Soft vs. Hard Golf Balls: Which One Is Right For You?

Soft v Hard Golf Balls

When it comes to improving your golf game, the age-old debate of soft vs. hard golf balls often comes up.

Opinions vary as widely as fairways, but understanding the differences between soft and hard golf balls can help you make an informed choice that best suits your game.

In this article, we’re going to break down the distinctions between soft vs. hard golf balls, discuss the benefits of each, and hopefully steer you toward the right golf ball, that’s just right for your golfing needs. So let’s get into it.


Soft vs. Hard Golf Balls: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve spent any time in the world of golf, you’ve probably come across terms like “soft,” “hard,” or “compression rating” thrown around when discussing golf balls. But what do these words actually mean, and more importantly, how do they affect your game on the course?

Stick around as we unpack the differences between soft and hard golf balls, digging into their physical characteristics and what that means for your performance on the links.


The Core: Softer vs. Firmer Cores

The heart of every golf ball – the core – plays a pivotal role in its performance. Soft golf balls usually have a lower compression rating, indicating a softer core. In contrast, hard golf balls typically boast a higher compression rating, signifying a more solid core.

This variation in the core’s composition can have a pretty big impact on all sorts of things, from how far the ball flies, how much you can control its spin, to how it feels when you strike it. So, the type of ball you choose can make a difference in your game.


Cover Material: Urethane vs. Surlyn Covers

Golf ball covers are typically made from either urethane or surlyn materials. Premium soft golf balls often use urethane covers that provide excellent greenside control and a softer feel when struck by clubs with higher lofts (such as wedges).

However, surlyn-covered hardballs tend to be more durable than their urethane counterparts while offering less spin around greens but longer overall distances off tee shots.


Suitable Swing Speed

Your swing speed can be a deciding factor in whether a soft or hard golf ball suits you better. If you’ve got a slower swing speed, clocking in below 85 mph, softer balls might be the way to go. These compress more easily and can help you get some extra yardage.

On the flip side, if your swing speed is quicker, say above 105 mph, harder balls could be your best bet, as they can offer superior control and consistency. So, it’s not just about the balls but also about how you get faster swing speed with them!


Spin Control: Soft vs. Hard Balls

The spin control, a key element of your golf game, can be greatly influenced by the type of ball you use. Usually, softer golf balls generate higher spin rates, especially on shots around the green, thanks to their urethane covers.

This added spin can help more skilled players craft their shots just as they want. On the other side of the coin, the harder golf balls are often known to create less spin when hit with longer clubs, like drivers. This could lead to straighter shots, but there’s a trade-off: you might be giving up a bit of delicacy when you’re near the greens.

So, picking the right ball can be a balancing act between control and finesse.


Durability: How Long Will Your Ball Last?

When deciding between soft and hard golf balls, you should also consider the longevity of your choice.

While those premium soft golf balls covered in urethane can offer great perks like better feel and more spin control, they might not last as long as their firm golf ball counterparts covered in surlyn.

This means if your soft balls get scuffed or damaged during play, you might need to replace them more often.

So while the performance might be great, just remember to factor in the lifespan of your golf balls in your decision-making process.


Benefits of Soft Golf Balls

Given their improved feel, many golfers – both pros and amateurs alike – have been turning to soft golf balls for better control. Let’s dive into the advantages that soft golf balls offer.


Better Feel and Control

One of the main reasons players opt for soft golf balls is their enhanced feel around the greens. The softer core better feeling golf ball provides more feedback on contact, allowing you to better gauge your shots and improve touch on delicate chips or putts.


Increased Spin

Soft golf balls tend to generate higher spin rates, particularly with shorter clubs like wedges. This can help you achieve greater control over shot trajectory and stopping power on approach shots – a crucial aspect when trying to hit draws or fades close to pin positions.


Forgiveness for Slower Swing Speeds

Players with slower swing speeds often benefit from using low-compression (softer) golf balls as they compress more easily upon impact at slow swing speeds, resulting in improved energy transfer and increased distance off the tee.


Straighter Shots

A key advantage of a softer feeling golf ball is their ability to reduce sidespin caused by off-center hits. This results in straighter shots even if your swing isn’t perfect – an essential factor for average golfers looking to lower scores.


