You will often hear of manufacturers 'seeding' products by sending them out to their Tour players to use them in the run up to launch. Titleist do this quite often and it is not uncommon for last minute changes to be made based on the feedback.
Now in one of the first initiatives of its kind, Titleist posted test versions of their latest golf balls to members of their Team Titleist community, comprising golfers of all ages and abilities to get their thoughts.
The test balls feature design ideas that they may or may not include in the next version. However our source at Titleist said that all feedback is used in future research and development, so this is a great chance for ordinary golfers to be part of the product design process.
As ever, we were one of the first to receive some samples of the test balls that were used to develop the prototype versions of the Pro V1 that are currently being seeded on Tour. From these prototype balls, the final version is developed for launch to pro's and consumers next year.
In their letter to Team Titleist members, Titleist asked them to play with the test balls on the course, which we duly did, as they believe that that is where all aspects of performance can be properly measured.
In order to see the technical differences between the test balls and the current models in a controlled environment, we also went to local Titleist Performance Institute coach Oliver Morton at our Swanston Golf Club base to use his swing studio and FlightScope set up to help evaluate the test balls with the Black and Red numbers (figure it out yourself!).
I hit the same number of shots of the Test Black and Test Red against the current Titleist Pro V1 and Titleist Pro V1x using a wedge, 6-iron and driver to see if there was any difference in spin rate, carry, distance and dispersion.
Test Black v Pro V1
The first thing I noticed was the sound and feel. The Test Black felt softer and sounded softer with a slightly duller impact sound. This was particularly noticeable with the wedge, although I first picked this up when I had the balls out on the putting green. Play the video below to see if you can notice the difference.
Overall the Test Black carried further despite spinning a little more than the Pro V1. The results were more pronounced with the wedge where the distance and dispersion were more consistent across shots with the Test over both the current Pro V1 balls, even though the smash factor (quality of strike) was marginally lower with the Test Black.
The consistency was also good on the 6-iron and the Test Black had a similar carry to the current Pro V1x, which could be due to the higher spin. With the driver, performance was pretty similar for carry and total distance with slightly less spin through the air.
Overall I would say that for me the Test Black carried a little further, especially with the wedge and 6-iron and with a couple less yards roll. OK for this year’s wet fairways! It seemed to have more spin than the Pro V1 and the feel felt and particularly sounded a lot softer. It may sound a little too soft for some, given the current Pro V1 is not exactly 'clicky'. The results suggest that it is also more consistent or ‘forgiving’ in terms of dispersion and performance however well you hit it.
Test Red v Pro V1x
Again the Test Red did sound and feel a little softer than the current Pro V1x, but the difference was marginal and certainly not as immediately noticeable as the Test Black.
Close inspection of the Test Red revealed a different dimple pattern to the Pro V1x that was not on the Test Black. This could have been the reason for the slightly higher ball speeds and greater carry on the wedge and 6-iron. The spin was higher from the wedge but about the same on the 6-iron even though both showed carry gains.
Results from the driver were better too. Even though the spin was similar to the Test Black, the firmer Test Red had about 10 yards more carry and total distance. The spin again was slightly lower than the current Pro V1x and the lower projected height implies that this ball is faster and more penetrating. Given the softer feel, this ball may attract a few more Pro V1 users to the red side.
If we assume that the two Test balls are the next generation Pro V1s then it seems that Titleist have made them both sound and feel a little softer. The performance gains for the Test Black are focussed on the scoring clubs of the irons and wedges, which makes sense given the groove rule changes that came into force since the current ball was launched in 2011.
The Test Red seems to have had more of an overhaul and combines a new dimple pattern with a slightly softer feel and more ball speed for greater distance without sacrificing feel and control.
Obviously these are the results for my swing and others may differ, but it will be interesting to hear other views and also to see the final versions of the ball that turn up in 2013.