Every golf player knows how necessary the equipment for his play is. Different pieces of equipment come with different recognition marks to designate their specifics. Golf balls, for example, have red and black numbers for indication, but few golfers know the differences between these two colors.
Besides the color, of course, differences are in what black and red colors represent. Recently, manufacturers used red color numbers to indicate balls with a compression rating of 90 and the black color–balls with a compression rating of 100. Today, the red color indicates a soft feel, and the black color indicates a firm feel.
Of course, there are also other numbers on the golf balls that represent something. Regarding red and black numbers, some manufacturers still use them to express the compression and feel of the golf ball. It used to be a common belief in the golf circles that the compression rating of a golf ball shapes a player’s game, but times have changed.
Golf Ball General Outline
In general terms, a golf ball is a specialty piece of equipment solely for playing golf. Its structure consists of a solid core, a middle layer (or layers), and a cover. Golf ball’s physical and mechanical characteristics are controlled by the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A. (1)
Nowadays, the game of golf utilizes cutting-edge technologies and materials to create more and more modern models of golf balls. However, the main categories of golf balls remain almost the same because determination occurs by use. According to the purpose, types of golf balls are as follows:
- Advanced Golf Balls
- Recreational Golf Balls
- Practice/Range Golf Balls
- Recycled Golf Balls
List 1 Note: Source (1)
Golf ball manufacturers used various methods to mark the specific qualities of their products on the ball surface. One of the most popular ways used to be numbering. Some producers still use numbers in red and black, but the meaning of these two colors has changed.
One of the most significant traits of today’s golf balls is that they come with different technological specifics designed to support every type of golfer. All that players need to do is to check specifics online before choosing one. However, if you want to play golf a bit more seriously, a ball fitting process is recommended
Golf balls are offered on the market, usually pre-marked. Besides the brand and the golf ball model, the cover can usually show a number, letter, or symbol. In most cases, these signs distinguish one player’s golf balls from another’s, but actually, numbers and colors mean something else.
Golf Balls And Numbers
Before searching for differences between red and black color numbers that appear on the golf balls, you may be curious about all the numbers on the ball in general. You may know some of them, but if you do not, it is always better to be able to “read” your ball. The number of digits, the color, and the sequence vary for different brands, but all have at least one figure stamped on the top of the ball finish.
In golf, a general ratified system of numbering does not exist. Manufacturers determine themselves what system to use. Many golfers stick with one or two brands of golf balls because they “read” them the best.
Every golf ball has a one-digit number with or without a numbering system, usually printed right below the brand name. This number, in most cases, varies from 1 to 4, although you can see any figure between 0 and 9. In rare cases, some advanced golfers customize their balls with double-digit numbers. (2)
It may sound effortless, but the purpose of this one-digit number on the golf ball is just for identification. If both your opponent and you play with the same brand, model, and color of balls, you can easily distinguish them by choosing different numbers. Of course, many golfers mark their balls with some individual signs or symbols, but manufacturers want to make sure they have added the identification to bonus their models.
Some brands of golf balls use black and red colors to print these one-figure numbers. There is a reason behind that, but we will elaborate on it further. The first and foremost purpose of one-digit numbers on the golf balls is always for identification.
Another type of number that you can notice on a golf ball surface is a double-digit number. These numbers present the compression rating and usually vary from 30-40 to 100. However, do not be suppressed if you see a compression rating value above 100 somewhere because, generally, the rating varies from 0 to 200.
Compression rating used to be a determinant for golfers when choosing a golf ball to play. When players played with wound balls with different compression, only high-skilled golfers could use high compression balls. Nowadays, solid-core balls, which gradually displace wound balls, minimize compression effects. (2)
Manufacturers also used colors to distinguish the compression rating. Red color numbers indicated low and middle compression, while black color numbers presented the high compression golf balls. Today you can find such golf balls increasingly rare.
Although today compression rating does not affect golf ball performance as much as it used to be, some players are still interested. However, if you are one of these players, you do not need to look for red and black double-digit numbers on the golf balls you want to purchase. You have to check the compression rating of the balls you are interested in on the website of the chosen brand.
