What Are The Different Types Of Golf Balls?


For the average weekend hacker, picking the right golf ball isn’t that big of a deal. That couldn’t be further from the truth for the person wanting to improve, so in this post, we’ll be talking about the different types of balls and who they’re built for.

As a general rule, golf balls will fall into four different categories: tour performance, tour value, straight distance, and soft distance. Tour performance balls are built for scratch golfers, tour value is for low to mid handicaps, and straight/soft distance is for high handicap golfers.

This really only scratches the surface because each type of ball can be broken down even more. Your ball can have two layers or it could have 4. The compression rating might be low or high and the same goes for the spin rate. Continue reading to find out all the details.

Does The Type Of Golf Ball Make A Difference?

The type of golf ball you play is really important if you’re looking to improve your scores. Advanced golfers will be able to control and get distance out of any golf ball, but for average players, the type of ball makes a big difference.

Golf balls have a different number of layers, they have different compression ratings, some have more spin than others, and some are much softer.

If you’re in low handicap territory, the type of ball you play isn’t as important. Sure, you’ll probably want to play a tour ball that’s more controllable, but you’ll probably be able to shape any type of ball.

Your swing speed is fast enough and you’ll be able to compress the ball properly. That means you’ll get a respectable distance out of anything.

The reason better players use a ball with more layers is that it’ll decrease the amount of driver spin and increase the amount of wedge spin.

For the average golfer out there, that’s not exactly the case.

Golfers like me (and probably you) don’t always have solid golf shots. A ball with the wrong compression rating might impact our distance a lot. A ball with high spin rates might spin three fairways over.

We actually did a test to see if compression made a difference with different swing speeds. If you’re curious, you can find out do low or high compression golf balls go further.

Not only will certain balls perform better for average players, but they’ll also be easier on the wallet. Tour balls are a lot more expensive, but they aren’t going to benefit most people. Distance and spin control balls will be your best bet.

The Different Types Of Golf Balls

Not all golf balls are created equal. Some balls are inexpensive and only offer the basic features, which are good for beginners and high handicappers. Others are more expensive, offer more features, and are built for better golfers.

These are the main types of golf balls on the market:

  • Tour performance
  • Tour value
  • Straight distance
  • Soft distance

Tour performance (3-5 layers): These balls are usually the most expensive on the market and are built for low handicap and scratch golfers. They are designed for optimal distance, feel, and spin. You’ll need a faster swing speed to benefit from these balls. See the best golf balls for high swing speeds here.

Example: Titleist Pro V1, Callaway Chrome Soft, Taylormade TP5, Bridgestone Tour B RXS.

Tour value (3 layers): These balls are pretty similar to tour performance balls, but the main difference is that they usually have a lower compression rating, less spin, and a cheaper price tag. That makes them a good choice for better players who don’t want to spend a fortune.

Example: Titleist Tour Speed, Taylormade Tour Response, Srixon Q-Star Tour.

Straight distance (2-3 layers): These balls are built with a large core and thin outer layer, which are designed for maximum distance. The benefit to these balls is that they’re cheaper than tour balls and fly straighter. The downside is that they don’t have very good short-game performance (wedge spin).

Example: Titleist Velocity, Bridgestone e12 Contact.

Soft distance (2-3 layers): These balls have a low compression rating and are designed for people with slower swing speeds. Golfers with slower swing speeds will get more distance and less side-to-side spin with these balls.

Example: Callaway Supersoft, Srixon Soft Feel.

Why Do Golf Balls Have Multiple Layers?

Golf balls have multiple layers because it allows golfers to get the optimal feel, distance, and spin. Additional layers will help better players with faster swing speeds get more spin with their wedges and less spin with their driver.

To give you a better idea of what layers do to a golf ball, let’s go through each type of ball, what the benefits are, and who should be using them.

1 piece balls: These balls are only used at mini-golf courses and won’t be used at the range of course. You can try if you want, but you’ll get no distance and they won’t last long.

2 piece balls: These balls are designed for beginners and high handicaps (AKA average golfers) who need max distance and forgiveness. They have a large core and thin outer layer, which is where the distance and straightness come from.

RELATED: Best Golf Balls For Average Golfers

3 piece balls: These balls have an additional layer that will add short game spin to the ball. As you start getting better (mid handicap range), you will want backspin on your wedge shots to quickly stop the ball. That’s the main benefit of these balls.

RELATED: Best Golf Balls For Mid Handicappers

4 piece balls: These balls are made for people who swing the club a little faster and normally have a higher compression rating. You’ll get more spin out of these balls and they’ll also feel firmer.

5 piece balls: These balls aren’t too common, but the goal with these is to make a 4 piece ball softer. For the golfer who needs a higher compression ball but doesn’t like the firm feel, these are a good choice.

To sum things up, as you add layers to a ball you’ll increase the compression rating and amount of spin the ball has. A higher compression rating will take a faster swing speed to get the most out of the ball.

RELATED: Golf Ball Layers Chart

What’s The Difference Between 2 And 3 Piece Golf Balls?

