Online sales of cheap golf balls sold direct to consumers have boomed in the last year, and little wonder. Although you won't see them being used by pros – or find them in our guide to the best golf balls come to that – they offer tremendous value.
Technological advancements have seen golf manufacturers come up with all sorts of different golf balls each aimed at a specific type of player. There is so much choice out there just on ball type alone, and that's before you even get into all the different brands competing for their slice of what is an enormous pie.
An estimated 1.2billion golf balls are produced every year (and most of them are lost in trees, water hazards, long rough etc) so it's a lucrative market and manufacturers are always looking for that little edge. "This ball goes further" or "this one flies straighter."
It can be overwhelming but this handy guide, plus my equally handy guide to which golf ball type you should be using will help you narrow down the search.
The type of ball you play is important but the brand you buy is far less so. The compression of the ball you use can make a difference, as can the quality of the cover or the softness of the feel. The name on it? Not really. Any golf ball manufacturer claiming their ball is significantly better than their competition is, let's be kind and say having delusions of grandeur.
Most of you have heard of Titleist ProV1, Callaway Chrome Soft and TaylorMade TP5 golf balls. You may have even played with them but even if you haven’t then you’ll surely be aware that most of the world’s top players use these balls so they must be really good. They are indeed really good, and unsurprisingly, they aren't cheap.
What you may not be aware of is that there are golf balls out there of an equal (or at least extremely similar) quality at a vastly lower price, made by companies you have probably never heard of.
Direct to Consumer (DTC) golf balls are becoming increasingly popular because they offer a high quality, significantly cheaper alternative to the established golf brands.
These golf balls are usually only available for online purchase and you can often make significant savings by buying in bulk.
So why aren’t more golfers aware of this? Well, part of the reason these companies can set their pricing so low is because they don’t spend fortunes on advertising. When it comes to marketing and promotion of their products they rely mostly on word of mouth, but a quick google search on brands such as Vice, Snell, Seed and others shows that they have a loyal and faithful following and that DTC golf balls is very much a growing market.
Given the changes in shopping habits, especially since Covid19, you can expect to see DTC companies become even more of a big time player in the golf world. These days golfers spend less money in their local club shop or their nearest American Golf outlet because they are buying online, and that increases the chances of them stumbling upon Vice or Snell or similar DTC products.
In some cases, these companies have either been founded by or they have hired individuals who spent years working for the likes of Titleist and TaylorMade and this is reflected in the quality of product. You aren’t sacrificing anything by choosing DTC golf balls but you are making a considerable saving on cost.
How can they produce the same quality of golf ball but charge significantly less for it? Simple really. They just have much, much lower overheads than TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist and the rest, which means they can pass that saving on to the customer.
They have cut out the middle man if you like. You won’t find these products in the golf retail outlet or the pro shop at your local golf course. That’s a big saving as there is no mark up on price.
Furthermore, they aren’t spending fortunes on marketing and TV advertising either, which once again helps to keep costs down. When you're watching the Masters on TV you will be bombarded with adverts as the big brands compete for your attention with claims over how they have produced the best driver on tour.
Last but by no means least, they aren’t handing over millions in endorsements to leading tour professionals in exchange for them using their equipment. Players wouldn't use that gear if it was no good, but it's the endorsement contracts that usually make one brand stand out ahead of others for tour pros.
So while Titleist have to factor all of that into their pricing of a box of ProV1 balls, DTC companies can produce a golf ball of the same (or very similar) quality but come in at a significantly lower price point, sometimes at as little as half the cost of the ‘name’ brand.
So without further ado, here’s our guide to the best direct to consumer brands and the best balls they produce for golfers of varying skill levels.
OnCore Golf offer three different balls with something for golfers of all skill levels at competitive prices.
The AVANT 55 ($19.99 per dozen) is a 2-piece low compression ball which is ideal for high handicap golfers and beginners. Featuring a surlyn cover with 392 dimple pattern for optimal trajectory and playability, the AVANT55 is ideal for moderate swing speeds and has a very soft feel around the greens and off the putter face.
The ELIXR was launched in 2017 and two years later Gary Player became an OnCore ambassador and played the ELIXR at the Masters.
The ELIXR has a premium cast urethane cover which delivers soft, pure feel off the club face and great control around the greens, while a unique polybutadiene core ensures maximum velocity and distance.
