Golf Ball Compression – What Does It Really Mean and Do?

Golf clubs have plenty of visible characteristics and features that you need to take into account when choosing your pick. And these have to be in tune with your swing speed, handicap, etc.

Now golf balls are pretty much the same after all, it’s not just a round, tiny thing built out of nothing. Even though that’s what it looks like on the outside, there’s a lot of going on inside that is responsible for crucial factors like distance, spin, etc. And one such aspect of the construction is golf ball compression.

It’s the compression rating that categorizes golf balls as slow-swing-speed-friendly or Tour-grade.

But then you should also know that compression used to be more important a few decades ago. Now the scene has changed because not all golf ball manufacturing companies use the same standard for measuring compression ratings. So let’s get to know more about this and also about what the compression of a golf ball actually means.

What Does Golf Ball Compression Really Mean?

Golf Ball Compression Mean?

When the clubface comes in contact with the golf ball, the latter is compelled forward by the former through compression. Your golf club literally sets the ball in motion by interacting with its core (the core is like an engine that carries the ball long distances) and simply compressing it on the point of impact.

Now let me talk about how slow/fast you strike the golf ball. This would mean golfers with a fast swing speed can hit that ball harder at impact. Hence, higher compression of the golf ball, so it recoils properly without breaking apart because of the high-speed, hard impact.

Low Compression Golf Balls

80 compression golf balls or below are labeled as low compression. These have the softest core for a greater rebound at impact, which makes the balls travel much farther than their high-compression counterparts.

But then, comparatively speaking, you also cannot expect the former to create a straight flight path like the latter. Thus, control is not a part of a lower compression rating.

  • Soft-core golf balls.
  • Easily compressed, so no need to swing fast or hard for core activation.
  • With low compression, maximizing distance with a slow swing speed is very easy.

High Compression Golf Balls

The opposite of low is high, which would mean these golf balls are played by the fastest and hardest hitters.

These are 100 compression golf balls that maximize accuracy above all else.

  • Hard-core golf balls.
  • Slow to compress, so a hard swing is required for core activation.
  • With high compression, you can maximize distance with a fast swing speed.

Medium Compression Golf Balls

Here the compression rating is about 90. And they give you the best of both worlds i.e. distance (of low compression) and control (of high compression).

  • Average core, standard golf balls.
  • Neither the softest nor the hardest feel, somewhere in between. Hence, fit for a wide range of golfers.
  • With medium compression, distance is maximized with an average or standard swing speed.

How Does It Affect Your Game or How You Play?

If you just apply simple logic, you’ll understand that fast-swing players compress the golf ball without even trying to do that. Therefore, it’s easy for them to achieve maximum distance because the ball jumps right off the clubface.

On the other hand, slow-swing golfers as it is struggle with their swing speed, so compressing the golf ball is a whole other problem for them. Thus, resorting to low compression golf balls is becoming more and more common these days since this type of construction helps to maximize every slow swingers’ distance potential.

But then if a high-speed player uses low compression, he/she cannot really benefit much (although it doesn’t necessarily hurt the game). It just means that all that extra speed and energy you have as a faster, more proficient golfer will only go to waste and not be utilized to its max limit by high compression.

But How Exactly Does A Golf Ball Produce More or Less Compression?

It All Depends On Your Swing Speed

When your swing speed is faster, the clubface meets the golf ball with more force at the point of impact. So the ball compresses more, therefore high compression golf balls are a must.

By the same line of reasoning, one with a slower swing speed then requires a lower compression rating to make the golf ball compress like it should for yielding longer distances.

Golf Ball Also Compresses More or Less Depending On Its Core (not cover)

Naturally, a harder or firmer core compresses less while a softer core golf ball compresses more.

So what really happens when the ball compresses more? A higher level of energy is transferred to the golf ball from the clubface. The result of which is the ball springing off the face and generating maximum distance.

