Ah ... the Noodle golf ball. Women's ears perk up when they hear the name, but many men run the other way. What's up with that?
A lot of women love playing golf balls by Noodle. The low-compression core of these balls suits the typical lady golfer's slow swing speed. Slower-swinging women are able to compress a Noodle golf ball better than many other balls. As a result, their Noodle often flies farther.
Many men, on the other hand, have always thought Noodles are a "sissy's ball." I guess they feel that way because of the low-compression core - the same reason so many women like them. To many men, these balls just aren't macho. The current Noodle golf ball lineup is changing some men's minds, though. A few guys I play with are starting to use them.
The Noodle golf ball has been around a long time, and over the years several versions have been sold. Once exclusively marketed by Maxfli, now TaylorMade has lent its name and is trying to widen the brand's appeal. In addition to the Maxfli Noodle Ice (targeted primarily at women and reviewed separately on this site), two versions of the ball are currently being sold: the "Noodle+ Long and Soft" and the "Noodle+ Easy Distance." They're designed for golfers with different swing speeds and have somewhat different playing characteristics, so I discuss them separately below.
Most distance balls are harder than many people like. The Noodle golf ball is designed to be affordable and maximize distance but have a softer feel at impact. It's an elusive combination of attributes. Does it succeed?
Let's talk about the Noodle+ Long and Soft first.
The Noodle+ Long and Soft is designed specifically for amateurs with swing speeds that average 85 mph and up. This Noodle golf ball is easy to describe because it does exactly what its name promises - it's long, and it feels soft coming off the club. It helps players who have a tendency to over-swing when they want to maximize their distance because it goes so far when it's hit with an easier, more controlled swing. That's probably the result of its 60 overall compression rating.
I tried it both ways - with relaxed, controlled swings, and also some over-swings. I got better distance when I didn't try so hard. It even seemed pretty forgiving on my mishits. I also appreciated the soft feel of this Noodle golf ball, and it gave me some decent spin around the greens. Approach shots do release more than I would like when they land on the green, but hey, nobody ever said a Noodle was as good as a Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x when it comes to greenside spin. And, with a street price of $10 or $12 per dozen, you can probably buy four dozen Noodles for around the price of one dozen of those Titleist balls.
The Noodle+ Easy Distance is designed for golfers with swing speeds slower than 85 mph. Like the Long and Soft, the Easy Distance also lives up to its name. Its overall compression rating of 50 (the core itself is only 35!) is even lower than the Long and Soft and allows slower swingers to achieve faster ball velocity and very respectable distance with long roll-outs. Like its sibling, Easy Distance also feels soft coming off the club and around the green. Its secret weapons are its soft but durable ionomer cover and the high-energy, resilient, low-compression core. Most people with slow swings find it difficult (if not impossible) to spin the ball on their approach shots, but this ball is designed to make it at least a little easier.
This particular Noodle golf ball won a Gold Medal on Golf Digest's 2010 and 2011 Hot Lists for balls costing under $20 per dozen. The one downside I noticed was its tendency to balloon on full swings. After doing some research I learned that the ballooning was probably because of my swing speed - at around 90 mph, I swing a little faster than the optimum for this ball.
The Bottom Line: Both these versions of the Noodle will satisfy many mid- to high-handicappers who are looking for a ball that's inexpensive but delivers a soft feel along with some distance. Choose the Long and Soft if your swing is 85 mph or faster; the Easy Distance will be a better choice if your swing is slower than that.