The VERO X1 is the newest offering from OnCore Golf and at $39.99 per dozen is the most expensive. Aimed at the more accomplished golfer, this is a four piece tour ball featuring enhanced perimeter-weighting which results in the highest allowable velocity off the club face and increased distance.
A nano-engineered transition layer to manage the interface between the mantle and a thin cast urethane cover delivers spin, control, and feel to match any ball on the market, including even the Titleist ProV1 and TaylorMade TP5.
The founder of this company, Dean Snell, spent many years with Titleist and TaylorMade in their golf ball research and development before branching out on his own to great success.
Snell is one of the foremost names in the world of golf ball development and his name is on the patents for 40 golf balls. During his time with Titleist he co-designed the ProV1, which is just about the best thing any golf ball designer can have on his resumé.
Whether it be DTC companies or the game's major players, however, they all seem to be following a fairly standard format these days in what they are producing.
Usually you'll have a premium, urethane cover, multi layered ball aimed at the more skilled player with a faster swing. There's generally a lower spinning version of that. Think ProV1 and ProV1x or TaylorMade TP5 and TP5x.
Below that you'll have a lower compression offering, often referred to as 'pro' or 'soft' and then finally there'll be a budget priced, 2-piece ball marketed as giving 'extra distance'. Virtually all of the golf ball manufacturers do this and in truth, there isn't much difference in the quality from one brand to another.
Snell Golf balls like the MTB (My Tour Ball) Black and MTB X can go toe to toe with all of the top premium balls on the market and the company have developed a large and loyal base of customers since their launch in March 2015.
MTB-X is a 3-piece ball for fast swings and offers low spin off the driver and increased spin on irons. MTB Black is also 3-piece but is a lower compression ball (75-80) ideal for average swing speeds. It is low spinning which promotes accuracy and it has a nice, soft feel around the greens.
Alternatively, the name may be a little cringeworthy but the 2-piece, medium compression “Get Sum” ball performs well and is ideal for mid-high handicappers. This ball flies higher with less spin and matches up well with any of the two-piece balls from the well known manufacturers.
Based in Germany, Vice are the most high profile of the DTC companies and the Vice Pro is the 'alternative brand' golf ball you are most likely to have heard of as it seems to be developing a reputation for being the choice of the 'cool kids'.
Vice have a huge Instagram presence and a link up with golf influencer Erik Anders Lang has certainly boosted their status, as has a collaboration with the NBA. It's as much a fashion statement as it is a golf choice but don't let that put you off. Vice golf balls stack up well against anything on the market.
Vice produce some quirky looking golf balls of varying bright colours and the “drip” colour scheme has proved especially popular even if it won’t sit well with golfing purists. Put it this way, if you are a member at one of the more, shall we say, stuffier golf clubs, you don’t want to be pulling one of those out on the first tee of your Sunday medal comp.
There are five ball choices offered by Vice on their website. The Vice Pro Plus is a 4-piece, premium ball aimed at the faster swinging, more accomplished player, as is the Vice Pro which is a 3-piece ball with a higher flight and more spin than the Pro.
Vice Pro Soft is for those with medium swing speeds, Vice Tour is an excellent budget choice for golfers of all abilities and Vice Drive is a 2-piece ball aimed at slower swingers looking for extra distance off the tee.
There is also a cool variety pack option available which gives you two of each of the five types of balls on offer.
According to its website, “Seed was founded by Dean Klatt in defiance of the corporate monoliths that use their dominance to dictate the direction of our game… what brand or product you should use and how much you should pay for it.”
Klatt worked for several well known golf brands and did not like the direction things were going. Higher prices, less innovation. As with many of the other DTC brands, Seed recognised that golf equipment, specifically balls, are often extremely overpriced due to the huge overheads the leading manufacturers incur while trying to outdo each other.
So Seed Golf was born and they offer a range of top quality golf balls at great prices.
The Pro One is a tour performance ball that Seed claim is “as good as anything out there” and there are enough reviews from respected golf YouTubers to back up that statement.
The Pro One will set you back £31 / AU$56 for a dozen balls which is cheap in relation to Titleist, TaylorMade and the rest but not so cheap in comparison with some of its DTC rivals. However, that price can be lowered with a subscription. More on that shortly.
The Pro Tour is a premium distance ball also priced at £31 / AU$56 per dozen. It flies lower off the tee due to lower spin with the driver, but spins well with irons.
