TaylorMade has been in the premium ball market for a while now and usually they have focussed on a five piece ball, but now with the Tour Preferred golf ball there is a four piece option too.
If you like five layers then there is the Tour Preferred X golf ball which has a slightly flatter trajectory with similar performance off woods and irons. As TaylorMade expect 80% of their tour players to use the X version, then reading between the lines I think this ball will be for high swing speed players who can generate the power to get this ball in the air.
Several of TaylorMade's recent premium golf balls have been more tour friendly and hard for medium speed swingers to get airborne, so thankfully the standard Tour Preferred is here for us mortals.
Testing for golf balls is like driver fitting, as the ideal ball for you depends on your swing speed and how much spin you put on the ball with your strike. This really needs something like Trackman to measure, which is not something the average golfer has access to. Therefore the best thing is to just put the ball in play on a course you know and see if it makes a difference and that is what I did with the Tour Preferred.
As you would expect from the Tour moniker this ball is aimed at single figure handicap golfers. Whenever you look at balls in the premium category the shadow of the market leading Titleist Pro V1 looms large, so this is a good point of reference.
The Tour Preferred is certainly as long, but the Soft Tech cover does feel a little softer on and around the greens and I like the feel of it.
The biggest visual change is the 322 simple pattern that looks hexagonal, even though TaylorMade don't refer to it as such.
As with other balls that use this style of pattern, it makes the Tour Preferred very stable in the wind. Whichever direction I was hitting relevant to the wind, the Tour Preferred cut through the air in the direction it was sent.
The cast urethane cover claims to be more durable than before and whilst I managed to put the odd scuff on the ball with some aggressive grooves mixed with sand, it was no better or worse than other balls in this category.
Another small visual thing is the seam between the two halves of the ball that is always aligned with the sidestamp.
I have to say I like this approach so I can align the seam when putting. Titleist are one of the few other manufacturers who manage to get the seam and logo in the same place on every ball so this gets a plus mark from me.
Whilst we are on markings, if your lucky number is 4 you will be disappointed, because a box of a dozen Tour Preferred's comes in black numbers of 1,2,3 and 5 to represent the five layer version.
Overall I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with the Tour Preferred. It was much easier to play with than the previous better player balls from TaylorMade. The softer feel was excellent and the wind stability was a big plus.
Is it good enough to get the Pro V1 out of your bag? It's right up there, so I would recommend doing your own playing test to see if it performs better for you.