Srixon dominate the 2-piece market in the UK with the AD333 ball and yet they found it hard to gain the same level of traction in the premium 3 and 4 piece market with the previous 2013 Z-Star and Z-Star XV golf balls where the Titleist Pro V1 is the herd of elephants in the room.
For the 2015 Z-Star, Srixon has aimed at the better player with a few new tweaks to the standard ball and the firmer Z-Star XV version.
First up is a reduction in the number of dimples from 344 to 324. Srixon has made more of them of equal size so that they cover 80% of the surface and therefore they have more effect on trajectory and flight.
The less gaps you have between the dimples the better the stability usually is in the wind, as the dimples have a greater effect and certainly on a breezy day the stability was above average for a premium golf ball.
The other change that you won't be able to see is the softer Energetic Gradient Growth (EGG) core that launches the ball higher and with less spin, but of course with a nice soft feel. These softer, lower spin premium balls seem to be all the rage at the moment and the 2015 Srixon Z-Star did feel a little softer than the previous version.
In the Z-Star XV the EGG is inside a firmer mid-layer to create a four piece construction and you can really feel this extra firmness around the green. Srixon say that this firmer feel will create a bit less spin that the Z-Star and should therefore go a little further, provided you have the 100mph plus swing speed to get it moving in the first place.
All this tech is well and good, but the thing you will immediately notice when you pick the 2015 Z-Star ball up for the first time is the new Spin Skin cover. This is only 0.5mm thick and the clever stuff is the Spin Skin Coating that is applied to the already soft neo-urethane cover.
These two combine to create a very flexible surface that you can feel gripping even when you rub two Z-Stars together, so you won't be surprised when I say that Srixon claim it increases interaction with the clubface by 25% on impact compared to the previous version. Personally I would say that is an under-estimate.
In the Z-Star you already have a very soft core, even though the compression is 90 and the addition of the Spin Skin makes it very soft indeed to putt with. That is great for steel faced or firm insert putters, but if you have a relatively soft insert putter then you may find the combination is a bit like two pillows hitting each other, so if that is an issue you may have to change the face or go to the firmer XV.
The Z-Star XV is 105 compression, but with the Spin Skin it feels pretty good. I don't normally like to compare models but the best way to describe it is relative to the market leader. The Z-Star is softer than the 2015 Titleist Pro V1 and the Z-Star XV is a little firmer and that is where they were relatively beforehand too, so no change there.
Despite all this softness in core and cover, both Z-Star balls perform very 'normally' from tee to green and I have no complaints. Well one, but I will come to that later.
It is on the touch shots that the Z-Star really comes into its own. If you struggle to get grip on your pitches and chips, then the 2015 Z-Star is the ball for you. The Spin Skin is incredible at getting the ball to grab on anything less than a full shot and I am including those 30 yarders the pro's get to dance around the hole. The extra traction you get from the cover with the wedges does what it says on the box and somehow does not affect longer shots as much. Very clever.
However you need to ask yourself if this is a good thing for you? Do you need a chip to run out or not? On firm courses in the summer it could be very handy.
If you don't try to do what Phil would do and flop everything, then you may not need it grab so quickly as you will be relying on the run out. That will be up to you to judge for yourself, but at least it is good to have the option.
That is not the downside though. I am afraid that all this premium spinniness comes at a price, literally, and that is reduced durability. The Spin Skin is amazing, but just shows the scars of battle quickly enough that if you were being picky then you would be using more than one ball per round.
I took both balls round our par-3 course at Golfalot HQ and just hitting irons this is what they looked like after 9 holes each.
If we were back ten years ago then this would probably be par for the course, but with the market leader making their ball more durable in the last two versions, then the Z-Star is bucking the trend in the wrong direction.
To be fair, Srixon did say to me at launch that this was a possible trade off, so they are not pulling a fast one and it will depend on how aggressive you are when you play with your Z-Star, but you have been warned.
On the plus side, there is a choice of white or yellow colours in both models for those of you who may need help seeing it disappear over the horizon and that is good to see in a premium ball.
The RRP is around £6 less per dozen than the market leader so it is a classic, 'you pays your money and takes your choice' situation, so it just depends on the spin you want to put on that decision.