Srixon has launched a new version of the AD333 Tour ball as well as the brand new UltiSoft, their softest ever ball. I caught up with Jeff Brunski, R&D Director of Srixon to talk about the new balls and the technology behind them.
Hi Jeff. What’s different between the new AD333 Tour and the previous ball?
The primary performance difference players will see is it is a little bit softer golf ball with a little lower compression and the core of the golf ball has been enhanced with our E.G.G. (Energetic Gradient Growth) core technology. What that does is go from a softer inner core to a firmer outer core all within the same core. We’ve enhanced that capability that allows us to make the golf ball feel softer, but still gives you that high ball speed and distance that you’re looking for.
So what part of it has been made softer?
The core technology that I’ve just described is the variation of firmness from the centre to the exterior and we’ve made that variation even more extreme, so the centre is a little softer and the external parts are a little firmer. The overall compression of the golf ball is a little softer and that is a more complicated way of saying it is a little bit of a softer golf ball and it is going to give you a higher launch with a little less spin.
Compression is a total number, but balls are made of many parts that make up that number, so when you say it is softer which part of the ball is that?
Usually it all comes down to that one measure of compression as to how the golf ball performs in that compression test, but you are exactly right. How the ball reacts on a driver, or a wedge versus an iron, has to do with what different layers are inside and it is really hard to describe that performance with just one number.
So do you have a compression number for the AD333 Tour?
We do. This is a 75 compression.
And how do you measure compression?
Compression is measured with a laboratory device that applies a force on the golf ball and how much it deforms.
Do you use the PGA measure or do have your own bespoke test?
Yes, we use the PGA compression measure.
What type of player would suit the Tour version over the regular AD333?
The primary difference and where the performance separates the most is from a hundred yards and in and around the green on short shots, This ball gives intense spin in that area due to the soft Tour Urethane cover. The cover of the AD333 Tour is different to the cover of the AD333 and it is also thinner than the Ultisoft cover.
Unlike the standard ball the AD333 Tour has the Urethane Tour cover and then on top of that cover we also have the spin skin technology for even more spin in that 100 yards and in area. So the cover is the key difference to the regular AD333.
You are also launching the Srixon UltiSoft, which I presume must be even softer?
Yes. The UltiSoft is the softest golf ball that Srixon has made and it has a compression of 40. Before this the SoftFeel was our softest ball and we’ve had a lot of success with the SoftFeel, but this is even softer than that. It is not much more complicated than tuning a golf ball for swing speed, so this should work for the slowest most moderate swing speed golfers out there.
So why have you made a golf ball at that compression?
One thing is the feel. The different compressions will have different feels so you can target a consumer who really wants a softer golf ball. But from an engineering and performance standpoint typically compression will be a trade-off of ball speed and launch angle and spin. So the Tour balls have a lot more ball speed, but they have more spin and they don’t have as high a launch.
This UltiSoft golf ball is the highest launching and lowest spinning golf ball that we have. So the players who have slow swing speeds and struggle to get the ball up in the air, or slice and hook a lot, this golf ball may actually be longer than our premium Tour balls for that player.
Is there a certain swing speed where players should switch from the UltiSoft to one of the other balls?
I think about 80 mph and below is where the UltiSoft maybe the best golf ball. If people can get on the launch monitor and see their numbers, then that is the easiest way to identify which golf ball has the right combination of launch conditions for them.
So if somebody is choosing a ball how would you best suggest they go about it. Is it a launch monitor, is it chipping and putting first, is it hitting with the irons first?
I don’t think I have a hard and fast rule that always works best - there are a lot of different philosophies. The launch monitor may tell you which ball you will go the furthest with a driver, but may not tell you which will ultimately translates to lower scores. Therefore identifying where you are losing strokes the most around the course is probably the best way to start and then correcting for that in your choice of ball.
You’ve mentioned the word soft quite a lot. Are balls generally getting softer?
I think yes is the answer, but more specifically there are more new golf balls being introduced in a lower softer compression range - our Z Star ball for example is at a similar compression to what it has always been. My personal opinion is that you have launch monitors now and people understand the numbers and how to add distance and what performance trade-offs you have to make we can now better explain to consumers the benefits of this UltiSoft golf ball. You are more able to see those differences in terms of launch or spin and help players improve their games in that way.
So what is driving the marketplace towards launching softer golf balls?
I think it is feel and what you don’t really think about is golf balls that are more forgiving. You think about clubs being more forgiving, but you don’t often hear that about golf balls. I like to consider these lower compression golf balls as really forgiving and it is because they cut spin on the longer shots and for a lot of players that spin can hurt you.
How do you get higher launch if you are getting less spin?
Fortunately those two things for engineers come together. The same physics that help you reduce spin help you increase launch angle. If the ball compresses more it stays on the club face longer and as a result it launches higher and has less spin.
What is it allowing you to make the ball softer? Is it materials, it it manufacturing, or is it something else?
I would say the key issue for us is getting that core to have the variation in stiffness that we require. The UltiSoft is a two-piece golf ball, but if we didn’t have that variation in stiffness in the core, which helps it play more like a 3-piece or 4-piece, then we would get that really low spin and high launch performance, but it would cost us a lot of ball speed and it is hard for us to make up distance when you lose ball speed. It is the core technology that allows us to minimise that trade off and when we got that combination right we had a golf ball that we could offer to the player with a balanced performance.
The softer balls tend to have lower price points, but if money was no object is there one ball in your range that would be the best ball for every player or is it more to do with the attributes of the player and the ball to suit those?
I would definitely say one size does not fit all. If I had to pick one I would go in the middle somewhere like the AD333 which fits the average golfer very well. The expensive golf balls tend to be those Tour type golf balls with the really thin soft covers that give you extra control around the greens, but the best thing is to get fit and find the best ball for you.
Are those balls more expensive to make because of the process to make them or the material involved?
I would say much more the process involved in making the Tour type balls is why they are more expensive. Making a cover that thin takes a lot of equipment and a lot of quality control so the balls are more expensive.