How Do Range Balls Perform vs. Premium Golf Balls?
Did you ever stop to think how different the typical range ball would perform against a premium golf ball that you play on the course? I’ve been curious for a while, so I put it to the test.
In this article, I’ll help you understand how a range ball is manufactured differently, and more importantly, how that can alter the ball flight you see on the driving range.
The Main Differences
I think most golfers know there is a difference between range balls and premium balls, but I was interested to find out what exactly it was.
So I reached out to one of the foremost authorities on golf balls, Dean Snell. Dean is the founder of Snell Golf, and he spent more than 28 years in golf ball research and development. He is listed on 40 U.S. patents and was part of the team that developed the original Pro V1 ball for Titleist. He also launched several popular golf ball lines for TaylorMade. Long story short – Dean knows a thing or two about golf balls.
According to Dean, most range balls use a very cheap base rubber. There are very loose specs, which means you can expect different performance within the same batch.
The covers of range balls are typically made of a thicker (and firmer) Surlyn blend to make them more durable. Additionally, there is a thick layer of paint applied to help preserve the external finish. Overall, Dean says you can expect slower ball speeds and very different performance on crucial launch characteristics such as spin and height versus a premium ball.
In his opinion, they are suitable for warming up before a round, but you should not base any kind of data off of range balls for club fitting.
Range Balls Tested
My golf course has two kinds of range balls, a limited-flight ball, and a typical practice model. I collected a random sample of both (don’t worry I returned them!) to get an idea of how they would perform versus a premium ball.
For my test, I used the Snell Golf MTB Black. I have been playing with this ball the last several years, and I showed that they performed almost identically to the Titleist Pro V1 in my review earlier this year.
To get an idea how the balls performed, I took full swings with my Sand Wedge, 7-Iron, and Driver.
|Club - SW||Ball Speed (mph)||Launch Angle||Total Spin||Carry Yards||Total Yards||Height (feet)|
|Limited Flight Range||81||26.4||9213||97||101||54|
|Snell MTB Black||85||29.7||8213||104||109||72|
You can see with my Sand Wedge there was a progression in ball speed, distance, and height. Both range balls are flying lower and shorter than the Snell MTB Black. They’re in the ballpark, but there is a difference in performance.
|Club - 7-Iron||Ball Speed (mph)||Launch Angle||Total Spin||Carry Yards||Total Yards||Height (feet)|
|Limited Flight Range||112||15.8||5278||156||168||63|
|Snell MTB Black||119||18.8||4489||176||191||87|
With the 7-iron I start to see more significant differences. The same trends hold up, but the discrepancies are much larger. I can launch my 7-iron significantly higher and farther with the Snell ball versus both range balls.
|Club - Driver||Ball Speed (mph)||Launch Angle||Total Spin||Carry Yards||Total Yards||Height (feet)|
|Limited Flight Range||140||13||2457||224||245||66|
|Snell MTB Black||151||14.3||1995||252||281||81|
Lastly, with the driver, you see even bigger changes in ball flight. Between the Snell ball and the limited flight ball, I am gaining nearly 40 yards in total distance.
I think the test shows that there are some significant differences between range balls and premium balls. While I don’t think you should ignore what happens on the range, you should be aware that there can be changes in the trajectory and distance.
Therefore, I wouldn’t use your distances on the range to benchmark your club distances. It would be best to do that with a launch monitor using premium balls or with an on-course shot tracking system like GAME GOLF or ShotScope.
However, I don’t want to discourage you from practicing with range balls either. I have been practicing my whole life on practice ranges and used my ball flight to make significant swing changes. Think of it more like a relatively close simulation of what you would see on the course.
Fred Ross says
Would it be possible for you to do a similar comparison with a low compression ball such as Wilson trusoft or Dunlop black dot vs the prov1 or Taylormade TP5 ball? In your comparison of range balls where do the floater balls fit in? I play golf in Florida during the winter and our range is a pond.
This is good solid info that I have not been able to find anywhere else….thanks!
Is there a way to do a side spin comparison that would be valid? It would be interesting to see if I see more or less curve on the range than on the course.
Ken Robson says
Do any driving ranges compensate for this by having their distance markers a little nearer, if not should they?
Ken, here is another article on the subject. A robot was used for testing.
The ONLY ball you should care about is the one you hit on the golf course. It would be senseless for driving ranges to make distance compensations because conditions are too variable.
Larry Ellis says
I did a test at an indoors practice bay, using a 60d wedge and their practice ball and my own Titleist Pro V1. Spin was very noticeable – 7000rm vs. 4300 for the practice ball. I was hitting 40-60 yd shots against a simulator and the practice ball was harder for me to keep the launch angle under 30d, which was my goal.
Been trying to figure out why my irons start grouping at the top end at the driving range, but never really notice on course. Thinking this is it. Plus the balls are very old and worn. I could get a solid shot that goes my normal distance but I really had to try for it.
Rick Schmidtgall says
Would you happen to know what brands of range balls that make a Limited Flight Range Ball that is around 70% of what a normal range ball is. Possibly a low trajectory flight. For our Drivers\woods on our range we currently use a hybrid range ball called “PointFive” but they are expensive (in my opinion). I’m located in Windsor, Ontario Canada and we are looking to see if there are other options for us to consider.
Jake Fetters says
I just first want to say that I love your site, and have picked up very many tips from your commentary, and the videos you’ve linked.
I am however perplexed at a swing that sends a 7I with 176 of carry (plus another 15 of roll), ‘only’ having 252 when hit with a driver. It almost reads like a 6I’s flight vs a 7’s.
Thank you again for your wonderful resource.
Thanks! I would say I hit my irons farther than most because I de-loft the club, and spin it less than most players.
Steve hebert says
I love these kinds of comparisons and more importantly it puts Snell back on my radar to give an honest go of. As far as de-lofting your irons, absolutely you do that but no-one ever talks about the loft of in these tests. I’m guessing your 7 iron is somewhere between 26-28 degrees (which is what manufacturers are pushing as 7 irons these days). Those were common 5 iron lofts just a few model years ago.
I just bought a PRGR HS-130A & took it to a range that uses Wilson Limited range balls. This device did NOT read any Ball Speed, Carry Or Smash Factor!~ Only Club Speed. I hit a large bucket, about 100 balls. Varied the distance of the PRGR from 3 to 10 feet. Would Not read. I tried about 6 of my regular golf balls & the PRGR read everything!!! I am very disappointed in this device for that reason. Just wanted to let everyone know about this defect? Problem!
I find the exact opposite, regarding HEIGHT with my wedges. With Pro V1, which I always play, my wedge height is “medium,” with range balls it is “straight up!” I max my SW out at about 85-90 yards with range balls no matter how hard I swing. With Pro V1’s my SW is 110-155 yards. The range balls going shockingly high, it’s crazy.
Ethan Zeelie says
Great numbers here Jon. I took the Srixon Marathon Golf Ball out for a spin and got similar numbers. Although this is a ball built for distance, my heights were almost identical. I’ve written a review on these balls as well if you end up doing any more comparison guides in the future.
Keep up the great work!