April 2, 2009

Hot List Golf Balls: Women's market gets serious

If you think women's golf balls are all about cute packaging, sparkly covers and pink ribbons, think again. Because golfers with slow swing speeds can't compress a regular ball enough to make it rise and stay in the air for very long, the new women's balls are designed to launch higher than any other category, even when struck at limited clubhead speeds.

"In our computer simulations, increasing the launch angle by 2 degrees--while keeping ball speed and backspin the same--results in about five yards more distance," says Rock Ishii, product development director of golf balls for Nike. "The two ways to make a golf ball fly higher for a slow-swing-speed player are to give it a high-trajectory dimple design and a soft compression. This creates that higher initial launch angle."

Here are a few new entries to consider (above, from left):

Callaway's three-piece HX Pearl is designed with a low-compression core under a firm mantle and a thin-ionomer cover to allow women with fast swing speeds to generate driver distance and spin around the greens ($26 per dozen, callawaygolf.com).

Chromax offers medium-compression, two-piece balls in a myriad of metallic colors ($20 for six balls, chromaxgolf.com).

Nike's Karma also features an extremely low compression (50) for a high initial launch, and the 312-dimple design helps the slowest swingers keep the ball in the air longer ($22 per dozen, nikegolf.com).

Pinnacle's Ribbon puts a premium on durability and soft feel, and its 392 dimples help women with average swing speeds keep the ball airborne ($15 for 15 balls, pinnaclegolf.com).

Precept's Lady IQ 180 pairs a 45-compression core with a soft ionomer cover to help launch the ball high. The 342 dimples promote lift, making the ball ideal for the slowest clubhead speeds ($20 per dozen, preceptgolf.com).

Srixon's SoftFeel Lady has shallow dimples and a soft, gradient core (it gets firmer inside to outside) to help slow swingers generate height and distance from tee to green ($20 per dozen, srixon.com).

Top-Flite's D2 Diva comes with dimple-in-dimple aerodynamics to reduce drag and maximize distance for slightly faster swing speeds ($16 for 15 balls, topflite.com).

Hot List Golf Balls: The selection process