How the Ball Bounces
By Pete Wofford
This golf ball story is not for Jack Nicklaus and his peers, who’ve offered pleas for shorter-distance or “rolled-back” golf balls to bring the game of the pros closer to that of the average players. “Right now all they advertise is “play what the pros play.”Well they can’t play it—they just don’t have the clubhead speed to play it,” said Nicklaus at a President’s Cup press conference.
Nor is it a story for Greg Norman who has said “the game of golf should have two standards for balls . . . one for professionals and another for amateurs. Sure, there would be some gray areas, but the powers that be could sort out those questions.”
Instead this is a story of reaching our potential as a golfer and enjoying the game more. Engineers, chemists and marketing gurus have teased the golfer plenty with promises of more distance, better feel and greater spin, but the new trend in golf balls, however, is getting golf ball fit.
In an era of launch monitors, do players spend as much time making sure the ball they are using matches their game as well as their clubs?
“Right now, figure 20 percent of golfers that come in [our shop] are asking about ball performance,” said Jeremy Champoux, R&D testing manager at the Scottsdale Hot Stix facility. “But once we get into ball fitting, more than half of them will switch brands based on our recommendations.”
On the lesson tee, it’s a similar story. “We talk ball fitting at our golf school, but rarely with individual lessons,” said Paul Trittler, director of instruction at the Kostis McCord Learning Center in Scottsdale. “Ball fitting is still a new trend, and unless we see something drastically wrong, we kind of go with the individuals preference.”
When it comes to ball fitting, paying attention to the little things is critical. New to the industry is the Bridgestone Golf Challenge, where golfers can compare their favorite golf ball brand versus Bridgestone under the Science Eye, a computerlinked measuring launch monitor.
“There is a myth among golfers that if you’re not playing a certain kind of ball, you’re not a serious player,” said Dan Murphy, senior director of marketing, Bridgestone Golf. “We hope that ball fitting dispels this myth and is the first step in changing the dynamic of the golf industry—creating marketing based on proven science and technology, instead of pure emotion.”
Golf balls are the one piece of equipment all golfers have in common. They are round, dimpled and mostly white. Regardless of skill level, however, manufacturers and teachers suggest most players would do well to start their ball-selection process around the green. “We believe that when intelligent consumers are presented with facts and all the information they will choose the proper golf balls for maximizing their game, not just the most popular,” added Murphy.
Of the 73 different models of golf balls that grace golf shop counters, here are a few that offer new and improved distance, feel and spin regardless of the opinions of Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Norman.
TITLEIST: A BETTER PRO V1
Titleist has enhanced the company’s showcase Pro V1 and Pro V1X. New is the staggered wave parting line or seam, which according to Titleist effectively increases the dimple surface coverage— meaning better aerodynamics. Also new is the A.I.M. (alignment integrated marking) where the side stamp with extended arrows can serve as a focal point for golfers when aligning their putts. Thirdly, the balls feature a slightly deeper dimple wall for aerodynamics. And now the Pro V1X shares the same soft urethane elastomer cover as the Pro V1.
SRIXON’S: THINNEST COVER STORY
Srixon Sports may seem like a new company here in the U.S., but is really a 70-year veteran of golf ball technology in Japan. Now one of the fastest growing ball companies (with PGA Tourplayer endorsed balls), Srixon offers the Z-URS with one of the thinnest urethane covers, measuring 0.02-inches. Thin cover, then a multi-layer mantle means large solid core, which the company claims has more resilience, more spin control and ball velocity.
BRIDGESTONE’S: SEAMLESS BOOM
In three years Bridgestone Golf has established itself as a player in the premium performance golf ball market with the high compression Tour B330 and Tour B330-S. New are a softer cover formulation, re-engineered core and a 330-dimple pattern. The multi-layer B330 series of balls have a urethane cover, featuring the Seamless Cover Technology (SCT), which eliminates the traditional seam line. According to the company, the seamless design adds distance by allowing the ball to fly a truer path and by reducing the variance in distance between “pole-hits” and “equator-hits.”
NIKE’S: RECORD ONE PLATINUM
Nike’s premier ball performance has gained tour player acceptance with the One Platinum and One Black golf balls. New is a softer cover in the Platinum for increased feel around the greens and a firmer cover on the multi-layered Black, which according to the company reduces spin off the tee for greater distance. The Platinum, a four-piece construction, has fewer dimples (336) from the past series of Nike golf balls. Besides a firmer cover, the three-piece Black construction features a softer core.
PINNACLE’S: LOW COMPRESSION EXCEPTION
The Pinnacle Exception is a low 70-compression that is gaining the attention of women, seniors and even the scratch handicap looking for a better feel.
MAXFLI’S: TOUR FIRE
Maxfli’s affordable three-piece, 75 compression, tour performance is the new Tour Fire. The company claims the “working man” kind of speed, spin and feel that even John Daly enjoys on Tour.
CALLAWAY’S: HEXAGON LOOK
No more flat spots on the leading engineered golf ball. The secret to Callaway’s HX Tour and HX Tour 56 is the hexagonal tubular lattice network of dimples that the company claims has more ball surface aerodynamics for longer and more efficient ball flight. Then there is the proprietary Reaction Injection Molding (RIM) technology that the company claims to be a thinner, more consistent cover and a precisely centered core.
TAYLORMADE’S: TOUR PREFERRED
Pick your color, Red or Black, from TaylorMade’s line of TP (Tour Preferred) premium golf balls. Red means a larger core, thinner mantle which the company claims promotes a lower launch angle and softer feel, while the TP Black’s smaller core and thicker mantle promotes higher launch, especially lower spin off the driver.