How many times have you hit balls at the range and thought I’m sure I hit my 8-iron further than 120 yards?
Most golfers assume that range balls, often two-piece balls bought in bulk, don’t perform like premium tour balls. But how do we know for sure?
With many golfers basing theiron-course yardages on how far they hit shots on the range, we thought it was time to find out how they compare – and just like picking a new driver, set of irons or ball, it’s not quite as simple as you think.
We asked our test pro to hit shots with both a leading tour ball (TaylorMade’s TP5X) and The Belfry’s standard range balls while our Foresight GC Quad launch monitor watched on. First he hit wedges, then irons and finally driver…after analysing the data we saw how the pair measure up.
The biggest difference in performance came when looking at wedges. The harder-cover range balls shot off the face 4mph faster, and could muster only a miserly 2,563rpm of backspin (a number commonly associated with driver backspin for club golfers), while the TP5X produced 175% more stopping power.
With spin affecting launch angle and shot height, it highlights how working on your short game at the range might not be the best idea, as performance is likely to be very different on a course with a decent ball. To be fair, our results with irons were very similar, which is probably the area of the game the average two-piece range ball is optimised for. But with the driver, the TP5X completely overshadowed the range ball – 6mph more ball speed and nine yards of carry – which dispels once and for all the urban myth that range balls go further.
Like proper golf balls, two-piece range balls from different brands can be optimised to perform in certain areas – but not across the whole bag like a modern tour ball. To emphasise this point, our pro hit a “softer” range ball which span close to our premium ball in the short game… but was 39 yards down (on average) with a driver!
What’s the takeaway? Taking distances from the range to the course is a precarious practice, but it also raises valid questions about custom fitting. To ensure a proper fit shouldn’t we all be using our preferred make and model of ball (possibly on an indoor launch monitor) for a fitting, and not just a range ball that’s not optimised for any area of your own game?