Finding the right golf ball for your game is one of the few things every golfer can control about their game. For most weekend hackers, the choice normally comes down to a 2 piece or a 3 piece golf ball.
As a general rule, 2 piece golf balls are cheaper and will produce more distance for golfers with slower swing speeds. 3 piece golf balls are more expensive, will produce more spin, and will generate more distance for golfers with faster swing speeds.
Picking one over the other won’t completely fix your game overnight, but I’m sure you’d take any sort of advantage you can get. It really comes down to your skill level, how much you’re looking to spend, and what you need your ball to do. We’ll jump into all that next.
The Difference Between 2 Piece And 3 Piece Golf Balls
It’s the one piece of golf equipment that you hit on every shot during a round. But how many of us make the right choice of golf ball? There are some big differences between a 2-piece and a 3-piece ball and it’s vital to know which one is right for you.
The 2-piece is exactly what you’d imagine: an inner core and a cover and it tends to be cheaper and spin less. The 3-piece has an added second layer and generally has more spin – but at a cost.
The same goes for when you add an additional layer to make a 4 piece ball. Just in case you’re curious, you can see the difference between a 3 piece and 4 piece golf ball here.
They may look simple and very similar to what you were playing even a few years ago. But don’t be fooled. The golf balls that companies such as Srixon and Bridgestone are making these days are packed with technology to improve their performance, and they spend huge amounts of money and time on developing their products.
So how do the two types of ball compare?
In the main, a 2-piece ball is designed to go a long way and spin less! A 3-piece ball will give golfers more control with wedge shots. That’s crucial for stopping the ball on the green.
The inner core material is a synthetic rubber on both types of balls but there are differences in compression – basically how much the ball springs off the clubface.
The constitution of the rubber is a closely guarded secret for manufacturers. But Srixon’s European Product Manager, Joe Miller, told me:
“Core size is key to ball speed. A big core, whether that’s in a 2-piece or a 3-piece ball, will generally speaking, have more speed. It’s a bit like the engine of a car – a Mustang with a big V8 against a car with a four-cylinder engine.”
WHAT IS THE MANTLE LAYER?
The mantle is the middle layer, made of resin, on a 3-piece ball. As Joe Miller says, it’s like steroids for a golf ball. And Adam Rehberg, Bridgestone Golf’s ball fitting manager, says:
“The mantle layer is a firmer surlyn material that is designed to add velocity for ball speed and spin for control into and around the green. Depending on firmness, you can create a rigid backboard for the cover to “pinch” against to add more greenside spin.”
The covers of 2-piece and 3-piece balls are types of polymer but are very different. Srixon’s 3-piece balls have an outer skin made of urethane. Their 2-piece balls are an ionomer.
Adam Rehberg from Bridgestone says:
“Cover material can vary for sure. They’re primarily Surlyn (another name for ionomer) and urethane covers. We actually have a REACTIV iQ cover that has impact modifiers applied to the urethane cover. The SMART cover technology that reacts to the force of impact and rebounds quickly on tee shots, delivering explosive velocity and increased distance while staying on the face longer on approach shots, providing more spin and soft feel around the green.”
The cover material can be either soft or firm, but it might not have an impact on your game. If you’re curious, you can read our article on soft vs hard golf balls. This is what I mean when I said an advance in technology, to give our game all the help we can get.
This is a vital statistic with golf balls and it’s important to know exactly what type of compression you need. We did a test to see how compression impacts distance at different speeds, which you can see here: low vs high compression golf balls.
Higher compression means the ball is generally harder – so less spring-like. That’s great for people who have high swing speeds and can bomb driver shots accurately down the middle of the fairway. See the best golf balls for high swing speeds here.
Golf ball compression ratings vary hugely between brands and models. Some Srixon 3-piece balls have a really high compression rating – which means great spin into greens. Some 3-piece balls have mid-compression.
And generally, the 2-piece balls have lower compression – so less spin. That low compression can help higher mid and high handicappers get carry distance. They’ll launch higher and give you less sidespin.
RELATED: Golf Ball Compression Chart
The 3-piece ball will generally spin more (backspin & sidespin), which is what helps to stop the ball on greens. For more about that, read our article on how backspin and sidespin affect a golf ball.
Many argue that players who struggle with a driver slice, for example, shouldn’t use a high-spin ball. But the technology has developed so far that some balls won’t spin overly with the driver but will spin with wedge shots.
I tested Srixon and Bridgestone balls in a practice area and on the course. I used Bridgestone’s e12 and Srixon’s Q Star Tour balls, which are both 3-piece, and Bridgestone’s e6 and Srixon’s AD333 2-piece balls.
I occasionally slice my driver shots. Not always but enough to be annoying and make me wary of what ball I’ll use. But I can honestly say the 3-piece balls did not make that worse. In fact, I hit my best driver shots with the 3-piece balls – longest and straightest.
That does go against the science a little – which says that 2-piece balls should go further. I’m not a professional so there are inconsistencies in my shots. It is also possible I wanted those higher-end balls to perform a little better so put more into the shots.
The 2-piece ball is generally the cheaper option. There are some very expensive high compression 3-piece balls that, I would say, are aimed at better players. There are some very cheap 2-piece balls. But there are some great 2-piece and 3-piece balls at around the $2/£2-a-ball bracket.
As Joe Miller from Srixon says:
“For me, the middle ground for an aspirational club golfer would be a lower compression, 3-piece urethane ball. It helps you off the tee and it also gives you approach and greenside spin. I’m very confident that our Q Star Tour ball would suit many club golfers. When you up the compression (with higher-end 3-piece balls), you have to ask how skilled you are with straighter-faced clubs.”
RELATED: Cheap vs Expensive Golf Ball Test
Is A 2 Piece Or 3 Piece Golf Ball Better For You?
If money is a big factor, if you lose several golf balls every round, or struggle with spin off the tee, a cheaper 2-piece ball might be the way to go. They’re usually more durable too. I’d definitely recommend these balls for beginners and high handicappers.
RELATED: Best Golf Balls For Average Golfers
But if you’re a better player and want more control of your shots into greens, it’s a 3-piece ball. For me, I plan to use a 2-piece ball in the cold and wet Canadian winter when you need as much distance as possible and the ball stops fairly well on soft greens.
RELATED: Best Golf Balls For Mid Handicappers
But in the summer, it’s a 3-piece ball every time. The greens are harder and stopping a 2-piece ball can be difficult.
But what’s right for you?
Here’s good advice from Adam Rehberg of Bridgestone: “Fitting is the key, not focusing on the build. Focus on the characteristics the golf ball delivers and have that match up to your game.”
It could be what helps you shave those vital shots off your score! Golf is a difficult game and making sure you’ve chosen the right ball for you is a must.
Note. This article is part of the series on the different types of golf balls. If you want to know more about all the different golf balls and what makes each of them different, you should go check that out.
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