Range Balls in Golf and How They Compare to Regular Balls

Pyramids of range balls

A “range ball” or “driving range ball” is exactly that: a golf ball manufactured specifically for use on a golf driving range.

They often have a colored stripe (most often black, red or green) around their circumference and may have the word “range” or “practice” printed on them. Or they might be solid yellow with black stripes around the circumference.

Golfers pay for range balls in bulk – the proverbial “bucket of balls” – at driving ranges, with rates depending on the number of balls (the size of the bucket) rented.
Range balls can also be purchased in bulk by golfers who want to use them outside of a driving range setting (for example, take them to a park, hit them, pick them up).

Are Range Balls Built the Same Way as Regular Golf Balls?

Not quite. Because range balls are built to be hit over and over and over again on driving ranges, by golfers of widely varying abilities, they have to be able to hold up to that punishment for an extended time.

Most generic range balls have a solid-core, 2-piece construction, but with very hard covers: They must be better than regular golf balls at resisting cutting, scuffing and other cover damage. Sometimes range balls will also have harder cores, which can restrict flight.
Some major golf manufactures do make range versions of their golf balls for driving ranges, and those generally are built the same way as the “regular” version of such balls, but with the much harder cover.

Range Ball Distance vs. Regular Ball Distance

Generally, range balls do not fly as far as regular golf balls. But the biggest difference isn’t necessarily that range balls typically fly shorter distances, but that they vary so widely in distance performance. It’s the range of distances from ball to ball, in other words, that is the biggest distance difference between range balls and regular balls.

What Kind of Range Balls Do Pros Get at Tournaments?

Do the pros playing tour events have to hit the same beat-up range balls the rest of us do? Of course not.

Before a major tour’s golf tournament, the manufacturers ship in thousands of the golf balls used by their tour players. These balls are typically stamped “practice,” but are otherwise the same as the golf ball used by the tour pros during tournament play. Titleist, for example, will stamp “practice” on loads and loads of Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls and ship them to a tournament site for the pros who play with Titleist balls.

Tournament staff and volunteers sort these balls by brand and model and set them out for the tour players.

Other Uses of ‘Range Ball’ in Golf

Range balls don’t have to be specifically manufactured as such – they can be used golf balls of any brand, for example, those retrieved from the bottom of golf course’s water hazards. A golf course might collect such balls and throw them into their supply of range balls.

“Range ball” can also be a derogatory reference to a golf ball that is not performing as hoped (usually at the fault of the person hitting it). One partner to another: “That shot was ugly. Are you using a range ball?”
   by Brent Kelley