For years now, TaylorMade has been preaching lower spin to create more distance, especially in its drivers. Its original SLDR driver was actually so low spinning that TaylorMade encouraged golfers to try higher-lofted club heads, or to “loft up,” so golf balls wouldn’t dive out of the air. Now, when you look around at the popular drivers in the industry, most of them are designed to lower spin. TaylorMade was ahead of the curve.

With its new TP5 and TP5x golf balls, TaylorMade is pushing a similar initiative: lower spin on all full shots.

“This ball is different. You can make the argument this is too hot a golf ball for people who don’t spin it (enough). But that’s not the large percentage of golfers.”

For driver shots, it’s easy to understand the benefit of lower spin as long as the golfer launches it high enough. Low spin plus high launch equals more distance; that’s just a math equation. But with golf balls, as opposed to drivers, their jobs are also to get close to the hole, not just go as far and straight possible. With that in mind, is lower spin necessarily beneficial on ALL full shots, including the irons?

RoryTaylorMadeTP5xWRX

For Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, who both switched to TaylorMade TP5x golf ball this season — the lower-spinning and slightly firmer-feeling golf ball in the TP5 line — the answer is clearly “yes.” Rahm saw an 800 rpm drop in iron spin with a 4-iron compared to his Titleist’s Pro V1x golf ball and a 400 rpm drop in driver spin, according to TaylorMade. McIlroy saw up to 10 yards in extra distance with a 5-iron, and he picked up distance with the driver, as well. According to Eric Loper, Director of Golf Ball R&D at TaylorMade, McIlroy was hitting his 7 iron at 16.1 degrees of launch with 6350 rpm, and his 4 iron at 11.1 degrees of launch with 3800 rpm during his initial Trackman testing at The Bear’s Club.

“(With a 7 iron) you have to hit it about 7000 (rpm) or less, and he was hitting (his previous ball) up to 7500 (rpm),” Loper said. “That’s too high… (With the TaylorMade TP5x) he didn’t express any concern with (spin being too low). It was launching high, getting to its apex and landing soft.”

Hoyt McGarity, President of True Spec Golf, an internationally renowned custom club fitter with more than a dozen locations, has seen similar performance gains with TaylorMade’s TP5x golf ball through his personal testing and his testing with Tour players. He said he’s seeing 2-3 mph more ball speed compared to other golf balls. Just as importantly, he’s seeing those gains with a higher ball flight in what he called “straight up” club tests.

“Some of the Tour players — straight up, same loft, same lie, same golf club, same everything — they would launch this golf ball almost a degree higher, which is amazing,” McGarity said. “I was seeing almost 2-3 mph more ball speed for these Tour players, not that they need more distance, but I’m like, ‘You’re launching higher and it’s going further and it’s still coming in soft; it’s not coming in low and hot. It’s coming in high and still soft, so what’s the disadvantage?’ If you’re a low-ball hitter with low spin, you might have some issues. Your half shots might be tough to control the distance on it, that’s all.”

So while TaylorMade’s TP5 and TP5x golf balls are designed to go farther and with less spin on full shots, the company says their steeper landing angles will help them stop nearly as fast as higher-spinning balls. TaylorMade’s belief is based on the company’s scientific bounce-and-roll calculations, which factor in green conditions and landing characteristics. Yes, the lower spin of its golf balls in relation to competitors leads to minimally more roll out, but the amount is insignificant according to TaylorMade: an additional 1-1.5 feet. The company also points out that with a longer-flying golf ball, golfers will be hitting shorter clubs into greens, leading to more control. An 8 iron will yield greater stopping power and accuracy than a 7 iron, right?

Expert fitter Scott Felix of Felix Clubworks agrees with TaylorMade in theory. He said that as long as the golf ball is coming into a green at a steep enough angle, low spin is not a problem for approach shots.

“Most golfers spin the ball too much with their irons, costing them distance,” Felix said, “…but for golfers who already have a flat trajectory (with their irons), lowering spin won’t help them hold the green.”

McGarity added that about 80 percent of golfers who come to him for a fitting spin the ball too much, and for Tour players, the drop in spin won’t have a detrimental effect.

“Lets say the average spin on Tour is 6,000 (rpm with a 6 iron); it’s not like [TaylorMade’s TP5x golf ball is spinning] around 4,000 (rpm),” McGarity said. “If your average land angle is 49 degrees, they’re hitting these balls at say 5800 spin, which I think is great, and with a 50-degree land angle, so what’s the harm? It’s not like it’s coming in at 44 degrees; that’d be probably a one hop over the back and get into a little trouble.”