As a general rule, a 3 piece golf ball will have higher spin rates off the tee and around the green compared to a 2 piece ball. The higher spin from the tee can result in a bigger slice or hook if your swing plane isn’t right.

Core: The core material (synthetic rubber) is usually the same between them but will be larger in a 2 piece ball. 3 piece balls have a layer of synthetic rubber or plastic between the core and cover.

Feel: The cover can be either soft or firm feeling with both golf balls. This just comes down to personal preference. If you’re curious about feel, check out our article on soft vs hard golf balls.

Compression: In most cases, 2-piece balls will have a lower compression rating (between 30-70). 3 piece balls will have a slightly higher compression rating, somewhere between 70-90.

Spin: 2 piece balls are generally designed for maximum distance and straightness, so they don’t spin much off the tee and around the green. 3 piece balls can spin quite a bit more. Learn more about how backspin and sidespin affect a golf ball.

Who should use 2 piece golf balls? 2 piece balls are designed for beginners and high handicap golfers. These balls are long off the tee and also produce lower spin rates.

Who should use 3 piece golf balls? 3 piece balls are designed for mid to low handicaps who have faster swing speeds and want more golf ball spin.

Learn More: Still don’t know what to use? Click here to read our article 2 piece vs 3 piece golf balls: Which you should be using?

What’s The Difference Between 3 And 4 Piece Golf Balls?

As a general rule, 4 piece golf balls will spin more coming off the driver and wedges compared to a 3 piece ball. 4 piece balls tend to have higher compression ratings, which require a faster swing speed.

Core: Since a 4 piece ball has an additional layer, that makes the core slightly smaller than a 3 piece ball. That being said, it really doesn’t make a difference in terms of distance. The core material is usually the same.

Feel: The extra layer on a 4 piece ball normally makes the ball feel quite a bit firmer. If you’ve ever used a Pro V1 (3 pieces) and a Pro V1x (4 pieces) you’ll know that the Pro V1 is much softer.

Compression: The extra layer on a 4 piece ball will also increase the compression rating. This means that your swing speed will need to be faster in order to benefit from the extra layer.

Spin: Adding the extra layer is supposed to improve the “spin separation” of the ball, which means it should spin less coming off the driver and spin more with the wedges. Learn more about do lower spin golf balls go further?

Who should use 3 piece golf balls? 3 piece balls are the go-to choice for most mid to low handicap golfers. The most popular golf ball on tour is the Titleist Pro V1, which just happens to be a 3 piece ball.

Who should use 4 piece golf balls? 4 piece balls are designed for low handicaps with swing speeds above 105 MPH. The increased compression rating should give these golfers the optimal distance, feel, and spin rates.

Learn More: Still don’t know what ball to use? Click here to read our article 3 piece vs 4 piece golf balls: The perfect choice for you.

What Golf Ball Has The Most Layers?

The golf balls with the most layers are the Taylormade TP5 and TP5x, which both have 5 layers. The benefit of the extra layer is that you can make the ball feel softer but still have the performance of a 4 piece ball.

Going from a 3 piece to a 4 piece ball, you’ll increase the compression rating and spin rates. These can be good things for certain players.

The downside is that when you increase the compression rating, the ball will get firmer. Some golfers don’t like hitting firm balls because it can almost feel like you’re hitting rocks.

This is where the 5 piece golf balls come into play.

As of writing this, the only 5 piece ball is made by Taylormade. The TP5 and TP5x have a lot of the same characteristics as other 4 piece balls, but they have a softer feel to them.

What Are Golf Ball Layers Made Of?

Every type of golf ball is slightly different from one another. The core materials and size could be a bit different. The same goes for the outer layers and covers. Let’s talk about all the different layers and what they could be made of.

What’s in the center of a golf ball? The center core of a golf ball is made out of a solid synthetic rubber material. The type of golf ball will determine the size of the core.

Balls designed for maximum distance will have bigger cores. This means it’ll require less speed to compress the ball and is why they’re sometimes called distance balls.

Mantle layers: Golf balls with more than 2 layers will have additional layers surrounding the core. These layers are there to make the ball spin more with the wedges and less with the driver.

These layers are made from synthetic rubber or plastic materials. As you increase club speed, you’ll need more layers to keep the driver spin rates down.

Cover: The cover of a golf ball can be made out of a few different materials. Some of the materials are firmer and some of them are softer. The three main types of covers are urethane, Surlyn, and ionomer.

Urethane: You’ll find balls with a urethane cover to be on professional balls. It’s a synthetic compound that produces more spin and gives a softer feel. The downside is that it’s not as durable as the other materials.

Ionomer: This material could be found on lower-end golf balls. It’s made from a polymer plastic material and is a lot more durable than urethane. These golf balls won’t spin as much either.

Surlyn: This is a type of ionomer that’s made by a company called DuPont. Again, it’s cheaper, spins less, and is a lot more durable.

RELATED: Urethane vs Surlyn vs Ionomer

Note. This article is part of our series on which golf ball should you use. If you want to know all the ins and outs about golf balls, the pros and cons of each, and what’s best for you, go check that out.

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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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