The best all-around golf ball on the planet?

In the game of golf, the most stringent demands placed on a piece of equipment are on the golf ball.

We need a ball that doesn’t spin much to get maximum distance off the tee. But we also need that same ball to react with high spin for the approach and finesse shots into and around the green. The cover needs to be durable enough to resist scuffing with the iron and wedge shots.

In the past, we had to pick golf balls that offered the best compromise for your game. If you needed more distance off the tee, you generally gave up a bit of control coming into the greens and vice versa. Durability was always an issue. Those soft covers that offered the best spin and feel never really lasted very long.

But in the golden age of golf technology, compromise is a dirty word. The science has evolved to the point where one golf ball can do everything that the golfer demands of it and do it well.

I’ve always liked TaylorMade’s five-piece golf ball in all their iterations; from the original Penta to last year’s Tour Preferred golf balls, each has performed admirably. I would have no trouble gaming them in an important match.

There were high expectations then, for the 2017 TaylorMade TP5 and TP5x. Their predecessors are among the most highly regarded in the industry so nothing but the highest performance was the goal.

As is the current fashion, TaylorMade introduced two variants; the TP5 and the TP5x. Both use the same five-piece construction but are engineered differently. The TP5 flies a bit lower and spins a bit more, while the TP5x flies higher and spins less. The TP5x is longer with the driver and behaves better in the wind. It feels a bit firmer on short game shots and with the putter but it’s not clicky by any means.

The TP5 is a great all-around ball. Distance with the driver is long but, perhaps, not quite as long as the TP5x. Distance control is stellar. It feels noticeably softer off the putter and with wedges around the green.

Both balls use a three-piece core that reacts progressively when struck fully with the longer clubs. It keeps spin low, while providing explosive response on full strikes. Both use two-piece covers; a soft-cast urethane cover and a semi-rigid inner cover creates the maximum interaction between the cover and the grooves of your club.

I’m also pleased to note that the cover is remarkably durable. I played 36-holes of golf with a TP5x and the only damage it showed was some fading of the number. My friends were hard-pressed to pick the used ball out of the sleeve. I gave a sleeve to one of them and he put one ball through 54-holes of golf and reported that the cover, although showing a little more wear, still looked presentable.

The interesting thing is how TaylorMade managed to make a golf ball that spins less and still performs around the greens. Normally, the ball that spins the most performs the best with the short game. TaylorMade has made up for that using the five-piece construction. If the speed of the shot is such that it interacts with the core, then spin is reduced. Again, if the speed of shot slow enough so it doesn’t activate the core, the two-piece cover is the primary influence on spin and trajectory. The new cover technology virtually forces the soft urethane cover into the grooves creating spin on short shots. How they managed to make it durable is beyond me.

After going through a sleeve of each ball, it was apparent that we had a keeper. As tour-caliber golf balls, both perform up to expectations. Distance control is automatic but on full hits we were getting a half to a full club more distance than our respective gamers.

The added distance was most apparent with the driver. You’ll be hitting shorter clubs into the greens of par 4s. Furthermore, both balls (but the TP5x, especially) exhibited exemplary performance in windy conditions.

We’re all involved in a continuing search for any bit of tech that will help us get every iota of performance from our golf game. Here is a golf ball that hands it to us in a box. It’s long off the tee, responsive into the greens and will stand up to the abuse heaped on it.

It’s in the bag!


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