And now here’s the other side of that explanation. When there’s less compression at impact, less energy is transferred to the golf ball. And that is exactly what fast-swing players look for. For them, hard-core golf balls are the best precisely because high-speed golfers don’t exactly need that additional energy transfer; they’re quite capable of producing that on their own because of their faster swing speed.

Now please note that I’m referring to the core of the golf ball here, and not its cover. Many use both terms interchangeably and that could be misleading. Golf ball core and golf ball cover are two separate things. The inner core is the compression. And the cover is actually the very factor that determines its hardness, which has nothing to do with compression rating as much as it does with the feel of the ball.

Hard-cover golf balls are low in terms of feel with lower spin and green-stopping power.

Soft-cover golf balls give you more feel with higher spin and green-stopping power.

Who Do They Say That Compression Doesn’t Matter Anymore?

I get why the compression rating of a golf ball has now become a sort of an outdated approach.

Since we’re now living in the 21st century, golf clubs and golf balls have been subjected to SO MUCH technological advancement that there are many other traits besides compression in golf balls that can give you the upper hand. Technologies, materials, you name it!

Because Brands Hardly Mention Compression Ratings

Companies that now manufacture golf balls rarely reveal compression ratings. Instead, they focus more on informing golfers across all spectrums about modern manufacturing processes and the use of advanced materials, and stuff like that.

Speaking of which, modern-day golf balls, and this goes without saying, don’t feel the same anymore. As a Senior Tour player now, I can tell you for sure that they don’t. A 70 compression golf ball can now easily pass off as a 60 compression rating, in terms of “feel” of course.

Because There Isn’t Any Universal Compression Rating Test

Compression ratings are not tested in any given manner. Every manufacturer out there uses its own rule or standard for testing the compression of golf balls. Here, let me explain.

The ball is subjected to static pressure, which causes it to deform. But then how much static load is applied? What is a standard load to begin with? Not every brand uses the same static load after all.

By that logic, golf balls with a compression rating of 60 from brand A can be the same as those with a 70 compression rating from brand B or a 55 compression rating from brand C.

So What Compression Rating Works For YOU?

Low compression (80 or below) or high compression (100 or above)? Or something in the middle (around 90)? Well, it all depends on what your swing speed is. So have you measured your swing speed? If not, here’s to go about it.

If your swing speed is 85 mph or less

Then you need low compression golf balls. Only a lower compression rating, at this point, allows you to achieve the extra distance or yardages you have in mind.

If your swing speed is between 85 mph and 104 mph

Choose medium compression golf balls if you have an average swing speed. Because a lower compression rating will jeopardize control. And your swing speed isn’t fast or hard enough yet for a higher compression rating.

If your swing speed is 105 mph or more

Nothing works as perfectly as high compression golf balls. These give you good distance as well as control. Whereas mid or low compression, even though they may boost distance, is only going to produce too high launch and too much spin that you simply cannot control.

I would also like to add here that the compression of a golf ball is not the only thing that determines the distance. Other factors like golf ball cover, core, mantle material, and dimple pattern also play a significant role.

Also, don’t be under the impression that golf balls that travel farther are always the right choice FOR YOU. Not every golfer, after all, prioritizes distance. For some, spin, flight, or feel are more important.

How Long Does Golf Ball Compression Last?

Golf balls, in general, are fit to play for about 7 rounds of 18-hole golf. And when left unused (room temperature storage), they can preserve their original condition for around 10 years. The same can be said about the core and compression of golf balls.

If you ask me, losing your golf balls is more likely than they actually becoming obsolete over a period of time.

Does Your Swing Speed Decide Which Golf Ball to Choose?

If it were otherwise, I don’t think I would be writing this article for you. It’s precisely your swing speed that your whole golf ball selection is based on.

Golfers with a slower swing speed need a lower compression rating to get the golf ball to spring harder off that clubface. Conversely, players with a faster swing speed use high compression to gain more control over the ball.

What Role Does Weather Play In Golf Ball Compression?

