Soft Vs Hard Golf Balls (4 key Differences + 5 Simple Tips To Help You Choose)

While clubs often steal the limelight, the golf ball is the unsung hero of every shot. It’s the conduit for your skill, transforming swing speed and technique into distance, spin, and control.

The right golf ball complements your gameplay and can markedly elevate it. With options ranging from soft to hard, each offering unique performance characteristics, a savvy choice can be your secret weapon for lower scores. 

By the end, you’ll know between soft vs hard golf balls, which type is best suited for your golfing style.

  • How Do You Tell If a Golf Ball Is Hard Or Soft?
  • How Soft vs Hard Golf Balls Affect Your Score
  • 4 Key Differences Between Hard and Soft Golf Balls
  • Swing Speed Determines Firmness of Your Golf Ball
  • Performance Comparison Across Clubs
  • Which Ball Should I Go With Then? 5 Tips To Help You Choose
soft vs hard golf balls and how to choose between them

How Do You Tell If a Golf Ball Is Hard Or Soft?

You can determine if a golf ball is hard or soft primarily by its compression rating, usually indicated on the packaging or in product descriptions.

Soft Golf Ball Features

A soft golf ball has a lower compression rating (40-70), ideal for players with swing speeds below 90 MPH. They offer a softer feel and better control around the greens but may be less durable than hard balls.

Hard Golf Ball Features

A hard golf ball features a higher compression rating (90-110), best suited for players with swing speeds above 100 MPH. They offer greater distance and control but may feel less forgiving on impact. These balls are typically more durable.

mix of soft and hard golf balls

Hard or Soft Golf Balls Will Affect Your Score

Your choice between a soft or hard golf ball can affect your playing experience and overall performance entirely. 

Golf balls have seen a phase of evolution over the decades, and today, golfers can choose between soft vs hard golf balls.

The former, with their lower compression, are more forgiving and can enhance distance for players with slower swing speeds. They also offer a softer feel, beneficial for short-game touch and finesse.

On the other hand, hard balls offer higher spin rates and are optimized for control. This makes them ideal for high-swing speed players looking to shape shots with precision. Additionally, the more durable material of hard balls can extend the life of your golf ball.

So, the gist is that the ball you choose can accentuate your strengths or expose your weaknesses, making it an essential consideration for any golfer aiming for improvement.

hard golf ball about to be hit

4 Key Differences Between Hard & Soft Golf Balls

The density of a golf ball is about more than just changing the cover. Today’s golf balls are scientifically balanced to address the needs of a wide range of golfers. Find out where you fall on the spectrum of hard vs soft by examining the inner workings of a golf ball. 

#1: Material and Durability

Soft golf balls typically feature covers made of urethane, while hard golf balls often employ Surlyn as the cover material. This distinction influences the tactile sensation upon impact and the ball’s durability.

Surlyn-covered hard balls are generally more cut-resistant and longer-lasting compared to urethane-covered soft balls.

#2: Spin Characteristics

When it comes to imparting spin on the ball, hard golf balls offer a distinct advantage. Their firmer construction allows for a higher spin rate, granting skilled players greater control and the ability to shape shots more precisely.

Similarly, soft balls usually generate lower spin. This makes them more forgiving.

mix of hard and soft golf balls of different color

#3: Compression and Energy Dynamics

One of the easiest methods of determining a soft vs hard golf ball is to compare their compression rating. Soft balls feature lower compression, allowing players with slower swing speeds to achieve full compression at impact, resulting in more accurate and straighter shots.

Hard balls, on the other hand, have higher compression ratings. This allows for greater distance but also requires faster swing speeds to optimize energy transfer.

You can check more about golf compression charts to make a better decision.

#4: Tactile Feedback

In golf, ‘feel’ refers to the subjective sensation a player experiences when making contact with the ball.

Between soft vs hard golf balls, the former tends to provide a more cushioned, comfortable feel upon impact, making them a popular choice among average players.

In contrast, hard balls can offer a less forgiving, more solid feel, which may not be suitable for those with slower swing speeds.

soft golf ball being helf up in the air

Match Your Golf Ball With Your Swing Speed

Choosing the right golf ball between soft vs hard golf balls is closely linked to your swing speed, which significantly influences how the ball behaves post-impact.

How to Measure Swing Speed

You can use professional equipment like launch monitors, avail of services at specialized pro shops, or opt for simpler, more accessible methods like swing speed radars and smartphone apps to gauge your speed.

I also highly recommend you make use of a golf swing speed chart.

High Swing Speed <98 mph

If you’re among those whose swing speed is nearing or eclipsing 100 mph, hard golf balls are your best bet. These balls offer greater distance due to their higher compression.

