Thursday 29 May 2014

Golf Ball Trialling

A non work-related blog this time, as I thought I’d share my recent experience of trialling different golf balls. I’ve always given a lot of thought to which ball to use; I think it’s mad to put a lot of effort into choosing clubs and a putter, possibly even having them all custom built, or at the very least custom fitted only to hit every shot with the first ball you find in your bag.

However, at a golfing event at the weekend I spoke to a Titleist ball specialist who persuaded me to get off my butt and actually go out and put some balls through their paces. I chose six balls, for reasons I’ll come on to, and spent a couple of hours on an almost deserted course seeing how they performed around the green, at short and longer distances and with my driver.
I made the whole test as objective as possible and promised myself that I would in future play the ball that scored highest in my tests. I left price out of the reckoning; golf’s my passion, so if I have to pay a bit more for better results I’ll do that, but I realise cost might be a factor for some players choosing a ball so I’ll include all the performance figures anyway.

I was very surprised at the final outcome, and immediately purchased a dozen of the “Winning” ball, which was one I would never have bought based on everything I have read about golf ball selection.

For information, my handicap has fluctuated between 16 and 19 over the last two years. I have no connection with any golf equipment manufacturer or with any of the sellers I list below. I just like golf.

Ball Selection

The six balls I trialled, reasons why and best price I could find:

Best price (Dozen new white)
Callaway Hex Warbird
I was given them by a rep. at Wentworth
£14.90 from
TaylorMade Rocketballz (2013)
Changed to them a couple of months ago because all my clubs are now TaylorMade and they are performing well so I thought the balls might.
£19.99 inc P&P from
Titleist Velocity
Given to me by the Titleist rep. who persuaded me to do this test.
£21.99 inc. handling fee from
Bridgestone e6
I’ve played them for a year because they promise low spin speed and therefore straighter shots off the driver. Online ball selection sites suggest they are a good ball for high handicappers
£22.74 from eBay store
Titleist NXT Tour
I won them in a recent competition
£28.99 from
Titleist Pro v1x
Given to me by the Titleist rep. who persuaded me to do this test.
£29 inc. P&P from eBay store

The Tests

I hit two of each model for each test. This was the order I tested in:

1. 10yds chip on to the green with a 9 iron – common shot for me as my second shot doesn’t hit the green that often.

2. Chip over bunker on to green with 60ยบ LW.

3. Full PW from 120yds.

4. Full 5 iron from light rough.

5. Driver off tee.

I excluded “Feel” from the tests because I don’t have the finesse to appreciate the difference except when I use something like a Top Flight, which I find so hard it feels like a brick.


For each of the tests I ranked the balls from 1 to 6, 1 being the best performance, 6 being the poorest. If I hit any duff shots I excluded them from the results. So, the lower the number, the better the result.

Chip to green 9 iron

1. Pro v1x
2. NXT
3. e6
4. Velocity
T5 Rocketballz
T5 Callaway

Not too much difference in performance here if I’m honest but the top two did seem to get up off the ground more easily and have a nice, controlled roll to the hole on landing.

I was disappointed to see the Rocketballz – my current ball of choice – tie for fifth spot.

Chip over bunker, LW

1. Pro v1x
2. Callaway
3. Velocity
4. e6
5. Rocketballz
6. NXT

I could see all the balls spin in the air on this test, but the Pro v1x seemed to have that bit more and the landing was very controlled.

I was disappointed again to see the Rocketballz perform so poorly and very surprised to see the NXT come out in last place.

120yds PW

1. NXT
T2. Rocketballz
T2. e6
4. Velocity
5. Pro v1x
6. Callaway

I was very surprised to see the Pro v1x come fifth, but this perhaps highlights the weakness of the testing because I was using a small sample size for each ball.

5I from light rough

T1. Pro v1x
T1. Rocketballz
3. Velocity
4. e6
5. Callaway
6. NXT

The Pro v1x and the Rocketballz got up really well and flew straightest of all the balls on test.


I hit the balls more often with the driver than anything else because my scoring stats show that if I get a bad drive away I tend to score badly. This is contrary to Titleist’s argument that “You only use the driver 14 times a round so you should choose a ball that performs best round the greens” but I’ve collected my stats over a long period of time (years!) so I know my drive is important.

1. Pro v1x
T2. Callaway
T2. Velocity
T4. e6
6. Rocketballz

Even Titleist admit that there is only about 5yds difference off the driver between their longest ball and the shortest, but when I hit shots off the sweet spot the Pro v1x positively zinged off the face and was straighter and longer than anything else I hit. I’d expect the Callaway to do well when I hit it well because it’s a harder ball and I was shocked to see the e6 and Rocketballz score at the bottom.

Overall, there wasn’t too much between first and sixth place when I struck the ball well; the acid test will be when I play a few rounds when inevitably there will be some poor drives – it’s all a matter of how bad the result when I don’t hit it off the sweet spot.


I added up the scores for close and middle distance to give me a little more information on which to base my choice of ball for this Saturday’s monthly medal. Remember, the lower the number the better the result:

Close (pitch and chip)

Pro v1x – 2
Velocity – 7
Callaway – 7
e6 – 7
NXT – 8
Rocketballz – 10

Middle distance (PW & 5I)

Rocketballz – 3
Pro v1x – 6
e6 – 6
Velocity – 7
NXT – 7
Callaway – 11

Next, I added up the total scores for all the tests:

Pro v1x - 9
Velocity – 16
e6 - 17
NXT - 19
Rocketballz – 19
Callaway - 20


The sample size – two of each model for each test except the driver - was quite small, which makes results less reliable. On another day if I were swinging the club better or worse I might have recorded different results.

Nothing I’ve written is intended to suggest that anyone else will achieve the same results, or to recommend a ball to anyone else; it’s just what I found. It’s also surprisingly time-consuming and less surprising to know that it’s not easy to find a time to do all this on the course without making a nuisance of yourself. I deliberately picked early evening when the weather was grey so the course would be quiet and I only had to call three people through in two hours.

If I take the results as pretty reliable for me it’s fairly clear that I like the Rocketballz primarily because of what I achieve with it for my second (and third!) shots on each hole. I frequently leave the green scratching my head in wonderment how I managed to be so close to the green in two and still walk off with a poor score. Perhaps the performance of the Rocketballz in this test go some way to explain that, and vindicate Titleist’s view.

I was genuinely shocked at the performance of the Pro v1x for my short game. I’ve always thought it was a ridiculous argument that a ball Tiger Woods uses (OK, I know he uses the Pro v1) could possible be the right ball for a high handicapper but the tests suggest otherwise.

So long as the Pro v1x doesn’t punish my off-centre drives more than any of the other balls I ought to be able to score better with it because of its superior performance round the green.

I started this test with no expectations of the Callaway and the NXT because they were only included because I was given them. I expected the e6 and the Rocketballz to perform well because all the research I had done told me they were good balls for my handicap and game. I expected the Velocity and Pro v1x to be erratic for anything other than round the green because of their spin speeds.

I consciously tried to avoid keeping a running score as I did each test because I didn’t want early results to influence the way I approached later tests. In the event, when I did total it all up, I was genuinely surprised to discover the Pro v1x had performed so well. Only time will tell of course, but I’ve bought a dozen to see what happens to my stats.

As I said earlier, I’m not recommending any ball to anyone, or making claims that these tests were in any way scientific, but I recorded them in case people were interested. I’d really like to hear what people think and if you have done any of this kind of testing of your own.