Premium Feel at Lower Costs

While high-end golf balls can be expensive, plenty of affordable soft options are available that deliver a premium feel without breaking the bank. For those seeking to enhance their game without investing heavily in equipment, these low-cost soft golf balls offer a luxurious feel at an economical price.


Suitable for Various Skill Levels

Soft golf balls aren’t just for beginners or players with slower swing speeds. Many skilled golfers also prefer the softer feel and increased control these balls offer. However, it’s important to consider your personal preference and playing style when selecting between soft and hard golf balls – what works best for one golfer may not necessarily suit another.


Key Takeaway: Soft golf balls are popular for their superior control, high spin rates, forgiveness on mis-hits, and affordability. They offer a premium, soft feel, suitable for various skill levels without hurting the wallet, making them a favorite among many golfers.


Benefits of Hard Golf Balls

While soft golf balls have their advantages, there are also several benefits to using hard golf balls. Some golfers opt for a harder golf ball due to their advantages.


Better Distance Performance with Longer Clubs

Hard golf balls, due to their higher compression rating, are great for those long shots off the tee with drivers or fairway woods. Essentially, with fast swing speeds, you can compress these harder compression golf balls more, translating to a better energy transfer from your club to the ball and hence, more distance.


Durability and Cost-Effectiveness

If your golf budget is a bit tight, or if you tend to send your expensive golf balls off on unexpected adventures into the rough, then hard golf balls could be just the ticket. They’re generally cheaper than their high-end, soft urethane counterparts and offer the added bonus of being more durable, giving you more bang for your buck.


Straighter Shots for High Handicap Players

If you’re struggling with accuracy off the tee or from long distances, a much firmer ball and core found in hardballs might help produce straighter shots. This is particularly beneficial for high-handicap players looking to improve their consistency on these challenging strokes.


Easier Shot Shaping for Skilled Golfers

A harder ball offers less spin than its softer counterpart, which can be advantageous for skilled golfers who want to shape their shots more easily. With less spin, it’s simpler to hit draws and fades or keep the ball low under windy conditions.


Key Takeaway: Hard golf balls offer better distance performance with longer clubs, increased durability and cost-effectiveness, straighter shots for high handicap players, and easier shot shaping for skilled golfers. When choosing between soft or hard golf balls, personal preference, swing speed, and skill level should all be considered. Experimenting with different types of golf balls is key to finding the perfect match for your game.


Which Golf Ball Should I Use?


Choosing between soft and hard golf balls can be a daunting task, especially for weekend golfers or those looking to improve their game. When it comes to selecting a golf ball, one’s inclination, playing ability, and swing velocity all come into play. 


To make an informed decision, consider the following factors:

  1. Swing Speed: If you’re swinging at speeds below 100 mph, you might find harder golf balls with higher compression ratings better match your game.
  2. Your Golfing Skills: If you’re just starting out or an average golfer, the increased forgiveness of softer balls could be a game-changer, especially for those off-center hits. But if you’re pretty skilled and like to shape your shots or love hitting draws, then harder balls might be more up your alley.
  3. The Feel Factor: Everyone’s different – some golfers simply prefer the feel of a softer ball upon impact. This is a personal preference, so give a few different balls a shot to see what suits you best.
  4. Durability and Dough: Harder golf balls usually have a longer lifespan than soft ones, but this extra durability might come with a higher price tag. So, before you shell out for those top-tier pro-level balls, consider whether it fits your budget and how often you play.


Finding Your Perfect Match: Test Different Options.

Finding your perfect golf ball match involves a bit of trial and error. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in the world of golf; what works wonders for one golfer might not have the same magic for you.

So, get out on the course and give different balls a whirl – play around with various compressions, try different cover materials like softer urethane or harder Surlyn, and test out different brands.

Remember, every golfer has their own unique style, strengths, and weaknesses.

The goal here is to find a ball that not only feels great but also enhances your game in all the right places – from distance and control to spin rate and durability. So, don’t be afraid to mix things up and see what works best for you. It’s all part of the journey to improve your game.


