The launch of a new Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x models is always keenly anticipated. At the official launch of the 2015 versions at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando I caught up with Mary Lou Bohn, VP of Titleist Golf Ball Marketing and Communications, to find out what changes have been made.
Hi Mary Lou. You launched the 2015 Pro V1 golf ball today. What is the biggest change you have made between this and the previous version?
We have changed the formulation of the cover. We have a cast thermoset urethane cover and we have made that even softer and what that does for golfers is give them a little bit more short game control, particularly on shots of 100 yards and in, and it gives it a much softer feel.
I had a chance to review the prototype balls that came out at the end of last year and I noticed that the durability was up quite significantly. Was that a key aim with the new ball?
In the 2013 models we made an extensive change to the cover and paint system that made the balls a lot more durable so our goal going into the 2015 version was that we would retain that exceptional durability. From a lot of our feedback, both from on Tour and from our Team Titleist members, we have had a lot of people say they think it is now even more durable.
So we haven’t claimed that on the package, but our goal was to give golfers the great durability that they have come to expect with the Pro V1, whilst giving more short game control and a softer feel.
You talk about the ball being softer. Is that all to do with the cover or is it also to do with the compression?
In the case of both of the models the increased softness is really down to the cover, so you are going to notice it on short irons, pitch shots, chips and putts. The compression of both the Pro V1 and Pro V1x is about the same as it was in the 2013 models.
What are the numbers – they are usually about 80-90 compression?
Yes, Pro V1 ranges around 88-90 compression whilst the Pro V1x is a little bit firmer compression and that tends to be in the 95 range. One of the things we have found is, even when we were doing early prototype testing on Tour, some of the guys when using a driver, irons shots or wedges were commenting on the softer feel within 1 or 2 shots for both Pro V1 and Pro V1x, so it is very discernible.
One thing we are hearing a lot from other ball makers is that they are making very low compression golf balls and saying that, although previously it was thought a low compression and a high swing speed you would lose distance after a certain point, but now it seems they are saying you can have both. What are your views on this?
It’s a little complicated in that you can make a low compression golf ball long for a specific swing speed, high or low, and you can also make a high compression golf ball long for a high or low swing speed, so that is just one of the many design tools that you can use.
When we look at compression the most important thing is how it impacts the overall feel of the golf ball. We have tested a lot of prototypes ourselves at super low compressions and there is a point of diminishing returns where some golfers just do not like that feel where they don’t think they get enough feel from the golf ball on their shorts, often calling it too soft. So I think it really becomes a player preference on how soft you want your golf ball to be on that full shot.
I've always thought low compression would be for mid to high handicaps in the 80-90 mph swing speeds, but it seems that softer balls now seem to be coming into faster swing speeds. Would that be right?
Soft has become what a lot of golfers have been looking for. Even in this new generation of Pro V1 and Pro V1x we are giving golfers softer feel and a lot of the Pro V1x players are saying they still get all the great distance, but with extra spin and a softer feel.
Softer balls I think are becoming a buzz or a trend in the market, but I think it is important not to misrepresent that the soft compression is an indicator of how long the golf ball will be because that is impacted by many factors such as how large is the core, what cover is being used, how thin is the cover, what are the aerodynamics, etc. So I think golfers should not be misled into believing that a very soft compression golf ball is necessarily a distance ball.
There does seem to be a promotion of 'soft equals distance', but in reality are you saying that is not true in all cases?
That would be the fairest assessment. We can show you test data that we run on a lot of different golf balls that claim, “this is great for an amateur, you are going to hit this soft ball even longer”. We can test it and it is not longer than higher compression golf balls, so the most important thing for a player is to go out and play a golf ball and see what distance you are experiencing, what feel preferences do you have and does it give you the appropriate scoring performance into and around the greens to shoot lower scores. I would say don’t believe all the hype.
In terms of the new Pro V1 balls that have just come out what has been the adoption rate amongst your current Titleist players from the previous generation ball?
We launched on the PGA Tour in October 2014 and to date we have had over 100 players already convert to the new models. We’ve had a lot of wins with new balls recently with Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker and Gary Stal amongst others. The conversion rate is really high – there may be a few still playing the 2013 ball – but the adoption rate has been very fast and players are winning with it.
Some of the Pro V1 competitor golf balls in the market are only going to be sold in pro-shops this year. Will this affect what Titleist does?
Well, we don’t’ like to comment on our competitors or their strategies, but for us it is important that are golf balls are available wherever golfers want to purchase their equipment.
Titleist has great relationships with the on-course channel and we always want to be distributing there, but if golfers are also wanting the convenience of purchasing some of our products from a bigger retailer we want them to be able to do that.
We go where the consumer is so that golfers have access to our products and they can make the decision which brand they want to buy and hopefully it is always Titleist!