I was always under the impression that softer balls were better for getting the ball to spin on the green while harder balls were strictly for distance. I really had no idea though and that’s why I wanted to see what the difference actually was and figure out what ball I should be using.
As a general rule, both firm and soft golf balls will perform similarly for most golfers. The distances between them and the launch angle will be very close, but the key difference is the increased spin rates on longer clubs and better durability on firmer golf balls.
Looking at how firm or soft a golf ball is isn’t really the right way to go about it. You need to know how fast you swing the club and the type of performance you’re looking for. Once you know that, you’ll then have to decide whether you want a firm or soft golf ball.
Should You Use Soft Or Hard Golf Balls?
In almost all cases, an average golfer will prefer a softer golf ball over a firmer ball. Softer balls normally have a lower compression rating which means it will take less club speed to properly compress the ball. This will result in straighter shots and a better feeling golf ball.
Just in case you were wondering, the average golfer swings the club a little over 90 MPH and will shoot somewhere close to 100 on a par 72 golf course. For the longest time, I thought most people shot in the high 80s to low 90s, but that’s just not true at all.
If you swing the club well over 100 MPH then you might prefer a firmer feeling ball. If you don’t, it’s probably going to feel like you’re hitting a rock.
As I said before, the overall feel of a golf ball is more so a personal preference. You can get soft or firm beginner balls but you can also get soft or firm balls for professionals.
That being said, I generally see people with normal swing speeds using softer golf balls and people with faster swing speeds using something a little firmer. There are two mains reasons for this.
The first reason is because of the way it feels. If you have a swing speed well above 100 MPH, a softer ball will feel like a sponge. If you swing the club under 90 MPH, a firm ball will feel like you’re hitting a rock.
The second reason is the spin rates. Firmer balls have higher spin rates with the driver and irons, which makes it easier to hit draws and fades. Scratch golfers and professionals need to do, but you and I probably don’t.
To figure all this out, I tested out each type of ball. I used a softer Chrome Soft and compared it to a firmer Chrome Soft X. I had to compare two balls that were similar because it wouldn’t make much sense to compare a high-end ball to someone cheaper.
I took them to the course and looked at how they performed with the driver, irons, and wedge. I didn’t get exact numbers as you would with a launch monitor, but I was able to see the key differences. You can see that below.
- The softer ball launched higher.
- The firm ball had more side-to-side spin.
- The distance was identical.
The first thing I wanted to look at was how the two balls performed with the driver. I always thought that the ball would perform the same for all clubs, but that really isn’t true at all.
The first factor I looked at what how high each of them launched. If you have a faster swing speed then you might be looking for a lower flying ball. For all of us with a normal swing speed, a higher launching ball could give us straighter and longer golf shots.
If you weren’t really paying attention I really doubt you’d be able to tell the height distance. It wasn’t easy to tell but I noticed the softer Chrome Soft flew a little bit higher.
The biggest performance difference was the amount of spin the ball had with the driver. The firmer Chrome Soft X had a decent amount of extra spin, which made the ball curve a bit more.
The extra spin is what’ll help you draw/fade the ball or control the trajectory more. Save that for better players and stick to the ball that gets you in the fairway.
The final thing I looked at was the distance between them. Long story short, they were exactly the same (with driver). It’s really not what I expected.
I also wanted to see if the softer Supersoft performed the same. Everything was pretty close but the spin rate was even less, which added a little bit of distance.
- The launch angle was very similar.
- The spin rates were very similar.
- The distances were the same.
With my irons, the height between the two balls was pretty much identical. I didn’t have a launch monitor to check the exact numbers, but I took a number of shots and they were too close to tell.
Just like with my driver, the spin rates were a bit higher on the firmer Chrome Soft X. It wasn’t by much, but the Chrome Soft seemed to fly a bit straighter (which is what I’d want, don’t know about you).
Since the launch angle and spin rates were pretty close, I really didn’t find a difference in distance. I think it’ll depend on your swing speed, but for me, they were exactly the same.
With the softer Supersoft, the spin rate was quite a bit less and that gave me a bit more distance. Not much, but a couple of extra yards.
- The launch angle was very similar.
- The softer ball had more spin.
- The distances were the same.
With my wedges, the launch angle between the two balls was pretty much the same. I kind of expected this, but the height isn’t all that important with your wedges.
