When people are buying golf balls, they’re generally thinking about two things. One is getting a golf ball that offers a performance benefit of some type. Maybe they’d like more distance, more feel, or more spin around the green. The second is cost. Is a golfer shopping for the absolutely best golf ball for their game, or the best ball for their game at a certain price point? To Titleist’s golf ball team, there’s a third and even more important thing golfers should consider when they’re buying golf balls: consistency.

Walking through a Titleist golf ball facility near its headquarters in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, I was starting to understand just how important consistency is to the company. The location of this particular facility is a close-kept secret at Titleist. To go there, I agreed not to publish its name, as it offers a hint to its location. And when I toured it in late March, I was the first media member to visit. In fact, only a fraction of Titleist employees have ever been inside the building.

The facility is not impossibly large or busy like the company’s golf ball manufacturing plants, nor does it have the immediate “wow factor” of Titleist’s Manchester Lane Test Facility. The one-story building and what goes on inside, however, is arguably the key to Titleist’s dominant position in the golf ball industry. It’s where the company makes good on the promise to “own every step of the process.”

ProV1Factory_2017_0969
These “preps” will become outer cores for Titleist’s Pro V1x golf balls.

Titleist’s parent company, Acushnet, sells extremely popular golf clubs, golf clothes and golf shoes, but there’s nothing more important to the company than the success of its golf balls, and it’s been that way for a long time. The company’s leadership position goes back to the 1949 U.S. Open, which was the first time Titleist led what’s known as the ball count (how many golfers are using a certain brand of golf ball in a tournament). It hasn’t relinquished the title in the nearly 70 years since. Today, Titleist is the most-used golf ball on all the leading professional golf tours. The company also owns more than a 50 percent market share in golf balls, and it has built an infrastructure to ensure its continued success.

Each day, Titleist produces more than 1 million golf balls in its golf ball manufacturing plants. About 500,000 of those balls are its flagship Pro V1 and Pro V1x models, which are the best-selling golf ball models in the world. That gives Titleist the distinction of being the most popular golf ball brand in the world, as well as the world’s most premium golf ball brand. And if you ask Titleist’s golf ball team why, they’ll tell you it’s the way its golf balls are made.

ProV1Factory_2017_1038
These Pro V1x dual cores are ready for their mantle layer, and then a urethane cover.

In the golf ball world, it’s commonplace for companies to outsource the production of their golf balls. For small golf ball companies, it’s usually a necessity given the huge cost of owning and operating a golf ball manufacturing plant. Titleist rejects the practice. It manufacturers all of its golf balls in Titleist-owned facilities, and it only manufacturers Titleist golf balls. The only caveat is that Titleist designs and manufactures golf balls for Pinnacle, a brand owned by Acushnet.

Standing in the secret facility, I was looking at the heart of those manufacturing plants. It’s where Titleist makes the machines and tools it uses to make its golf balls. Titleist’s leadership says that making its own golf ball manufacturing equipment provides the company with a competitive advantage in creating both better performing golf balls and more consistent golf balls, and there’s no denying that Titleist takes the practice seriously. The company makes its own golf robots for its internal golf ball testing. It even makes the rubber golf tees it uses for its robot tests. When it comes to actually making its golf balls, Titleist is even more granular, and you don’t have to look any further than the outside of a golf ball for an example.

ProV1Factory_2017_1429
Titleist produces its own urethane for its Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf ball covers.

The tools responsible for a golf ball’s dimples are known as “hobs,” and Titleist produces them inside its secret facility. They’re so important to Titleist’s golf ball team, in fact, that Titleist’s hobs are never disposed of even after they’re taken out of production. Every hob the company has made since the 1970s has been locked away for safekeeping.

