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Practice Golf Balls vs Regular: What Is The Difference

Last updated: September 28, 2022
A golfer on a golf mat with a golf club, golf tee, and a bunch of golf balls. Green textbox on the left contains the words

Choosing the correct ball is crucial to your game, and selecting the incorrect one can be detrimental to your game. There are numerous golf ball varieties available, and using one versus another will alter the distance, speed, spin, and roll of your shots.

In this article, we’ll explore practice vs regular golf balls. 

What Is A Practice Golf Ball?

Three yellow range practice balls on green faux grass
Three yellow range balls. Source

A "range" or "driving range" ball is a golf ball that has been specially designed for use on a golf driving range.  They frequently have a colored stripe around their circumference (most frequently black, red, or green) and may bear the phrase "range" or "practice" printed on them. Alternatively, they could be solid yellow with black stripes around the perimeter.

Depending on the size of the bucket, golfers can rent range balls in bulk at driving ranges for various prices. Golfers who choose to use range balls outside of a driving range setting can also purchase them in bulk (for example, take them to a park, hit them, pick them up).

The amount of space needed to hit a real golf ball is one of the most significant obstacles to learning the proper swing. Working on your swing with a standard golf ball requires a vast open space devoid of barriers.

The goal of practice balls is to enable them to be used in smaller places. Because these balls are often lighter, they travel less distance, which means you don't need as much area for practice and can also recover the balls more simply. 

Furthermore, they are less likely to cause damage to other objects when they collide with them. While any form of practice ball will allow you to work on your swing, different varieties of plastic and foam balls vary in price, durability, and ability to replicate the flight of a real golf ball.

Types of Practice Ball

A man with a white golf club setting down a golf ball and golf tee on a golf course

Almost Golf Ball

The Almost Golf Ball is precisely that: a practice ball that is nearly identical to the actual golf ball. 

The Almost Golf Ball, which is composed of a solid core and an outer shell with dimples, collapses on impact and flies with the same spin and velocity as a genuine ball. However, it is considerably lighter and softer than a regular golf ball, which means it slows down faster and travels around 30% to 50% of the distance of a regular one. To better understand how dimples can affect the ball, check out this page.

These characteristics make it an excellent practice ball for ladies, juniors, and seniors allowing them to make a variety of shots.

Because it was developed to mimic the spin and feel of a genuine ball, you can shape your strokes by imparting pull and fade spin. This is also an excellent drill for novices because it tackles an inefficient swing or club path (1) and an open/closed clubface.

Perhaps its greatest asset is its portability. Urban golf enthusiasts use it on city and neighborhood courses and on city streets and front lawns. You cannot cause any damage with a 14-gram foam/rubber ball. 

If you're considering purchasing an indoor golf simulator but don't want to utilize real balls, the Almost Ball is an excellent alternative.

Almost Golf Ball is one of the best practice golf balls for beginners and veterans on the market, without a doubt. However, before you run out and acquire any, ensure that you have a pretty large space to play (or a large net or object to hit against).

Bear in mind that it will still move over 100 yards when thumped by the driver. A pitching wedge shot travels approximately 50 yards.

Foam Practice Balls

A bunch of yellow foam practice golf balls on green faux grass
A bunch of foam practice balls. Source

Foam practice golf balls are a great substitute for genuine ones. Foam golf balls let senior golfers and other players practice and improve their swing in the comfort of their own home or backyard without risking damage to their surroundings from wayward shots. High-quality foam balls perform identically to genuine golf balls in flight, feel, and sound, making them ideal for practice.

Despite their modest price, these balls are extremely sturdy and will endure for an extended period.

How Practice Golf Balls Work

These balls are often lighter. They go shorter distances, which means you don't need as much area for practice and can also recover the balls more simply. Additionally, they are less likely to cause damage to other things they collide with.

Are All Range Balls The Same?

practice range golf balls on basket

All range balls are not created equal. The quality of range balls varies substantially depending on where you practice and the exclusivity of the golf club where you play. A private country club with high dues will have very good golf balls on the range. Some of these courses will even use a Titleist Pro V on the driving range.

Naturally, this is a rare occurrence, and you will find that these golf balls perform identically to the standard golf balls in your bag. At a premium club like this, members want the finest, and the golf staff must deliver.

You may encounter the same range balls at a municipal golf course that have been there for twenty years. These range balls are probably repainted each year, and a few new golf balls are added to the mix.

If you have a few preferred practice locations, you should pay attention to the differences in the range balls available so you can practice in an environment that most closely resembles your game on the golf course.

What Is a Regular Golf Ball?

Golf Ball on tree

Range and ordinary golf balls are made differently. When golf ball makers create a range ball, they seek a balance of performance and durability.

