If you're new to the game of golf, you may have noticed that golf balls have number on them. But what do the numbers printed on a golf ball mean? In this article we're going to answer this question and give you some in depth information too.
It's not that complicated, but number on a golf ball can mean a few things. Most golf ball manufacturers will put numbers on balls, mostly to stop you picking up the wrong golf ball but that's not the only reason.
The numbers on a golf ball could indicate:
● An identification number, so you can tell which ball is yours (most common)
● The number of dimples on the golf ball
● The golf ball's compression rating
Identification purposes (most common)
By far the most common number on a golf ball is a single digit number printed for identification purposes.
Many golfers will play the same brand and model of ball and this can cause mix ups when players are looking for their balls after hitting their shots. It's common practice to tell your playing partners which make and model of ball you're playing on the first tee along with it's identifying number or markings.
Most major manufacturers like Titleist, Callaway, Srixon, TaylorMade and Bridgestone will print a single digit number from 1-4 on their balls. Why is this? Most golfers purchase golf balls in boxes of a dozen. These are split into sleeves of three, with each sleeve having the same number printed on them. 12 divided by 3 is four sleeves, so you'll most likely have 1-4 on your balls.
It's has become more common for players to customise the number on their balls when buying them from a store like Golf Galaxy or direct from the manufacturer. This used to be something reserved to professional golfers, but now an avid golfer can select a number with a personal meaning to go on their balls.
Personal Golf ball numbers for identification can go into double digit numbers but most golf balls will have single digit numbers. If you play the same golf ball as your playing partners but don't want to splash the cash on some custom balls, using a permanent marker to make some unique markings will do the job. Never play the wrong ball on the golf course again!
These identification numbers are found on all manufactured golf balls, whereas dimple numbers are optional. Depending on the brand of golf balls you have, it's usually found directly above or underneath the brand name.
Number of Dimples: Three digit number
It's not that common these days, but you might see a triple digit number on your golf ball. This number is probably be found underneath the ball's brand name and can range anywhere from 300 to 500. This number is telling you how many dimples or indentations there are on the golf ball.
Knowing the number of dimples on the ball helps you to understand how it might perform when you've hit it. The Titleist PRO V1 used to have the number 392 printed on its cover to indicate that it had 392 dimples. The manufacturer took this off after 2005 as golfers then understood that this was a premium golf ball. It was also to differentiate between the PRO V1* (392 dimples) and the PRO V1X (332 dimples).
Dimples on a golf ball are responsible for creating boundary layer of air that clings to the ball's surface. In basic language this means that your ball will fly through the air with a level of predictability if you strike it consistently.
If you've ever played an old scuffed up ball you took from a driving range, you might notice that it behaves strangely in the air. This is because there is uneven friction or none at all which can make the ball drop out of the sky with no spin.
Some golf ball manufacturers no longer print the number of dimples on a ball, or they never did. Of course, like many golf ball manufacturers out there, some have roots going back a long time. Printing the number of dimples on a golf ball is part of what makes up their brand.
Golf ball compression rating
This is probably less common than the number of dimples, but you might find a two or three digit number on a golf ball which relates to its compression ratings.
Golf ball compression rating isn't something that was that interesting until manufacturers started releasing extreme distance and "soft" golf balls into the market. I've written a full article about golf ball compression but basically, a lower compression rating will be a "soft" feeling golf ball and a high compression rating will equate to a firmer or "faster" golf ball.
Most golfers prefer a ball with a medium compression rating which gives them a combination of green side feel and then distance with their longer clubs.
When it comes to compression, the numbers range between a score of 30 and 120. The softest being 30, and the hardest 120.
Red vs. black numbers on golf balls
Often the colour of the number on a golf ball doesn't have much meaning other than for design and marketing purposes. You might have noticed that on some Titleist golf balls, the number below the brand name is either red or black. Red numbers on a Titleist ball mean it's a Pro V1X and black is used on pretty much every other ball that they make.
TaylorMade will use lots of different colours, the RBZ has green numbers while their project(a) ball had orange numbers.
Srixon will will use blue numbers on golf balls for their AD333 model and green numbers for their Soft Feel model.
As a rule though, you will see a red number on the harder variation of a brand's premium golf ball. This is the case for Titleist (Pro V1 line), TaylorMade (TP5 line), and Bridgestone.
Final thought on number on golf ball and what numbers on golf ball means
Most commonly, the number printed on golf balls is for identification purposes. If you're playing a competitive game of golf and play the wrong ball, you will be penalised, so the golf manufacturers have made it as easy as possible for us to find and play the right ball. Choose your lucky number and get playing!