Best Premium Golf Balls


What is the best premium golf ball? We test the balls used by the world’s top golfers to find out which models perform best with driver, irons and wedge.

TaylorMade, Srixon, Callaway and Titleist have all rolled out new versions of their premium tour golf balls for the likes of Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas in 2021.

It’s no secret the TP5s, Z-Stars, Chrome Softs and Pro V1s of this world are all aimed at above average swing speed players. While for some brands that means a driver faster than 90mph, for others it’s more like 100mph+.

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But one thing every new golf ball has in common is how the core, cover or aerodynamics have been tweaked to give up more performance.

With 10 new premium golf balls launched for 2021, we felt the time was right to see how they compare head-to-head with a driver, iron and wedge, so you can decide which is best and most deserving of a place in your bag.

If you can’t find the ball you want here, check out our Robot Golf Balls Test and our guides to the best golf balls, golf balls for beginners and high handicappers, ladies’ golf balls, alignment golf balls and winter golf balls.

Srixon Z-Star


The Srixon Z-Star is one of the best premium golf balls.

The Z-Star’s three-layer construction is optimised for golfers with swing speeds of between 90 and 100mph.

If your game revolves around pinpoint accuracy on approach play, and hitting lots of finesse shots around the green where maximum spin is needed to get shots to stop, then the Z-Star is an excellent choice. The Z-Star is Srixon’s highest greenside spin ball.

Titleist Pro V1


The Titleist Pro V1 is one of the best premium golf balls.

The three-layer Pro V1 has been the benchmark for tour-level balls since its introduction in 2000 and is used by some of the world’s top players, such as Viktor Hovland.

Titleist rarely talk numbers around new products, but they do say the new cover is the softest ever used on a Pro V1. That means an increase in greenside spin over the previous generations.

Expect lower long game spin than the Pro V1x and a lower ball flight.

Callaway Chrome Soft X


The Callaway Chrome Soft X is one of the best premium golf balls.

The four-layer Chrome Soft X is optimised for swing speeds over 105mph, as the standard Chrome Soft works best for players at 100mph and below (there’s some crossover from 100-105mph).

The X is Callaway’s most workable tour ball, hence why it’s the ball of choice for Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Phil Mickelson.

TaylorMade TP5


The TaylorMade TP5 is one of the best premium golf balls.

TaylorMade’s five-layer approach to tour balls gives more dials and knobs to tailor each ball to its target player.

TaylorMade say the choice between the TP5 and TP5x comes down to feel; golfers wanting a softer feel should play the TP5, and those who do can expect a little more spin around the green than the TP5x.

Wilson Staff Model


The Wilson Staff Model is one of the best premium golf balls.

The four-layer Staff Model was designed in conjunction with Wilson’s tour players and is being played by Paul Lawrie.

Wilson say it’s an across-the-board performer, so expect excellent long game distance, control and excellent short game spin.

The cover is very precisely painted to ensure even layers, which is said to help flight consistency.

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Srixon Z-Star XV


The Srixon Z-Star XV is one of the best premium golf balls.

The XV’s four-layer construction is designed to meet the demands of higher swing speed players and is used on tour by Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry.

Srixon say to get the best out of it you’ll need a swing speed of 100mph+. The XV is over 13% firmer than the Z-Star, which means it’s slightly longer and higher flying.

Titleist Pro V1x golf balls


The Titleist Pro V1x is one of the best premium golf balls.

The Pro V1x has four layers and is aimed at increasing shot height and spin in the long game. It is used on tour by, among others, Brooks KoepkaJordan SpiethJustin Thomas and Lee Westwood.

Expect a firmer feel than the Pro V1 – Titleist like to say it’s a ball that delivers spin where golfers need it.

Contrary to what a lot of golfers may think, Titleist say the Pro V1x now offers the same high levels of short game spin as the Pro V1.

RELATED: Which Titleist ball is right for you?

Callaway Chrome Soft X LS


The Callaway Chrome Soft X LS is one of the best premium golf balls.

Cutting backspin adds distance for high speed players, so Callaway say the new Chrome Soft X LS (Low Spin) is a great match for low handicap players who like to bomb it off the tee.

The four-layer LS is less workable than the Chrome Soft X, so it works best for golfers who hit more straighter shots than shaping their way around the course.

Expect a low ball flight, yet the same levels of wedge spin as the Chrome Soft X.

TaylorMade TP5x


The TaylorMade TP5x is one of the best premium golf balls.

