Golf balls consist of at least two components: the core and the cover. Each is made of different materials, which all combine to make the modern golf ball a marvel of sporting science.
What’s Inside a Golf Ball?
During the early history of golf, the inside of a golf ball was made of feathers! Fortunately, the sport has evolved past this point.
What’s inside a golf ball now is a core built from synthetic rubbers infused with polymers, such as polybutadiene, the current popular choice of material for golf ball cores.
Some manufacturers will simply wrap a cover around the core: Titleist do this with the Pro V1, for example. A two-piece golf ball with just two layers will fly straighter and spin less, making it easier to control where the ball goes.
Alternatively, some manufacturers go for a smaller core and wrap a mantle around it, and then add the cover. The Mizuno RB566V is a good example of a three-piece ball. Doing this promotes low spin and longer distance. The mantle layer was previously made of lots and lots of rubber bands, giving rise to the phrase “wound golf ball.” Nowadays, the mantle is made of a stiffer polymer.
The inside of the golf ball matters because of the compression it can withstand. In golf, compression affects how the golf ball flies. When your club hits the ball, the impact will affect the shape of the ball in flight. Softer golf balls offer lower compression and fly further. Harder golf balls offer higher compression and allow for better control and accuracy.
Golf Ball Covers
To maximise the energy of a club impact and send the golf ball flying, its cover has to be stiff. Not too stiff, or else it will shatter, but not so soft that it won’t fly far enough.
There are two materials that strike this magical balance: Surlyn and urethane. Urethane is a kind of thermoplastic, while Surlyn is a type of ionomer resin. Surlyn covers tend to be used on three-piece balls because it produces more spin, while urethane aids in achieving distance.
The golf ball cover also has dimples to reduce drag and make them more aerodynamic.
So, there you have it: golf balls are made of synthetic rubber with either a plastic or a resin cover.
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