Tested: The best golf balls under £30

Published:

We lose loads, we buy loads... it's no wonder this price point is so popular. Find out what we learned and made of 12 different golf balls under £30

Ten years ago, a box of £30 golf balls were perceived to be lacking in performance compared to tour balls. Most were basic two-piece constructions with durable distance covers and zero short game feel.

But this market has completely reinvented itself. Now, £30 gets you everything from premium tour-level urethane cover balls to soft, low compression options as well as great all- rounders and some decent budget options, too. The trick to finding the best for your game is understanding how each helps your weaknesses, and realising there are new ways to buy balls on the internet. If you keep an open mind, you can get a seriously good ball to compliment your game, but also save some cash, too.

How We Did It

We asked leading ball manufacturers balls to send us their newest sub-£30 models. To ensure an accurate strike we got TG test pro Kevin Hale to hit each with a driver, iron and wedge while Foresight's leading GC Quad launch monitor watched on and collected data for every shot hit. Major misses were rejected, but we monitored how shots launched into the air and what happened during their flight.

We also took each one on the course, to see how they performed during a round. We then split the balls into low compression, premium tour level, good all-rounder and budget categories to help you select a ball best suited to your game. 

CALLAWAY SUPER SOFT (Low Compression)

RRP £19.99
Layers Two
Cover material  Ionomer 
Colours White, yellow, pink
Website

callaway supersoft

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Callaway's softest ball. The firm says softer balls give more forgiveness, as golfers see lower drop-offs in ball speed and less unwanted side and backspin. An ultra-low compression core promotes faster ball speeds and lower spin for longer and straighter full shots, while an ionomer cover increases softness for great feel and wedge stopping spin.

WE SAY:
The complete opposite of a "budget ball" from 10 years ago. As Callaway's lowest compression ball the Super Soft really does give a very soft feel no matter what club you hit it with. Our pro felt at his club speed (with a driver) he probably compressed the ball too much to hit his longest drives, but the Super Soft was within two yards of his longest iron shots. Soft balls don't necessarily mean more spin in the short game, but our data said 92% of the balls we tested were within 700rpm (backspin) of each other. That means they're pretty difficult to separate for short game spin alone.

VERDICT:
A brilliant low-compression ball. In our opinion the Super Soft is very well matched to golfers who own an average swing speed, which won't over power and compress the ball too much to cost distance. That means most of us.

WILSON DX3 SOFT SPIN (Low Compression)

RRP £27.99
Layers Three
Cover material Surlyn 
Colours White only 
Website www.wilson.com

Wilson staff dx3 soft

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
With a 40 compression Wilson says the DX3 is the world's softest multi-layer ball. A new inner core generates lower-spinning drives for extra distance, while a softer surlyn cover increases spin on approaches. A new, shallower dimple design promotes higher trajectories and longer carry distances.

WE SAY:
It wasn't that long ago golf ball compression was a simple choice between 90 and 100, and back then the 40 compression Wilson would have been laughed at. Our test pro really enjoyed hitting the DX3, though like the low compression Callaway he gave up 3-4mph of ball speed with a driver, thanks to overpowering the structure of the ball. That certainly doesn't mean it's a bad choice, and at slower speed with irons the Wilson was within three yards of our pro's longest and it span really nicely with a wedge.

VERDICT:
Just like picking a driver or set of irons, our data shows that golf balls need careful selection, too. A brilliant low compression option for golfers who demand soft feel, even if you own a set of harder cast steel irons and wedges. The Wilson is very well suited to average driver swing speeds.

VICE PRO (Tour Ball)

RRP

£29.98
Layers Three
Cover Material Urethane
Colours White, lime, red
Website www.vicegolf.com

vice pro

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Optimised for distance for advanced golfers who own a medium to high swing speed. Vice says it offers excellent green-grabbing control thanks to its S2TG tech cover, which includes urethane just like a premium tour ball.

WE SAY:
What a revelation! We had no idea it was possible to create a ball for £29.98 a dozen that for many golfers would be indistinguishable from a leading tour ball. Our test pro loved the soft, sticky cover, and he said all-round feel and feedback with driver, iron and wedge was just like a tour ball. Wedge spin was within 500rpm of the highest on test, driver carry distance was just four yards back from the longest and ball speed was within 1mph of the quickest. And the Pro launched and flew higher than any ball on test. Seriously good.