For standard golf balls, actual performance is paramount. Of course, a good golf ball's cover must be durable enough to resist cutting after a few holes, but apart from that, a conventional golf ball needs to last an eighteen-hole round. Apart from this, regular glow-in-the-dark golf balls are available to be used for added visibility when playing in low-light situations.

Another more critical component when using a standard golf ball is the feel. People are unlikely to complain about the feel of a range ball because it has no bearing on the golf course, but the feel of a regular ball will matter, and it will make all the difference, particularly in the short game.

Practice Golf Balls vs. Regular Golf Balls

regular golf balls on basket

The most evident is the difference in performance. The practice golf ball will have a slower speed, will be more durable, and will be less expensive. The standard golf ball provides increased speed, more precision, a more accurate spin rate, and a more consistent flight. 

Cost

As is the case with standard golf balls, the cost of several varieties of practice balls differs significantly. At the time of publication, an 18-pack of plastic practice balls costs $6.99 at Dick's Sporting Goods, equating to around 39 cents for each ball. Foam practice balls from the same manufacturer retail for $19.99 for a 30-pack, or 67 cents per ball. On the other hand, more modern foam balls, such as those sold by Almost Golf, can cost up to $1 per ball, depending on the style and quantity purchased.

Purpose

Range balls are designed to be hit repeatedly on driving ranges by golfers of varied skills; they must be able to withstand that punishment for an extended period.

Most generic range balls are solid-core, two-piece constructions with extremely hardcovers: they must be more resistant to cutting, scuffing, and other cover damage than conventional ones. Occasionally, range balls will have a harder core, limiting their flight.

Golf manufacturers provide range versions of their golf balls for driving ranges. These are often constructed similarly to the "normal" version of such balls but with a considerably harder cover.

Distance

Practice golf balls are constructed to last for an extended period, saving the driving range money over time. They are frequently used for years and can withstand the abuse of being hit many times every day on a driving range for several years.

Practice golf balls are not designed for optimal distance performance. Certain driving range balls are also flight restricted to keep the balls on the driving range during times of limited space.

Durability

The amount of shots you obtain from a practice ball varies and is frequently tied to the price. Short-distance foam balls often survive only ten to fifteen impacts. Although plastic balls come in a variety of shapes and sizes, they can become fractured or misshapen after a few full-strength smashes. Cheap plastic Wiffle balls with perforations are more durable than solid plastic ones. Relatively more expensive foam balls often last longer. Plastic balls are often destroyed when stepped on. However, foam balls remain intact.

Ball Flight

One of the most significant differences between plastic and high-end foam balls is how well they replicate the feel and flight of a standard golf ball. As golf blog On Par explains, plastic and low-end foam balls can approach the trajectory of a conventional ball, slicing or hooking if the swing results in a hooked or sliced shot. However, one of the primary disadvantages of these balls is that they do not provide the same sensation as a regular golf ball upon impact, and their flight path may be much different. This is one of the key benefits of using more expensive foam balls with a compressed core, such as the Almost Golf balls, because they are better at imitating the feel of a golf ball when the clubhead makes contact with them. 

Range balls do not fly as straight as standard golf balls because they frequently have structural deformities – such as wear, cracks, splits, or chips – that impair their flight real performance. New golf balls will fly the straightest due to their immaculate surfaces.

These natural pressures can cause range balls to wobble or move left or right (similar to what happens when mud is stuck on the ball during a rain-affected round).

New balls, on the other hand, have no such defects when teed up - they have only recently been removed from their packaging – which means they are much more likely to fly straighter and experience less negative friction forces. If you're struggling on how to hit the golf ball straight, this guide will help you out.

What Kind of Range Balls Do Pros Get at Tournaments?

Do professionals competing in tour events have to use the same battered range balls as the rest of us? Obviously not. The PGA Tour uses premium golf balls for a purpose. The best golf balls are designed to spin less off the tee, maximize distance on longer shots, maintain control on shorter ones, and spin more around the greens for more control.

Manufacturers transport thousands of golf balls used by their tour players prior to a big tour golf tournament. Although these balls are commonly labeled "practice," they are identical to the golf balls used by tour professionals during tournament play. For example, Titleist will stamp "practice" on hundreds of Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls and transport them to tournament sites for the pros who use Titleist balls.

Tournament staff and volunteers organize and display these balls according to the brand and model for the tour players.

Final Thoughts 

Driving range golf balls are a must-have for anyone who regularly visits a driving range. Allow yourself some leeway if your range balls lack the spin or distance you desire; these are not proper golf balls. Always remember to select practice golf balls that are appropriate for your needs, clubs, budget, and location of play.

Hit many golf balls on a driving range or buy a launch monitor so you can practice 365 days a year. Golf is a fantastic game, and those who adore it are constantly on the lookout for new methods to practice. 

Strike those range balls, discover your secrets, and continue to improve!


References:

  1. What is Club Path? TrackMan Golf. https://blog.trackmangolf.com/club-path/

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