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There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest challenge facing the burgeoning traditional golf movement is the loss of the wound ball.  Over one hundred years of quality gear is up for grabs in the minimally competitive resale market and most clubs are playable for decades if not longer.  However, the loss of the wound ball leaves us weighing the benefits of gaming our beloved gear versus the risk of damaging it.  I don’t feel qualified to weigh in on the relative merits of different modern balls because I haven’t really made an effort to evaluate all the current offerings.  However, I can comment on the impact of various range balls on the persimmon inserts that I have experience with.  Hopefully this information will be useful for those deciding whether or not to practice with a valued persimmon driver.  Here’s an outline of how I approach my practice sessions at the range.

Step 1: Identify the range ball available at your course of interest.

Each course invests in its own range balls based on cost, availability, and a variety of other factors.  Invariably the supply gets mixed as golfers reach for their personal stash after an unsatisfying final ball or a sprayed drive from the course itself lands in the practice area.   Even so, there are common range ball designs that you will encounter as you travel from course to course.   Models familiar to the California courses I play regularly are the “Softcore” ball, the striped 90′s commercial ball, and the Srixon Range ball (white or yellow).

The softcore ball is the best for persimmon.  While not wound, the inside is a chalky 1 piece construction that I believe to be of low compression. This is my favorite ball for practicing with persimmon.  I believe the cover/compression combination to be gentle enough that damage to a persimmon will be minimal or negligable.

The striped 90′s commercial ball is really a grab bag.  Many ranges re-purpose old balls so each ball will be unique but those of us who have been golfing for 10 or more years will remember the major players.   An old Maxfli Revolution or Ram Lithium Balata will be ideal for persimmon practice.  Unfortunately, most of the re-purposed range balls are Top Flites, Pinnacles, or some equally rigid cousin.  I feel these range balls are the most dangerous to persimmon inserts.  Generally I’d recommend avoiding these types of balls at all costs.

A third type of range ball you’ll encounter is the Srixon range ball (or equivalent).  I have less experience with these so I’d recommend testing them on a case by case basis.  Grab an iron and hit enough balls to get a feel for the compression and cover quality.  Trust your hands to tell you how the ball is compressing.  If the ball is leaving the clubface immediately, be wary that the ball may be hard and damaging to a persimmon insert.  If the ball feels like it’s sticking on the face it’ll be more likely to be harmless to your woods.

Step 2: Determine how much you value the pristine nature of your gear.

Obviously, if you want your drivers in mint condition than any range use is risky.  Personally, I’m willing to induce very minor flaws on the clubface in the interest of using my gear.  I hate sky marks and I don’t want dents or cracks or dislocation of the inserts.

I feel the best option, if not the easiest or cheapest, is to practice on course with older balls that your can collect.  There is something very honest about collecting your own balls.  The time it takes to walk after your practice shots lets you reflect on the coordination of your motion and the quality of your ball flight.  The act of gathering the balls provides useful feedback on the dispersion of any particular group and you will be thinking very hard about the feel and direction off the face because you need to remember where they end up.  Whenever possible I recommend this method over range time with a bottomless bucket.

Below is my main gamer: the Toney Penna EOM that has hit about a thousand balls of all types over the last 8 months since I switched to persimmon for >80% of my rounds.  I’ve used this one for both range sessions and on course play.

You can see the tiny dents and damage inflicted by the modern ball.  This is something I’m willing to deal with but if I know I’m at a course with hard range balls I’ll leave the headcover on and warm up with irons or only hit 2 or 3 balls with driver.   Final random note: for some reason my sense is that the eye-o-matic inserts will hold up better than the mono-colored red fiber inserts but I have no evidence to support this theory. I look forward to hearing more about actual game balls from those who have tried multiple designs on the course.  Here a thread to post your thoughts on commercially available balls.


4 Responses to “Range Balls and Persimmon Woods”

  1. Avatar of Bob Iliff Bob Iliff says:

    One way to approach practicing persimmon woods is not to use persimmon at all…use laminate woods from the same era. If you want to look for some that you would swear were persimmons, the MacGregor VIP woods from the 80′s (per not the 70s) are about as persimmon looking as laminates can be. I think laminates are a lot less likely to suffer from range balls, and many aspects could be matched to your persimmons…length, flex, etc. The Yonex AD 200 woods have the same size, but there are graphite heads, so they are nearly indestructable. They are very lightweight, however, which can be good for practice if you want to avoid wrist injuries.

  2. Avatar of freddiec freddiec says:

    Great points Riley. Your SEOM looks like its in pain, but its not too bad. I’ve tried the Wilson zip ball once , and really cant’ make a judgement because it was a miserable day for me, but personally I hated the look of the ball, but plan on buying a couple dozen for spring. I do want to try the Srixon soft feel as well. I agree with hitting your own wound balls and collecting them, but not everybody has that opportunity. Thats what I’ve been doing and since most of my “persimmon” golf is practice it has worked out really well. Moreover, when I play them, I’m trying to create the authentic look, feel and experience I had as a kid playing them with brand new wound balatas. I’ve hit probably one or two Pro V shots with some of my persimmons and it felt like I was hitting a rock and I found the distance gain was only about 10 to 15 yards at most. I cringe at the prices of good wound balls on ebay, but its a price I’m willing to pay and try to get as much use out of 3 to 4 dozen a season.

  3. Avatar of Rayg Rayg says:

    Interesting post.
    I was using just one of my persimmons for range practice, but I’ve since decided to stop entirely. One particular shot was hit off the toe of the club and I’ve noticed a very small but noticeable dent in the persimmon.
    I personally feel that there is not much difference between my 3-wood swing and driver swing, and that’s pretty much proven on the course. When I’m hitting my driver well, I’m also hitting my 3-wood well, and vice versa. So I end my range sessions with some metal 3 woods.
    On course, I’ve switched from Pro-v1 to a Wilson Staff FG Tour. (Although I will play both)
    They feel soft on contact and I feel confident when using them that they are not going to harm my persimmons.


  4. Yes good points all. I should have mentioned the option to just find a similar persimmon to your gamer and practice with that. That is probably the best option and the one that I should adopt. The problem is that persimmon’s can be unique creatures and you probably won’t be practicing with the exact same feel.

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