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.
Why are so many people involved in the prototype testing process?
Can you share some of the feedback that you’ve had from tour players?
What are the biggest changes that golfers are going to notice between the 2015 versions and the new models?
What changes have been made to the cover?
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.
Is it getting exponentially harder to bring about improvements to the performance of a golf ball, or do you still have some way to go?
I’ve been working with the ball team at Titleist for seven years now, and this is the fourth generation of Pro V1 that I have been involved in, and I have to honestly say that is the most excited I’ve been about the launch of a new Pro V1, simply because of the improvements of the Pro V1, which has significantly changed the relationship between the two models. Whereas in previous models the X was significantly longer, the Pro V1 is now just as long, so there are genuinely two options for better golfers – the softer feel, lower flight and more spin of the Pro V1, or the higher flight, firmer feel, and lower spin of the X.
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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