VERDICT:
Vice is an interesting model. Its golf balls are only available online, not in pro shops, which seriously reduces the price of the balls. If your ball of choice is currently a premium-priced tour favourite, we can only say the Vice Pro is every bit as comparable, for a lot less cash.

VICE PRO PLUS (Tour Ball)

RRP £29.98
Layers Four
Cover material Urethane
Colours White, lime, red
Website www.vicegolf.com

vice pro plus

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Optimised for distance for good golfers with a medium to high swing speed. The Plus has a fourth layer which allows Vice to lower driver launch and spin for longer drives. All the same green-grabbing tech and good feel as the Pro.

WE SAY:
Exactly the same premium sticky urethane cover as the Vice Pro, but with a firmer feel, which golfers who regularly play "X" balls will be accustomed to. Our test pro enjoyed the feel of the Plus more as he moved up through the bag, but for his personal preference it was a little firm in the short game. Our data shows the Plus launched 1.5° lower and peaked out three yards down on the Vice Pro, which should be a consideration if you're a serious golfer working on lowering ball flight.

VERDICT:
We agree with Vice – to get the best out of this ball you need either to have an above-average swing speed or harbour a particular desire to play a firmer ball and want to hit shots lower. Though a majority of tour players use firmer "x" balls, we'd say a huge majority of club golfers would be better served by the slightly softer Vice Pro.

SRIXON AD333 TOUR (Tour Ball)

RRP £29.99
Layers Three
Cover material Urethane
Colours White only
Website www.srixon.co.uk

srixon ad333 tour

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Designed for skilled golfers with moderate swing speeds who want the performance and feel of a tour ball. A lower compression lets golfers achieve optimal distance on full shots, while a urethane cover and Spin Skin (like Srixon's Z-Star) generates spin and control.

WE SAY:
A tour ball that's optimised for average swing speeds, and unlike some the AD333 Tour's not gone chasing low compression at all costs. A 72 compression means the Tour feels firm enough with a driver and irons, but soft enough to offer excellent feedback within the short game and on the green. It's no slouch when it comes to distance, either, recording a carry distance within five yards of the longest on test (the distance-orientated Titleist Velocity). Feels great of a wedge, though spin was a little down.

VERDICT:
You won't find much in golf that's less expensive this year than last. Srixon, though, have dropped the Tour's price by £4 a dozen for 2018. We'd say it's a perfect ball for golfers who like the feel of a tour ball, but don't quite own the swing speed needed to compress one fully. A lovely "normal" feel throughout the bag will win over golfers not sold on softer balls.

SRIXON AD333 (All Rounder)

RRP £24
Layers Two
Cover material Ionomer
Colours White, yellow
Website www.srixon.co.uk

srixon ad333

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The UK's best-selling two-piece ball. Srixon say while competitor ionomer balls offer similar distance on full shots as the AD333, their golf ball distinguishes itself with excellent greenside control, thanks to Spin Skin technology.

WE SAY:
Over the last 15 years the AD333 has carved out a fond place among UK club golfers, and we can see why based on its solid, across-the-board performance. A great ball for greedy golfers who insist on stacking everything in their favour. A driver ball speed within 2mph of the fastest on test means the AD333 is powerful; backspin was a little higher which robbed our test pro of a few yards, but wedge backspin was the second highest on test which is incredible for a two-piece golf ball. Our test pro said the AD333 offered an almost perfect blend of high energy from the tee and good backspin with the wedges, and all at a brilliant price.

VERDICT:
A very well-rounded, reasonably priced golf ball that comes with an excellent pedigree for tons of normal golfers. Ideally positioned to perform for a wide range of swing speeds. The solid sound but soft feel is well suited to players who don't want to join the march towards low-compression balls.

TITLEIST VELOCITY (All Rounder)

RRP £26
Layers Two 
Cover Material Ionomer
Colours White, Orange, Pink
Website www.titleist.co.uk

titleist velocity

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Powered for distance, say Titleist. A softer core and faster cover blend combine to generate extremely low spin and more distance. Expect a higher ball flight, which Titleist says means shots stop on the green. In Titleist's words the Velocity offers "playable short game feel".

