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.”
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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.”
TaylorMade SIM and SIM Max driver review
New for 2020, TaylorMade has launched the new SIM driver family. First the lower spinning SIM then a more forgiving higher spinning SIM Max and a SIM Max D head to help draw the ball for those that need it.
We have seen the tour players using all three of the SIM drivers.
- Keegan Bradley WITB using the SIM Max D
- Tiger Woods WITB using the SIM
- Dustin Johnson WITB using the SIM Max
The SIM, SIM Max, and SIM Max D drivers from TaylorMade feature an asymmetric sole shape as well as a redesigned Inertia Generator. The asymmetric sole shape of the drivers is designed to reduce drag while providing faster clubhead speed, with the redesigned Inertia Generator redistributing weight at the very low-and-back portion of the club in a bid to provide improved forgiveness.
The SIM Max D clubhead contains a heel-bias internal weight with a topline masking to make the clubhead look more open at address to help golfers who struggle with a right-miss.
Other features of the SIM, SIM Max, and SIM Max D drivers includes a speed injected twist face, inverted cone technology, a thru-slot speed pocket, multi-material construction and an adjustable loft sleeve.
Exclusive to the SIM driver is sliding weight technology which allows face angle and flight bias preferences of up to +/-2° loft change and up to +/-20 yards of draw-fade bias.
Here are the individual reviews from GolfWRXers’ trip to The Kingdom.
Tester: Rob “osubuckeyes691“
I’ll start by saying this. SIM is very good. It’s not a magical 30 yards like everyone is talking about here. That comes from being properly fit. But it is good, and with a proper fitting I’d be shocked if you couldn’t find at least slightly better numbers with SIM over any gamer you have.
My current set up is a Callaway Epic Flash SZ Double Diamond with a Fuji Ventus Black 6x. LOW LOW LOW combo…and I still hit it high haha. I live in the low to mid 170s ball speed with spin sometimes getting up to 2700 2800. Drives I hit well, spin around 2100. My miss is a big push slice.
But it is good, and with a proper fitting I’d be shocked if you couldn’t find at least slightly better numbers with SIM over any gamer you have. -Rob
I ended up being fit in to a SIM 9* with the new KBS Tour Driven 70 Category 5. This shaft is super interesting. It’s really hard for me to describe but it has feel, and a lot of it. Spin dropped to about 2400 on my miss right and really, that’s what I was hoping would happen. I wanted something that when I missed, wouldn’t lose me 30 yards. We put the weight in the heel and it really did help straighten out the miss. Huge advantage for me. I knew as someone who swings 120ish I wasn’t going to pick up 20 yards. I wanted to reduce my miss and that’s exactly what SIM was able to do for me. Here is a link to his post in the forums.
Tester: Will “fillwelix“
For my driver fitting, I was with Perry, who was a blast to get to work with. I started by hitting my gamer on Trackman, talking with Perry about what my misses usually are, and what I wanted to get out of the fitting.
I usually don’t have a problem with distance so I told him the biggest thing I was looking for was a tighter dispersion. I don’t have the trackman numbers yet but with my gamer, I was averaging about 110 club head speed, 160-something ball speed, 270-275 carry, 285-290 total. Launching a bit too high but spin was okay.
The thing was seriously nuclear. My club head speed bumped up only about 1 or 2 MPH, but the launch and spin were incredible, as well as ball speed. I topped out at 170 ball speed, which I had never gotten before. -Will
We tried the 10.5 SIM in a Ventus Black 6x, and he gave me a couple tips in my setup, because my AOA was something like 4 or 5 degrees up. The thing was seriously nuclear. My club head speed bumped up only about 1 or 2 MPH, but the launch and spin were incredible, as well as ball speed. I topped out at 170 ball speed, which I had never gotten before. Carrying 295-300, total of 315-320. One shot carried the fence of the driving range at The Kingdom.
Spent some time going through different shafts to see if there was an improvement, played with weights, etc. but the best numbers were with the 10.5 SIM with Ventus Black 6x and the weight all the way in the toe, because my miss is usually left. Here is a link to his post in the forums.