On the other hand, Felix notes that some Tour players simply want maximum control from a golf ball due to firmer fairway and green conditions, so lowering spin isn’t always the best option for them. But for average golfers, the distance gains will be beneficial.

“Most golfers aren’t playing in Tour conditions and will simply benefit from hitting the ball farther and having shorter irons into the green,” Felix said.

McGarity also warns golfers who already play low-spinning irons and drivers, and who spin the ball below 2,000 rpm with the driver, that the TP5 and TP5x golf balls may not be for them.

“This ball is different,” McGarity said. “You can make the argument this is too hot a golf ball for people who don’t spin it (enough). But that’s not that large percentage of golfers.”

After announcing an equipment contract with TaylorMade at The Players Championship, Rory McIlroy called TaylorMade’s TP5x golf ball the most important factor in his decision to sign with the company. With the new ball, he said he not only picked up distance, but consistency and control in the wind.

“I wasn’t really happy with the golf ball I was playing, and I needed to do something,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I struggled in the wind. So I sort of went back to the drawing board and tested for about 10 days pretty extensively after Augusta … I worked with the TaylorMade guys one day and started just on Trackman on the range and saw stuff with the golf ball … I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I need.’ This is exactly the thing that I’ve been struggling with.”

McGarity’s experiences confirmed McIlroy’s sentiments.

“I picked up a half club and I sit around and hit balls all the time on Trackman, so for me to pick up a half a club, it’s not the club it has to be the ball,” McGarity said. “And into the wind I can definitely see it’s more penetrating. I’m not a super high-spin player, so some shots I’ll hit the ball farther than I expected, but I’d rather have that issue than (to hit it) short.”

So there’s agreement that the ball spins less, goes farther and performs better in the wind with irons. But when fitting a golf ball, is iron play even the best place to start? Golf is about more than just iron shots, after all.

For Felix, a ball fitting begins by having a client hit “a bunch” of different golf balls on the putting green to narrow it down to a few based on feel preferences. Then he has the golfer take those golf balls to the chipping green and bunker. He then works back to 40-yard shots, narrowing down the options throughout the process based on feel and performance. After that, golfers will progress to the driver, and then to the irons.

“Usually you want to get a few balls you really like on and around the greens, then work backwards from there,” Felix said.

Initial testing for McIlroy started on the golf course, and not on Trackman, according to TaylorMade representatives. Once he became comfortable with performance and feel, he then took to Trackman to get dialed in with spin and match the golf ball to his equipment.

TaylorMade_TP5_TP5x_Cut_Thru
TaylorMade’s TP5x and TP5 golf ball (right), which has a slightly firmer feel.

Despite the low-spinning qualities of the golf balls on full shots, TaylorMade believes it’s giving up nothing to the competition in terms of short game performance. “There’s no golf ball that spins more around the greens,” a TaylorMade representative told me. That’s a legal way of saying no other golf ball company can prove, with confidence, that its golf ball spins more around the greens.

By producing extremely low spin on full shots, but without giving up performance and feel around the greens, TaylorMade says it’s providing the best qualities from each end of the spectrum with its TP5 and TP5x golf balls. But… how? TaylorMade engineers accomplished the feat by using larger and softer-compression cores. TaylorMade says the cores “activate” at 70 mph of swing speed inside of the five-piece constructions, which also have firm mantle layers and soft, urethane covers. The result is low spin on full shots, and high spin on shorter shots.

“It’s the real first golf ball (TaylorMade has) made that’s a game changer,” McGarity said.

TaylorMade does admit, however, that golfers may be sacrificing a bit of “workability” with the irons. That’s to say hitting hooks and slices with its golf balls becomes more difficult due to the lower spin. While the TP5 will offer a bit more of that control than the TP5x, it’s definitely something to keep in mind for those who prefer to play a Bubba Watson-style of golf.

Looking to the future

So does all of this mean that lower-spinning golf balls on full shots are the future of golf? Will we see golf equipment companies striving for drastically lower spin over the next few years?

TaylorMade representatives say they continue to chase lower spin in their prototyping, and until the golf ball is diving out of the air to the golfer’s detriment, lower spin is the future of golf balls. Obviously, TaylorMade is fully committed to a lower-spinning golf ball, and lower spin in general throughout its product lines.

For other premium golf ball manufacturers, bringing lower-spinning options to the market seems likely, given the performance benefits and Tour validation of TaylorMade’s new golf balls. But there’s a reason there are so many variations of golf balls on the market; every golfer is different. Some need more spin with the driver and want more workability with the irons, some want a super firm feel and others just want the cheapest ball possible. 