Hobs are made of steel and look a lot like the end of a trailer hitch. They’re used to make the steel dimple cavities that are responsible for the dimple patterns of millions of golf ball, however, and for that reason they’re formed with incredible precision. To create a hob, copper electrodes jolt its exterior with 10,000 volts of electricity, which forms it into a dimple pattern that’s exact to one-third the thickness of a human hair. Few golfers realize that after a golfer makes contact with a golf ball, it’s the design of its dimples that are fully in control of a golf ball’s trajectory. While dimples can’t change the launch or spin of a golf ball — that’s programmed by a golfer at impact and a function of the materials used in a golf ball’s design — their interaction with the air can make a golf ball go higher and lower, and if they’re not perfectly designed, totally sideways.

Titleist_Donkey-Elephant
With the elephant logo pointed at the target, this golf ball has deeper dimples on its right side. Can you tell the difference?

Titleist’s golf ball team would prove this point to me later in the day in a robot test at its Manchester Lane Test Facility. The robot hit several shots with the company’s Pro V1 golf balls, each of which landed essentially in the same spot on the outdoor driving range. The company then hit intentionally flawed Pro V1 golf balls on the robot known as “donkey-elephant” balls. On one side of the ball was a donkey, the logo of the Democratic Party in U.S. politics. With the donkey pointed at the target, the ball hooked sharply to the left almost immediately into its flight due to the deeper dimples on the left side of the ball. On the opposite side of the ball was the elephant logo of the Republican Party. After it was aimed at the target, which positioned its deeper dimples on the right side of the ball, the test technician walked outside the robot room to check the road that runs along the right side of the driving range. It was clear, so he hit the button that started the robot’s arm. Had a car been driving by, it might have been struck with a wicked slice.

The robot also hit two other intentionally flawed Pro V1s that produced even more drastic effects. One had dimples on only one-half of the ball, and it curved about twice as much as the donkey-elephant balls. The robot also hit a third ball with no dimples. It nose-dived directly into the ground less than 100 yards into its flight. The point of the experiment was to show not only that dimples work, but also to illustrate how precise they need to be to create a consistent trajectory. Changing the depth of a dimple or the angle of its edges only fractionally can significantly affect the way a golf ball flies, according to Titleist’s golf ball team, and a detail as small as the amount of paint applied to a golf ball can significantly affect performance.

Manchester_Lane_Robot
See the road on the right at Titleist’s Manchester Lane Test Facility?

Just like Titleist doesn’t mess around with dimples, it also doesn’t mess around with its intellectual property. The company made headlines in March when retail giant Costco, in response to a letter sent by Acushnet that accused Costco of infringing on Acushnet patents, sought a declaratory judgment from the U.S. District Court in Seattle related to its Kirkland Signature golf balls.

The news was widely reported, both inside and outside the golf world, given Costco’s outsider status in the golf industry. It also didn’t hurt that the Kirkland Signature golf balls weren’t available for purchase at the time. Costco had been selling them for the price $1.25 per ball, roughly one-third the price of Titleist’s Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls, on the few occasions they were available online or in select Costco stores. When asked about the potential dispute with Costco, Titleist representatives responded that the company does not comment on ongoing legal matters.

null
A hallway in Titleist’s Golf Ball R&D Facility at its headquarters in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

If a legal dispute were to occur between Acushnet and Costco, it would not be the first time the company was engaged in high-profile litigation. Acushnet has gone to court with golf ball companies big and as small in the last two decades, and it’s clear why the company doesn’t shy away from litigation. Titleist owns more than 40 percent of all issued golf ball patents. It also employs six of the top-10 golf ball patent holders, each of which holds more than 100 patents individually. Inside Titleist’s R&D Department, its patent plaques are on full display alongside a main hallway. When you turn the corner, hundreds more line an even longer hallway.

“It’s not that Titleist is walking around saying we’re the best, but we’re very proud of our commitment,” says Michael Mahoney, Vice President of Titleist Golf Ball Marketing. But Mahoney points out that with golf balls, there’s no “silver bullet” for success. Everything in a golf ball — from its core to its cover and all parts in between — needs to be perfectly executed for it to perform as designed. Each of the golf balls in a dozen need to perform the same, as does every dozen of those golf balls in pro shops around the world. Only by guaranteeing that can a company be sure its golf balls are giving its customers the best chance to succeed on the course.

