Range Ball Fittings and Comparison: Driver, Irons & Wedges
Range balls are always relevant and everyone will have to hit with lesser quality range balls at one time or another - whether they like it or not. Many even take part in demo days or are fitted with range balls. We will see why this is not a good idea in the course of this article. In our test, we used GCQuad to determine the exact differences between a standard 3-piece ball and a two-piece practice ball that is also already used a lot. Nevertheless, there are far worse range balls, e.g. one piece balls and/or with more weight. From our point of view, this is a "standard" range ball that is not manipulated to intentionally make shots shorter. Let's take a look at the differences:
Rangeball and Driver
Let's start with the longest club in the bag. For this we will intentionally use a driver that is optimised for a flat launch and low spin just to illustrate the differences. This would be a driver that produces halfway good values with a normal ball and should be absolutely no problem with a range ball. The problem is mainly that the ball speed is reduced by 4 miles and the spin is also somewhat reduced. The result is a ball flight that is too low and almost 30m less carry length. What also became apparent in individual shots is that shots with a slightly too closed clubface immediately crash left with the range ball, while they can still be controlled well with the normal ball.
The example with the driver shows that e.g. driver fitting with range balls makes no sense at all if these values are not corrected exactly. It also shows that a driver that works well with a normal ball produces catastrophic values with a range ball that make you doubt your tool. A confidence boost looks different.
Range ball and Irons
With a 6 iron, the differences don't look quite so dramatic. We lose about 3mph of ball speed, the launch is also minimally lower as is the spin, but all in all the range ball still produces reasonably good scores. The lack of ball speed and the lower launch is clearly noticeable in the ball flight. The trajectory is flatter and the carry length is shorter. A practice session or a fitting with an iron is definitely a bit different, but the deviations are still within reason. For us, therefore, the iron did not deliver any big surprises.
Range ball and Wedges
The situation is completely different with the wedges. The numbers are an absolute disaster and it is as if you are holding a completely different club in your hand or playing a different game. The glaring difference lies in the launch on the one hand, but above all in the spin. While the normal ball launches with 32°, the range ball produces 40° launch. The normal ball produces 8848rpm backspin, the Rangeball 3174rpm - that would be a good value for a 3-wood. The ball speed is also lower with the Rangeball - but this hardly matters in view of the catastrophic spin and launch values.
Serious training does not make sense with range balls and wedges, and fitting makes absolutely no sense either. The problem is simply that the wedge lives from the strong friction between the ball and the club face. If this friction is missing - as is the case in wet conditions, for example - the ball simply glides over the club face, does not absorb any spin and, above all, produces a high launch.
Only in the case of the irons can we state that the differences between the normal and range ball are within reason. The differences are clear but not necessarily dramatic. With drivers and especially wedges it looks quite different. The values are so different that clubs that are actually well optimised can only achieve suboptimal results. With wedges in particular, you should only use range balls to warm up - but certainly not for serious training and certainly not for a fitting.