Golfers should view TaylorMade’s TP5 and TP5x golf balls as options in the vast marketplace of golf balls, and perform thorough testing to figure out if this is the right line of golf balls for their game. And remember, lower spin and more distance will require recalibrating your iron distances, and possibly adjusting your equipment, so a mid-season switch is recommended only to those who are willing to put in the necessary work.

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Andrew Tursky is the Assistant Editor at GolfWRX. He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team while earning a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

57 COMMENTS

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  1. After a month of thorough play with TP5X:
    I find it to be about 10 to 15 yards longer with my own driver on average
    About ¾ club longer with my irons
    Feels a little firmer and hard-sounding than the previous TP X
    Strange feel with putter, not as nice as last year’s
    And the cover is not as durable as last year’s model. Which is very disappointing

  2. Some tour players should be interested: they don’t pay for the balls, and they must exploit small differences in quest of the million dollar purse.
    That said, when did you last play a public course and nots any player with the too much spin problem? “Too much spin” appears to be just the latest marketing hype to induce everyday players to purchase an overpriced product they don’t need in the first place.

    • For me, and presumably other lofty handicap players, the trouble with having excess spin is off the tee or with the fairway woods, where it exaggerates hooks and slices. With my 7 iron, I’m usually happy enough to drop it 20 yards from the flag or 10 off ?the green. When chipping, I’m happy to bump it up and hope for a reasonable putt for par. I’ve noticed my missed hits with the driver are more manageable with the Chrome Softs than Pro V1s.

      TL;DR: While I certainly don’t worry about excess spin around the green, it does emphasize my mistakes from the tree.

      • Taylormade making a great ball to give tour level players and sell to the million wanna bees with the 15 handicaps from the blue tees….that will see exactly zero difference in scores…

  3. The ball-any ball on the market has a science if you will, all its own. The golf ball as we know it today has evolved to do just about anything we want it to do. For those of us who don’t care about spin(majority), why are we spending $45-50 on balls. Buy a reputable 2-piece, or 3 piece, and play the damn game. Way to much emphasis by amateurs being put on the science of the game, instead of just going out and playing, to enjoy the day. I’m not saying you should’nt get fit with the right equipment, including the ball, but I think the science of the game is taking away from the one aspect of the game-the enjoyment of being out with friends and family, and to have some fun. We are playing right into the hands of the manufacturers of said equipment, and go run to buy the next greatest thing on the market, when what we need is a lesson or two, and to give the equipment we were fitted for a chance to work for us. This game for most of us is our paycheck.

  4. It’s been five years, but if TM ever sends me the “17 more yards guaranteed” that I didn’t get from their RBZ fairway wood I’ll try a dozen of each.

  5. Really. A new ball that goes lower . They start at 70.00 us go get em. Next will be the really really low golf ball 75.00 per doz. stop with all this stuff already . The ball has already spoiled the game.

    • Not disagreeing with Jim, but … the audience on GOLF WRX is not representative of the average golfer. The average golfer will sell his soul for the belief more yards and control will come his way if he just has this new ball or club or whatever. The business is selling a fantasy and the vast majority is buying it.

  6. During my cyantifac testing I hav determined that the pang of loss is is much greater wen I shank a four doler five peace ball into the creek than that experianced with a one doler two peace ball. The best ball you can play, imho, is wun youze guys lost and I found. My “shot of the day” is to lose wun bal and find 2 more. Just have fun and enjoy the game.

  7. These balls are really are sparking my interest. But 80% of my iron shots are 3/4, lower trajectory approach shots, because that works best for me, but it seems maybe these are not the best ball for me from this article (into the green at least). But if someone tends to hit 80% or so full iron shots into greens, this could be great addition to peoples game.

  8. 97% of all golfers worldwide cannot take full advantage of these souped up balls because their swing is too slow and too erratic. Rockflites and even pond balls are quite adequate for the vast majority of ‘golfers’…. and more economical too. Of course, if you have more money than brains and talent… and you’re desperate, go ahead and treat your fantasies with the balls the pros use ..!

  9. I would much rather have a super Spinny ball. I would love to hit some of the old school hooks and slices and then suck it back 20 feet. Golf like this would be great fun and I might even move up a set of tees to have more wedges into greens!

  10. Ive not tried the new TM ball yet but everyone I have spoken to that has cant use them because they are too low spinning. These are are low handicap players. We getting to a point where the ball is going too far, I’m surprised nothing has been done about it yet. Jack Niclaus keeps saying it, who knows more about golf than Jack.