WE SAY:
The "powered for distance" tagline certainly rang true for our pro, as the Velocity was his longest carrying ball (280 yards), though it's worth noting five other balls were within five yards. The Velocity was also our pro's lowest-spinning ball with the driver, which to us says Titleist has pulled out all the stops to make it long. That said, peak height with the irons was just a yard down on the highest which would aid getting shots to stop on a green. Of all the balls tested the Velocity is closest to what golfers would consider a "traditional" distance ball; it didn't compress nearly as much as some softer, lower compression options.

VERDICT:
No doubt the Velocity is long. For us there's a trade- off in feel for that speed and distance, but we reckon it suits a wide audience of swing speed golfers. Most at home in the hands of golfers wanting to rinse every last yard out of their game.

MIZUNO JPX (All Rounder)

RRP £25
Layers Two
Cover Material Surlyn
Colours White
Website golf.mizunoeurope.com

mizuno jpx

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Mizuno say two-piece golf ball tech has reached such a point that golfers now struggle to tell the difference between this and a tour ball. Optimised to deliver improved ball speeds for mid to low swing speed golfers, and a smooth feel.

WE SAY:
We've done lots of testing with the JPX before, as four TG readers put the ball through its paces at the end of 2017. When you hear 10 and 11 handicappers say they can't tell the difference between the JPX and their usual Pro V1 (which is more than twice the price) you take note. Our test pro was similarly impressed. The JPX posted an average carry just a yard shorter than the longest on test (with a driver), and backed it up by posting backspin numbers just a 100rpm (which is nothing) down on the highest spinning ball with a wedge.

VERDICT:
For many the JPX would be an excellent choice of ball, irrespective of swing speed or feel preference. Incredibly it's more than capable of holding its own in a scrap with premium tour balls in the hands of everyday club golfers... for £25 a dozen.

VICE PRO SOFT (All Rounder)

RRP £29.98
Layers Three
Cover Material Urethane
Colours White, Lime, Red
Website www.vicegolf.com

vice pro soft

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Optimised for distance off the tee. A low compression construction is aimed at golfers with medium club speeds looking for extra-soft feel.

WE SAY:
Certainly not as low compression as the Callaway and Wilson, but our test pro reckoned the Soft felt decent throughout the bag. If we're honest we're not huge fans of the matte finish, it scuffed up pretty easily compared to the other balls on test, which might be a concern if you're a stickler for a pristine ball. Ball speed was just 1mph slower than the fastest on test (with a driver) and carry five yards down on the longest, which means the Soft's more than capable of performing, even at faster swing speeds it wasn't designed for.

VERDICT:
Where does the Soft fit it in? We reckon a good way of thinking about it is as a softer version of a premium Tour ball, so much like the Srixon AD333 Tour. Vice's Pro stands out for us because similar balls are seriously more expensive. But with the Soft there's already the renowned Srixon AD333 Tour available at a similar price, which for some will make taking a punt on a Vice less attractive.

TAYLORMADE PROJECT (S) (Budget)

RRP £24.99
Layers Three
Cover Material Ionomer
Colours White
Website www.taylormadegolf.eu

project-s

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Softer golf balls are slow without speed, say TaylorMade. The Project (s) focuses on lower driver spin and big distance. A Dual Core with large low-compression centre reduces driver spin. A softer, resilient polymer outer core, and compression 10 points (60 compression) lower than TaylorMade's Project (a) ball improves feel.

WE SAY:
The only ball in our test we had any difficulty categorising, bearing in mind TaylorMade already have optimised a ball for amateurs, the Project (a). While their design premise for the (s) was "soft with speed" we didn't think feel was quite as soft as the low-compression Callaway or Wilson. As solid as the performance was with a driver, wedge and iron, it didn't excel in any one area; it was good in all of them. A rock solid performance, which at this price should make the Project (s) a popular ball.

VERDICT: 
If you own a swing speed anywhere between just below average to just above, and don't want a low compression or tour-style ball, the (s) will do a job for you. If your budget doesn't stretch to more than £25 a dozen, the (s) should be high on your shortlist of balls to try

PEARL GOLF PURE SOFT (Budget)

RRP £21.99 (£18.99 a dozen for 3 or more)
Layers Three
Cover Material Urethane
Colours White, yellow, orange
Website www.pearlgolf.co.uk

pearl puresoft

YOU NEED TO KNOW:
A soft urethane covered ball. The core's size and compression are optimised to turn energy to ball speed while also feeling soft. A thin, fast mantle layer controls spin, and a soft durable cover offers great control on short game shots.