ProV1Factory_2017_1527
Rubber stamps place the Titleist script on the company’s golf balls.

To illustrate his point, Mahoney asked me to think about an avid golfer who uses a specific model of golf ball. He then asked how many golf balls that golfer might use in an entire season. I put myself in that golfer’s shoes. I assumed he or she might lose an average of three balls per round, and play an average of at least four rounds per month for six months. That’s a minimum of 72 golf balls.

“All those golf balls need to perform the same,” Mahoney said. “And if they don’t, that golfer isn’t playing a Titleist golf ball.”

Your Reaction?
  • 235
  • LEGIT32
  • WOW13
  • LOL8
  • IDHT3
  • FLOP3
  • OB1
  • SHANK118

Previous articleY.E. Yang WITB 2017
Next articleFTF: What Are the Best Game-Improvement Irons of 2017?
Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals.

He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

66 COMMENTS

Not seeing your comment? Read our rules and regulations. Click "Report comment" to alert GolfWRX moderators to offensive or inappropriate comments.
  1. Lots of good balls out there to choose from now, so you can’t beat buying a few sleeves and seeing what feels best rather than being loyal to a brand. Anecdotally, I find more new condition Pro V1/V1X’s in the rough than any other ball (vanity handicappers?), NXT Tour to be a good all rounder, and DT Solo’s not for me but will try the new one.

  2. NO way the Costco ball is as good as the ProV…the Costco ball is based on a ball 4 or more years old….that said, Yes, the Costco ball is better then any other titlist product along with every other ball companies less then tour balls and that is the problem in the ball world….why pay $29 or even $20 a dozen for a ball that will not perform as good as a ball at 2 dozen for $29. A good example would be paying $36 for a dozen Titlist NXT now the Costco ball will play better then that.

  3. “All those golf balls need to perform the same,” Mahoney said. “And if they don’t, that golfer isn’t playing a Titleist golf ball.” LOL – What a cheese packer line.

    I’d be trying to change the narrative too if I were in Titleists’ shoes with so many other high performing options available at your local wholesale club these days.

  4. Nice article. Obviously Titleist has a very successful position in the market; not just in the market share for balls, but the number of patents also likely provides a source of revenue. While the “bandwagon” of comments seems to want some sort of attack on Titleist, I applaud them for investing in technology, R&D, owning their own production processes, facilities and protecting their intellectual capital. If they can get a return on their investment and get a buck more for their ball…….great for them…….it likely means more investment and development in the future. It’s nice to see they manufacture and have R&D in the US. Just about every other ball marketer wants to sell a better ball than Titleist, and the consumer has lots of choices at all price points.

    Interesting to hear that some people think the Kirkland ball is a competitive threat to Titleist. While Kirkland brand usually is a good value, their products are mostly (there are a few exceptions) just procuring and branding a 3rd party manufacturer. Costco is more about a “good deal”, rather than having the same product stock consistently.

  5. Tremendous article. Titleist seems to be scrambling amid the new golf ball competitors and the new technologies by pushing a consistency article to your site. Come to think of it, I can’t name a single golfer in my golf league that still plays a Titleist ball.

    • Robots tell you exactly what happens under given parameters. In this case, they let you know that the ball will perform the same way again and again because the balls are effectively identical. The consistency is extreme. They also allow you to see how very minor variations actually do cause inconsistencies in flight. Without robotic testing, there is no way to tell how much of the result is related to the ball and how much is related to the strike. People who love player testing are hoping for some strikes in their favor and don’t really want to know the differences between golf balls.

  6. Well written article Zak.

    While I understand you want to be deferential to Titleist for bringing you into the factory, I think you missed an opportunity to give the story a depth it deserves. You could have done it without making Titleist look bad. Or you could have used it as a lead in to a larger, more comprehensive article. Maybe next time?

    I know you guys don’t see it, but it’s articles like this that actually drive views to other sites. I’d rather get my info from WRX but you are forcing us to look elsewhere. Please.. keep us here with more information, don’t send us away looking for the other half of the story.

