It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the boutique golf industry. Big R&D budgets are great when you’re making a product to appeal to the masses, but they’re not so good when you’re aiming to fill a niche. I’ve been fortunate enough to review two of the top contenders for “best boutique ball” in both I Need the Ball and the 3F12 from 3UP. You can now add another contender to the mix in the Lightning Golf HL3 Smack Daddy.
The HL3 Smack Daddy is a 3 piece, urethane offering from Lightning Golf. It’s marketed as an alternative to the ProV1 and other high-end tour balls, but at a more competitive price and for the golfer who prefers to stand out, and stand out you will. The ball has a striking look, with a green lightning bolt and 4 small empty circles. The circles, as it turns out, are one of the cooler marking systems I’ve come across. The looks are fine, but at Golf by Bryan, we judge balls on performance.
Tee Performance: This is where this ball excels. I found that I had consistent distance and a nice flight. I didn’t have ballooning issues like I did with the 3UP, but I didn’t get quite as much distance as I did with I Need the Ball. It felt solid off the face, a little softer than most tour balls, but good soft (no Wilson marshmallow here). It’s a solid, if not spectacular, performer off the tee, and there’s actually a lot to be said for knowing your ball is consistent. A-
Iron/Wedge Performance: I’m not really sure how I feel about the HL3 Smack Daddy on approaches. I’m a fairly high spin player, but I never really found that I spun this ball a ton. I mean, with half-wedges and irons, it checked about as much as any other 3 piece. I suspect this was a result of not compressing the balls and utilizing the cover for spin, and this cover is comparable to most other urethanes. But on full shots, where I really stepped on it, I never got any backspin. It didn’t roll out like a harder 2 piece, but I was never able to really pull the string, which I can do with most other tour balls. I was a bit disappointed, but I’m reticent to dock it too much, since the lower spin may benefit some players, but for my game, it wasn’t a great fit.B
Putter Performance: I was lukewarm on the Smack Daddy’s green performance. It’s easily the most subjective criteria, but it just didn’t do it for me. It felt fine, to be perfectly honest, but ever since I tried I Need the Ball and felt that distinctive thud, nothing has even compared. I didn’t hate it, so we’ll give it a decent score, but comparing it to some of my other favorite putting nuggets, it definitely didn’t stand out.B+
Durability: I’m a bit disappointed with myself, since I decided to test these balls at Chambers Bay. It’s a great test of a golf ball, with the ability to play a multitude of shots in all sorts of conditions. It’s also a ball eating monster as they grow out the fescue in preparation of the 2015 U.S. Open. I was sent a sleeve of 3 balls to test, and with my super tight golf game, I managed to lose them all before the 17th hole. Up to that point, I played with my 3rd ball from the 7th-16th holes. It held up remarkably well. I never noticed any deep gouges or scratches. I did have the usual scuffing that shows up after 10 holes of my playing any ball, but it was minor, and closer to that of a Top-Flite than of a ProV1. A
Bottom Line: I’m mostly smitten with the HL3 Smack Daddy. It’s a solid all around ball, if you know what you’re getting. A good consistent performer off the driver and a medium spin ball on longer wedges and irons, it doesn’t have a weak spot. My biggest issue is that I never felt like it was clearly better than everything else in any one area. It was definitely in the top-tier in terms of durability, which is key when you’re spending more than $30 a dozen, so these should last quite a while (unless you spray them into some foot tall fescue like I did). All in all, the HL3 Smack Daddy is a really good ball that I think would be good for the slightly more advanced golfer in that 10-15 index range. They’ve got a good product with some good people behind it and it gets the Golf by Bryan seal of approval. Grade: A-
Get your HL3 Smack Daddy at http://www.lightninggolfball.com/