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Consumer Reports slices through golf ball hype

Posted Saturday, April 15, 2006

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All 25 golf balls tested traveled similar distances regardless of construction or price

YONKERS, NY – Selecting a golf ball today involves more than a quick stop at the local retailer. Beginners may not know enough about their games to determine whether they do better with a harder or softer type of ball, and more than a dozen manufacturers produce different models to address different players’ needs. Last year, 27 million U.S. golfers spent $763 million on golf balls that can travel farther, roll longer, and fly straighter than ever before.

To help consumers match a ball’s performance to your game, CR tested 25 balls for how far they travel, how much they spin, how accurately they fly, and how they feel. Published in the May report, “Golf balls: Slicing through the hype,” CR’s tests uncovered some results that run counter to widely held beliefs. Some highlights of our findings include:

  • Consumers can buy balls that go the distance for less than $20 a dozen. When hit by a machine that struck every ball with a driver with the same force and in the same spot, all the tested balls, regardless of construction or price, traveled virtually the same distance. In fact, three of the least expensive models, the Dunlop Loco Dart ($11 a dozen), the Top Flite XL Pure Distance More Carry ($10), and the Pinnacle Gold Distance ($13) went farther than 7 higher-priced balls.
  • In some cases, Consumer Reports found that the less-expensive balls had a softer feel, which most golfers prefer. But feel may differ from golfer to golfer, so personal preference weighs heavily in your choice.
  • Hit off a driver, each ball had a low spin rate, good news since that means a ball will fly on a straighter trajectory for more total distance down the fairway.
  • The most-expensive balls were the most accurate, landing closest to a target, but this consistency is likely to be of more benefit to a good player, because even the most accurate balls won’t fix an average player’s flawed swing.
CR’s Ratings rank golf balls by overall performance. The best models for experts and high-rated amateurs are: Nike One Black ($41 a dozen); Callaway HX Tour 56 ($39); Titleist Pro V1 ($44); Ben Hogan Tour Deep ($37); and Top Flite Strata TL-Tour ($28). Models best for most golfers include: Nike Power Distance Super Soft ($14), a CR Best Buy; Callaway HX HOT ($25); and Pinnacle Gold Distance ($13) and Pinnacle Exception ($19), which are both CR Best Buys. Best for those with a slower swing: Titleist DT So-Lo ($22); and the Precept Lady ($19) and Pinnacle Exception ($19), which are both CR Best Buys. CR offers consumers advice on how to find a ball compatible with their game, home course, and budget:
  • Call a local golf club pro shop or golf retailer to find one with a “fitter,” a staff member trained to analyze your swing, ask the right questions about your game, and figure out which ball and clubs match your skill level.
  • Check out events at the local driving range. Manufacturers’ “demo days” at driving ranges are a good way to sample free balls.
  • If you’re a beginner, look among inexpensive balls with a soft feel.
  • Use a range of clubs, which will give you an honest sense of how the ball will perform in different circumstances.
  • Use your own clubs, practice the same shot, and factor in the characteristics of the course you play most often.
The May 2006 issue of Consumer Reports is on sale April 11th wherever magazines are sold. To subscribe, call 1-800-765-1845.
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Consumer Reports slices through golf ball hype