You’ve probably heard of two, three, sometimes four and five-piece golf balls by now. But what does that actually mean? (Well, I’m not a scientific guy myself, so I’ll try and make it simple to understand. Best not to ask why this stuff works the way it does, just trust what I’m telling, you, ok?)
Multilayer golf balls are what make it possible to hit long, low-spinning drives and higher-spinning short shots. With a driver we tend to hit the ball on a relative flat angle, meaning the golf ball compresses more than it does with an iron, which hits the ball more on an angle (more on that in a second). The harder you swing with a driver, the more the ball will compress. Golfers with faster swingspeeds benefit from having firm golf balls, especially towards the core. The firmer the core, the greater the energy transfer, but only if you swing hard enough transfer energy from the clubhead into the middle of the ball. If you don’t swing fast enough (let’s say, less than 100 mph), softer golf balls with fewer midlayers will work better for you. The goal with a driver is to compress the firmest ball as much as you can. If you’re playing a ball that’s too firm or has too many layers, you’re not getting as much distance as you would a softer ball with fewer midlayers.
This is why two-piece and even some three-piece models are geared towards average swingspeeds. Sure, they’re cheaper to make, but they also make the most sense with a driver in terms of helping average swingspeeds milk out the most distance off the tee. And by the way, dimple patterns have more to do with how high/low a ball flies with a driver than does the firmness of the ball and cover. Most average swingspeeds compress through the cover with a driver anyway, so if you want higher ballflights go with more dimples. If you want lower ballflights, go with fewer, bigger dimples.
Now, are you still with me? I know, this is heavy stuff. Go ahead and read that over again if you’re lost. Here’s where multi-layer golf balls really do what they’re supposed to do. With irons, and even some woods and hybrids, you’re essentially hitting across the golf ball, not directly into it as you are with a driver. So, when you have soft, Urethane-covered multi-layer ball, the clubhead compresses into the cover, but doesn’t compress enough to go beyond one, maybe two midlayers in the ball. The firm midlayer(s) and and the clubface essentially squish the cover through the shot, thus adding more spin. Now, some golfers who want a lot of spin, opt for very soft covers with very firm midlayers, while others who want moderate spin prefer soft covers with slightly softer midlayers. Lastly, some, who don’t need backspin (and want more distance instead) stick to firmer covers with no midlayers.
The point being, you need a pretty fast swingspeed to take advantage of a multi-layer ball of the tee with a driver. In fact, I think if you swing below 100 mph and you’re using a soft-covered multi-layer ball, you’re shorting yourself some extra distance you might get with a soft ball that has a firmer cover, or one that has fewer, softer midlayers. Unanimously and for all skill levels, I prefer golf balls with soft covers, since it helps to hit more finesse shots around the green. But if you’re a slower swinger (less than 100 mph), it’s up to you to decide if more distance off the tee is more important, or more feel around the green is what you want. It’s hard to have both with a slower swingspeed.
If you swing over 100 mph with a driver, stick with a ball that has at least three layers and a soft, durable cover. You don’t need a two-piece ball for more distance (you’ll get more with a multi-layer), instead find a ball that feels and flies the way you like. Just remember, when it comes to chipping and pitching, the cover of the ball matters a lot. The softer it is, the more opportunities you’ll have around the green to hit more creative shots.