WE SAY:
Pearl are a prime example of how the way golfers buy balls has changed. Like Vice you buy direct from their website, cutting out the middle man, which means Pearl offers a urethane covered ball for less than half the price of the market leader. Is it any good? Data shows wedge spin was within 500rpm of the best, driver carry distance was nine yards down on the longest (but more distance orientated) Titleist Velocity and five yards back from the comparable Vice Pro. Our pros numbers also had more variation (with bigger peaks and troughs between speed, spin and carry) than others.

VERDICT:
If you can run to buying 3 dozen at a time the Pure Soft represents excellent value. We certainly aren't saying you won't be able to tell the difference between it and a tour ball, but for golfers who can't justify £50 a dozen and want to stretch their cash to the limit, it should be on your golf ball radar.

PEARL GOLF PURE SOFT X (Budget)

RRP £21.99 (£18.99 a dozen for 3 or more)
Layers Four
Cover material Urethane
Colours White, yellow, orange
Website www.pearlgolf.co.uk

pure softYOU NEED TO KNOW:
A soft urethane covered ball specifically designed to deliver reduced spin in the long game. The core's size and compression are optimised to turn energy to ball speed while also feeling soft. Two mantle layers control spin, and a soft durable cover offers great control on short game shots.

WE SAY:
You probably wouldn't believe a ball available for less than £20 a dozen could post both the fastest driver ball speed and highest wedge backspin rate for our test pro, but it honestly did. It shows how important it is to get the right ball to suit your game and swing speed. But it also highlights there's some great performance balls out there for less than £30 a dozen. Even though the Pure Soft X proved its credentials through data, our test pro didn't love the Pure Soft X. He said he'd be reluctant to put it in play because results were more varied and feel was pretty firm.

VERDICT:
Looking at data alone the X was a very strong performer for our higher swing speed test pro. If you're a typical "X" ball player with a strong swing speed looking to reduce your annual spend on golf balls the Pure Soft X is well worth further investigation.

What We Learned During Our Ball Test

THERE'S A REAL CHOICE TO BE MADE
A few years ago balls sold for less than £30 a dozen were rocks, aimed at adding distance to any golfer's game. The landscape has changed, and there are now more options than ever. At the outset we had no intention of splitting the balls into categories, but we soon realised the need to clarify who each ball's aimed at, and who it would work well for. There's so much choice.

LOWER BUDGET DOESN'T MEAN LESS PERFORMANCE
Like most golfers we didn't believe there was a legitimate premium tour ball available for £30, but there is (the Vice Pro). Dean Snell, who was involved with designing the original Pro V1 and TaylorMade's first TP tour ball, started the "direct to consumer" idea, and it's spreading. The idea works because the brands operate online. They don't pay tour players to use their products, keep marketing spend to a minimum and don't give any margin to a retailer. It's an efficient model and means golfers can buy premium balls without funding a tour star's private jet...

SHOULDN'T TITLEIST'S NEW TOUR SOFT BALL BE IN THE TEST?
With an RRP of £32 a dozen, Titleist's new Tour Soft shouldn't strictly be in our sub-£30 test. But being the new kid on the block for 2018 we were curious to see what an extra couple of quid buys, so we got our test pro's feedback on the Tour Soft, too. He liked it, feeling the compression of the cover and core were more closely matched than much of the competition. Kevin reckoned feel was softer off the driver (it was three yards short of the longest on test) and wedge spin was within 200rpm of the best on test. All in all a decent result, but at the same time no better than many of our lower-priced options.

TWO-PIECE BALLS DON'T ALWAYS REDUCE FEEL OR SPIN
Srixon, TaylorMade and Mizuno have got it spot- on with the AD333, Project (s) and JPX; many club golfers won't be able to tell the difference between these and premium balls. Each has been optimised to perform at both ends of the bag – speed and distance from the driver and high spin with a wedge, which is what lots of club golfers are after. And as they're around £25 a dozen, you won't wince every time you top one into a lake...

BALL FITTING REALLY SHOULD BE A THING
Our test showed up tangible differences in speed, spin and carry between balls that were specifically engineered for our pro and those that weren't. There really is no excuse for not making sure your swing can fully compress a ball. Shots will rebound with more energy and still offer all the feel and spin you want in the short game.

NEXT: Range Ball vs TP5, how does it REALLY compare?