Nearly every piece of golf equipment can be tested and optimized for your game, but the golf ball tends to be forgotten. Almost 40 percent of the balls purchased today are the cheapest options that focus on tee-shot performance only, according to Golf Datatech.We believe this one-dimensional approach is shortsighted. The Hot List is meant to guide your search to the most beneficial balls on the market. We consult scientists, retailers and everyday golfers to identify which balls perform best in all phases. This includes a week in which we tested 72 balls at the Marriott Grande Vista Resort in Orlando.Our process involves multitudes of shots in different situations, but despite this collective effort, here’s the thing: You need to evaluate your golf-ball choice with just as much rigor. Take multiple models to the short-game area and, when you can, on the golf course to see the differences. To us, the right golf ball is the one that helps all your shots, not just one.That’s why our list this year awards medals only to the advanced constructions you see in balls that cost $30 or more a dozen. We have two categories—$26-$35 and Over $35—and the star ratings and medal designations apply only within each category. Those balls combine distance technology with urethane covers that help produce greenside spin. That’s why they’re the best options, and the Hot List is your first step in finding the right ball.Click here to find the right golf ball for your game.
*All products featured on Golf Digest are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.*
Bridgestone stays with its four-model approach: two versions for fast swings (X and XS) and two for sub-105-miles-per-hour tempos (RX and RXS). The key is a cover that produces more spin greenside without robbing distance off the tee. Read more >>
These two models are noticeably different from each other. Both are four-piece construction, but Chrome Soft uses a dual core, a single mantle and a urethane cover for soft feel. The X uses a large core, two mantles and a urethane cover for extra ball speed on fast swings.
These two four-piece, urethane-cover balls have a cone-dimple design and more surface points that produce a more efficient, penetrating driver flight, plus extra yards on full-iron shots. The RB Tour works well for steep angles of attack, and the X favors faster swings.
The three-piece Z-Star and four-piece XV each have a firm, highly resilient mantle layer for more ball speed, plus high launch and low spin on long shots. The thin urethane cover features a supermolecule in the coating to create friction for more spin on short shots.
The soft inner core promotes low spin. That core is surrounded by two layers of stiff rubber to provide speed. The fourth layer is stiffer to boost distance, but it’s resilient enough to withstand impact. The cover’s soft-cast urethane provides spin. The X is firmer.
The new AVX has a larger core and a thinner urethane cover than its predecessor. A new mantle layer promotes faster ball speed and lower spin on longer shots for a distance boost. A revamped dimple pattern promotes a piercing trajectory for more controlled shots.
A thinner cover and a thicker mantle layer drive distance. The outermost portions of the solid core (V1) and dual core (V1x) are stiffer yet maintain soft centers. The result is more ball speed and less spin on the longest shots while maintaining feel.
The soft-rubber core uses bismuth, a rare heavy metal. It’s used in the outer portion of the core to improve resiliency and promote better energy transfer. The three-piece ball features a urethane cover with a three-line alignment stamp to assist with putting.
The use of zinc pentachlorothiophenol has the effect of bolstering the speed of the core during the curing process. The result is a mid hardness core that provides velocity and contributes to higher spin. The new cast-urethane cover is more scuff resistant.Read more >>PERFORMANCE ★ ★ ★ ★ INNOVATION ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ FEEL ★ ★ ★ ★ DEMAND ★ ★
XXIO’s X ball is for moderate swing speeds. The three-piece construction starts with a low-compression core that generates ball speed. The ball features a similar cover formulation as sister company Srixon’s balls for enhanced short-game spin.
Soft, yes, but this Surlyn-cover ball also ups the energy in its three-piece construction with the mantle’s composition. It provides a more cohesive bond with the core to boost power on your full swings. Its low compression works best for swings under 105 mph.
The cast-urethane cover on this three-piece model helps greenside spin. That’s a great feature at this price. The mantle uses heavier particles to push mass away from the center for a more consistent spin rate that’s designed for better flight in the wind.
PERFORMANCE ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ INNOVATION ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ FEEL ★ ★ ★ ★ DEMAND ★
These three-piece designs use cast-urethane covers for short-game spin. The differences come from the mantle layer. The Black’s mantle has a lower-compression for a softer feel and low spin, and the X’s thicker, firmer mantle yields higher mid- and short-iron spin.
Urethane covers increase spin on wedge shots but don’t help your distance; distance is fueled by the core. This update expands the size of the core and maintains its lower compression for improved feel and higher launch for those with non-tour-level swing speeds.
Read more >>PERFORMANCE ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ INNOVATION ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ FEEL ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ DEMAND ★ ★ ½
This ball borrows a version of the mantle layer from the tour-focused TP5. That layer works in multiple ways. Its stiffer, resilient composition is softer than the tour balls but still boosts distance and improves feel. On short shots, it helps pinch the cast-urethane cover for spin.
Sometimes two-piece balls can compromise distance or greenside spin. This update goes after both issues by combining the company’s largest-ever core (distance) with a thinner cover (spin). The material’s four elements mix two for speed with two for soft feel.
New, faster cores combine with thinner urethane covers on all three models. The low-compression Pro Soft adds speed through a springier mantle. The Pro’s softened compression has a softer mantle, too. The Pro Plus’ two mantles target distance for high-speed players.
Though its compression is extra-low for a multilayer urethane ball (60), there’s still distance to go with that soft feel. The 40-percent thinner urethane cover allows for a larger core to add more energy on full-swing shots. The mantle and soft cover combine for short-shot spin.
A rare four-piece model at this price point, it uses a softer inner core with a firmer outer core and a firm overall compression to enhance velocity on full shots. The mantle layer controls tee-shot spin, and it works with the urethane cover for more spin around the green.
The intent here is to optimize performance with every ball. That’s why the center of gravity is marked on each individual sidestamp. A player then can line it up to the target to maximize distance and consistency. The Tour is softer, and the firmer, dual-core X flies higher.
Spend more than $25 a dozen, but if you can’t . . .
So, why are there no balls receiving a medal at less than $30 a dozen? In a word, performance. In our evaluations, these balls were inconsistent in the short shots critical to scoring. The difference? The more expensive cover technology. Fitters agree: “If price wasn’t a factor, 99 percent of the time, I’d stick with the higher-priced balls,” was a common refrain. True, and better performance would cost less than a dollar more per ball. (Some off-brands tout high tech at a discount, but we’re not convinced they can deliver that technology consistently.) If price is non-negotiable, and if like a lot of average golfers, you’re just looking for softer models designed for higher launch at $25 or less a dozen, consider these options: