Hot List 2010: Golf Balls

Our 2010 Hot List reveals the 30 best answers to the question: 'What ball should I play?'

Our 2010 Hot List reveals the 30 best answers to the question: 'What ball should I play?'

June 2010


That's how many models of golf balls are listed on the United States Golf Association's List of Conforming Golf Balls. After some serious analysis and testing, we've helped you narrow your choice to the 30 balls listed here in the 2010 Golf Digest Ball Hot List.

The USGA's engineers take a fairly deliberate approach to determining golf-ball conformance (the Initial Velocity Test, the Overall Distance Standard and the Symmetry Test procedures require 22 pages of explanation). But our process does one thing the USGA's doesn't: We ask real golfers what works in a blind evaluation.

Our panel of players and editors met for four days at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Fla. The goal was to identify the most effective and intriguing golf balls in the game today.

We realize, however, that even a search of 30 balls can be difficult. One thing we've learned in the decades we've been analyzing golf balls is that choosing one ball over another involves some compromise. Whether it's greenside spin, feel off the putterface, carry distance, dispersion control or even the price, every ball requires you to give up something to gain something else.

Sometimes the differences aren't obvious. More than once during our tests with golf pros and low-handicap amateurs, we heard players extol a golf ball as good enough to use in their next tournament--only for them to learn later that the ball they coveted was a bargain two-piece model.

Before choosing a golf ball, ask yourself two questions: (1) How much spin around the green do I want? (2) How much do I want to spend? These answers and a review of the information on the following pages should give you a starting point for your search.

Of course, if the compromises don't make sense to you, or if you can't see the benefits on the golf course, then our advice is to play the least-expensive ball.

Still, we believe there's more engineering per cubic centimeter in a golf ball than in any recreational product out there. That engineering can make you a better player. Try a few, and see how much better you might be.

Our selection of gold and silver medalists under $20.

Our selection of gold and silver medalists in the $22 to 35 price range.

Golf Balls: Over $35
Our selection of gold and silver medalists in the $35+ price range.

The difference is noticeable: To help women get more distance, golf-ball manufacturers make women-specific balls with soft cores that compress even under slight pressure, increasing ball speed for the slowest swingers.


How We Did It

We reviewed player opinions, robot-testing data and technical information from golf-ball manufacturers and our panel of scientists.
The Hot List Panel

Meet The Team

Judges, scientists and players who made up the Hot List Panel.
The Analysis

Spin Doctors

How does backspin affect the bounce and roll of a golf ball? We plot the robot testing data for launch angle and backspin on half-wedge shots for all the balls on our Hot List.
One Teacher's Opinion

How To Find The Right Golf Ball

Rob Akins, a Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher, on how you should evaluate a ball's performance before deciding it's for you.
Cheap Balls vs. Tour Balls
The Experiment

Cheap Balls vs. Tour Balls

Seriously? Yes. In our test, players averaged three shots worse with the cheaper ball.


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