Tester: Nick “n_rones“
I started off with my fittings working with Joe. After some warmup we started with the drivers. Coming in I was playing a Srixon Z785 with a Hzrdus black 6.5 70 gram shaft at 45 inches.
I’m a really tough fit because I have an unusual swing and hit down on the ball heavily with every club. My AOA with the driver was between 5 and 7 down which is pretty nuts I always knew I hit down on it but not that much. I’m still waiting on the trackman date to be emailed to me but with my own driver I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 109 swing speed with a launch angle of 4 degrees and 4000 spin (Ridiculous I know right).
I was able to take it on the course with me that afternoon and hit 12-14 fairways a new record for me and ever ball was easily 15-20 yards longer than I was used to. -Nick
His main goal for me was to get launch up and spin down. The first club he handed me was the Sim 10.5 turned up to 11.25 with a Graphite design IZ 7x. Instantly my launch angle increased and spin dropped. We then went through a few other shafts like graphite design ad di 7x. We came back to the IZ and with a quick change in tee height we ended up where we wanted. We knew with my angle of attack we were never going to get me to super low spin and high launch we just wanted to get it to a manageable number.
By the end of the fit I was hitting the sim with the iz under 3k spin with a couple down at 2500 and 9 degree launch increasing my carry from the 244 range up to the 260-265 range on good swings and we neutralized my cut massively. I was fortunate enough to finish my fit while other guys were still busy so we went right into the build shop and he built me my driver on the spot and gave me a super cool kingdom exclusive headcover. I was able to take it on the course with me that afternoon and hit 12-14 fairways a new record for me and ever ball was easily 15-20 yards longer than I was used to. Most of that is me never being through a proper fitting before but a big factor was I was able to get into the sim head with high loft but it was a great spin killing head for me. Here is a link to his post in the forums.
I am one that gained a good bit of ball speed from getting fit for the SIM driver. My gamer is a Titleist 915D3 9.5* with a Rogue Silver 70X. I wasn’t fit for the driver as I just bought the parts off of the BST. I always felt that I lost yardage due to high spin. The Trackman didn’t lie as I was getting 166mph ball speed and 3000 rpm of spin on well-struck shots. Where this posed a problem was when I was off-center, the ball would be a high right spinner that would lose a lot of distance.
Where I saw great gains was in dispersion. TwistFace just flat out works. Toe shots came back to closer to center, and heal shots faded right back towards center. I also didn’t lose as much yardage. I did pick up about five mph in ball speed. There are a plethora of reasons for this gain and the resulting 20 yard gain in ball flight.
Some could attribute the gain to almost 30 feet of height in ball flight. It could also be because there was 300 less RPM, or over a degree increase in launch angle. Either way, it has proven to me that getting fit by a knowledgeable fitter is crucial. This is the first time that I have been fit for a driver. All the expectations of mine going into this fitting have been met.
The SIM is forgiving. The SIM is aerodynamically superior to what I have been playing. The SIM just flat out performs for me because it doesn’t balloon, it is forgiving on mishits with good direction and ball speed, and it reduced my spin rate. –
The sounds of the SIM line is amazing. The solid “thwack” sound it makes at contact is extremely welcoming. Gone are the days of high pitched aluminum baseball bat sounds. Now, some sounds just sound perfect to me. Johnny Wunder posted a video on Instagram of me hitting a driver, and you can hear the sound. Here is a link to his post in the forums.
Building the perfect half set
Beyond physically putting clubs together, one of my favorite games to play is trying to build the ideal half set, and taking it out for some testing on the course. The goal is to see how few clubs I can play with before it becomes a detriment to my game and my scoring—while still having fun trying to hit all kinds of creative shots along the way
Many golfers have, at some point, played the “three-club challenge” (three including a putter), but that often becomes an exercise in caution and course management instead of what many would consider a usual round of golf. Although from the conversations I’ve had with golfers about trying out an extremely reduced set, the consensus generally ends up at, “I shot one of my best scores in a long time.”
