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Last updated on June 29th, 2023 at 02:44 am
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There are a few engineering challenges that Topgolf facilities must try to solve to make their games fun and challenging – but affordable. Firstly, the longest distance from each bay is about 215 yards – and that’s stretching it.
For comparison purposes, your average real golf course is about 7000 yards across. There are practical limitations of using real golf balls because you’re playing at a driving range with limited real estate.
A simple solution is to use limited flight balls – they’re a lot like real golf balls, but they only go about 80% to 90% of the distance of a normal golf ball.
Does Topgolf use these sort of limited flight golf balls?
Topgolf does use limited flight balls to make sure that no patrons hit the ball over the netting and outside the range. Limited flight balls help ensure that a ball flying out is rare if not impossible.
Does this mean you’re getting a less authentic golfing experience? The answer depends on who you ask.
Some dedicated golfers will say yes – most will say no. With that said, you’re playing a spinoff of golf in a stress-free environment that is stripped of all the rules you would otherwise have to follow in a traditional golf course.
This frees you up to improve your performance that will carry over into real golf.
Another reason why Topgolf facilities don’t use regular golf balls is that they are designed to take a lot of abuse. Each ball is likely hit hundreds of times in a day and they gradually start losing their shape.
This is why limited flight balls at Topgolf bays have a very thick, durable outer layer.
Regular golf balls don’t have such a thick layer. In fact, most regular golf balls wouldn’t last a day in Topgolf. Most regular golf balls are meant to last for a few rounds of golf– not being repeatedly abused throughout the month.
Now that ‘s clear that Topgolf uses limited flight balls, it’s time to evaluate the differences in performance. Does it even matter? Let’s explore in the sections below.
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Limited Flight Balls Difference In Performance
There would be a difference of about 10% in overall distance between real golf balls and limited golf balls in most cases. That 10% really isn’t all that important.
For the most part, the actual differences will be related to the spin and launch. Performance can hurt if the Topgolf balls have been bent out of shape – but that’s a story for another day.
The feel of limited flight balls is also vastly different from real golf balls.
Topgolf balls feel a bit hard when hit. This is because their cover is thicker for extra protection. It can be slightly difficult to make the balls spin.
You don’t need to work on the spin that much at the Topgolf facility.
Of course, in a real golf course, you may need to make the golf ball spin so that it can stop where it needs to. Topgolf yards have different zones that can be used to practice on your spin – if you like.
Try to hit different areas of the zone because doing so could improve your golf game.
Can You Bring Your Own Limited Flight Balls To Topgolf
You can only play with Topgolf balls at Topgolf because of the simple fact that they are all retrofitted with RFID chip readers to track your game performance. Plus if you brought your own balls there would be no way for you to get them back.
Each bay will give you unlimited balls to practice with. For the most part, Topgolf balls share very similar flight patterns with regular golf balls.
These differences become more pronounced depending on the condition of the golf ball.
Another reason why you can’t bring your own limited flight balls to Topgolf is that you can’t go into the yards to retrieve them. This means that the staff will have the added burden of finding your balls and returning them to you.
It also means that your performance will not be recorded on the Topgolf systems.
Why Do Limited Flight Balls Cover 10% Less Distance?
The answer mostly boils down to money. If the balls became useless after one session, they would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a year replacing them and finding new RFID chips.
It’s a slippery slope with solutions that are trade offs and compromises. You lose some of the performance in exchange for practicality and convenience.
This is why the materials used to create Topgolf limited flight balls are higher quality and more robust than your standard-issue golf ball. Another reason they travel less further than real golf balls is because of all the damage they take from so much repeated use.
Limited flight balls can stay in circulation at Topgolf facilities for several months, perhaps even years. During this time, they could start to crack, chip, split, and be bent out of shape – all of this will impact the trajectory of the ball through the air, and lead to a lower total distance traveled.
It also means that the balls will take a path that a real golf ball won’t.
The limited flight balls will become less aerodynamic and the increased friction with the air will influence their flight. Their unique aerodynamic motion will make them wobble around like mud balls.
You can’t fight physics and the only way to make sure you’re playing with good Topgolf balls is to examine them. If the balls show signs of wear and tear, ask the staff to replace them.
This should not be a problem if you ask them nicely.
Do new balls have such flaws? They don’t – as long as they have been freshly removed from their packaging. Fresh limited flight balls are more likely to fly in your desired direction and have an aerodynamic profile that mimics real golf balls.
Topgolf limited flight balls are great to practice with and the wealth of data you get from the RFID chips allows you to improve your performance right away.
The internet of things (IoT) is a great way to improve your golf game.
I do recommend talking to the Topgolf staff to replace the limited flight balls if you find any visible blemishes on them. Newer balls will fly straighter and with greater consistency.
Don’t worry if the balls are not spinning the way you wanted to; that’s just how they are designed to be – a tradeoff for durability and performance.