The biggest difference between them was the spin rates. With my driver and irons, the firmer ball had more spin. The opposite was true with my wedge.
I can’t spin the ball a whole lot but I messed around with it for a while and the softer Chrome Soft seemed to stop a bit quicker on the green.
I also hit a few shots with the Supersoft and the height and distance were the same. The only difference between them was that it didn’t stop on the green nearly as fast.
What Golf Ball Is Best For Average Golfers?
The best type of golf ball for the average golfer is a 2 or 3 piece ball with a low to mid-compression rating. Having a ball that spins less off the tee but can still land softly on the green is the best way to hit more fairways and improve short game consistency.
The reason I’d recommend a 2 or 3 piece ball is that they’re cheaper. You probably won’t see much benefit in using an expensive ball, plus, you’ll probably lose a number of them per round.
A ball that doesn’t spin much off the tee will help you hit more fairways. If you can hit more fairways, you can probably cut a few strokes off your game. You still want a ball that has some stopping power on the greens though.
Most recreational golfers have a swing speed under 95 MPH and that’s why a low to mid compression ball is ideal. Speeds over 105 MPH will probably be better off with a high compression ball.
To figure out your swing speed, the best thing to do is actually get it tested somewhere. I know you probably don’t want to spend money, but good news, there is another way. Here’s a little chart:
|Swing Speed||80 MPH||90 MPH||100 MPH|
|Average Driver Distance||205 Yards||230 Yards||260 Yards|
This isn’t a perfect solution but it should give you a pretty good idea. If you figure your swing speed is around 95 MPH, you’ll want to look for a ball that fits that category. Then, decide on the overall feel.
If you want to see a list of golf balls that are made for different swing speeds, you can check out my golf ball info chart here. It’ll show you what golf balls are soft/firm, and their compression ratings.
Balls like the Titleist Pro V1 or Callaway Chrome Soft are both on the softer side. These are some of the more popular balls on the market. You also have the Pro V1x and Chrome Soft X, which are firmer and suited for faster swing speeds.
The majority of people will get more distance, hit more fairways, and have more wedge spin with the softer options. The important thing to note is that it’s not because of how soft/firm the ball is. It’s the overall construction of the ball.
If you’re curious about what type of ball you should be playing, I have a couple of articles below. I keep those updated, so they always include the most up to date balls. Check out the beginner and high handicap article if you shoot above 90. Read the mid handicap article if you shoot in the 80s.
Do Softer Golf Balls Go Further?
As a general rule, soft low compression golf balls will travel further when you hit your driver and irons. With your wedges, soft and firm golf balls should travel the same distance.
I know it’ll most likely depend on your swing speed and the balls you’re testing. For me, each of the balls was pretty close overall, but the softer balls ended up a few yards past the firmer balls.
With my driver, the Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X were the exact same distance. The much softer Supersoft had less spin and ended up going 7-8 yards more.
With my irons, the Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X went the same distance. I was able to get a few extra yards out of the Supersoft, but it wasn’t anything to get excited about.
With my wedges, all three balls went the same distance. The only difference between them was how they felt and the spin rates.
If you have an ultra-fast swing speed then you might get a bit more distance out of a firmer and higher compression ball. Lower compression balls might balloon up in the air and not roll out as much.
If you have a much slower swing speed then you might get a bit more distance out of a softer and lower compression ball. These balls don’t take as much speed to compress them properly and could give you a bit more distance.
In saying all of that, I’ve come to the conclusion that you probably won’t notice much of a difference. I could only get a few extra yards out of some balls, so it’s not as important as you’d think.
Do Pros Use Soft Golf Balls?
On average, 55% of professional golfers use a softer feeling golf ball. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Rory Mcilroy use softer balls and some of the more popular choices are the Taylormade Tp5/Tp5x and the Titleist Pro V1.
The Taylormade Tp5 and Titleist Pro V1 are both mid-compression balls but they do have a softer feel to them. The Tp5x has a bit firmer compression but it’s still on the softer side.
When it comes to balls that are a bit firmer, the most common are the Titleist Pro V1x, Bridgestone Tour B X, and Srixon Z Star XV. Justin Thomas, Bryson Dechambeau, and Hideki Matsuyama are some of the golfers who use these balls.