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How much further do real balls go than range balls?

Golfers often wonder if they are losing distance by practicing on the driving range with range balls compared to playing on the course with real balls. There are some clear differences between range balls and regular balls that impact performance.

What are the Differences Between Range Balls and Regular Balls?

There are a few key differences between range balls and regular golf balls:

  • Construction – Range balls have a solid core while regular balls have a liquid or solid core wrapped in rubber bands. The layered construction of real balls creates greater energy transfer and ball speed.
  • Materials – Range balls are made with cheaper, harder materials while real balls use softer covers that allow for more spin and control.
  • Quality – Driving ranges buy balls in bulk that are specifically made for high volume use and abuse. Real balls are higher quality for better performance.

These differences lead to range balls feeling harder and flying shorter than the same club and swing would produce with a real golf ball.

How Much Shorter Do Range Balls Fly?

Most golf experts estimate that range balls will fly around 10-15% less distance than regular balls under the same conditions. So if your average drive with a real golf ball is 250 yards, you can expect a range ball to fly approximately 225-230 yards with the same club and swing.

The reduced distance is primarily due to the hard covers and inflexible cores of range balls that don’t maximize energy transfer at impact. The harder materials compress less and absorb more of the impact rather than returning all the energy to the ball to create velocity.

Testing by Golf Digest using a robot swinging found an average distance gap of 12% between range balls and leading distance balls like the Titleist Pro V1. Golfers at various swing speeds can expect similar percentage drops in carry distance.

Do Range Balls Flights Follow a Normal Trajectory?

While range balls don’t fly as far, their general ball flight trajectory is similar to regular golf balls. The main difference is that range balls tend to have a slightly lower launch angle and peak height than regular balls.

This lower and more boring trajectory contributes slightly to the reduced carry distance. But range balls still follow a recognizable ball flight path that reacts as expected to factors like spin, wind, and temperature.

Golfers can trust that range balls fly on the proper trajectory to practice ball striking, shot shaping, and dialing in launch conditions. The only adjustment is remembering that real golf balls will launch a little higher and fly farther.

Why Do Manufacturers Make Range Balls Differently?

Golf ball manufacturers specifically design range balls to reduce flight distance for safety and cost reasons:

  • Safety – Limiting range ball flight distance prevents balls from reaching neighboring holes or leaving the boundaries of the practice facility.
  • Durability – Hard covers and rubber cores allow range balls to withstand many club impacts from the volume of use at driving ranges.
  • Cost – Cheaper materials and production methods reduce manufacturing costs to set reasonable pricing for driving ranges buying balls in bulk.

While tour-quality balls could be used, it would drive up costs and create added liability for ranges if those balls flew too far. Range ball designs balance decent performance with the safety, durability and cost needs of high traffic facilities.

Do Temperature Differences Affect Range Balls More?

Cold weather and warm weather can actually accentuate the performance gaps between range balls and regular balls.

Colder temperatures will cause even harder range balls to compress less efficiently at impact. This can exacerbate the lower launch and shorter carry issues.

Conversely, warm and hot weather may soften range ball covers too much so that energy gets lost in excessive compression and deformation of the ball.

There are even wider gaps in cold weather, while the performance differences diminish slightly in very hot temperatures. Overall, real balls perform more consistently across a wide temperature spectrum.

Can You Improve Range Ball Performance?

There are a few tricks golfers use to try to get a little more out of their range ball practice:

  • Hit down slightly more on the ball at impact to increase compression.
  • Increase clubhead speed to transfer more energy to the ball.
  • Use range balls similar in color to the real ball you play to match visuals.
  • Practice with older, more worn range balls that may have softened up.

But in general, the performance limitations are simply due to the different construction and materials built into range balls. There is no way to completely match the performance of a high quality real golf ball.

Do Pros Practice with Range Balls?

Even tour pros use range balls for some of their practice to replicate real course preparation and warming up. But research has found that over 75% of pros primarily practice with regular tour-quality balls whenever possible.

When fine tuning their games, refining swing mechanics, or testing new equipment, most pros want the truest feedback and performance data they can get. That means using the same standard real golf balls they trust on the course.

Range balls have their place for casual practice sessions, but serious competitors depend on maximizing quality ball flight to develop their best ball striking skills. For amateurs too, spending some time hitting real balls can pay dividends on the course.


While range balls are very useful for practice, their construction does sacrifice performance compared to real golf balls. Expect an average 10-15% loss in driving distance, along with slightly lower trajectories from range balls.

Factors like temperature, wear and tear, and swing speed impact the performance gap. But the cost, durability and safety needs of driving ranges make it impossible to completely match the quality of regular balls. Being aware of the differences allows golfers to adjust practice expectations and optimize their games.