More TaylorMade staff players have swung back towards the TP5x for 2021 as many search for a bit more distance with Rory McIlroyDustin JohnsonTommy Fleetwood and Collin Morikawa among the top players using this model.

Its firmer feel makes it the brand’s fastest and longest ball. Expect a slightly higher flight with your irons and a little extra greenside spin than the 2019 TP5x.

Wilson Staff Model R


The Wilson Staff Model R is one of the best premium golf balls.

The Staff Model R has exactly the same construction as the Wilson Staff Model, but its cover is unpainted.

Wilson say that by losing the paint, there’s no way it can pool in dimples in one area of the ball, which can cause a ball to be adversely weighted on one side. Wilson say the idea improves dispersion against competitors.

How we tested the best premium golf balls

We created an indoor test lab at Keele Golf Centre, Staffs, where TG test pro Neil Wain (who swings a driver at 112mph) hit his own driver, 7-iron and PW.

We had a Foresight GCQuad launch monitor watching on as we hit all 10 new balls. We rejected any major misses.

After hitting more than 450 shots, the data shows how each launched, span, peaked out and dropped out of the air.

Tested: Best Premium golf balls 2021

Which golf ball is the longest with the driver?

Callaway Chrome Soft X LS

‘A high speed core design is larger to promote more ball speed and distance through the bag. This core also works with the mantle system to deliver high resilience and speed.’


Golfers want maximum distance off the tee – anybody who says differently is lying. This year, thanks to Bryson DeChambeau’s obscene distance antics, tour pros are switching back to firmer models to ensure they give up nothing from the tee.

But where some golfers are willing to sacrifice a little softer feel and extra short game spin to get that distance, others aren’t. So it depends where you place the most value within your own game as to whether you follow the softer or firmer ball route.

To get the most out of a firmer ‘X’ ball, brands usually say you need higher club speed (most are talking 100-105mph and above) to compress and fully unlock the firmer core’s energy.

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Here’s what else we learned…

It’s a close call

Just nine yards covered off all 10 premium golf balls we tested with the driver, which shows that the very best are incredibly well-matched when it comes to driver distance. The firmer X-style balls were, on average, 0.7mph faster and 3.2 yards longer than their softer cousins.

Performance at both ends of the bag

Two premium golf balls stand out on our distance chart – the Wilson Staff Model and Titleist Pro V1x; both appear near the top of our wedge spin table, too. The Pro V1x might have out-done the Staff Model by a single yard on driver distance, but the roles were reversed by 48rpm (nothing) when it came to wedges.

Neither the fastest nor lowest spin were longest 

Much is said about fast ball speeds and low spin giving distance in the modern game, yet neither our fastest (Wilson at 165.6mph) nor lowest spinning (Pro V1x at 2,253rpm) balls were quite longest. Brands talk about ‘optimal performance’, and when we’re talking balls, that’s about having the right blend of speed, launch  and spin to optimise carry for the widest group of players, not just for ultimate speed or low spin.

Stand-out performer

Callaway said their new Chrome Soft X LS was for bombers, and we have to agree. It may only be two yards out in front of the field, but if you’re chasing every bit of distance and you hit it fairly straight, rather than shaping tee shots (like the majority of Callaway’s tour players), this ball definitely delivers.

Test data – Best premium golf balls with a driver (in order of carry)

The driver data from our premium golf balls test.

Which golf ball performs best with an iron?

Srixon Z-Star XV

‘The XV is played by some of the longest hitters on tour, and this new generation features a reformulated inner core to add even more distance.’

The Srixon Z-Star XV is the best premium golf ball with an iron.

It’s always nice to see which golf ball is longest with a driver, but in reality golfers at this level are only ever going to hit 10-12 drives a round. Iron performance may not be as sexy looking, but as we hit more irons on the course it’s vital the golf ball you choose performs into the green, too.

All 10 balls were within seven yards of each other for our test pro using his 7-iron (the five longest though were covered by just a yard), which is about three-quarters of a club difference – significant, as every golfer would rather be hitting a 7-iron than a 6. The carry gap between the firmer and softer models closed on average to a yard (in favour of firmer balls).

RELATED: Best Golf Irons

Here’s what else we learned…

How much difference is there from firm to soft? 

By combining our pro’s driver and iron carry distances, there’s three-to-seven yards difference between TaylorMade, Srixon and Titleist’s soft and firm offerings – but there was 15 yards between the two Callaway models. What does that say? In the right hands, the Chrome Soft X LS is a very powerful ball, but also there’s a lot of on-course playability difference between the pair, too.