  11. I played a TP5x this weekend and agree with article – flight was higher, spin was lower. Spin was too low for me on short irons, though. My wedges with ZStar XV or Prov1x check up quick, and spin back maybe half the time. TP5x was getting ~5 feet of additional roll out on wedge shots, and couldn’t really get it to check. Performance for me on short shots was similar to mid range balls like an NXT.

    Maybe a better ball striker wouldn’t have any issues, but didn’t work for me as an average ball striker. Or maybe TP5 would be better fit

    • Was waiting for someone to compare these to NXTs. Everything they described sounded like an NXT. I’ve always played the higher spin, “non-x” tour balls and have been weary of NXT and similar balls. Haven’t played with them a ton, but I have hit more than a handful of “fairway fliers” that feel good and just sail over the green. Would say half wedges all the way through 7 irons have caused this for me, with NXT type balls.

      That being said, I have liked recent TM tour balls and will try the TP5. Hope I don’t experience wedge fliers with it.

  12. Nice article although it does come across a little like an advertisement for TM. As someone already said if low spinning balls are the answer then you should buy a cheap ball and not one that costs $50 per dozen. Get fit or try several different types of balls and find the one that works best for around the green and off the tee. And then buy the least expensive. Too many people assume that the Pro V1 or TP5 are the best because they cost the most and it’s simply not true. There are a lot of great golf balls out there that cost a lot less from both major manufacturers and the smaller companies. I’ve always like the TM golf balls and may give them a try but doubt I would play them regularly as they are just too expensive for my taste.

  13. Andrew, you forgot you mention an extremely real and relevant fact, there are TEN TP5 and TP5x version on USGA conforming list… TEN. That means pros have TEN version to chose from, not two like the rest of us amateurs. Therefore, comparing TM’s marketing claims against Tour Pro results is like comparing apples to oranges. If a reputable site like GolfWRX is going to do a fluff piece like this, at least INCLUDE ALL THE FACTS.. This story is nothing more than a TM commercial without the facts… I have grown to expect more from WRX.

    • I haven’t had a look on the USGA website, and whilst there are alternative balls out there, there is a chance that some of the balls just have custom markings. Back in the day Greg Norman’s Maxfli ball marked SHARK needed to be submitted alongside the regular ball. Norman even got DQ’d for losing a ball during a round and pulling a standard ball without the SHARK text out of his bag.

      • Incorrect. If you had looked at the USGA website you’d know that logos (such as Sergio’s stylized “S”) or personalizations (such as “Shark” or “Tiger”) are not part of the USGA conforming ball list markings. The brand name and the side stamp, which is traditionally used to differentiate golf ball models, are covered on the conforming ball list. Norman got DQ’d for having a different side stamp on the ball… he played with a Maxfli stamped “XS-9″ on the side, but that was not an approved ball model. “XS-90″ was.

        • Thanks for the information about the Maxfli ball, it’s been years and my memory isn’t brilliant (I knew it was an XS ball)! The USGA .pdf clearly differentiates between different pole and seam markings (and different seam marking should both be listed), so the personalized balls should be on the list. I still think there’s a chance that some of the variations are custom balls along with personalized ones.

  14. I got a case of each of these and have played a couple rounds with them, as well as testing each in various instances.

    I absolutely gained distance with the TP5X with irons, and noticed less side spin in my natural shot shape (draw), which took a little time to get used to, but the end result being the ball going straighter, I’m not complaining. On some very fast, very firm greens, I’d say that I got another foot or so of release with short irons than I’d typically get where I played, that’s not all bad.. There’s just as many shots where I’m a yard short of my targeted distance as there are a yard long, and there’s no sense that you can’t control these on the greens. It does spin a little too low for my current driver set up however.

    The TP5’s results were less dramatic, and spin was noticeably higher on approach shots, and driver spin was up a little as well (could tell by the launch and carry difference), but still all positive results. I’m no TM fan boy, and will generally steer towards other OEM’s, but these balls are a home run.

    I do think that using Rory and Rahm as examples isn’t the best way to convey the message to the general golfing public, and even better amateurs, or heck, pro’s even. Picking two of the fastest swinging guys on tour and showing their results isn’t going to give us much of a clue as to what we can expect to see out there.

  15. Enough already…. the ball goes too far, and for firm links and heathland courses it already comes in too hot in the summer. If McIlroy wins the British then I take it all back. On the tiny Birkdale greens with a lower spin ball I think it’s more likely we will see him club throwing (with great secondary axis tilt) as another shot canons off into the fescue behind the hole.

  16. Trying hard with this article to make it appear that there is some journalistic substance to what is a blatant advertisement. Failing badly, but trying.

    Getting bored of GWRX now.

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