I’m not sure how that sentiment potentially relates to handicap or not, but one way or the other, it’s a great way to lighten the load and have some fun thinking differently about your shots.
My ideal half set consists of 7-8 clubs including a putter, but in some cases, I will take it all the way down to 5-6. I love having the option to play with a full set and most times do, but I have gone weeks playing only with my half set and don’t see a noticeable variation in my scoring.
It actually makes me question why I carry a full set and in the grand scheme of golf. I think it would be one of the most entertaining experiments to have a PGA Tour event where players are limited to seven clubs. It would have the potential to make gearheads and the general fan engage in an interesting conversation.
Whatever way you choose to build your set, this is a quick start guide to play your best half set golf.
Thinking Your way Through Building a Half Set
- The Putter: This is the one club that probably isn’t going anywhere (unless you are a virtuoso putting with a bellied wedge). You are going to be using this club on every hole, and depending on your comfort level hitting certain shots, you might end up using it further off the green than normal—cheers to the imagination! Build out from here, because shots inside 100 yards are still going to take up the majority of strokes on your card, and your putter is going to save you shots.
- The “Wedge”: Remember that it wasn’t until the last generation of golfers that players started using a lob wedge. Tom Watson famously never put one in the bag and only carried up to a 56-degree. The ideal loft to start your set with is 52-54 degrees, because you can still hit shots out of the sand if needed, and it’s a great club to still hit full shots with—something that many golfers struggle to do with a lob wedge.
- Your “Go-To” Shot: I think most golfers agree that trying to get more out of a club distance-wise often ends with less than great results. This is why as you go through your set and start to pick clubs, it’s important to think about your favorite go-to shots. You want to do everything you can to avoid standing over a ball trying to manipulate a club because you don’t have “that distance” in the bag. This is hugely important when you realize that close to 90 percent of hazards are placed in front of the green or target areas and being able to get over comfortably should be priority number one.
- Know Your Iron Lofts: Most modern sets have 4-5 degrees between each club, but as you get to the longer irons, even towards the middle of the set (7-iron to 5-iron) loft gaps can get smaller quickly, and for some this can equal a diminishing point of return on distance gapping. Don’t just grab every other iron, take a few minutes to think about the carry distance of each club, because that’s going to be important.
- A Driver is Still Important: We all cant be Henrik Stenson with a 12-degree 3-wood we hit 300 yards. Unless you have plans to go truly minimalist, keeping a driver in the bag is a good idea. It is the largest and most forgiving club off the tee and will help put you into places that will make second shots a lot easier.
What GolfWRXers are saying are the top-3 underrated blade head designs circa 2005
GolfWRXers have been discussing the top-3 underrated blade head designs circa 2005 after forum member ‘8620’ created a thread with a desire to “build a set that starts with a ‘retro’ blade head, that incorporates a modern shaft (Nippon Modus Pro 130)”. Our members have weighed in on the subject, with some inspired by ‘8620’ to follow suit in his project.
Here are what our members are saying on the subject, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below,
- Gopher68: “Bridgestone J33 blades.”
- BCULAW: “Mizuno MP67. Awesome blade that never really caught on due to the popularity of its predecessor (MP33) and its sister offering (MP32). Also, the small ‘cut muscle’ gives it a bit of an old school vibe like the old Wilson bullet backs.”
- Golfingfanatic: “OG Nike Forged Blades.”
- cardoustie: “Bridgestone MB’s, love my J15’s.”
- OldTomMorris: “I’ve got a set of mp-37 irons that I am putting TT DG AMT white S300 shafts in right now. Curious to see if I can keep the short irons lower than my current set of irons.”
- Rapidcat: “This interests me as I played Mizuno SPL blades for a decade and still have the heads in very good condition, thinking about a reshaft for them to have some fun.”
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Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open. Driver: PXG 0811X Gen 2 (9 degrees) Shaft: Aldila Rogue Black 130...
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