The Number Of The Dimples
Besides one and two-digit numbers on golf balls, three-digit numbers are also observed frequently, printed on the cover of some brands. The usual value is between 300 and 400. These three digits express the number of dimples on these specific golf balls.
The number of dimples marked on the golf ball does not indicate anything about its performance. It just represents the dimple pattern that the manufacturer uses. However, many producers like to be elaborate and as formal as possible when they present their brand on the golf ball cover.
Compression And Colors
Why was compression rating so essential to mark it on the surface of the golf balls and distinguish it by different colors? For some players, especially beginners, compression rate still plays a considerable role in adjusting and improving their game. However, what is compression exactly, and how does it affect the game?
Golf Ball Compression
The golf ball compression is the extent flattening of the ball at the moment of impact with the golf club head. The ball deforms, absorbing the energy initiated by the clubface. Then the internal wound structure of the golf ball bounces to recover its shape, which, launched by the club energy, initiates the flight.
Most golfers know that a lower compressed golf ball achieves more distance due to its springy effect. A high compressed golf ball, on the other hand, offers better control but has minimum bounce and requires higher swing speed for a good shot. As a result, only hi-skilled and professional golfers could use high compression golf balls, while other players had to pick low compression balls.
The golf ball compression rating is a value that measures the extent of deformation of a particular model of ball. The extent of deformation is determined in the laboratory by applying a mathematical formula to the ball test results to transform them into numerical values. Compression rating up to 90 is considered low, and a compression rating of 90 and above is considered high. (3)
Although compression rating has mostly an informative value, it can still be helpful for recreational golfers and beginners. Since it is proportionally related to the player’s swing speed, compression rating may serve as a navigator to your ball fitting. Knowing your swing speed will orient you to what type of golf balls to use to achieve maximum results in your game.
Red and Black Colors
In the 90-s, when wound golf balls were still dominant in the golf world, compression rating played a significant role in the choice of golf balls. Women, junior, beginners, and recreational golfers used to play with low-compression golf balls, while seasoned and pro-golfers picked high compression balls. To popularize the two types of balls and facilitate their clients in their choice, manufacturers implemented colored numbers for the rating – red for low compression and black for high.
Some companies used to paint the numbers on the golf balls in black and red to distinguish men’s from women’s and junior’s balls, as people knew them at the time. Black numbers for men, red for women and youth. However, this coloring has also been related to the compression rating since women and juniors used low-compression golf balls with red rating numbers.
Back at the time, when compression rating also influenced the sales of golf balls, coloring rating’s numbers had a commercial reason, too. The red color was easily distinguishable for the golfers, and it was easy for every client to choose between red and black numbers of golf balls. Some companies even came to this extent to paint specific compression values, such as 90 in red, or 100 in black, to customize their products better. (4)
Color For Golf Ball Feel
There are not many golfers that know the differences between red and black numbers on golf balls. Some think they know them, but actually, they have wrong or outdated information. If you ask this question in the golf forums, you will receive a considerable variety of answers, which may confuse you even more.
Some old school golfers would point out compression rating as a difference between the red and black numbers on the golf balls, and they would be right back at the time. Others would state that red numbers mean a compression rating of 90 while black numbers use a compression rating of 100. They also would be correct as long as you find such balls to play a round with them.
Golf Ball Feel
Lastly, most companies use red and black colors for the numbers on their golf balls to identify and express the ball’s feel at the moment of impact. Usually, red numbers mean a soft feel, while black numbers signify a firm feel. However, it depends, above all, on the manufacturer, what is his intention of color signification.
An illustrative example in this regard is the Titleist golf ball, whose models ProV1 and ProV1x use red and black-colored numbers. The two models have similar properties, but feel and distance make the difference. The red number of Titleist ProV1 expresses a softer feel, low long game spin, more penetrating trajectory, and a bit more roll after landing. (5)
The black numbered ProV1x, on the other hand, provides a firmer feel, higher short game spin, and more distance. You can find out that only by knowing the difference between the red and black numbers on Titleist’s golf balls. Below, we present a short comparison chart of Titleist’s ProV1 and ProV1x models’ characteristics marked by their different color numbers.
|Characteristics||Titleist ProV1||Titleist ProV1x|
|Long Game Spin||Low||Low|
|Short Game Spin||High||Higher|
Table 1 Note: Source (5)
Many producers borrow the Titleist’s manner to denote their softer feel golf balls with red numbers and their firmer feel balls with black numbers. Other manufacturers, on the contrary, paint in black for softer and red for a firmer feel. For a golfer is essential to know the meaning and differences between colored numbers of the brand he uses.
