Follow the Bouncing Octahelix Dimple Pattern

Balls are on the front lines of the economic and ethical equipment battles. Some golfers fear that advances in equipment may render some of the game's most storied courses obsolete (although you won't hear them complain about extra yards off the tee). All we can say is it hasn't happened yet. St. Andrews continues to entertain and challenge golfers as it has for centuries. After all, whether the ball is stuffed with feathers or liquid or rubber, golf remains a game of accuracy and consistency, not merely distance. Because balls fly farther doesn't mean they necessarily fly straighter.

  Which ball you favor, like clubs, shafts, grips or head covers, is a matter of personal preference. Golf has always been a fount of eccentricity and superstition. Some golfers won't play high numbered balls because they think they encourage higher scores. Others prefer balls with the number 8 on them, in the belief that they offer better symmetry in flight. Who knows?

  Shopping for golf balls can be confusing. On the outside of the box (commonly called a 'sleeve'), you'll often find various product descriptions. Like most products, golf balls are tailored to fit the needs of different clienteles. Three terms every golfer should have at least a working knowledge of are: compression, balata and surlyn.

  Compression is an industry yardstick that measures the hardness of the ball. The higher the compression the harder the ball. Three-piece balls have liquid centers wound with elastic and covered with balata rubber. They're said to be easier to put backspin on and curve more easily in flight, attributes that make them more appealing to professionals. Balata balls are, however, more susceptible to cuts and scuff marks.

  Two-piece balls have a solid synthetic center covered with surlyn. They are believed to be the more durable of the two and roll farther, but are harder to put English on. Because of their durability (not to mention the possibility of a few extra yards), two-piece surlyn balls at 90 compression are recommended.

  We can make one unqualified endorsement. X-out balls, on most store and pro shop shelves, sell for considerably less than top-of-the-line models. Some golfers won't touch them, but for the average player they play as true as a regular ball in both velocity and distance. X-outs are factory overruns or balls with cosmetic blemishes. They're also brand-new (as opposed to the jar of used and possibly water-logged balls on pro shop counters). The ones with corporate logos or business names on them are the best of the bunch.