Pros: Two different premium golf balls designed for higher swing speeds, deliver distance, exceptional short game control and durability. The Tour Yellow option is one of the best yellow golf balls available today.
Cons: Overlapping swing speed recommendations can make off-the-shelf selection of the right golf ball a little more difficult.
Bottom Line: While not as flashy as other premium golf balls on the market, both the Z-Star and Z-Star XV simply go about their business generating long distance off the tee, excellent spin around the greens, and a soft but durable feel.
The premium golf ball market is dominated by a few main players, generally with either a rich history, large marketing budget or both. On the other hand, while Srixon golf balls are in the winning bags of well-known players like Graeme McDowell and Keegan Bradley, you’re not as likely to find one in the woods or abandoned at the edge of a water hazard. But what I’ve found is that most players who have Srixon in the bag, especially their tour-caliber ball, did so with a purpose and have very specific reasons why they are playing a Srixon golf ball.
With the new Z-Star and Z-Star XV, Srixon offers two tour-level premium golf balls designed for higher swing speed players looking for maximum distance and exceptional short game performance.
The three-piece, 90 compression Z-Star is designed for golfers with swing speeds of 88-108mph. The large gradient core is softer at the center and harder on the outside which produces lower spin and a soft feel on full shots. The company’s propriety urethane cover, which they call SpinSkin, increases friction by 20 percent over previous versions, which leads to more spin and control. The 344 Speed Dimple pattern is designed to maximize surface coverage to reduce drag and increase overall distance.
The four-piece, 105 compression Z-Star XV is designed for tour-level swing speeds greater than 105 mph. The dual-core decreases spin off the driver while creating high spin off full wedge shots. The Z-Star XV also utilizes the SpinSkin urethane cover and 344 dimple pattern.
The Z-Star and Z-Star XV are available now and carry a minimum advertised price of $44.99. Both are available in Pure White and Tour Yellow and come in standard play numbers (1-4).
Looking at the specifications of each ball, the performance characteristics are very similar. While the Z-Star is slightly softer, both the Z-Star and Z-Star XV offer a soft, responsive feel with tour-level distance and short game spin. As with all the golf balls in the premium market, there are subtle differences that should be considered for your individual game.
Srixon claims the Z-Star is built to generate slightly more spin on full shots than the Z-Star XV. The softer, thinner urethane cover of the Z-Star XV also should spin slightly more on short iron and wedge shots.
Like other reviews, I wanted to get a true sense of performance so I tested both balls in a variety of ways both with a launch monitor and on the course. To get the data, I hit both balls on a launch monitor with a 60-degree wedge, 6 iron and a driver. Testing indoors was necessary because I wanted to hit many shots with each club so I needed to be able to retrieve the balls. I headed to Golfsmith Extreme in Smyrna, Ga., where they let me take over a private fitting bay for a few hours. My normal playing swing speed with a driver is around 107 mph, which is within the recommended range of either golf ball.
60-Degree Full Wedge Shots
Based on Srixon’s claims, I expected the Z-Star XV to spin more on full wedge shots than the Z-Star or the other balls in Srixon’s 2014 lineup. I expected the launch angle, peak height and ball speed would be almost identical. With the wedge, I’m primarily interested in spin and controllability. When it comes to spin, the Z-Star XV generated the most of any ball in Srixon’s 2014 lineup. While they both created close to 11,000 rpm of spin, which is similar to other premium balls on the market, the Z-Star XV was more than 300rpm faster than the Z-Star. While the Z-Star launched slightly higher, the peak height and ball speed was identical. What surprised me most during the test was the performance of the Q-Star, which generated very similar spin to the Z-Star XV with a slightly higher launch and peak height.
The spin numbers of both balls is more than enough to hit the green, spin back and offer the kind of controllability you expect in a premium golf ball.
6 Iron Shots
The similarity between the two balls continued during the 6 iron testing. The Z-Star produced 202 rpm more spin, launched 0.2-degrees higher, but had the same peak height and ball speed. Both balls had the same descent angle, which will help drop balls onto the green and get them to stop. Because both balls are very similar, I needed to look at carry and total distance to help separate them. Unfortunately, those numbers were almost identical as well, but the Z-Star XV edged out the Z-Star with one more yard of carry distance and two more yards of overall distance.
With the longer irons, I like to put a golf ball in play that will give me a slightly higher launch and a healthy amount of spin without balooning up and getting out of control. Both the Z-Star and the Z-Star XV fit that criteria, but thanks to the extra spin generated on full wedge shots, the Z-Star XV still has the edge.
I’m continuing to lower the spin off my driver with swing adjustments, but every bit helps. Based on the data I’ve seen so far, I would expect the Z-Star to launch slightly higher, hit a higher peak height, but also spin more. With that in mind, the Z-Star XV would be better suited to my game.
Looking at the results, that is almost exactly what happened. The Z-Star XV generated 2 mph more ball speed, over 300 rpm less spin, and hit a peak height of 1 yard lower than the Z-Star. Interestingly, the Z-Star actually launched slightly lower, albeit only 0.2-degrees, but still lower. Once again however, the Q-Star performed really well, generating less spin and a higher launch than the Z-STar XV.
