What Does The Number On A Golf Ball Mean?

Doesn’t it sometimes feel like there is a never-ending stream of things you need to learn about the game of golf? It’s certainly understandable if you feel overwhelmed. Even if you know only the bare bones minimum about golf you are at least aware that the objective is to get the ball in the hole.

Great, so you’ve bought a box of them trying to do just that, and when you opened it up, you realized that most of the balls have different numbers on them. Just what does the number on a golf ball mean? Read on to find out!

Ok, so what does it mean?

What does the number on a golf ball mean

Nothing at all! When I was first starting out, someone had told me that the balls with lower numbers on them work better. I would always be slightly disheartened when I had to tee off with a Top Flight 4. But no, that’s not true.

It turns out, they didn’t know much more about buying golf balls than I did. They had heard someone praise the quality of Titleist’s prov1 model, and misunderstood the meaning. Because of that little mix-up, I have spent a lot more time than I would care to admit scouring bargain bins for balls with 1s and 2s written on them.

If you buy a box of balls, you can count on getting the same level of quality from every single one of them, regardless of what number is printed on it.

So, Why even put numbers on the ball?

Numbers are printed on the ball strictly to help you distinguish your ball from that of your playing partner. Since the same few companies produce most of the world’s golf balls, it isn’t distinct enough to simply know that you are playing a Callaway. You will often see players say something like, “I’m playing a Titleist 3,” right before the tee off, so there isn’t any confusion later on.

Since you can’t always see the number on a ball, depending on how it has landed, people will also often use a marker to create a unique mark on the surface.

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Technically speaking, there is no rule saying that you need to mark your ball, or even announce what you are playing before you tee off. That said, the penalty for playing someone else’s ball (two strokes) is pretty stiff, so you may find taking simple steps to avoid that worthwhile.

What does matter when you are buying a Golf Ball?

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Everything else, pretty much. A lot of pros will recommend that you get fit for your ideal ball, but the truth of the matter is that most casual players aren’t going to do that, especially those who hunt the used bins for their balls.

If you know for a fact that you are never going to be the type of person that sees a professional to get fit for golf balls (don’t worry, I’m really not that type of person either) then we can help you figure out what you are looking for without all the extra hassle.

For Distance

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If you are looking for a ball that is going to sail a little bit farther off the tee, you want something with a slightly harder cover. Not rock hard, mind you, just hard enough.

Harder balls are not as susceptible to spin, meaning they also fly a little bit straighter, and roll out longer on the fairway. They also don’t get scraped up so bad when they take a few hops on a cart path, which is nice for players that like to use a ball for as long as they can keep it dry.

For Spin

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If you like to have the option to spin the ball a bit, you are going to want to look for a softer cover. If you press your finger nail gently into the surface, you will certainly be able to tell the difference.

More spin is great for shots within 130 yards or so of the flag, and it’s all the more beneficial the closer you get, but unless you make consistently good contact the majority of the time, it isn’t really something you need to worry too much about. Even a lot of the best amateurs out there aren’t able to spin the ball backwards the same way that you see pros do it on tour.

Generally speaking, soft cover balls are more expensive, sometimes costing as much as $8 per ball. Still, ifyou want to give one a try, it won’t hurt you any to start looking for the occasional Prov1 in your local used ball bin.


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So, as it turns out, the number on a golf ball is just about the only thing that doesn’t matter. Even the other things—hardness and softness of the cover, are only going to matter a little bit. If you’re just starting out, don’t worry about if you are playing the number one ball in golf, or a range ball. Just focus on finishing the hole with the same ball you started with, having fun along the way. The rest will follow eventually.

Paul Durante

My name is Paul, and I truly love the game of golf. I’ve been playing for many years now, but still regularly discover new things about the sport. I believe that blogs like this can go a long way in helping people understand this game’s rich history and rules, and I am very proud to have the opportunity to contribute.

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