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Building the Tiger ball: An inside look at the development of the Bridgestone Tour B XS

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Everything surrounding Tiger Woods is a big deal. It just is. When TaylorMade launched the P7TW irons, the whole golf world was enthralled with the who, what, and why of the process. Let’s face it, Woods is the most valuable golf R&D resource—maybe in history. Anyone paying attention can get a sense of how his brain works by understanding the essence of the gear he uses.

The piece that gets passed over for irons and drivers is perhaps the most important part of the equation even by Tiger’s admission: the golf ball. In this case, the Bridgestone Tour B XS, which is the culmination of an almost 20-year relationship with Bridgestone—the company that manufactured multiple Nike golf balls including all of TW’s.

When Nike left the golf equipment business, it wasn’t locked in stone who Tiger was going to align with on the golf ball side of things. It could have been a number of companies, and for those in the know, Tiger is ball first and everything else second. So anyone battling for the honor was gonna have to bring in something special to get him—and do something even better to keep him.

In comes Bridgestone, which, as mentioned, had a relationship with Tiger (although once removed, so to speak). So, if anyone had an inside path, it was them, but the ball had to be something special—all while going against what most Tour golf balls sort of shy away from. It had to spin like crazy. Now, all the tour balls spin a lot but this is TW; so it’s different.

I wanted the inside scoop on the process of getting Woods locked in to Bridgestone and the development of the 2020 Tour B XS, so I went directly to the scientist and the fitter: Bridgestone’s Test Site Operations Manager, R&D Andrew Troutner, and Golf Ball Fitting, Events & Partnerships Supervisor Adam Rehberg.

JW: Take me through the process of getting Tiger on Team Bridgestone. How much of a challenge was it?

AR: His team called us within five minutes of the Nike withdrawal announcement to request B330S specifically. He knew that ball specification for playing it extensively with Matt Kuchar at the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. He always switched to the Bridgestone ball during those events instead of playing his own ball. His practice regimen was limited at the time, so he focused a lot on how the ball performed on the course during play. He teed up the ball at the Hero out of contract and liked what he saw. We signed him early the next year to play the ball.

JW: Was the original ball he played a proto just for him?

AR: Nope, he always played a retail spec ball once moving to Bridgestone Golf. Started with the retail spec 2016 B330, switched to the retail spec Tour B XS in his first event in 2018 and moving onto the retail spec 2020 Tour B XS at Torrey.

JW: Walk me through the testing process with TW to land on the 2020 Tour B XS.

AT: In the initial test at his home club (The Medalist) in Florida, we brought eight different balls that we felt would be in the ballpark of what he prefers. Tiger is as sensitive and discerning as anyone in history, and the specificity of his equipment is a testament to that. The prototypes we brought were unmarked, and we didn’t tell him what each one did nor did he want to know. It’s pure feel.

“Don’t tell me anything. Just gimme the balls and let me hit ’em.”

-Tiger Woods

AR: Of the eight balls we brought, 99 percent of golfers wouldn’t see any difference between them, but this is TW. Some had core differences, dimple, cover etc. Only one of the balls we brought in that round of testing had our Reactiv cover. He immediately responded to the sound and how long the ball seemed to stay on the face.

The whole process took about three full sessions over the course of many months. We started with eight balls. For the second session, we brought four, and in the final, we had five that were all very close to each other. The B XS we all see now was the winner of that third session.

JW: How much influence does Tiger have over Bridgestone’s development of golf balls? 

AT: The nice thing in this situation is Bryson and Kuchar play the same ball, the Tour B X. So, when we develop that ball, we are able to take notes from Lexi, Kuchar, and Bryson. In the case of the Tour B XS, it’s all Tiger: It’s literally his golf ball made for him.

JW: Tiger is still an “old school” player in regards to his equipment. Where does that come into play when he’s developing a golf ball.

AT: When we were testing, Tiger made the comment about the modern player loving wedges and short irons to go straight up in the air. Having grown up in the balata era, Tiger only wants to see those shots come out of a lower window with a ton of spin. That equals control for him, and as you can see it’s becoming a preference for most of the best players in the world. Where Tiger goes, so goes everyone else.

JW: Besides spin, sound, and feel, what else was he looking for?