When the weather is cold, high compression golf balls are bound to feel as hard as a rock. So it’s best, at such times, to use low compression golf balls to make way for more flexibility off the clubface.

As it is in cold weather, compression apparently decreases. So it only makes sense to choose a lower compression rating.

How Is the Compression of Golf Balls Measured?

It’s the extent to which a golf ball is compressed when a certain weight or load is applied to it. The compression ratings start from zero and go all the way up to 200.

When the compression is at zero, it means that the golf ball compresses the most at two-tenth of an inch. While 200 implies no compression at all. Each compression point, by the way, is equal to 1/1000th of an inch.

Do Lower Compression Golf Balls Travel Longer?

A lower compressing rating means the golf ball is easily compressed, hence greater transfer and release of energy at impact. As a result of which the ball certainly travels farther in comparison to higher compression.

Who Should Be Using Low Compression Golf Balls?

More often than not, the longest golf balls that obviously have the lowest compression rating are quite popular among slow-swing golfers (below 85 mph). Such as beginners, seniors, and amateurs.

But this doesn’t mean you cannot use one of these as a better, faster-swing player; it’s just that you won’t be able to gain maximum distance with lower compression.

Who Should Be Using High Compression Golf Balls?

That would definitely be golfers with a fast swing speed (above 105 mph). Only the better players can compress the golf ball less and still be able to maximize distance, control, AND feel.

How to Choose the Right Golf Ball for My Swing Speed?

It’s as simple as taking numbers and analytics into account:

When your swing speed is <85 mph and you have a high handicap, pick 2-piece, low compression golf balls.

When your swing speed is between 85 mph and 104 mph with a mid-handicap, go for medium compression, 3-piece golf balls since they’re the best for distance, feel, and control.

And when your swing speed is >105 mph and you have a low handicap, choose nothing but multi-layered, high compression golf balls.

What Compression of Golf Ball Works Best for Slow Swing Speed?

Once again, if your swing speed is slow i.e. 85 mph or lower, you should be using only low compression golf balls. These would be those that have a 70-80 compression rating. Only then will you be able to produce longer yardages with better feel off the clubface.

Are Higher Compression Golf Balls Better?

Well, YES they are better, but for better players. If your swing speed is fast and hard, you don’t need the golf ball to compress a whole lot in order to produce more distance.

On top of that, a higher compression rating in a golf ball hands over greater control, which is just what better golfers demand.

Should Beginners Use High Spin or Low Spin Golf Balls?

As a beginner highly prone to hooking or slicing your shots, you should be using low spin golf balls (generally, these are also low compression). Because with high spin golf balls, the chances of hitting slices and hooks get maximized. So unless you, as a beginner, can produce a straight ball flight, go with lower spin.

The End Is Here!

Check the packaging of the golf ball to get to know its compression rating. It must be printed somewhere there in the description. It’s going to be a number between 70 and 110, in most cases at least.

As for summing it up:

  • Choose low compression if you have a slow swing speed. While a higher compression rating is better if your swing speed is faster.
  • Compression is actually how much a golf ball is squeezed or compressed at impact.
  • Factors that decide how much compression occurs include your swing speed and the core of the ball.
  • You have to make sure your swing speed is what determines the compression rating that works for YOU.
  • And lastly, the weather does indeed have an impact on the compression of a golf ball.

In the end, I would also like to add that do not overestimate the importance of compression. It is ONE of the factors that guide you through the whole journey of choosing the right golf balls for yourself, not the ONLY factor.

Photo of author

Jim Furyk

One of the PGA TOUR’s most recognizable and talented golfers, Jim Furyk was born on May 12, 1970 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. It seems like Furyk was born to play golf; his father Mike as an assistant pro at Edgmont Country club, and young Jim was raised into the game. Jim Furyk’s only golf instruction came from his father; and many note that might account for his unusual—yet effective—swing. In addition to Edgmont Country Club, Mike Furyk also served as head pro at Uniontown Country Club.

1 thought on “Golf Ball Compression – What Does It Really Mean and Do?”

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