Bogey golf -- the inexact science of playing each golf hole 1 over par -- defines the 18 handicapper. You have reached the level where playing bogey golf is achievable. However, you want to improve. You want to push beyond the barriers of bogey golf by playing the best golf ball off the tee for distance and for added touch around the greens.
For an 18 handicapper, longer distance needs to be a priority. Launching the ball farther off the tee leaves you with shorter approach shots into greens, theoretically leading to lower scores. There is also the psychological advantage of blasting the ball by your opponents. The main way to achieve longer distance is with greater swing speeds. However, changing to a solid-core golf ball also can yield yardage benefits. You are looking for the hardest core available for maximum power and the least amount of spin. This helps your ball bore through the wind and roll forever once it hits the ground.
Touch Around the Greens
You don't want to sacrifice all your feel and spin around the greens just for distance. The short game is the most important element of scoring, and being able to control your ball around the green allows for more greenside up-and-downs. This is where revolutionary golf ball technology has had a major impact on the game over the past 10 years. You can have the best of a solid core golf ball without sacrificing feel. While a Titleist Pro VI or Pro VIx would not be the best ball for an 18 handicapper, the leading ball manufacturer makes suitable alternatives that provide great touch like the NXT Distance and the NXT Tour.
Narrowing The Field
With these factors in mind, identify balls with solid cores and medium-soft covers. This combination yields the distance and touch that you desire as an 18 handicapper. In 2013, 17 balls stood out from the rest of the pack, earning gold medals from Golf Digest's Hot List. Among them are the Bridgestone E5,E6 and E7, Nike One RZN, Titleist NXT Tour, Srixon Q-Star and TaylorMade Lethal all provide long distance, solid core and soft feel.
The Selection Process
Each golfer has personal preferences and unique swing tendencies, so a ball that fits one 18 handicap golfer might not be the perfect fit for you. Rob Akins, one of Golf Digest's 50 Best Teachers, recommends that you conduct a personal testing. Take a sleeve from each of these five finalists, and head to the course. Hit some tee shots, and see if there is a noticeable difference in distance with any of the balls. Then, go to the green and hit some chip shots. See which balls check up and which balls bound away like a rock. This evaluation process gives you great insight into the ball that best fits your game.