The Pro Soft is a premium, 2-piece, lower compression, urethane covered ball aimed at golfers with medium swing speed. This too has a price tag of £31 / AU$56 per dozen.
The Country Mile is a 2-piece, low compression distance ball that comes in white, red or green. At just £13 / AU$24 for a dozen balls it represents incredible value, especially to wayward golfers who tend to lose several balls each round.
So as we mentioned, Seed also offer a subscription offer which can bring those prices down considerably. You choose which ball you like and then you set the frequency of how often you would like them delivered to your door.
The benefit of the subscription is you always get the best price available even on small orders. Usually, discounted prices are only available on bulk orders but with a subscription you get that discounted price even when buying a single box. So that £31 / AU$56 per dozen becomes a bargain £22 / AU$40.
You can cancel at any time and there is no commitment.
Cut Golf was founded on the premise of delivering “tour quality” golf balls at around half the price of industry leading brands. They are based in the US but you can buy direct from their UK website and their products are also available on Amazon for Australian customers.
They wanted to create a “ball for the people” while another slogan of theirs - Cut Golf's slogan game is strong - is that they produce “the best damn golf balls under twenty bucks” and in fairness that’s exactly what they have done. Three of the four ball types they produce are indeed under that threshold.
The one exception is the Cut DC, which is their newest offering and is priced at £29.95 (AU$47 on Amazon) per dozen. It’s a 4-piece, duel core, premium golf ball that Cut claim is suitable for players of all skill levels.
That may be true, but in general it will be the more accomplished players that will see the best results from the DC as it has a 105 compression. Average golfers should be looking at one of the following:
Cut Blue - a 4-piece, 90 compression ball with a tour quality urethane cover priced at just £19.95 (AU$30 on Amazon), which is, quite frankly, terrific value for a dozen urethane covered golf balls.
Cut Grey - a 3-piece, urethane cover with 80 compression and is also priced £19.95 (AU$35 on Amazon).
Cut Matte - a 65 compression, 3-piece construction ball with an ionomer cover in a matte finish. This ball comes in white, pink, orange and yellow and you can pick them up at £19.95 (AU$27 on Amazon) per dozen too.
Now for something completely different that might just blow your mind. Are you ready for this? Ok, just imagine if there was a ball that flew straight all the time no matter how much you sliced it. How cool would that be?
Spoiler alert: there is. It’s called the Polara ball and it flies straight no matter how much side spin you put on it.
That’s right, no more hooks or slices. This ball actually self corrects in flight. Sure, it’s illegal for tournament play, but if you’re playing for pleasure then no harm no foul, right? Besides, "if you ain't cheatin' you ain't tryin'" as some would say.
Imagine the fun you can have with a box of these bad boys three unsuspecting golf pals completely in the dark about it. Even with the ugliest of swings you're hitting fairway after fairway, much to their surprise and annoyance, while you try to downplay it by muttering things like "I've really got it going today" or "I wish I could play like this every week".
Actually I think I may have just talked myself into buying a box of these.
So how does this miracle ball work then? Well it’s all about the dimple pattern, which in 1981 the USGA and R&A decided should not be legal for tournament play and changed their rules to outlaw Polara and anything similar.
Without boring you with the specifics, the dimples are set up in a way that allows the ball to straighten itself in the air. The ball has to be aligned a certain way for it to function correctly, which is of course easy to do from the tee but not really possible on the fairway unless you are playing lift and place winter rules.
It depends how seriously you take your golf though. If you’re just playing for fun and aren’t keeping score then you can just line the ball up correctly prior to every shot and then just marvel at the straight flight of your ball time and again.
It's a recreational golfer's dream and there is a practical reason for using it too, as it speeds up play considerably when you aren't wasting 45 minutes per round trudging around in the woods looking for errant tee shots.
Polara claim this ball flies 75% straighter than other golf balls and plenty of respected golf youtubers have proven that to be the case with some entertaining videos. Check them out for yourself, even if you don't buy the balls it's still fascinating to watch.
The only downside to Polara golf balls (other than them being illegal for competition play!) is that you will lose distance on the more wayward shots that need to self correct too much, as the spin can cause it to nose dive. That’s a small price to pay to get rid of that slice though, surely?
On the subject of price, the Polara doesn’t come cheap but they should last you longer than the average golf ball because they’re much harder to lose!
You can buy them direct from Polara but for anyone not in the US, Amazon will be cheaper because of the savings on postage.