    • More amateurs play Titleist at the highest levels and they are not loaded with money. They just know a good ball when they play it. Its funny how so many complain about how much Titleist costs but they don’t complain about the ball. Nearly all the time they will say some other ball is “as good as the ProV1/V1x” I rarely ever hear someone say they actually prefer another ball. They only prefer the cost. As for me, I try them all. I can honestly say I like the Srixon Z Star as much as a Titleist but if I were playing for my life….. I would be playing a Titleist. They are simply that consistent.

  7. Have played with most of the leading brands on the market and I like the consistency and performance of the Titleist ProV1. Have been playing them for a number of years and only ball in my bag. They do last, I can use one for a couple of rounds. Buying golf balls is all about choices, you purchase the balls that suits your game and budget. I have found that by playing a better ball has enabled me (with practice) to play a better game. The proof is in the ball not the advertising. At 70 I need all the help I can get to maintain my 10 handicap. I am retired, so to save I order them during their spring buy three get four dozen promotions. Cheers, in life, it’s all about choices, and I have made mine and it is Titleist 100%. With respect. =)

    • Chuck, from your twitter handle it appears you are a Footjoy rep. Are you saying that you still have to purchase Titleist balls during promos in order to get a deal? I would think they would take care of their own better than that.

    • With all due respect, as a 10 handicap, I HIGHLY doubt you’d be able to tell any differences in performance and consistency between high end golf balls from different brands, let alone the consistency from ball to ball in the same box. 99+% of amateur golfers (yes, even us on golfwrx) don’t strike the ball consistently enough to tell if it was the ball or your strike that produced a “different” result.

      Heck, Crossfield even had a video where he was chipping multiple balls from multiple brands with a launch monitor, and the difference from ball to ball (both changing balls in the same line and between manufacturers) was all over the map. Even a DT Solo spun almost as much as a Pro-V for him. That’s obviously not an end all be all test, but if he can’t find a substantial difference and has numbers all over the map, I highly doubt most (if any) amateurs can. Most amateurs base their “facts” on something they’ve seen happen one time and then talk themselves into seeing differences between balls. Just because you got a Pro-V to back up 3ft one time and haven’t done it with a TM in one round, doesn’t mean it was the ball…

  8. I actually think Titleist is finally worried about their dominant position in the ball market and they’re trying everything and anything to remain there. I think the other manufacturers can sense that they’re finally chewing away at Titleist’s market share.

  9. Enjoyed the article. And I’ve been an intellectual property lawyer for 39 years. And golfer a lot longer than that. I have a Costco membership. But I know from reading all of the IP lawsuits involving Costco, that their business model involves buying products that are not intended to be sold in the US for various reasons, selling them at low prices and using them to create buzz and increase traffic. Especially in the watch department. I disagree with this as it harms legitimate distribution channels, but you may not. If I can find high quality US made products, I buy them. It’s hard to do in golf anymore, but these balls are US made and high quality. Finally, must be a young crowd posting. 3 balls in a round? Lmao. I still have a few dozen new Titleist and Maxfli balata balls in the basement that are 30+ years old. No one who played golf prior to 1975 would ever complain about only using 3 balls in a round.

  10. Titleist is failing in this game theory strategy. Lately, Titleist has deployed an army of paid LPGA, PGA pros to push V or X in the television ads.
    Costco understood that the average amateur cares about Price in buying performance golf balls. Consistency is null in that decision making process. It’s funny, will Titleist explain to Jim Furyk why he dunked 3 pro v1x on 17 during the Players? What happened to consistency?
    Titleist needs to review its cost of goods sold and cut the price to $30.00
    This article would have worked in the pre internet era, customers are smart in researching for the best of the $.
    Praise Costco….

  11. In the decade I’ve been a part of the WRX forums, I’ve never commented on an article until no.

    One question – did titelist ask you to write this? Good grief, this smells like complete damage control. Honestly, this article is complete garbage, due to the timing.

