Golf ball manufacturers heavily market the benefits of soft feel in their recreational and distance ball offerings.
Terms like soft, supersoft, softest, and even marshmallow soft promise an unparalleled feel. This appeals especially to newer and high-handicap amateur players.
But does an extremely soft golf ball actually perform better for the average golfer? Or is the Quest for soft feel more marketing hype than meaningful performance advantage?
In this guide, we’ll examine the pros and cons of soft golf balls to determine if they truly offer advantages or if firmer models may be preferable for many players. Using an optimal ball for your individual game depends on understanding the trade-offs.
Benefits of Using Soft Golf Balls
There are some clear benefits generated by utilizing golf balls with very soft compression and feel:
Greater Energy Transfer – Softer balls compress more against the face to maximize energy return at impact. This can boost ball speeds and distance with correct fittings.
Reduced Vibration – The softness absorbs shock and reduces hand sting from mis-hits and mishits.
Increased Control – Soft feel promotes a better sense of control on finesse shots around the green.
Added Confidence – The softness inspires confidence for beginners learning ball striking.
Improved Accuracy – Soft balls reduce distance penalties on mishit shots.
For players with slower swing speeds below 100 mph, these benefits can be quite profound.
Drawbacks of Soft Golf Balls
However, on the other side, soft balls also come with some performance compromises:
Excess Driver Spin – Too soft a ball will spin excessively off the tee, reducing distance.
Energy Loss – Maximum energy isn’t transferred into the ball, resulting in loss of ball speed.
Weather Sensitivity – Soft balls often feel and perform differently in cool vs hot temperatures.
Durability Issues – Soft covers scuff easier and wear faster than firmer balls.
Loss of Feedback – Too soft a feel makes gauging mishits more difficult.
For players with moderate to faster swing speeds, these drawbacks deserve strong consideration.
Firmness Recommendations Based on Swing Speed
A key factor in determining the right softness or firmness is your clubhead and ball striking speeds:
60-80 mph – Best suited for very soft compression golf balls under 50 rating.
80-95 mph – Low compression balls around 50-70 rating maximize energy transfer.
95-105 mph – Moderate compression balls from 70-90 rating optimize performance.
105+ mph – Need firmer balls with compression over 90 to maximize energy and minimize driver spin.
Matching your typical swing speeds with the correct ball compression gives best results.
Benefits for Certain Player Types
Very soft golf balls provide excellent performance for these amateur player profiles:
- Beginners needing maximum forgiveness and confidence.
- Seniors and players with naturally moderate swing speeds.
- Women and juniors transitioning from practice balls.
- Players generating low clubhead speed due to injury or flexibility limitations.
- Golfers who prioritize limiting mishit distance penalties over maximizing ball speed.
If you fall into one of these categories, softer golf balls likely will enhance enjoyment, feel, and potentially scores.
When Firmer Balls Work Better
However, for many amateur player types, firmer golf balls will optimize performance:
- Players with faster swing speeds over 100 mph.
- Power hitters needing to limit excessive driver spin.
- Golfers wanting maximum energy transfer and ball speed.
- Players who naturally hit very high ball flights.
- Amateurs playing in windy course conditions frequently.
- Seasoned golfers seeking more precise feedback and responsiveness.
The wrong softness in either direction negatively impacts distance, spin, flight, and feel.
Further Testing Is Advisable
Ultimately, knowing your personal equipment needs and swing characteristics requires extensive testing and fitting. While softer balls provide clear benefits to some players, for others, excessive softness can undermine performance.
Test a range of compression ratings using a launch monitor to compare spin rates, ball speeds, launch angles, descent angles, and other data. Also, pay close attention to subjective feel preferences.
Let a professional club fitter establish your optimal ball softness matching your unique swing rather than relying on marketing buzzwords. Learn precisely how ball construction and compression rating impact your game.
The Key Is Finding the Right Match
In conclusion, no definitive rule states softer golf balls are universally better for all amateur players. Maximizing your enjoyment, feel, and scoring ability requires matching golf ball construction and compression to your individual skills and needs.
While many players, especially slower swingers and beginners, will clearly benefit from soft feel technology, golfers across the ability spectrum should test balls thoroughly themselves.
Let personal data guide your choices rather than marketing hype over softness. With the right ball matched to your swing, you’ll maximize performance across the entire bag.