If you’ve played any amount of golf, you’ve probably heard someone say something about compressing the ball. You may have even heard a player referencing the “compression” of a specific brand of ball. Regardless of the ball you’re hitting, compressing can be a very good thing for a number of reasons. We’ll get into the various benefits of compressing the ball in just a moment but before we do, let’s go over the difference between compressing and ball compression. These two golf terms are directly related but not exactly the same.
To understand “compressing” the golf ball, we must first understand golf ball compression. In the simplest of terms, compression is how much force is required to deform a golf ball when struck. The numbers come from a somewhat complex equation and the compression of a particular ball can vary from one test to another. It isn’t an exact science and each ball manufacturer gives their respective golf balls a compression rating based on in-house testing. Check out the video below. It shows a close up of Tiger lacing a ball and you can clearly see the ball compressing as it departs the club face.
In layman’s terms, the lower the compression rating of a ball, the easier it deforms. Generally speaking, that means that lower compression balls should feel softer when struck with a club. However, that isn’t always the case. The type of ball you are using has a bit to do with the “feel” even if it has the same compression as another ball that “feels” firmer. Much of that has to do with the type of ball you’re playing.
Urethane covered balls are “technically” softer on the outside but usually used on higher compression balls like that of the Titleist Pro V1 or Callaway Chrome Soft. However, these pro-level balls have a much higher compression which offsets the soft feel of the outer urethane cover. Two balls with similar compression but differing outer coverings can feel extremely different when hit. That’s exactly why you shouldn’t rely solely on the “feel” of a ball when you’re trying to find the right one.
We all want to hit the Pro V1’s but the high compression can result in increased spin and for many of us, that’s not a good thing. Professional golfers look for higher compression balls because they can harness greater control of this spin for more accurate and trick shots. If you’re an average recreational golfer, this increased spin potential can be catastrophic if you already struggle with something like coming over the top that results in massive side spin and horrific slices. I should know because that’s me.
That said, there isn’t an exact equation for computing spin from a ball’s compression but a higher compression ball has much more spin potential than a lower compression one and that’s why the latter are generally more forgiving if you have a slice or hook. It’s a common belief that higher compression balls go further and that’s why a lot of weekend warriors think that they should hit time. Unfortunately, that belief is only partially correct. For swing speeds under 100 MPH, distances don’t vary much at all between high and low compression balls. According to TrackMan, the average male amateur golfer has a swing speed of 93.4 MPH with a mere 7% swinging over 106 MPH. If you think that high-compression ball is bringing you massive gains, you’re probably fooling yourself.
Again, none of this is an exact science and you may find that you shoot better with a mid-range compression ball than you do a low compression one or vice versa. The key is finding a ball that works right for you. You generally won’t find a compression rating front and center on a golf ball or its packaging because those numbers are never exact. Don’t go by the name, either. I love Chrome Softs from Callaway but they are are by no means that “softest” ball in the game. The standard Chrome Soft sits on the high end of mid-compression with a tested rating of 72 while the Chrome Soft X is one of the highest compression balls in the game with a rating of 95. Personally, I think the regular Chrome Soft is a great ball for most amateur golfers if you don’t mind paying for them.
Giving the wide variance of actual “feel” and the muddled science of compression, I recommend finding a ball that you are able to control around the greens and consistently strike off the tee, even if it means dropping a few yards. Then, there’s the thwack. Yes, that’s my technical term. The sound of a golf ball when it is struck can absolutely play into the mental aspect of your game. I have played balls that I struck extremely well with monster distances but no matter how pure they were struck, they sounding like they were cracking. That does not work for me.
When I am compressing the ball wall, I love to hear that low, squishy thud which is why I love the Bridgestone Tour B RX. (Compression rating of 79) It may be completely psychosomatic but striking one of those purely makes me feel like a Pro. That’s me. You may prefer a louder, “crackier” ball. We have the PXG Extreme Golf Balls here in the office and they are awesome. They have a very high compression rating and they are a joy to hit. However, they are a bit on the loud side when you clean one. Not a bad thing. Just a thing. Anyway, that’s a simple man’s rundown of ball compression. Now, on to actually compressing the ball.
Compressing the golf ball is all about how you’re hitting it and how it’s coming off your club. Many golfers would say that compressing the ball means that you’re hitting down on it. That’s not exactly true. It is possible to compress the ball while not taking a more downward stroke than normal. So, what is compressing the ball and how do you do it?
Look, I’m no golf pro and I certainly am not out here giving lessons or fixing people’s swings. That said, I’m pretty sharp when it comes to basic physics and geometry. Compression comes much more from the de-lofting of your club than it does from angle of attack. That’s not to say that the two don’t have an effect on each other. The angle of attack is generally produced by the specific club and your individual swing. De-lofting the club happens when your hands move ahead of the club head at the time of impact. This reduces the loft angle of the club and can result in greater compression. When that happens, you get that tuning fork feeling that you’ve just launched an absolute cannonball and no one in the history of golf has ever hit the ball the way you just did. Check out this awesome video from ChrisRyanGolf on compression to see exactly how it works.
So, that’s how you better compress the ball. How much you compress the ball will depend on your swing speed and the compression rating of the ball that you’re using. Still, if you’re striking the ball pure, the ball’s compression rating won’t play into the equation nearly as much as how well you’re hitting and your angle of attack.
At the end of the day, you use the golf ball that you are most comfortable with. If you’re looking for a recommendation, I’d point you to a mid-range compression ball like the Bridgestone Tour B RX or the Titleist AVX. Bang for the buck, you can get the Callaway Chrome Soft with a compression of 72 and get a free dozen when you buy three. It’s a great ball that holds up well, feels great and is somewhat forgiving. When you get a free dozen, it also makes it a bit easier when you shank one into the creek. Just saying. If you’d like to see the compression of your go-to ball, MySpyGolf has a great tool over on their site where they test hundreds of golf balls each year.