    • It seems as if you don’t like the facts. The facts are Titleist produces the most consistent ball on the planet and this article gives you a glimpse into the facts other articles don’t seem to mention because they are too concerned with price point and the hope that there is some perfect ball for $29.95. Titleist has more patents and more R&D employees than anyone. They have had the number one ball for 70 years. You consider it “damage control” while I consider it education. When you know about the things Titleist does to produce the best golf ball on planet earth, you quickly realize why other balls are so cheap. If your shag bag contains 20 different types of balls, good luck learning distance control chipping and pitching. Similarly, if your new dozen balls are not performing the same (many others do not), good luck hitting the same shots hole after hole. Ever wonder why a putt looks like it broke uphill? Maybe its the cheap and inconsistent balls you play. Hmmmmm.

      • Not one time, in the history of ProV series balls, has Titleist ever PUSHED consistency. Never. Ever. Not once. This is absolutely a backdoor PR department methodology. I can absolutely, guarantee that the author had contact with someone at Titleist about this article, before it was ever written. Btw, with all do respect, you know absolutely NOTHING about basic business models (which include sponsorship and contractual stipulations), if you think Titleist ball are expensive because of the technology…

        • Titleist has pushed consistency since DAY 1. Consistency is why the company was started. When I was a kid they touted the 32 quality checkpoints. Now they tout 90 and 120 quality checkpoints on Pro V1 and ProV1x. So, I see you know nothing of golf balls. Then, on the subject of business models, I think you should look at whose model is still working best (its Titleist). The best ball played by the best players and those who aspire to be the best. Sold at a price that reflects extreme technology, quality, consistency, and performance. MEANWHILE…. you play a Top Flite or Nitro because they are cheap (certainly not a reflection of their lack of technology or consistency).

  12. Marketing RUBBISH. What make you think the average amateur plays well enough to tell the difference? Costco sold a ball with performance and a much better feel for $15/doz – that’s what the game needs.

    • Well, for one many “average amateurs” buy a $400 driver that boasts a little more forgiveness and uses that driver on maybe 15 shots a round. I don’t see the difference in mind set. For me, more consistent is more fun.

  13. An avid golfer would not lose 72 balls a year. I lost 12 balls last year in 30 rounds. And I only put brand new balls in play if it is a tournament round. Otherwise, I use ProVs that I find til I lose them or they’re so beat up I feel like they don’t perform as well. I can’t remember the last time I’ve bought or used more than ~15 brand new balls in a year. That would get expensive quick.

  14. It is nice to know that Titleist makes their balls in the USA and controls the entire process. They do make a great golf ball. But, I would disagree with their quote “It’s not that Titleist is walking around saying we’re the best, but we’re very proud of our commitment,” says Michael Mahoney, Vice President of Titleist Golf Ball Marketing. They clearly think that they are the best and they clearly are paranoid about Costco selling a supposedly very playable ball for 1/2 of the price.

  15. This is an interesting article on Titleist’s approach to manufacturing golf balls and I thank you for publishing it. While interesting, it does very little to convince me Titleist makes a better ball. All the materials and components they use to build machinery are not exclusive. Neither are the raw materials they purchase to make rubber tees and balls. Plus there is no claim that their urethane is superior to anybody else’s. Despite owning so many patents, there are, around the world, golf professionals who use competitive balls to win major tournaments as well as to make a living: which proves other companies have the capability to produce high quality balls. Finally, the way I read the legal issue with Costco is that the latter is pushing back against Titleist’s claim of a patent infringement. To me, this makes Titleist look weaker.

  16. Nice article, but lacking in a few items as noted by the other comments here. Bridgestone was the originator of the ProV1 technology but perhaps Titliest improved upon it and it certainly capitalized on their marketing machine to tell everyone it’s the best ball out there. But at almost $5 per ball it just doesn’t make sense for most golfers. The success of Callaway Chrome Soft and Snell MTB balls prove that and I almost never play a ProV1 for that reason alone. If someone is losing 3 balls per round they should be playing a Pinnacle or some other cheap ball as they clearly don’t have the game to use a more expensive golf ball. Overall pretty interesting but it would have been more interesting if you showed the production photos – even Titliest’s ads show more information.

