Choosing The Right Golf Ball: Urethane vs Ionomer

Urethane vs Ionomer; it's an important choice

Choosing The Right Golf Ball: Urethane vs Ionomer
(Image credit: Future)

The golf ball is one of the few pieces of equipment you will use on every single shot you play. As such, choosing the correct ball for you is critical for optimal performance.

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing your golf ball is what type of cover you want to play, and 99% of the time this will come down to Urethane vs Ionomer, which are the two most common materials.

What is Urethane?

Urethane is a polymer that has many attributes that are beneficial for a golf ball, most notably its ability to have its toughness and hardness controlled when heat is applied. Because Urethane can be re-heated and re-moulded, it allows for more precision and design flexibility.

Consequently, Urethane can be crafted for a softer feel, and as such is normally found in more expensive, premium golf balls. As a result of its softness, Urethane covers should provide more strike feedback off chips and putts, which will help you hone your distance control more easily.

Unsurprisingly then, Urethane is the material of choice for balls like the Titleist Pro V1, the TaylorMade TP5 and indeed most of the models in our best golf balls guide.

Titleist Pro V1 vs TaylorMade TP5 golf balls

The Titleist Pro V1 and the Taylormade TP5 are Urethane golf balls

(Image credit: MHopley)

What is Ionomer?

Unlike Urethane, Ionomers do not maintain their strength as well when they are engineered softer, so can be less durable if designed with a soft cover. Ionomer is also cheaper to produce and feels slightly firmer, though it should still provide plenty of feel for most club golfers.

Thanks to their firmer feel, Ionomer cover balls tend to spin slightly less of the tee, helping to reduce unwanted sidespin that can cause destructive hooks and slices. Because of these characteristics, Ionomer covers usually feature on distance and two or three-piece golf balls, such as the Titleist Velocity, Bridgestone’s e6 and Srixon’s AD333.

Titleist Velocity 2022 Golf Ball

The Titleist Velocity ball features an Ionomer cover

(Image credit: MHopley)

Urethane vs Ionomer: Which should I choose?

Your final choice will come down to a few factors, including your budget, feel preference, and the area of your game you think needs the most help.

Starting with your budget; for most it will make little sense to spend £30+ per dozen is you lose three to five balls every round, however, if you keep one ball for 18 holes, then you will get the benefits of your investment on every shot you hit. If you fall into the former category, our best value golf balls guide will help you out. 

In terms of feel preference, it's not as cut and dry as you might think. A lot of the best premium balls now have firmer feeling versions that spin slightly less of the tee for players who swing faster or create excess spin. So if you like a firmer feeling ball, you're not stuck with the Ionomer covered models.

Lastly, you should evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. If you are always slicing it off the tee and need to get it play to have a chance of scoring, then a soft, high-spinning ball may do you more harm than good.

That said, if you take 90 shots it's likely that over 60 of them will be inside 150 yards, and this is the area where all that extra feel from a soft Urethane cover will really help you reduce the number of shots you take.

Sam Tremlett
Senior Staff Writer

A golfer for most of his life, Sam is a Senior Staff Writer for Golf Monthly. 

Working with golf gear and equipment over the last six years, Sam has quickly built outstanding knowledge and expertise on golf products ranging from drivers, to balls, to shoes. 

He combines this knowledge with a passion for helping golfers get the best gear for them, and as such Sam manages a team of writers that look to deliver the most accurate and informative reviews and buying advice. This is so the reader can find exactly what they are looking for.

Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website, whilst he is also responsible for all content related to golf apparel. 

He also oversees all Tour player content as well so if you need to know what clubs Tiger or Rory has in play, Sam is the person to ask. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 

Sam's What's In The Bag: 

Driver: Titleist TS3 (9 degrees) 

Fairway Wood: Callaway Paradym (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees) 

Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2 

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚ 

Putter: Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5 

Ball: Srixon Z-Star Diamond

Shoes: G/FORE Gallivanter/Nike Air Zoom Infinity NEXT%/Cuater The Ringer/adidas Tour 360 22

With contributions from