Cheap vs Expensive Balls: The Choice For Average Golfers


You’ll most likely see premium balls like the Pro V1 when you watch golf on TV as well as at your local course. Just because that’s the case, it doesn’t always mean these types of balls are best for you. In this post, we’ll be comparing cheap and expensive golf balls to see the real differences.

As a general rule, expensive golf balls will generate more distance and have better spin rates compared to cheap balls. That said, these differences will be more noticeable to better players and not so much to average golfers.

To get the answers we were looking for, we picked two balls that had similar specs but very different price tags. We ended up using the Kirkland Signature and Titleist Pro V1 to test at the course. Below are the things we noticed.

The Detailed Test: Kirkland Signature vs Titleist Pro V1

Price

I’m sure you’ve noticed that golf balls come with different price tags. That’s the reason you’re here. What you may not know is why that’s actually the case.

Some of the cheaper balls on the market are less than a dollar while some of the most expensive ones are above 4 bucks per ball.

The main reason for the increased price is how many layers the ball has and what the cover material is made from. Generally, expensive balls will have much better short-game spin compared to cheap ones.

In most cases, premium balls have 3-5 layers (see the difference between 3 and 4 piece golf balls here). On the other hand, value balls have 2-3 layers (see the difference between 2 and 3 piece golf balls here).

Expensive balls normally have urethane covers while cheaper balls have ionomer or surlyn covers. You can see our article on urethane vs ionomer vs surlyn golf balls here.

What’s interesting about this test is that the Kirkland Signature and Pro V1 have very similar specs. 3 layers, around 90 compression, and urethane covers. If you’re curious about any other ball then check out our golf ball comparison chart.

What’s very different is the price. The Kirkland ball comes in at somewhere around $1.46 per ball while the Pro V1 is around $4.17 per ball. Let’s jump into how they differ, if at all.

Feel

The way the ball feels when you hit it doesn’t really impact the performance. It’s more of a personal preference, but nobody wants to play a ball that feels like a rock or sponge.

In a lot of cases (not all), low compression golf balls will be the value options. These models are geared towards people with slower swing speeds, usually beginners and high handicaps. They’ll be a bit more on the softer side.

On the other hand, premium balls have compression ratings that would fall between mid and high. These balls are aimed towards faster swing speeds, usually better players. They’ll be a bit more on the firmer side.

After playing a number of holes with each ball it was clear that the more expensive Pro V1 felt much better. The Kirkland felt very firm to me and was almost like hitting a rock. Again, it didn’t impact the performance, but it could be a deal breaker for some.

Distance

This is one of the factors that actually matter when you’re on the course. Everyone wants to increase distance, so does the extra cost actually add yards to your shots?

In some cases it did, but other times it didn’t. We did a separate test to see how compression impacts distance, so if you’re curious, you can see our article on high vs low compression golf balls here.

With my wedges, both balls went a similar distance on average. That’s fine because wedges are scoring clubs, not distance clubs.

With the driver, wood, and irons, the Pro V1 was longer on average compared to the Kirkland. I’d say somewhere between 8-10 yards was pretty common for me.

There could be a number of reasons for this such as the core of the ball, the height of the shot, or the spin rates. We’ll touch on this next.

Spin

Just like with distance, this is something that actually matters on the course. In my opinion, this matters more to better players, but it’s always something to consider when looking at what golf ball to play.

When we talk about spin rates, we need to look at long-game spin and short-game spin. For a full walkthrough, check out how backspin and sidespin affect a golf ball.

In short, spin can cause your ball to curve left or right, it can cause your ball to fly higher, and it can cause your ball to stop quicker on the green.

The main reason better players want more short-game spin is so that they can land the ball on the green and have it stop quickly. I’m sure you’ve seen them do that on TV, where the ball spins back toward them.

This just lets you improve your distance control. Premium balls usually spin quite a bit more than cheaper ones. That said, beginners and high handicappers probably can’t spin any type of ball.

With these two balls, the Pro V1 seemed to spin less off the tee and spin more around the greens. This means that it’s probably going to go straighter off the tee and that is probably why I got more distance.

The Pro V1 will also spin more with the wedges and stop quicker on the green. Even for me though (a mid handicapper), I wasn’t able to tell a huge difference. Better players would though.

How Much Should You Spend On Golf Balls?

As a general rule, beginners and high handicappers should play with value golf balls that are under $2.50 each. Once you’re able to shoot in the mid to low 80s, you’ll start to benefit from a more premium golf ball.

Don’t get me wrong, you could absolutely use a premium ball as a high handicapper. You could also use a cheap 2 piece ball and break 80. If you have the money, go for it. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, you don’t have to.

Beginners and high handicappers who shoot above 90 have no business using expensive balls. You’ll probably lose a lot of balls and you won’t be able to put much spin on your wedge shots anyway.

I actually shot my best round ever with a cheap 2 piece ball. Just work on hitting the ball straight and you’ll be amazed by how much better you play. Spin and all that comes after.

RELATED: Best Golf Balls For Average Golfers

Mid handicappers who shoot in the 80s will start to benefit from a more expensive ball. I still wouldn’t recommend a premium ball like a Pro V1, but something that’s considered tour-value would be ideal.

These balls are still reasonably priced but will produce a bit more greenside spin. I’ve tested a few of these balls against a Pro V1 and I had a tough time telling the difference (better players might).

RELATED: Best Golf Balls For Mid Handicappers

Once you’re able to consistently shoot in the 70s and are working towards breaking par, you might want to look at playing a premium ball like a Pro V1. At this point, you’d actually benefit from the increased short-game spin and it will help you dial in your yardages.

Why Are Titleist Golf Balls So Expensive?

Titleist is the most used ball on tour and you probably know that they’re also some of the more expensive. Since that’s the case, do they really perform that much better than everyone else?

The simple answer here is no, they do not always perform better than other brands. Here are the main reasons Titleist balls are so expensive:

  • The brand
  • The durability
  • The consistency

The brand plays a big role in why they’re so expensive. It’s the same as expensive clothes, the brand name has a big influence is the price, even though it might not be that much better.

Titleist pays golfers a lot of money to use their balls on tour. Sure, some of them would use the balls anyway, but some are using the balls simply because they’re getting paid to.

Titleist also makes some of the most durable balls. I’ve used balls by other brands and they seem to get scratched a lot easier than the Titleist balls I’ve used. It’s not really an issue for us average hackers because we lose them well before they get to that point.

The biggest reason Titleist balls are expensive is that they’re the most consistent ball out there. This is really important for professional golfers.

Having a ball that’s consistently the same shape and weight is really important when it comes to performance. This leads to much more consistent spin rates and distances.

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Jon Webber

Just an average golfer trying to take my game to the next level. Was shooting around 100 not that long ago but have now been in the 80s consistently. Best round to date was 12 over. Best 9 holes were 4 over.

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