    • Jim,

      Thanks for the comment. There are already a few people questioning something I said in the ending — that an avid golfer could lose an average of three balls per round — and I understand that. I want to be clear that I’m not assuming an avid golfer (someone who plays frequently) is necessarily a low-handicap golfer. I’m also not assuming that they’re playing a tour-level golf ball. Most golfers aren’t low-handicappers and don’t buy top-shelf golf balls. I’m also aware that GolfWRX readers are very much unlike the majority of golfers. They’re more passionate about what they play and how they play, which is why it’s so much fun to be a part of this site.

      One takeaway that didn’t make it into the story is that it’s very important for golfers to play the same model of golf ball round after round if they want to play their best, even it it’s not a top-shelf model. Just about every golf ball manufacturer, including Titleist, makes golf balls that sell for under $20, $30, $40 and $50 per dozen. Pick a few balls that fit into your budget, test them on the course, and stick with the one that’s your favorite. If you do, I bet you’ll find yourself hitting it closer more often.

      • “One takeaway that didn’t make it into the story is that it’s very important for golfers to play the same model of golf ball round after round if they want to play their best, even it it’s not a top-shelf model.”

        I play Callaway, K-Sig, Pro V1, Taylor Made, Bridgestone, round to round to round.

        Let me ask you something. You’re an X handicap. You’re playing a match against another X handicap who plays the same ball round after round. How many strokes would you give him if he had to play another ball in a $100 match against you? Would you give him a stroke a side? I wouldn’t give him a half stroke for 18.

        That’s how important the golf ball is.

        • You underestimate the importance of KNOWING how your ball will react on both good and bad shots. Its the same as knowing what your clubs will do even if they are 10 yards shorter than your opponents. Scoring is all in the understanding and consistency of results.

  17. Someone who loses 3 golf balls a round has no reason to play a “consistent” golf ball. Take something out of the shag bag.

    This article is clearly a response to the competition that the Pro V is finally facing. They’re not able to market “performance” any more, so they’re marketing “consistency”.

    In order to demonstrate consistency, they show a test with severely flawed golf balls and then tell us, “a detail as small as the amount of paint applied to a golf ball can significantly affect performance.” OK. . .where’s that test? Show me that one. Show me the performance difference that comes from mis-applied paint, not leaving dimples off half the ball.

    • Exactly, the marketing dept. has been working overtime since RM changed to the TM ball. This is now a damage limitation excercise. Accept for maybe the brain dead it is obvious other high-end manufacturers produce consistent balls too. Testing a ball with a different dimple pattern on the opposite side will only fool aforementioned brain dead.

      • I don’t think RM’s change to TM has, or should concern Titleist very much. He hasn’t exactly put the equipment he has switched to on spectacular display.. Titleist was #1 when RM was playing Nike too, so he has very little to do with it.

        FWIW, I prefer the new TM series over Titleist, but I don’t think that RM has much to do with anything. The consistency thing with Titleist is a true statement though, and for a guy who doesn’t have a single Titleist club, I do legitimately feel confident in purchasing their golf balls. Year to year I’ll try the new ones, knowing I’ll like it, but the same can’t be said for every other ball out there. Sometimes other manufacturers out perform them, sometimes they don’t, but the Pro-V series will always perform as a top contender.

      • “Testing a ball with a different dimple pattern on the opposite side will only fool aforementioned brain dead.” The way I read it, they tested a ball with a little more paint on one site – not just a ball with no dimples on one side, as they show in the picture. Obviously a ball with an different dimple pattern wouldn’t fly consistently. But if it’s true that a ball with a little more paint “1/3 the diameter of a human hair” on one side messes with the trajectory, seems compelling to me. I would have blamed myself!

LEAVE A REPLY