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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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Johnny Wunder is the Director of Original Content, Instagram Manager and Host of “The Gear Dive” Podcast for GolfWRX.com. He was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. John is also a partner with The Traveling Picture Show Company having most recently produced JOSIE with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. In 1997 Johnny had the rare opportunity of being a clubhouse attendant for the Anaheim Angels. He now resides in Toronto, On with his wife and two sons. @johnny_wunder on IG

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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Whats in the Bag

Henrik Stenson WITB (October 2020)

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Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Yellow Prototype 6.5 62

3-wood: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Hulk 70G 6.5

5-wood: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (18)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Black 80G 6.5

Irons: Callaway Legacy Black (3-PW)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 120 X

henrik stenson witb 2019-3-wood

Wedges: Callaway Jaws MD5 (52-10S, 58-08C)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour120 X

Putter: Odyssey White Hot #7
Grip: Garsen Max

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Wrap Cord

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GolfWRX Classifieds (10/29/20): PXG BlackJack, Toulon Garage, TP Mills custom

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member CC_Stryder – Toulon Rochester

Looking for a putter that gets its names from a city in New York state with a flow neck? Well…the name might not be exactly what you are looking for, but if a flow neck is what you are after, then look no further.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Toulon Putter

Member StillCantPutt – PXG BlackJack Putter

The newest putter from PXG at less than new price. Don’t let the seller’s name discourage you either, this thing should help you sink more putts.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: PXG putter 

Member KC_Badger – TP Mills Custom

There is something about TP Mills putters that just screams classic, timeless, masterpiece. This example is no exception with its flow next and unique finish.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: TP Mills Putter 

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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Equipment

Building a home hitting net and simulator

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Golf and winter don’t get along very well, which is why so many golfers head indoors to practice facilities that offer year-round climate-controlled environments. The problem for many is these facilities can be busy and often require booking well in advance, which doesn’t work well for those seeking last-minute “driving range” flexibility.

So what is a diehard golfer to do? Build your own home hitting bay/simulator of course, and in my case build it on a budget to offer fun and flexibility all winter long.

Finding the right space

The first part of the process is accessing your wants and needs along with understanding any possible limitations your space might create. You have to consider which clubs you plan on using—and if that means hitting drivers, then you are going to need enough height and width to feel comfortable. The space I used is our garage, which is 12 feet wide and has 11-foot high ceilings, more than enough room to hit any club in the bag, and can easily accommodate both right and left-handed golfers.

Golf net and screen options

The Net Return hitting net

After figuring out your space, it comes down to selecting the best option for ease of use and flexibility—flexibility being the key ingredient in my situation. This is our only full garage bay, and if there is one thing I have gotten used to, it’s not having to clean snow off our car in the winter, so the net and mat had to be easily portable and storable.

If you are repurposing a space that won’t require flexibility, then there are a number of fantastic options including The Net Return and others that provide projector screen capability. On the highest-end, before getting into a full room renovation, Costco has a $20,000 “Sim in a box” powered by a Foresight GCQuad—let’s call this the dream scenario.

Since I have no intention of using a projector, nor do I have $20,000 just lying around, I ended up going with standard golf impact netting from Amazon: 10′ x 20′ golf impact netting, which allowed me to build my own net system which I can open or store within minutes.

The last thing to remember is you will be putting a lot of wear on a small part of the net caused by proximity, which is why if you plan to practice a lot it’s important to reinforce the impact area of the net. There is nothing more dangerous or damaging than a rubber projectile (in our case a golf ball) ricocheting around a small space at over 140 mph.

My solution was fine mesh netting from a local fabric store. It’s light enough not to put extra stress on the suspended cable supporting the net but strong enough to take a lot of abuse. The nice thing is at only $5 per yard and 60″, wide it’s very affordable and easily replaceable. An interesting thing to note, is a net doesn’t wear out specifically from just high-speed impact but from the friction of the spinning ball as it hits the net with shorter clubs, so the more layers the better.

The parts list

The list will vary depending on your situation and personal setup, but here are the tools & supplies I used when putting together my own net system.

Tools

  • Power drill and/or impact driver to drill pilot holes for the anchoring i-bolts. Since there will be a lot of tension on the supporting cable you have to be sure to put these anchors into wall studs.
  • Stud finder
  • Various size drill bits
  • Level
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers or vice grips

Supplies

There are a lot of ways to secure the net and create a welcoming space to use as a practice facility but these are all the supplies I used to install and support the net.

  • Stainless steel aircraft cable (2mm) rated for 900lbs.
  • Aircraft cable clamps
  • I-bolts to secure the cable to walls
  • Turnbuckle to properly tension the cable
  • Small hooks to hold the corners of the net up and around
  • Carabiners – Climbing rated ones are unnecessary, but they need to be sturdy
  • Carpet (for noise dampening and to prevent balls hitting the floor after falling from the net)

The Mat

Beyond the net itself, this is by far the most important piece of any home hitting bay or simulator because it needs to have enough give/compression in the impact area to not cause joint or muscle pain when hitting irons and wedge. This could require you to use extra padding under the mat or purchasing a separate hitting area depending on the base it is on.

Note: At the time of publication, I am currently waiting for the soft hitting area of my mat to arrive 

Getting fancy and simulated

This is the part where we go from home hobby setup to full-blown golf nut practice facility. The options beyond a basic net setup can get pretty crazy and for data and shot information it will require a substantial investment, with the most affordable being a SkyTrak unit followed by the all-new FlightScope Mevo+. After that, we get into more expensive options like the Foresight GC2 with HMT or the newest option the GCQuad followed by the radar-based Trackman.

All of these systems can work alongside various simulator software to provide playable course options, but they all come at an additional cost depending on the company and package.

For my personal use, I already happen to own a FlightScope Xi+ (which I purchased used), which requires a minimum of 16′ from unit to net to capture data, and since I don’t have any plans for playing rounds of golf, it is the perfect solution for getting the information I want in the space I have.

So whether you are looking for a full-blown golf simulator at home or just a space to help you keep those “golf muscles” loose over the cold winter months, use this GolfWRX how-to guide as a starting point for finding the best solution for you.

The How-to Video

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