AR: The cool thing with Tiger is his priorities start with around the green and he works back from there. If you can’t get past 100 yards, you cant go forward. He did want to get a few extra yards if he could. He is already a low spin player off the driver (2,100-2,300 RPM), so we had to be conscious of not disrupting that. So, you can see the challenge here: We have to build the highest spinning golf ball on the tour and try and find Tiger one that gets him a few yards extra—without eliminating spin…

Gaining distance looks a little different for Tiger, it’s not all ball speed and carry distance off the driver. When he says it’s a bit longer,  it’s being able to hit certain shots to specific pins in certain conditions and have the ball carry further into a green complex. We are talking an eight-footer instead of a 12-footer. It’s that specific. Keep in mind that his iron game is so dialed and has been for years that he knows exactly where shots land on certain greens year to year….

JW: How vital was Bridgestone’s new Reactiv Core to getting this over the line with Tiger?

AR: Very vital! When we started with early protos of the Reactiv cover, he was certainly excited. He stresses that the ball needs to be better than the previous one he is playing for him to transition. There needs to be a reason to switch. The new cover did that; it allowed him to maintain his aggressive approach to shots around the green, be able to flight the ball down on the wedge shots, all while providing an edge of a few yards off the tee. The smart material of the Reactiv cover checked all those boxes.

REACTIV is a smart Urethane that acts as an ‘impact modifier’ to deliver a shock absorbing cover on slow impact shots for more spin and control (wedge) – and high resilience on high impact shots for more power and distance (drive). The cover reacts differently depending on the force of the impact.

JW: A-to-Z, what is the overall order of the fitting session with Tiger? 

AR:

  1. We always start with putter to dial in the sound off of his Scotty. It sounds picky, but it’s how he does it. He hits 2-3 footers to listen to the sound to begin.
  2. Then we hit 6-7 foot chip shots and work back to 40-50 yards. It’s critical trajectory is right on these shots. If it’s not right, we start over.
  3. Then we head to the course to 8-irons/6-irons and 4-irons. He has very specific windows we have to fly through and he also pays attention to how it’s landing in the longer irons. If it looks like its flat-lining on the way down, it’s a restart. He needs to know the ball will fly the number and hold the green.
  4. After we pass that test, we head to fairways woods and hit multiple types of shots from all conditions. Basically, the same tolerances as the irons.
  5. Finally, we hit lots of drivers: into the wind, across, down, and everything in between…

JW: Overall, in one word for both of you, what’s it like building a ball for arguably the greatest player to ever touch a golf club?

AT: An honor.

AR: Same.

 

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. stanley

    Apr 30, 2020 at 12:27 am

    interesting read. i wish nike could have opened up more about their testing and finding like taylormade is doing with his irons.

  2. Jeff

    Apr 28, 2020 at 8:28 am

    That explains why durability wasn’t much of a concern (the ball gets torn up with a couple iron shots)…he can switch out a new ball every hole.

  3. stephen hall

    Apr 27, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Great article.

  4. dixiedoc

    Apr 27, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    Did Jack Nicklaus ever have anyone build a ball for him. He is just as arguably the best player to ever touch a golf club as Tiger. You can tell there is no golf on TV because every online and print media has an article about Tiger Woods. Did the rest of the pros contract Covid-19 and get placed in quarantine?

    • ht

      Apr 27, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      No, but the other pros aren’t tiger. I assume you read the article since you left a comment. Even if you didn’t read it, you clicked. That’s the point. No one would have clicked it if was about the ball fitting process for Kooch. Eat a snickers grandpa

  5. Nack Jicklaus

    Apr 27, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    Nice article! I didn’t realize that Bridgestone manufactured the balls for Nike…

  6. Golf WRX writers suck

    Apr 27, 2020 at 10:48 am

    How many ways are you guys going to keep writing the same article?

    • John Wunder

      Apr 27, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      Hey thanks!! Appreciate the support

      • makaveli

        Apr 28, 2020 at 12:51 am

        Thanks JW. I thought it was great.

      • DS

        Jul 16, 2020 at 7:50 am

        Ah, the age of social media. Free content (and good, certainly in this case), yet the complainers still find a way to whine.

    • ht

      Apr 27, 2020 at 3:30 pm

      A hate click on an article is still a click guy. You are contributing to that in which you claim to hate. Your vote is made with the click of your mouse.

    • TigerHomer

      Apr 27, 2020 at 8:04 pm

      He’s a tiger homer. Loves the tiger balls.

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Equipment

Players distance iron shootout! TaylorMade vs. PXG vs. Takomo

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When I head to the range, I usually pack a golf bag to the brim with different clubs and driver shafts to ensure that I can hit a plethora of options. This week, I loaded up my bag and grabbed the Full Swing KIT launch monitor and a few of the players distance irons that I have been using this season. Out on the course the PXG 0311T Gen5, TaylorMade P770, and Takomo 101T have been really solid, and I have enjoyed my rounds with them. I never really do launch monitor comparisons, but I figured it would be fun to see what the differences in numbers showed me. Take a listen to the Club Junkie podcast for the full discussion on my time with these irons on the range!

