Golf Ball Construction – Peeling Back The Layers

The golf ball construction industry is a multi-million dollar industry – there are literally hundreds of different types of golf balls available for you to try out, with each one having a different set of base characteristics than the next one.  You may hear a fellow golfer speaking about using a “x-piece” golf ball, where the “x” is a number, usually either two and three.  In actual fact, all balls available for use are either a one, two, three, four or (less commonly) five-piece golf ball.

What Does The “Piece” Part Mean?

Golf balls are designed and constructed according to their final requirements.  For example, a ball which is specifically designed for distance will have a completely different type of construction than a golf ball designed for maximum spin generation.  When the manufacturers decide which key characteristics a ball should have, the construction of the ball must be considered.

When constructing a golf ball based on the requirements, the issue of how many layers the ball should have is paramount.  Outlined below are the different types of balls based on how many layers they have, with a description of what they (in general terms) have been designed for.

One Piece Golf Balls

Golf balls which are referred to as “one-piece” are simply constructed with the same type of  material, from the external layer right through to the core.  These golf balls are, in the main, of a general low quality, providing little feedback on short-iron shots and putts, while offering little or no increased yardage with the longer irons and the driver.  These one-piece balls are quite cheap to buy and are usually sold in bulk quantities.

You’ve probably guessed by now (or you already know) that one-piece golf balls are better known as ‘range’ or ‘practise’ balls.  These are the types of balls you may be used to hitting at your local driving range.

Two Piece Golf Balls

Two piece golf balls generally consist of a tough, solid inner core, surrounded by the thin layer of the cover of the ball (typically surlyn).  This type of ball is mostly designed and constructed with the purpose of providing extra distance.  These two-piece golf balls have a low spin rate, which means that you’ll have a little trouble stopping this type of ball dead on the greens.  On the plus side, any unintentional hooks or slices will be minimised due to the low spin generation.

These are great balls to use if you’re looking add both accuracy and additional distance with your driver and long irons.  The majority of two-piece golf balls also tend to be tougher / more durable than their multi-layered cousins, giving the ball a longer shelf life.  Examples of two-piece golf balls include the Precept Laddie X golf ball and the Wilson Staff DNA Distance golf ball.

Three / Four Piece Golf Balls

Three-piece and four-piece golf balls will generally consist of a softer outer cover, one or two  inner layers, and a solid or liquid core.  These balls have a higher spin rate (due to the extra layers) which will give you a greater level of control.  They also feel softer than the one or two-piece balls, but will ‘cut up’ more quickly too.  This type of ball is generally used by the lower handicapped / scratch golfers, who can control the ball’s flight path better than those with higher handicaps.

The increased control around the greens can also help to enhance the golfer’s short game.  Three / four-piece balls are generally more expensive to buy than two-piece balls, and need to be replaced more regularly due to the softer cover.  A good example of a three-piece golf ball is the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball.

Five Piece Golf Balls

Incredibly, golf ball technology has given us the first commercially available five-piece golf ball.  The Taylor Made Penta golf ball is due for general release in December 2010, and boasts five layers, pushing the boundaries of golf ball construction ever further.  This ball promises to provide additional distance and a low spin rate with the driver and long irons (due to the low compression inner core) whilst delivering a high spin rate and soft feel with the short irons (due to the soft cover and first inner layer).  The second and third inner layers are also optimised for general iron play.

With the Taylor Made Penta release just around the corner, it’s a certainty that other golf ball manufacturers will soon follow suit.  Manufacturers will continue to push the boundaries of golf ball construction, meaning it’s not outwith the realms of possibility that the number of layers a golf ball can have will continue to grow in future.  As the demand for better performing golf balls continues to increase, technology will move forward to continually meet those demands.  I’m willing to bet that, before too long, I’m updating this article to include a section for six-piece golf balls!

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