By Mike Lednovich, Editor & Publisher
Let’s face it, most of us don’t know what the hell we’re doing when we buy a golf ball. For the most part, it’s a choice by ‘best guess.’
That’s not surprising given that when you walk into a Dick’s Sporting Goods, Golf Galaxy or PGA Superstore you’re overwhelmed by the stacks and stacks of golf ball boxes on display.
I’ll admit that I’ve been on this golf ball merry-go-round of “trial and error” for years.
You read the back of the box for some indication if this ball fits your game. You buy, you hope, you try.
Or, ever done this, found a golf ball on the course, then played with it and told yourself ‘hey, this plays pretty good.”
Or fallen for the PGA star on TV telling you this is the best ball I’ve ever played. Good for the PGA and LPGA pros, but probably bad for you.
This much we do know. The pros are hitting it longer primarily because of the advances in golf ball technology.
The alarming news is that what you don’t know about golf balls can and will hurt you — meaning costing you distance, which if you’re an average hacker like me, is everything.
Well along comes ProCheck, a nifty device that will tell you exactly which golf balls will be optimal for your game. Insert a golf ball into the ProCheck and it will measure the compression of that ball and give you a reading on a sliding scale of “very soft” on the low end to “very firm” on the high end of the compression scale.
Compare the compression reading to the corresponding chart of how far you “carry” a shot with the driver and you’re good to go.
The Truth about the balls in my inventory
So the folks at ProCheck gave us a unit to put to the test and the results to say the least are illuminating.
First, unlike most advice on the right ball selection — swing speed — ProCheck uses how far your average carry is with a driver. They supply the chart displayed below.
I’m 70-years-old and my average carry is 210-220 yards, so according to the chart I need to be playing a medium compression ball. There isn’t a golf ball brand that I know of that says medium compression on their product boxes.
So I dug out my inventory of golf balls in the garage and the ones in my golf bag. Here are the results:
ProCheck is a snap to use. Insert the ball with the label centered, squeeze the trigger and then hit the “R” button to get the reading. The OnCore ElixR came in at 4 bars, equaling medium on the compression scale. It’s a ball that should fit my game to a tee.
When Nike was still in the golf ball business, I began playing a Nike Women’s PD Ball. My course included a sleeve of Nike golf balls with every round (I miss that perk) and had run out of the Men’s PD ball. I gave the Women’s ball a go and low and behold, I was smashing it and it was soft. So years later, I assumed the Callaway SuperSoft would have the same result.
Even before using the ProCheck, I could tell the SuperSoft was losing distance compared to my other golf balls. The ProCheck confirmed my findings. It rated the SuperSoft as exactly that — very soft — which is recommended for golfers who average carry with a driver is 140 yards. So these are going to a friend of mine who is a very short hitter.
Callaway Chrome Soft Truvis
I’ve always liked the Chrome Soft and its feel since it was introduced several years back. But shocker, ProCheck calibrations tell me this ball is costing me distance because it’s too soft for my swing. Who knew? I’ve still got six in my bag, so perhaps I keep them in reserve for winter (Which on Amelia Island can be in the 50s and 60s) when the ball is not compressing as well.
A received a dozen TP5x ball as part of an online promotion and had no idea if they fit my game. ProCheck says they fit the bill for my swing at 4 bars which is a medium compression. It’s on the low end of the medium range, so the TP5x may be a good choice for Winter play as well.
My Foursome — “A little knowledge is dangerous”
We have a golf group that plays every Monday afternoon. Skills level range from a 10 handicap all the way to a 24. We average 8-to-12 players each round and most of these guys have no clue about what golf ball they should be playing. Some think they know, but not really.
Bob, retired in his mid-50s, has been playing golf for about 2 years and does really well. Like most of us, he’s inconsistent and has those blow up holes that spoil his rounds. He’s dug out a Bridgestone Tour B-330-S from his bag. ProCheck measures it as firm, meaning Bob needs to average 260 yards of carry on his drive. No way, Jose! He’s using the wrong ball.
Glenn, hits the ball a mile with a swing that if you stand to close to him would suck you in its vortex. And he’s doing this with 15-year-old equipment. But Glenn has no short game.
He’s playing a Titleist NXT, which measures at 4 bars, low on the firm reading. Again, Glenn is costing himself distance with the wrong ball.
“Wow, this thing is amazing,” Glenn exclaims, cradling the ProCheck with a mock a hug. “Can I borrow this overnight?”
There are also those in the group we call “shoppers.” The guys with their ball retrievers scouring the ponds and brush for lost balls.
We put ProCheck thru its paces on these balls. Of the 30 retrieved balls tested during three rounds on the course, 50% have been out in the elements too long and have lost their zip according to the ProCheck results.
“The balls look fine and playable. I’d be teeing them up right now,” Barry, a 15-handicapper said. “Good thing you had that ProCheck with you. These are going into the shag bag.”
The Bottom Line
At a retail price of $147, ProCheck is not cheap. But to be fair, compression measuring machines used by the manufacturers can cost $20,000. If you’re serious about your game and want to maximize your distance, don’t spend $400 on a new driver, get a ProCheck. You’ll save $250, gain 10 yards at least off the tee and with those savings you can buy the right golf ball.