who am I kidding? It’s a Strongbow cider rather than a Diamond White. These are my good balls – not quite new – not quite top of the range – they are Nike, Bridgestone, Srixon. They are called ‘Tour’ or ‘Preferred’ rather than ‘Distance’ or ‘Ultimate Distance’. These are good, decent, hard-working, working class golf balls. They are balls you wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen playing with. Maybe they’ve been used once or perhaps they are Pond balls that look new. There are a few Titleist here as well. These are not the Titleist balls you see on websites you have to click to see the price (What is that all about!). But they are Titleists with random names instead of letters – ‘Titeleist Solos’ or ‘Titelist Velocities’. These are the serious Sunday medal competition type balls……… usually.
Assuming my description matches your collection to some degree, the next step in choosing which ball to use would be to consider the occasion. Is it a Saturday morning ball school? Is it a Sunday afternoon monthly medal? A social game? Another vital, perhaps the most vital, consideration to take into account is – ‘Who is playing with you?’ If it’s someone you’ve played with since Noah was a boy then they are unlikely to be impressed, or bothered much whichever ball you choose. On the other hand, if it’s a client, a prospective father in law or a person you really don’t like but still need to be better than, this may elicit a quick trip to the pro shop to have the following embarrassing conversation,
“Good afternoon young golf professional. How old are you? Twelve. Sorry. I digress. Which golf ball would you consider to be a match for me?”
“I would heartily recommend Titelist Pro V1 X High Number, sir.”
“Certainly, young man. And how much would these cost?”
DELETED X RATED REPLY.
“How much? Really. You’re having a ****** laugh. I wanted 3 balls not 3 ****** dozen! “
“That’s the price… sir.”
“If I don’t get at least one hole in one I’m coming back here and I’m going to *******”
I once took part in a competition at Mountain Ash. Mountain Ash is a nice enough course tucked neatly into the Welsh valleys. We had all qualified from our local club competitions and the top six of so from this competition would go forward to Royal Porthcawl. There were players from Tredegar and Rhymney, Blackwood, Aberdare, Maesteg, Pontypool – a range of exotic venues. These top six would be joined at Royal Porthcawl by players from the length and breadth of Wales – Pwhelli, Cwmrhydneuadd, Rhosgoch and other unpronounceable locations. Then on to the Belfry. Then … ultimately Spain – (before you write in – I got no further than Mountain Ash). However, Mountain Ash was a big deal for me and the hundred odd other competitors from local courses. The point of this story? Ah yes, on the first I hooked my tee shot over a row of trees. So did two others in my group. The group coming toward us on an adjoining fairway were playing a parallel hole and their drives ended up in similar spots. From the group playing the 18th another ball appeared. When I walked through the trees to find my ball I saw about seven or eight golf balls within twenty yards of each other. I also saw a perturbed chap picking each one up carefully, studying it, putting it back down again and saying, ‘They’re all Titleist pro V1s’. It was a nightmare assigning the seven balls to us seven owners.
For non- golfers this all seems a bit ridiculous. To these strange people, a golf ball is a golf ball – white and hard, with dimples. For us double digit handicap golfers it’s probably not going to make a yard of difference if we lose a £5 brand new Titleist or a 50p used Srixon. In our heads we know this as surely as we know that range finders are useless. (I’ve rarely hit 2 shots the same distance with the same club in all the years I’ve been playing golf. Yet I hear 28 handicappers staring through a range finder, announcing that it’s 183.5 yards to the front of the green and then consulting a chart to see which club they are going to use to dribble it 20 yards down the fairway). But in our hearts we still believe it can be the final piece of the jigsaw. Using an expensive ball is all we need to turn a dodgy swing into a swing Rory McIlroy would watch and try to emulate.
In truth there is surely no greater feeling than playing your first shot on the first tee with a brand new father’s day Titleist Pro V1x . The feeling only lasts a whole 2.8 seconds though. It is closely followed by a totally different feeling as you see your unsullied, unmuddied, uncaring ball take a left turn in mid-air and slowly fade over the trees toward the pond, never to be seen again. That hurts.