Closeup of a golf ball

What Is Golf Ball Compression?

Golf ball compression is one of those terms you hear all the time around golf but do you know what it really means?

Golf ball compression is a way in which ball manufacturers measure the overall hardness of the ball. Golf ball compression ratings most commonly seen between 70 and 110 but can go well outside those ranges. A lower compression rating means a softer golf ball and a higher compression rating means a harder golf ball.

The term compression comes from the fact that when struck with a club, the ball will compress and then rebound off of the club at a high rate of speed. Generally speaking, the higher the compression rating, the faster club speed you need to compress the ball and create that rebound effect.

That compression and rebound is why a ball typically travels faster off the club than the club itself is traveling. For example, a golfer swinging a driver at 100mph and striking the ball right on the sweet spot can cause the ball to travel near 150mph. That’s a ball speeed 1.5 times the speed of the club (that 1.5 ratio is often referred to as “smash factor”).

The added energy is created by the compression of the ball.

To visualize what this looks like, check out this video of a golf ball hitting a steel plate at 150mph to see an extreme example of a golf ball being compressed. This was filmed at 40,000 frames per second.

Does Golf Ball Compression Matter?

In a word, yes. Compression may be the most important factor to look at when choosing a golf ball.

Too hard for your swing speed and it won’t compress enough to create a rebound effect, too soft and it will be a waste of the energy generated from your swing. Ball manufacturers measure this on a number scale usually ranging from 70-110. Many golfers just tend to go for the popular models like a ProV1 and assume that since it is so expensive, it must be great for everyone.

Golf Ball Compression Ratings

Compression ratings are a measurement of how hard or soft a golf ball is. Compression can range from 20s to 120 or even more.

Golf ball manufacturers tend not to advertise the compression numbers so it can be a little difficult to find the right one for you. However, the good news is that this is actually changing in recent years.

Callaway has been a bit of a pioneer in promoting balls like these Callaway Supersoft golf balls specifically because of their low compression ratings. I think they realized that golf consumers were becoming more educated and savvy on the subject of golf ball compression. They realized that most golfers aren’t swinging their driver at 110+ mph and could really benefit from a softer golf ball.

In fact, you can learn more in this article I wrote about the benefits of low compression golf balls and some of the best ones on the market today.

Finding The Right Compression For You

Generally speaking, the faster you swing the club, the higher golf ball compression you can take advantage of.

That doesn’t always mean the faster swingers MUST use a high compression ball. But, it is a good starting point.

First off, you should know your swing speed with the driver at least. The average 15 handicap golfer has a swing speed with their driver of around 90-95 mph. Of course as you get older that may decline a little bit even if you get a little better and shave a few strokes off the score. Once you know your driver swing speed you can make a better decision about what compression ball is right for you.

Chart of golfer swing speed and carry distance by level of play
Most golfers don’t have the swing speed to take advantage of higher compression golf balls.

Does Hitting Down On The Ball Compress It More?

One way in which the term “compression” is often used incorrectly in golf is when someone says you need to hit down on the ball to compress it more.

The fact is that the ball does not compress down against the ground. Although a really solid strike can often feel like that is what is happening, high speed video technology has made it quite clear that the ball only compresses against the club. In fact, if you were able to hit the ball with a swing the compressed it against the ground, you would probably break your club, hurt yourself, and end up with a ball driven into the ground.

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