Titleist has been the dominant player in the golf ball market for many years. However, the arrival of major companies such as Bridgestone and Nike into the industry, combined with a resurgence in technology by established companies such as Callaway has meant Titleist will have to work even harder to retain their lion’s share of the market. Recently, Titleist introduced their updated version of their flagship Pro V1 line, filled with new technology but retaining time tested feel and performance countless golfers have come to rely upon.
The popular NXT Tour and NXT were next in line for an update. The NXT series is aimed at low to mid handicaps who want a low compression ball that retains some spin and feel around the greens. Titleist obliged and just introduced the new 2007 NXT Tour and NXT Extreme golf balls. Titleist claims the performance of the NXT Tour has been greatly improved, and a slight price increase has accompanied the new model ($29.99 street price from $26.99). How is the performance of the new NXT Tour and is it worth the money?
Fans of the NXT Tour will notice Titleist has expanded the target market of the new NXT Tour. It now reads, “designed for average to highly skilled golfers.” The addition of skilled golfers to the target audience is a bold statement, considering so many of them already trust the NXT’s big brother, the Pro V1. On paper, Titleist has done its homework and made a strong attempt to bring the performance of the NXT Tour much closer to that of the Pro V1.
The NXT Tour is a three piece ball, much like the other premium golf balls on the market. The three layer construction allows the golf ball to react differently during different shots. The core of the golf ball promotes distance and compression, the middle layer helps deliver energy to the core during full shots while maintaining compression on soft ones, while the outer cover provides soft feel and spin around the greens. The NXT Tour has two different cores, both are made from polybutadiene to help the ball react differently during different shots. The cores also provide maximum distance through efficient compression on full shots. The cover of the ball is made from a very thin layer of proprietary Fusablend which is a very bright white and gives the golf ball a soft feel.
The big change to the 2007 NXT series is the addition of Titleist’s new Staggered Wave Parting Line which effectively removes a visible seam from the golf ball. Although the cover of the golf ball is still made in two pieces joined together, Titleist has incorporated the dimple pattern into the joining of the covers to improve aerodynamics and performance in the wind. In addition, Titliest has also incorporated the same 392 icosahedral multi-dimple design from the Pro V1 into the NXT Tour. Better aerodynamics equal better distance, and the new NXT Tour has the same proven formula of the Pro V1. Also carried over from the Pro V1 improvements is the new Alignment Integrated Marking (A.I.M.) stamped with the NXT Tour logo on the side of the golf ball. This black line is a nice touch for golfers who scramble on the first tee to hastily draw a straight line on their golf ball with a marker for alignment on the putting green and on the tee.
So what gives? The new NXT Tour has the same dimple design, side stamp, and Staggered Wave Parting Line as the Pro V1, shouldn’t the two be identical? Not exactly, there are a couple of key differences between the two models. The Pro V1 has a larger core covered in a thin mantle layer of Ionomer, and the cover is an even thinner layer of urethane. But does the different construction on the inside of the golf ball really add up to noticeable differences in performance for the golf ball?
I’ve played the NXT Tour in the past. It was typically my winter ball of choice, low in price, easy to compress, and still retained quite a bit of feel and spin around the greens. However, one thing I never quite got used to was the very soft feel it seemed to have off every club in the bag. From driver to putter, it felt like every time I would strike the ball, I was playing golf with a marshmallow. The feel was especially bad around the greens where the ball felt “dead,” especially considering the fact that it didn’t spin enough around the greens.
Visually, the balls have been improved quite a bit. The new Fusablend cover is white, really white. The cover is noticeably whiter than the Pro V1 and it retains its color even with extended play. I’ve played 18 holes with one ball and another 9 with another and there was no sign of yellowing or graying, the cover remained bright white. The A.I.M. Line is a welcome addition. Without the familiar “seam,” the A.I.M. Line provides a good reference for players who like to use the line to line up putts and shots off the tee. It’s a great addition for players who like to see a line on their ball, and those who prefer a clean view without any markings will still be able to do so.
The most dramatic improvement with the new model is the change in feel compared to the previous model. The 2007 NXT Tour feels much firmer from tee to green; however, it is not even close to being a distance rock by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the contrary, it still feels softer than the Pro V1, but the difference between the two is nowhere near as large as it has been in the past. Off the driver, the two react very similar, I’m not a huge hitter so over-compression and excessive spin are not a major concern for me. Between the new NXT and Pro V1, I noticed no dramatic difference in ball flight or distance between either. With regard to iron play, compared to the old version, the 2007 NXT Tour is much improved. Where the previous model would go nowhere on a flushed five iron, the 2007 NXT Tour flies much further and spins much less. However compared to the Pro V1, the new NXT Tour still spins more off the irons. It will fly higher and still has a slight tendency to balloon in the wind if you’re not careful.
Around the greens, the 2007 NXT Tour has much improved spin, especially off short shots. It’s easy to make them check up and bite. Whereas with the previous model, obtaining spin around the greens was a challenge, even with high spin wedges. This is not a problem with the new model, whether the shot is played high, or low, it’s very easy to get the ball to predictably react around the greens. The increased spin combines with the slightly firmer feel to provide even better feel around the greens and with wedge shots. Off the putter, the change in feels is again a very welcome change. The firmer feel is simply more pleasing, provides a little more feedback about contact, and provides a more pleasing sound.
Durability is a major point of contention among golfers. Many avid golfers know the disappointment of having to go through three balls in a round without losing a single one. As costs of golf balls increase, it seems durability has gone down. It’s understandable that attributes such as spin, soft feel, and wedges with huge grooves contribute to reduced golf ball life; nevertheless, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow. The new NXT Tour is relatively unchanged in regards to durability. The new cover does tend to scuff, not just with wedges, but I’ve also found pieces of the cover in the grooves of my short irons. Bunker shots are a dicey proposition. This scuff was the result of a simple green side bunker shot out of fairly soft sand. The ball was not bladed and besides the scuff, there was actually a small hole in the cover. Such is the price of having a ball that spins and feels soft. One good change related to the cover is the color. As mentioned before, it remains bright white as long as you have the ball. There is no gradual yellowing of the cover or shades of grey that appear. All in all, this is by no means the worst ball on the market in terms of durability, but be aware that you might go through one or two a round.
The new version of the NXT Tour is a definite improvement over it’s predecessor. The firmer feel combined with all the new technology Titleist has incorporated into the new model has paid off. Although it clearly isn’t meant to be, the NXT Tour still isn’t a replacement for the Pro V1, especially for the better player. More spin off the irons combined with less short game spin compared to the Pro V1 mean that players who are betrothed to the Pro V1 most likely won’t be switching to the NXT Tour full time. However, it is a very serviceable ball, and in just about every category it is a major improvement over previous version, especially in feel and performance around the greens. Although the $30 price tag will put it at the top of the mid-level golf ball market, the improvements in its performance will make the $4 price tag increase easy to overlook.