MEET THE PRO (V1)
Nick Bayly catches up with Titleist’s golf ball guru Michael Mahoney to get the lowdown on the launch of the latest generation of its market-leading Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls, which promise performance gains for all levels of golfer
Can you tell me about the process that a new Pro V1 ball has to go through before it finds its way to the pro shop?
In total, the R&D testing and validation process for the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x included more than 80,000 golfers of all skill levels who received numerous iterations of prototypes throughout a two-year development process. This included six different double-blind prototype tests during the summer and autumn of 2015 that were instrumental in determining the final 2017 designs.
Beginning in late October 2016, the final Pro V1 and Pro V1x prototypes were seeded across the worldwide professional tours for validation by our tour players. They were first put in play on the PGA Tour at the Las Vegas Iniviational in November, while they were also introduced on the European Tour at the DP World Championship in Dubai. They went on sale in January.
Club golfers love being part of the process, and we really do listen to their feedback. We sent our 10,000 Team Titleist members six different prototypes to test in a double blind test, so they didn’t know which ball they were playing. Even 15-20 handicappers were reporting significant changes in the way the new balls performed. We want improvements on what golfers at all levels need and want, not just foisting product on the market and hoping they’ll like it. Golfers put a lot of trust in their golf ball, so we want them to know that before they get it in their hands its been tested by players all abilities.Can you share some of the feedback that you’ve had from tour players?
Feedback throughout what we refer to as the ‘pyramid of influence’ – from tour staff, to club professionals, Team Titleist members and club golfers – has all been tremendously positive. We’ve had a really terrific start, with over 100 tour pros putting it into play, including some for the first time. Tommy Fleetwood put the Pro V1x in play for the first time in Abu Dhabi and won with it. Jordan Spieth was one of the first of our staff players to put the Pro V1x into play, and won straight off the bat with it at the Australian Open in December. He told us that it held the ball held its line in the wind better, and also noticed a more consistent ball flight, which were two of the performance attributes that all our players were experiencing in testing, so that was great to see that working under tournament conditions.What are the biggest changes that golfers are going to notice between the 2015 versions and the new models?
I think the biggest change that players have noticed, and even from those players who didn’t previously play a Pro V1, is the distance parity between the old Pro V1 and the new version. The new Pro V1 is significantly longer than its predecessor. This has not only made players who like the Pro V1 ball happier, but it has also made Pro V1x players happier, as they now have a genuine option if they like the characteristics of a Pro V1, which offers a lower ball flight and softer feel, but weren’t previously willing to sacrifice distance. With both balls being equally long, it’s now just a matter of deciding what type of ball flight or spin characteristics you’re looking for.
Speaking personally, I used to be a Pro V1x player, but I’ve been playing the new Pro V1 since the autumn, because I found that I really liked the lower flight characteristics of the V1, and I haven’t had to give up any of the distance benefits that I enjoyed with the X.
We also made some significant changes to the core formulation of the ball, which has resulted in improved performance. By using a different grade of polybutadiene rubber we’ve been able to create more speed and decrease spin, which leads to longer distance.
We’ve changed the dimple pattern, which has dramatically improved its consistency through the air. The 352 dimples on the Pro V1 are more efficiently arranged in a tetrahedral geometric pattern. Combined with less variation in dimple diameter, players will see improved flight consistency from shot to shot.
We measure consistency by using a robot, and what we noticed in testing was that the height and accuracy of the ball was through a much smaller window at the peak apex of its flight than previous models, which means that the differences in launch angles, spin rates and speed are all much more similar from ball to ball than the previous model. This was also borne out by player testing, with even mid to high handicappers noticing the improved consistency.
We also conducted tests under calm conditions and with a 5-10mph headwind with a 5-iron and the difference in dispersion area from the old to the new Pro V1 was even tighter, which make it an even better wind ball.
How has having complete control over your own manufacturing processes helped in delivering these enhancements?
Some of the improvements have clearly come about due to continuing investment in our construction processes. Because we make all of our golf balls in our own plants we have the opportunity to fine tune and optimize the process, improving machines, tightening tolerances, and generally tinkering around with the formulas, baking times, heat treatments, etc, until we’re completely happy with the finished product.
Apart from taking a box of each down to the range, where can club golfers go to find out whether they might be a Pro V1 or a Pro V1x kind of player?
We always encourage golfers to go out and test our balls under real conditions. They need to hit the shots that they most commonly play on the course, not just hitting drivers on the range or putting on the practice green. Chip from the edge of greens, hit your normal approach from 40 yards, 100 yards, and see which works best for you. Our website, Titleist.com, does a great job of telling golfers about the different properties of each ball, and how that effects performance, so it’s just a question of seeing which ticks the most boxes, and then going out onto the course and see what works best.
The Pro V1x has traditionally been the most played of our balls on tour, with around 85% players choosing that option, whereas this year we’ve seen a huge switch around. At the CareerBuild tournament in February, of the 110 players in the field playing Titleist, 45% were playing the V1 and 55% the V1x. That’s a huge shift, and says a lot about the changes that players are experiencing.
Have you ever explored the possibility of the third Pro V1, perhaps one that fits somewhere between the two?
Good question. We have so many iterations and prototypes that that have fitted somewhere between the two. There have been times we thought it would be cool to launch one, but it just never seemed to make commercial sense. We’ve already got a wide range of balls to suit all levels of players, and golf is a complicated enough game as it is!
Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls are on sale now at an RRP of £52 for 12. For more details visit www.titleist.co.uk.
TOUR PLAYERS ON THE NEW PRO V1
JORDAN SPIETH: “What I noticed immediately was the improved flight. It held its line in the crosswinds better. A couple shots that were going off line stayed closer to the fairway or closer to the green, which allowed me to save par when I may have been in trouble.”
ADAM SCOTT: “I’m hitting it longer than I ever have, but I also have that soft feel like when I grew up playing a balata ball – it’s incredibly soft. The flight is exactly what I'm looking for. It just wants to stay up in the air, with that penetrating flight, even when it’s into the wind.”
KEVIN NA: “I immediately loved the feel and flight of it of the new Pro V1, and I did not lose any distance compared to the Pro V1x. I was most impressed by the consistency it gave me on wedge and short iron shots into the wind.”
GRAEME STORM: “The first thing I noticed when I put the new ball in play was that I was getting farther distance, 10-15 yards. I was also getting great spin control with my irons into the greens.”
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