In recent years, manufacturers and designers have been trying to make the balls easier to control, fly further, or a combination of both. Golf ball technology has enjoyed many steps in its evolution since golf was invented in Scotland sometime in the 1400s. With over one billion balls produced yearly, it shows no signs of stopping.
Currently, the center of most balls is made of butadiene or a gas that easily thickens into a liquid. So far, that’s been the last step from the mold rubber balls of the late 1800s, followed by the gutta-percha and balatas of the early 20th century.
Butadiene is easy to mold and soft. However, engineers who favor rubber and polymer are currently designing balls that will fly further. For example, one Japanese manufacturer, Kasco, has been using Lanxess neodymium polybutadiene for the core. From what Lanxess claims, this is designed to make the balls able to fly further.
However, the core also depends on how many layers the ball has.
The layers range from one to four-piece.
The one-piece is made of the surlyn with dimples. It is lowest in compression and doesn’t give a good swinging distance. As a result, they are usually recommended only for practice hits and obstacles.
The two-piece has a core made of acrylate or resin. This is covered by a cut-proof blended cover, which gives it much more distance, which makes it preferable for many ordinary golfers. They’re also usually covered in surlyn or other similar material, which, unfortunately, doesn’t make it the easiest ball to control.
The three-piece, on the other hand, offers better control. They come with either a liquid or solid rubber core, which is molded with a durable layer of urethane, surlyn, or balata.
It is known for having the best flight control due to being softer than the one and two-piece.
The four-piece offers the best driver distance. Its core is made of solid rubber. The inner cover is the muscle of the ball because it transfers the strike’s energy to the core. The middle, or extra, cover is the agent that increases the distance. Finally, the outer cover is made from urethane, which must be softened yet damage resistant.
Generally, the more layers that are added, the more spin separation advantage the ball has. That’s why most pro golfers and low handicaps use the three- and for-pieces.
Quick Note about Surlyn vs. Urethane
Surlyn balls are generally cheaper and don’t get as much spin. As a result, they’re usually best for practice and high handicaps. Urethane balls are just the opposite. One way to test them is by how they feel against a club hit.
Urethane is a super flexible material. As a result, its substance stays very well controlled under heat pressure. That especially comes in handy when the balls are molded and then re-molded.
Weight and Size of the Ball
According to the R&A and USGA regulations, balls must not weigh above 1.63 ounces or 45.93 grams. The USGA regulates only for the U.S. and Mexico and the R&A for the rest of the world. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1990 that the two finally agreed on a standard size and weight. As a result, any balls weighing above the mentioned weight are illegal.
Balls that are lighter than 1.63oz are not illegal, but they don’t travel as far because of quickly being slowed against the wind.
While every manufacturer does their best to comply with the current weight regulations, unfortunately, there is always an error margin. Every ball that every player plans to use in a competition is weighed as a result.