The Z-Star XV was also the longest golf ball in the lineup, flying 2 yards longer than the Q-Star and 3 yards longer than the Z-Star. With the longest distance as well as lower spin and peak height, the Z-Star XV continued to suit my game the best. I anticipate many golfers with swing speeds greater than 100 mph will also find the Z-Star XV is the best performing premium ball in Srixon’s 2014 lineup.
Unlike my previous reviews, I tested these golf balls during on-course rounds before I was able to get on a launch monitor and analyze the data. This allowed me to simply watch how the balls performed. I started the round with the Z-Star and alternated every few holes to ensure each ball had a variety of on-course situations to deal with.
Having never put a Srixon tour ball in play, I was really excited to see how they performed. From the first tee through the first hole, I was impressed. The launch and spin off the driver looked like what I expect from a tour ball; it didn’t balloon up and it had a nice stable flight. Trajectory off the mid irons appeared to be slightly lower than other balls I’ve played, which would eventually be confirmed during launch monitor testing. But we’re really talking about subtle differences.
From 100 yards and in, I really liked the spin I was seeing off both balls. The Z-Star XV appeared to spin slightly more than the Z-Star, but I was able to hit and hold greens with the irons and even longer clubs such as the hybrid. The Tour Yellow really popped off the fairways and greens. I dropped some nice putts with both balls and was generally happy with the performance. Interestingly, the Q-Star, which I will review in the future, also performed really well on the course. The launch monitor data would eventually suggest that I play the Z-Star XV, but it is hard to argue against the performance of the sub-$30 Q-Star.
Half Wedge Shots
Testing during my rounds allowed me to hit some half wedge shots, but I wanted to hit more in a row from half wedge distance to really get a feel for the performance. Both the Z-Star and Z-Star XV allowed me to hit low spinning wedge shots that hit, checked and stopped dead. If I’m being picky, the XV did appear to grip the greens with a bit more power, but both had a lot of spin. There really isn’t a shot you can’t hit with these balls. High soft shots, low spinners, and controlled-spin running shots are all possible with either ball.
Around the Green
For shots around the green, I didn’t expect to see any difference in performance as both balls have the same proprietary SpinSkin urethane cover. Within 40 yards, the cover makes all the difference. These are tour balls and around the greens is where the money is made. Both balls allowed me to hit any shot I wanted from bump-and-runs to my favorite, the quick-spinning chip that hit and stop dead. Bunker shots performed equally well and I was able to hit chunk and run bunker shots as well as more aggressive spinners. Personally, I didn’t notice any difference in feel between the two as both balls had a nice soft responsive feel.
With the putter in hand, the Z-Star felt slightly softer off the putter face. But both felt very similar. Both balls have a nice, consistent and true roll. I didn’t feel like the balls were too hot or needed any real adjustment to roll nice putts. While I wouldn’t call either of these balls the softest in the premium market, neither felt hard or clicky. They both simply performed as expected.
Looks and Feel
Both the Z-Star and Z-Star XV felt really nice on all shots, especially shots around the green. The feel produced wasn’t necessarily spongy or buttery, but it was soft enough that solid strikes gave me that pure, almost indescribable feeling we all strive for. The cover of the Z-Star XV feels very soft and slightly softer than the Z-Star. These are not the softest feeling tour balls, I still believe the Titleist Pro V1 is the softest premium ball on the market, but they are also not the hardest balls on the market either. Like so much about Srixon, they simply just perform. We all know that feel is subjective, so I would suggest testing a sleeve out for yourself.
As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, the Titleist Pro V1 is the gold standard when it comes to the look of a golf ball. While the Z-Star and Z-Star XV won’t be dethroning the king anytime soon, I’m really drawn to these balls. Maybe it is because they aren’t as common so when I see one, it looks really unique. The logo and alignment marks on the side have a modern quality and the italicized name in the alignment mark gives the ball a sense of movement and power.
No discussion of the look of a Srixon golf ball would be complete without talking about the Tour Yellow. Srixon hit a home run when it introduced its yellow golf ball years ago. I love the pearlized yellow, which to me is slightly tighter than the pearlized yellow of the Titleist NXT Tour. While I have not always been a yellow golf ball fan, it is safe to say that any time I put a Srixon in play, it will be the Tour Yellow version.
It is accurate to say that under the right circumstances we can all scuff, scrape and chew up any premium golf ball on the market. The soft urethane covers are designed to allow clubs, especially wedges with clean grooves, to grab a hold of the cover and fire up some serious spin. Some of the premium balls on the market hold up well and some do not hold up as well.
I used three of each type of golf ball during testing and both the Srixon Z-Star and Z-Star XV held up really well during testing. After a battery of drivers, 6-irons, wedges, and putters, both balls came away with only minor scuffs and marks. The softer and thinner cover of the Z-Star XV was only slightly less durable than the Z-Star. I didn’t put any gashes on the balls and each could be cleaned up and put back into the bag.
The Srixon Z-Star and Z-Star XV appear comfortable hanging just in the shadows and quietly delivering tour-level performance for golfers with higher swing speeds. They aren’t flashy and won’t dominate your TV screens with too many ads during final round coverage. But both balls offer golfers long distance off the tee and excellent short game control around the greens, while still being durable enough to get through an entire round.
If you’re looking for a new tour-caliber ball, both options should be on the list to test. For golfers with swing speeds under 105 mph, the Z-Star is the place to start. For golfers with driver swing speeds greater than 105 mph, the Z-Star XV is worth putting in play to see how it works for your game.