Additionally, hard balls give you more control, which can be particularly beneficial in windy conditions.

hard pink golf ball on a tee

Moderate to Low Swing Speed >90 mph

For those with a swing speed below 90 mph, soft golf balls are generally more effective. These balls have a lower compression, making it easier to achieve full compression upon impact, which can result in more distance.

Soft balls also tend to be more forgiving on mishits, which is primarily why beginners prefer soft vs hard golf balls more.

Middle Ground 91-98 mph

If your swing speed falls in the moderate range, between 91 and 98 mph, consider mid-compression balls. These offer a balanced mix of distance and control. They adapt well to a range of swing speeds.

Essentially, this means that you can use them if you’re a golfer whose speed tends to fluctuate. 

soft vs hard golf balls

Performance Comparison Across Clubs

Selecting a golf ball is not just about how it performs off the tee; it’s also about its behavior when struck with different clubs. Many golfers don’t realize that the same golf ball can yield drastically different results when used with a driver compared to a wedge or a putter.

Drivers and Woods

With drivers and woods, hard golf balls can offer more distance due to their higher compression and the resultant better energy transfer. However, you might find that a soft ball offers a more controlled flight path, reducing the chances of errant shots.

Irons and Hybrids

When you get to your irons and hybrids, spin control becomes more of an issue. Hard golf balls often provide more spin, giving better players more control over shot shaping. On the other hand, soft golf balls tend to reduce spin, making them potentially more forgiving for the average or weekend golfer.

soft golf ball almost in the hole


In the short game, especially when using wedges, the softer balls have an advantage in terms of feel and spin around the greens. Their softer construction allows for more ‘grab’ on the greens, providing better control for chips and pitch shots

Hard balls, however, may bounce more and are generally less predictable in these scenarios.


The putter is where ‘feel’ is perhaps most crucial. Most golfers prefer a softer feel when putting, as it provides better feedback and generally results in a smoother roll.

The problem with hard golf balls is that they can sometimes feel too ‘clicky’ or ‘slappy,’ impacting your confidence on the greens. But before you start pointing fingers at your golf ball, make sure that your putter grip is fine, as it may be the culprit behind your mishits

close up of a hard golf ball

Which Ball Should I Go With Then? 5 Simple Tips To Help You Choose

Making the right choice in golf balls is not merely a matter of personal preference; it’s a decision that can significantly impact your game. 

Here are some actionable steps to guide you in this important selection.

#1: Identify Your Swing Speed

The first step in choosing the right ball is understanding your swing speed. If it’s over 98 mph, you might benefit more from a hard golf ball. On the other hand, if your swing speed is below 91 mph, a soft ball could be more advantageous. Use specialized swing speed meters or the formula mentioned earlier to find out your numbers.

#2: Prioritize Your Needs

Ask yourself what you’re really looking for in a golf ball. If control is your main concern, soft golf balls offer higher spin rates that might suit you. If durability is key, then hard golf balls are generally more resistant to cuts and scuffs.

hard golf ball in the rough

#3: Consider Your Skill Level

If you’re a beginner or average golfer scoring close to 100 on a par 72 course, you’ll likely prefer the forgiving nature of softer golf balls. Advanced players with lower handicaps might opt for hard balls for better energy transfer and distance.

#4: Test in Different Playing Conditions

In the soft vs hard golf balls debate, know that both can behave differently depending on the course conditions. Test both types in various conditions—wet, dry, windy—to see which one performs best for you.

#5: Cost-Benefit Analysis

Soft balls tend to be pricier but offer better feel and control. Hard balls are generally more affordable and last longer. Balance your budget with your performance needs.

soft gold ball on fairway

Summary—Soft vs Hard Golf Balls

Choosing between soft vs hard golf balls shouldn’t be a guessing game. Consider your swing speed, your performance goals, and the types of courses you play when making your decision. 

I would strongly recommend soft golf balls for beginners as they are a safe bet for most players. On the contrary, if you’re a golfer with faster swing speeds, then you may find hard balls more to your liking.

We’re lucky and cursed that so many balls are manufactured. It’s nice knowing that the perfect ball for us exists, but it may take a few attempts before we finally discover which one actually is the perfect fit for our game. 

Next Up: Do Golf Balls Get Waterlogged? We Explore The Results Of Leaving A Golf Ball In Water

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After graduating from the Professional Golf Management program in Palm Springs, CA, I moved back to Toronto, Canada, turned pro and became a Class 'A' member of the PGA of Canada. I then began working at some of the city's most prominent country clubs. While this was exciting, it wasn't as fulfilling as teaching, and I made the change from a pro shop professional to a teaching professional. Within two years, I was the Lead Teaching Professional at one of Toronto's busiest golf instruction facilities. Since then, I've stepped back from the stress of running a successful golf academy to focus on helping golfers in a different way. Knowledge is key so improving a players golf IQ is crucial when choosing things like the right equipment or how to cure a slice. As a writer I can help a wide range of people while still having a little time to golf myself!

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