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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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Equipment

Golf 101: 5 Tips to building your golf bag with CH3 (+ Charles Howell III WITB)

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I think at this point it’s safe to say that Charles Howell III is the adopted son and patron saint of WRX.

Not only is he a member of the site and visits regularly, but he’s also an avid club nerd and tester. I’ve become friends with CH3 over the past couple of years and have had some fun gear geek sessions with him. Want to know the coolest thing of all? He’s still as passionate and curious about gear as we are and not just Titleist (who he is on staff with) he’s curious about it all.

So who better to ask about how to build a great golf bag than with a man who knows it, does, and plays for his livelihood week in and week out?

These are 5 Charles Howell III golden nuggets that any golfer can learn from—and oh yeah, his take on the future is spot on.

Rule #1: Stability over speed no matter what

“Even for the guys on tour, stabilizing the clubface is paramount to good driving. One of the reasons I love testing shafts so often is to see if there is that magic combo of speed and control. However, the stability of the clubhead and shaft have to be there—I could find a combo that’s 20 yards longer, but if it’s something I can’t control, it doesn’t have a place in my bag. Extra yardage is fun until it isn’t.”

Rule #2: Find wedges that can do it all

“I chose the Vokey SM8 M Grind in the 56 and 60, because as the grind spectrum goes, they fall dead in the middle for me but everyone is different. I discovered that finding a middle ground grind wise solves the “different wedges for different grass problems” some players find themselves in. Even at Augusta, there was more Bermuda sticking out than normal which made shots from behind 15 different for example a little trickier. Not only are you chipping back towards a downslope with water behind, but it’s also now into the grain. Knowing I had wedges to combat either scenario made it that much easier. As a player, you have to put all the grinds through the paces and see what one checks off the most boxes. It might be something you never considered.”

Rule #3 Forgiveness looks different for every player

“Iron set makeups have changed so much in recent years. Pay attention to the soles when choosing your irons, even in the longer irons. It would be easy to think that bigger heads wider soles would be a no-brainer to hit, but to be honest, it’s not that simple. Sometimes finding a sole that will help the club get in and out of the ground easily will get you that center contact you were looking for. Although guys on tour may choose beefier long irons, it’s pretty rare to find one with a really wide sole. Soles that large encourage a player to try and sweep it off the turf which is counter-intuitive with an iron in your hand. When getting fit, pay attention to attack angles and center contact with your longer clubs; you may find that thinner soles help you more than anything else.”

Rule #4 Enjoy the process of learning and testing

“Obviously playing for a living gives me the advantage of testing a ton of stuff, but it’s just as fun doing the research at home (online) and understanding what certain equipment can do and the idea behind it. I still rely on testing as much as I can to see what works but it’s the pursuit of knowledge that keeps it all fresh week in and week out. Technology is so good these days but like anything you have to ask questions, look around try some stuff and then make a decision. Remember it’s your golf bag, take some pride in demanding that every inch of it works for you.

Eyes on the future…

“I think as we go down this Bryson/distance chase, the ultimate result on tour will be a lot of two driver bags. Look at it this way, having a 47-inch driver for long bombs, and a 44.5 inch for tighter drives, and a 4-wood isn’t all that hard to imagine. Players can tweak lofts in the irons and wedges easily to adjust to gapping. It’s not rocket science, and I don’t think we are that far from seeing multiple players on tour doing it that way.”

Charles Howell III WITB

Driver: Titleist TSI3 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)

Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD XC 6 TX

3-wood: Ping G425 LST (14.5 degrees)

Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Tour Spec 8 X

7-wood: Ping G425 Max (20.5 degrees @20)

Shaft: Fujikura Atmos Black Tour Spec 9 X

Irons: Titleist T100 (4-6) 620 MB (7-9)

Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5 (hard stepped)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48-10F @47, 52-12F, 56-08M, 60-08M)

Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron 009M

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Align

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GolfWRX Classifieds (12/3/20): Mavrik SubZero, rare Scotty Cameron, Wilson Staff

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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 CLRMTgolfer – Wilson Staff forged combo set

This is one extremely nice custom combo set of irons from Wilson golf – from blades, all the way to the Staff utility, this set has everything you need for shotmaking.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Wilson staff iron set

Member EHSgolf1 – Callaway Mavrik SubZero driver

Your chance to get an almost new Callaway Mavrik SubZero for less than new price!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Callaway SubZero

Member Champ 2430 – Scotty Cameron Timeless longneck prototype

As they say “if you know you know” and this rare Scotty Cameron Prototype longneck is a thing of beauty – the only thing is I really hope you have a big golfing budget.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Rare longneck Cameron

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

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Adidas X Vice Golf launch The Vice Golf Shoe by Adidas

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Adidas has teamed up with Vice Golf to launch the new Vice Golf Shoe inspired from off the course which includes a dozen Vice Pro Drip Lime x Adidas golf balls.

The Vice Golf Shoe from Adidas contains ultraboost and a signature lime-green colorway to accent the designs for life both on and off the golf course. The shoe features a camouflage pattern in gray and white on the top of the shoe, while a brand-new drip pattern decorates the boost material at the bottom.

The shoe features branding “discoverables”, such as a subtle Vice logo on the tongue of the shoe while a collab logo is celebrated within. The company’s motto “Embrace Your Vice” runs down the spine of the heel, while another Vice logo lives underneath the 3-stripe caging on the inside of the foot.

If golfers want a brighter color pop, the alternate neon lime laces give that option.

“Based in Bavaria like Adidas, we have always looked up to this global ambassador and brand that has made big moves in both the golf and footwear in recent years. It is a great honor to finally present the result of 22 months of work with tears of happiness when the final pair of shoes arrived” – Vice Golf founder and CEO Ingo Duellmann

In addition to the shoe, the packaging of the Vice Golf Shoe by Adidas is made to look, feel and act exactly like their signature golf ball packages. 

The bottom of the box is wrapped in a neon lime camouflage pattern, and the top cover features the exact, embossed Vice logo colored in neon lime drip pattern as seen and felt on the brand’s golf ball packaging. The connection continues after lifting the lid and discovering an actual box of Vice Pro Drip Lime golf balls, with Adidas logos, sitting in its own compartment.

The Vice Golf Shoe from Adidas (plus one dozen Vice Pro Drip Lime X Adidas golf balls) costs $219.95 and is available to purchase from December 7, 2020, 11 AM EST at ViceGolf.com.

 

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