Spin means control

There are plenty of decent golfers out there who swear that spin equals control; if you do, you’ll want to know the two Wilson Staff Model balls were the only two balls to register over 6,800rpm of backspin with the iron. The unpainted Staff Model R gave fractionally more spin, just as Wilson said it would.

Think about the ‘flight window’

Our test pro is a big fan of flighting shots a little higher, so the ball appears to hang in the air a little longer, which is an aerodynamic dimple story (so balls maintain lift during descent) several brands are telling right now. Modern balls can definitely help you achieve either a higher or lower, more penetrating flight. Interestingly, the Titleist Pro V1x didn’t flight shots higher than the Pro V1 with the driver or irons as Titleist suggest it should.

Stand-out performer

Srixon Z-Star XV is a top performer for distance at higher speeds. The XV was our joint longest ball (with the Wilson Staff Model R) when hit with a 7-iron, and by combining driver and iron distance it out-performed the Wilson Staff Model R by five yards (it was second only to the Chrome Soft X LS by a single yard for combined driver and iron distance). If you err on the side of distance over short game spin or a softer feel, the XV is a brilliant performer.

Test data – best premium golf balls with an iron (in order of carry)

The irons data from our premium golf balls test.

Which golf ball performs best with a wedge?

TaylorMade TP5x

‘TP5x is the fastest and longest ball in the TaylorMade line-up, with a firmer feel and higher launch on iron shots. It has more greenside spin than the prior generation, with a new and softer cast urethane cover.’

The TaylorMade TP5x is the best premium golf ball with a wedge.

Golfers expect softer balls to spin more with a wedge, but when you’re hitting full wedge shots at least, that’s simply not the case. It’s a phenomenon backed up by the results of our robot ball test.

We now know ‘softer’ balls spin a bit more around the green (60 yards in). However, on full wedge shots (100 yards or so), today’s harder balls spin more than their softer counterparts. So if you choose to play a softer ball because it gives you more control, you might want to think again from 100 yards out.

Here’s what else we learned…

Longest to lowest spin

By going all guns blazing after distance with the driver and irons, something had to give for the Chrome Soft X LS, and our data shows brilliantly the trade-off for such solid long game performance.

The LS went from longest ball with the driver and iron (combined) to the second-lowest spinning wedge ball. That absolutely isn’t a problem (spin levels are not seriously low) as long as you favour long game performance over short game spin.

Is there a best all-rounder?

You want a ball that doesn’t compromise on driver or iron distance, while also offering brilliant wedge spin? The Wilson Staff really does perform at both ends of the bag.

If you can accept giving up three yards against the very longest driver ball and four against the longest iron ball, the Staff Model rewards you with virtually the same levels (just 7rpm less) of wedge spin as our very best. And let’s not forget it’s also a little cheaper, too.

We’re arguing over 850rpm of backspin…

From everything we’ve seen testing balls over the years, we’ve come to the conclusion that softer balls for elite players seem like a real trade-off. Essentially, you’re losing at both ends of the bag (driver and iron distance plus wedge spin), just for a softer feel.

Our test pro said if he was blindfolded he’d struggle to tell which balls were softer or firmer, let alone which was which. Our highest spinning wedge ball had 850rpm more stopping power than the lowest; that’s what’s at stake here, and from 100 yards out that will make a tiny difference.

Top performer

Since its launch, TaylorMade have always sung the praises of the TP5 and TP5x on iron performance. So much so that when Rickie Fowler signed to play the ball, he said: “I’m going to enjoy hitting one club less on my approaches this year”.

But where we’ve seen the TP5x perform in terms of driver and iron distance power before, this year’s addition of a softer cover has blasted it right up our rankings in terms of wedge spin.

The data – best premium golf balls with a wedge (in order of backspin)

The wedges data from our best premium golf balls test.


Simon Daddow is Today's Golfer equipment editor.

Simon Daddow is the Equipment Editor at
Simon has worked in the golf industry for 30 years. Starting out as trainee professional at Downes Crediton GC where he learned the art of golf club making, before going onto work for Clubhaus Plc and Tony Charles Ltd as a golf club maker, and running Product Development at Benross Golf.
Joining EMAP Active (now Bauer Media) in 2006 as Equipment Editor Simon has worked for Today’s Golfer and Golf World magazines and the Today’s Golfer website.
Simon is 46 years old, he’s played golf for 40 years and plays to a handicap of 10. A lack of club speed means he’s short off the tee, but very handy from 125 yards and in.

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