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Practice balls let you work on your swing in limited space.
Practice golf balls are handy when you don't have time to visit a driving range. They allow you to work on your swing in smaller areas, including your backyard and even indoors. Practice balls weigh less than regular golf balls and travel less distance when hit -- they are designed to go no farther than 40 yards. Most practice balls are made of either foam or plastic and have different costs and characteristics.
Swing Problems Can be Magnified
Practice balls travel less distance than normal balls, but they still mimic the flight of a regular ball. This applies to both foam and plastic practice balls. If you are hooking or slicing a shot, then it will be more noticeable. It is also easy to see if the ball went straight or flew to the left or right. This is one of the main advantages of using practice balls -- plus the fact that you don't have to walk hundreds of yards to pick the balls up.
They Feel Different on Contact
Because practice balls are lighter, they don't have the same feel as a normal ball and don't make the same sound on contact. On the positive side, you can practice your swing without the worry of smashing a window or injuring bystanders. Plastic balls can sometimes break when hit hard. Some of the more expensive foam balls have a compressed core and feel much more like a normal ball than simple foam balls.
Durability Can Vary
The number of shots you get from a practice ball can vary and is often related to cost. Short-distance foam balls tend to only last for 10 to 15 hits. Plastic balls can vary greatly but can get cracked or deformed after several full-strength hits. Wiffle plastic balls, with holes, tend to last longer than solid plastic. More expensive foam balls generally last longer but cost more. Plastic balls are generally destroyed if you step on them, and foam balls don't.
Cost or Value
There are big differences in the cost of practice golf balls, just as there are with standard golf balls. At the time of publication, plastic balls can be bought for less than 40 cents each to almost $1. Wiffle balls are often the cheapest. There is usually a trade-off between price and durability. Foam balls tend to have an even bigger range in price from less than 30 cents each to more than $1 each for ones with a compressed core. There are high-end practice balls that nearly mimic real balls, but they are the most expensive and you might need a net in your backyard because of the distance they carry. You need to decide which is the best investment for your own needs.
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