Range Balls and Distance

I have seen a lot of questions and discussions on range balls and distances in the Blogosphere. Seems there are a lot of golfers out there that are not aware of the distance differentials you can expect depending upon the kind of range balls a given range provides. I have found myself frustrated at the range until I took the time to really think about it and do some research.  When you think about it, a person should expect that balls hit day in and day out at a driving range, even if they are the kind you buy off the shelf for on course play, will not fly as far.  Now factor in those balls manufactured for the range with durability, not necessarily performance, as the primary quality and you can see that you should probably expect even less distance than your “gamer” ball.  I am speaking of golf balls manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them – normally a TOP-FLITE or SRIXON or WILSON ball. Finally, you may be at a range with limited acreage where they provide limited flight range balls.  These too will be manufactured with “RANGE” painted on them as well as some acronym or wording identifying them as limited range, limited flight, or restricted flight balls.
So, first thing to do is look at the balls. If they are old performance balls (shag bag balls) that may or may not have stripes painted on them then some may perform to standard, but you can expect some degradation – perhaps up to 10%. If they are standard RANGE balls, look for 10-15% degradation in distance. Finally, if they are limited flight balls expect to realize about 20-25% degradation in distance.
Now, the next thing to understand is that unless you are fortunate enough to be practicing at a high end range or country club and using Pro V-1 practice balls or some other top tier practice ball or performance ball, don’t count on zeroing in on distances with your clubs for on-course use. Use the range time to work on contact, direction, and ball flight – however, especially with limited flight balls, ball flight may be a waste of time as well.
So, unless you are independently wealthy, belong to an exclusive club, or have your own practice facility, you will likely be using a range that provides balls that give less performance than the ball you use on the course. Determine the kind of range ball you have and factor it in.
I put together a little cheat sheet for myself accounting for the simple average percentage degradation of 12% for RANGE Balls and 22% for Limited Flight RANGE Balls. This way, when I am at a range and I am hitting RANGE Balls with my 7 iron 145 yards when I normally hit my Pro V-1s 165 yards with the same club I can assume I am in the right neighborhood for distance. I have provided my simple cheat sheet below:

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