The driving range I go to is close to my house but nothing you would consider the “ultimate golf club testing facility.” I was hitting off a mat and using two-piece range balls that surprisingly were in very good shape for this time in the season. Typically, most range balls have seen better days at the end of the summer and are struggling to hold on to the few dimples they have left. Most of the balls in my basket looked very new or like they had never been hit, so I was a little more confident in what I was seeing from the launch monitor. I hit six very good shots with each iron and did dump a couple of outliers that either went way left or that I might have caught a bit of mat first before contact with the ball. 

Carry Distance: I knew this metric was going to be close because I had played quite a few rounds with each of these sets, but I didn’t know it was going to be this close. Between the three sets of irons, there was a total of two yards difference between them all. For my swing, the PXG 0311T Gen5 was the longest of the group at 162 yards, followed up by the TaylorMade P770 at 161 yards, and finally the Takomo Iron 101T at 160 yards. So that means that out on the course they all play the same for me! At my skill level (9.7 handicap as of this writing) a mere two yards isn’t something that I can notice — especially when you throw in course conditions like wind, green undulation, and temperature. 

Spin: This was the metric I thought I would see some variation but my pre-shot rankings of what irons would spin the most and the least was 100 percent wrong! The highest spinning iron for me was the TaylorMade P770 at 6,531 rpm. Before hitting them on the launch monitor, I thought the P770 might be the lowest spinning iron of the three, but I was way off on that. The Takomo Iron 101T came in with an average of 6,374 rpm, and the PXG 0311T Gen5 was the lowest at 6,118 rpm. Now, remember that these are low-spin range balls, but a 400 rpm difference between the three is so close it isn’t very noticeable. None of the shots had any sort of ballooning shape to them and all hit their apex on a fairly steep trajectory. There is also a chance that a higher quality ball could even tighten that spin number up a bit as well.

Ball Speed and Smash Factor: In this category of “players distance” irons ball speed has become a bigger factor and most companies have been trying to help increase that number for golfers. The ball speed numbers on all three irons seem high and these for sure have more speed to them than the one-piece forged CB’s that I used to love to play. The Takomo Iron 101T took the top spot here at 117.8 mph and 1.40 on average with the PXG just being edged out at 117.3 mph and 1.37. The TaylorMade P770 came in a very close 3rd at 116.8 mph and 1.35. Again all very close and I love the fact that irons like these keep that ball speed number close even when you don’t find the center of the face. 

Launch and Apex: This one is usually pretty important to me as I don’t hit a typically high ball with any of my clubs. Added launch is my friend and allows me to have better distance control and get the ball to stop on the green without worrying about calculating the amount of release on the ball. For me the TaylorMade P770 launched the highest, by a few degrees, at 20 degrees and hit an Apex of 81 feet. The PXG 0311T Gen5 was the next highest at 16. degrees and hit an Apex of 75.5 feet. The Takomo Iron 101T was the lowest launching and flattest flying at 16.1 degrees and rising up to 73.5 feet at its apex. This was very noticeable on the range as the TaylorMade could easily be spotted as the highest launching. I also think that added launch is what gave the P770 the added distance even though its ball speed was a little lower.

Overall, it shows me how good this players distance category is and how many players probably fit very well into it. I like all three iron sets and will continue to rotate them through my rounds.

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Whats in the Bag

Mito Pereira WITB 2022 (September)

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Driver: Ping G425 Max (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 7 X

3-wood: Ping G425 SFT (16 degrees @ 14.5)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X

7-wood: Ping G425 Max (20.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X

Irons: Ping iBlade (4-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 Onyx

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 (46-S12, 52-S12, 56-S12, 60-T6)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 Onyx (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 Onyx (52-60)

Putter: Ping Dale Anser Vault 2.0
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Flatso 2.0

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride MCC

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Whats in the Bag

Si Woo Kim WITB 2022 (September)

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Driver: Callaway Rogue ST Triple Diamond S (8.5 degrees @ 7.5)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X

3-wood: Callaway Rogue ST LS (15 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 8 X

5-wood: Callaway Rogue ST LS (18 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Black 9 X

Irons: Callaway X Forged CB (3-PW)
Shafts: KBS Tour-V 125

Wedges: Callaway Jaws Raw (54-10S, 60)
Shafts: KBS Tour-V 125

Putter: Odyssey 2-Ball 10 (long)

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X

Grips: Golf Pride MCC

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