In an era where most professional golfers change golf balls at least a handful of times per round, 25-year-old Alex Chiarella did something truly remarkable at the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open when he opted to play the same Titleist Pro V1x for all 72 holes en route to his first Mackenzie Tour victory.
For the average golfer, making it through 18 holes unscathed without losing a ball is a cause for celebration. Wayward tee shots and the occasional bad bounce make it commonplace to lose at least one ball per round, which is why it’s always advisable to have a few spare pellets in the bag, just in case.
Even professionals carry extra balls — somewhere in the neighborhood of seven to 12 — but their reasons differ slightly when it comes to putting a new sphere in play. Some believe there’s a performance benefit to be had by using at least a few new balls per round, while others, like 2019 U.S. Open winner Gary Woodland, are superstitious and prefer to change balls when a square goes on the card.
But with only four bogeys during the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Woodland went extended stretches with the same ball in play, never once considering the thought of swapping for a freshie.
“I love the durability,” said Woodland, who currently plays the Pro V1. “I only switch balls when I make bogeys, so I only took four balls out of play at the U.S. Open. So, I played with the same ball a lot, which was nice. But, the big deal is consistency and no surprises and I didn’t have any of those.”
Given the lengthy stretches Chiarella and Woodland have gone recently without changing balls, it begs the question: How long can a golfer go with using the same ball before noticing a performance drop-off?
According to a Titleist representative, “they have considerable communication with ‘regular’ golfers as well who will write us about the durability and performance of our golf balls with images of the golf ball having played over 120 consecutive holes with the same ball.”
In other words, if the ball takes on wear during the normal course of play, the average golfer won’t see a drop-off in performance. However, that changes when the ball, for example, catches the cart path or ricochets off a tree and incurs a scuff larger than the size of a dime.
“Our normal rule of thumb for regular golfers is as long as paint loss, a scuff or defacement of the golf ball is less than the size of a dime, it should be good to go,” the representative said.
With significant improvements to the overall durability of the elastomer cover, it’s no longer a requirement to rotate balls like it was during the heyday of the liquid-filled balata.
If Alex Chiarella can use the same ball for 72 holes in a competitive event, you can do the same thing without sweating performance. That’s assuming, of course, you can keep it in play for four-plus rounds.
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