Golf Ball Identification
We need to mention identification once more because now we have to highlight the identification of the golf balls by color. Besides, by sequence of the numbers, manufacturers like to paint their numbers in red for better identification. Therefore, even if, by chance, it happens that two golfers play with the same brand and number of golf balls, they still can discern them.
Although it is implausible that two golfers play a round with absolutely the same brand and number of balls, many producers use red and black numbering only for identification reasons. Double or triple identification of the golf balls is not unusual in golf circles since many golfers use additional marking for their balls. Sometimes this marking has a sentimental or superstitious sense.
What Golf Balls Pros Prefer
As amateurs or just fans, we like to watch how and what equipment golf pros play. That is good and inspiring, but keep in mind that this is an entirely different level. Pros usually play with Premium golf balls, and the color of their numbers is mostly a matter of personal preference.
Modern Premium golf balls provide tour players with all the necessary qualities to play and win big tournaments. Professionals use both balls with black and red numbers, but their choice is based somewhat on the brand than on the color. Below we provide you with a shortlist of the best golf balls that champions like Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas used in the Tour Championship field.
- TaylorMade TP5X
- TaylorMade TP5
- Titleist Pro V1x
- Titleist Pro V1
- Bridgestone Tour B X
- Srixon Z Star XV
- Callaway Chrome Soft X
List 2 Note: Source (6)
It will not be unusual if you notice additional numbers, logos, or symbols on pros’ golf balls. Many of them customize their balls for a unique identification or emotional demonstration. Such customization is not a trademark for tour players only but is available for every golfer.
Golf Balls Numbers Color FAQ
Are There Any Other Numbers On Golf Balls?
Generally, manufacturers do not put any other numbers on their golf balls than those we already mentioned above. However, some golfers like to have custom numbers printed on their golf balls. In most cases, they are double-digit numbers that have an identifying, sentimental, or appreciative meaning for their owners.
Can I Play With Different Numbers Of Golf Balls?
You can play with different numbers and brands of golf balls, especially if you lose your ball at the golf course or damage it anyhow. There is no rule among the golf regulations that prohibits you from substituting your ball with another one with a different number. However, different tournaments may use different ball substitution rules, so make sure to follow them.
Do Golf Ball Numbers Fall Under Any Rules?
Overall, golf ball numbering does not fall under any specific rules imposed by R&A or the USGA. However, a golf rule forbids a player to use the same number on a golf ball throughout a round. However, many golfers are superstitious or want to keep their identification number, and instead of changing the number, they change its color to red or black.
- 1. Wikipedia, “Golf Ball.” Wikimedia Foundation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golf_ball Assessed May 30, 2021
- 2. Kelley, Brent. “ What the Numbers on a Golf Ball Mean?” LiveAbout, www.liveabout.com/numbers-on-a-golf-ball-1560493 Assessed May 30, 2021
- 3. Bodamer, Timothy. “What Is Golf Ball Compression?” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, https://golftips.golfweek.usatoday.com/golf-ball-compression-1459.html Assessed May 30, 2021
- 4. Golf News Net, “Why Do Golf Balls Have Numbers on Them, and What Do They Mean?” Golf News Net: What You Need to Know about Golf, https://thegolfnewsnet.com/golfnewsnetteam/2020/01/31/why-do-golf-balls-have-numbers-on-them-what-they-mean-118121/ Assessed May 31, 2021
- 5. Tursky, Andrew. “Know the Differences: Pro V1 vs. Pro V1x.” PGATour, PGATOUR.COM, www.pgatour.com/equipmentreport/2019/02/26/know-the-differences-titleist-pro-v1-pro-v1x-golf-ball-equipment.html Assessed May 31, 2021
- 6. Wall, Jonathan, et al., “What the Pros Play: Every Golf Ball in the Tour Championship Field.” Golf, https://golf.com/gear/golf-balls/every-golf-ball-tour-championship-field-2020/ Assessed June 1, 2021