Key Takeaway: Choosing between soft and hard golf balls depends on your preference, skill level, and swing speed. Beginners may benefit from using softer balls, while skilled players might prefer harder ones for greater control when shaping shots or hitting draws


FAQ: Soft vs. Hard Golf Balls

Do weather conditions affect the performance of soft and hard golf balls differently?

Weather conditions can impact the performance of soft and hard golf balls differently.

In colder weather, golf balls tend to harden, reducing their bounce and overall distance. This effect can be more pronounced in hard golf balls. On the other hand, in hot conditions, soft golf balls may become even softer, potentially affecting their distance and durability.

As a rule of thumb, consider using softer balls in cold weather and harder balls in hot weather for optimal performance.


Are there specific golf courses where soft golf balls are better to use than hard ones, or vice versa?

While the type of golf course can influence your choice of a golf ball, it’s often more about your style of play and swing speed.

That said, on a course with many water hazards or dense rough, a harder, more durable, and often cheaper golf ball might be a more pragmatic choice.

Similarly, a softer ball might offer more control on courses with firm and fast greens due to its higher spin.


Do soft and hard golf balls sound different when hit?

Yes, the sound is different when hitting soft versus hard golf balls.

Softer balls tend to produce a softer, more muted sound upon impact. Conversely, harder balls can create a louder, higher-pitched sound. This sound difference is due to the different materials and compression rates of the balls.

Some golfers find this audible feedback useful in gauging the quality of their shots.


Does the age of a golf ball affect its hardness?

Over time, exposure to the elements, especially moisture and UV radiation from sunlight, can potentially degrade a golf ball’s cover and affect its performance.

However, under normal storage conditions, the hardness of a golf ball should not significantly change over time. It is always a good idea to keep your golf balls in a cool, dry place when not in use.


Does the altitude affect the performance of soft and hard golf balls?

Altitude can impact the flight of a golf ball due to changes in air pressure. At higher altitudes, the air is less dense, which reduces drag and allows the ball to travel farther.

However, this effect is not specific to either soft or hard golf balls. The performance difference at varying altitudes comes more from the specific construction and compression rating of the ball rather than its relative hardness or softness.


Can I switch between hard and soft golf balls during a round?

According to the rules set by the United States Golf Association (USGA), you are allowed to change your ball between holes but not during the play of a hole unless it is lost, out of bounds, or damaged.

This means you could use a soft ball for holes requiring more finesse and control, then switch to a harder ball for holes where distance is more crucial.


Do soft golf balls lose their softness over time?

Soft golf balls should maintain their softness over time unless exposed to extreme conditions, such as prolonged exposure to heat or cold.

However, repeated strikes can affect the ball’s performance characteristics. This wear and tear can gradually degrade the outer cover, affect the spin, or even alter the ball’s flight characteristics. That said, unless you’re playing professionally, these changes will likely be minor and not significantly impact your game.


Wrapping It Up: Soft vs. Hard Golf Balls

Choosing between soft vs. hard golf balls can greatly influence your performance on the golf course. It’s a matter of matching the ball to your personal playing style and skill level. A soft golf ball tend to lend themselves well to golfers with slower swing speeds, offering a pleasing feel and control. On the flip side, firmer golf balls often cater to those with faster swing speeds, providing more distance.

The selection isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Pro golfers with high swing speeds might lean towards premium, harder balls, while your average weekend players could find they benefit from a softer golf ball with lower compression.

But remember the secret sauce to uncovering the perfect ball for you lies in experimentation. Try out a range of golf balls, taking note of their compression ratings and how they match your swing speed. Personal preference will play a part, too – how the ball feels as you strike it and the way it influences your shots, be they shaped shots or straight drives.

We hope you found this article Soft vs. Hard Golf Balls helpful. If you’re an avid golfer like us, subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest tips, reviews, and other golf lessons and guides from Humble Golfer. Plus, you’ll be automatically signed up for our free monthly giveaway!

Picture of Amir


Amir is a passionate weekend golfer with a love for the sport. He's always testing out new gear and exploring new courses, while also constantly learning and improving his game. As a true student of the sport, he's dedicated to sharing his knowledge and experiences with other golf enthusiasts.

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