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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

Justin Thomas WITB (2020 Zozo Championship)

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Driver: Titleist TSi3 (9 degrees, B1 setting, T1)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana TB 60 TX (44 7/8”)

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw Blue 85 TX

5-wood: Titleist 915 Fd (18 degrees @18.75, C3 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2 Tour Spec X

Irons: Titleist T100 (4), Titleist 620 MB (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design Raw SM7 (46-10F @47.5, 52-12F @52.5), Vokey SM8 (56-14F @57), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks (60T @ 60.5)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 (52-60)

Photo c/o Aaron Dill

Putter: Scotty Cameron X5.5 Tour Prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

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Equipment

GolfWRX Classifieds (10/23/20): Mizuno ST200G, Custom TP Mills, Raw Cleveland irons

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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 Fatrambo – Raw Cleveland 588 Forged CB

Just WOW! This is not a set you see often, and for those looking for a bit of history surrounding this set, the Forged 588 irons were the last set of forged irons produced by Cleveland before they left the “players iron” market behind.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Raw 588 CBs

Member EVandy – Custom TP Mills Putter

There’s custom, and then there is CUSTOM, and this TP Mills is a perfect example of a handmade, built-to-order beautiful putter.

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

Member bigdaddy78 – Mizuno ST200G driver

We recently spotted what looks to be the next drivers from Mizuno on the USGA conforming list, so expect to see a few more of these pop up as golfer start prepping for 2021. But if you are someone still looking for a current. model at a great price, snag this one quick.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: ST200G

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

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Whats in the Bag

WITB GolfWRX Members Edition: Flybyublue

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Recently we put out the call for our members to submit their WITBs in our forum to be featured on the GolfWRX front page. Since then, our members have been responding in numbers!

Now it’s time to take a look at the bag of Flybyublue.

*Full details on the submission process can be found here, and you can submit your WITB in this forum thread.*

Member: Flybyublue

Handicap: 1.8

Flybyublue WITB

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Subzero Triple Diamond (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Tour AD DI-6x

3-wood: TaylorMade ’16 M2 (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Purple 75g 05

Driving iron: TaylorMade UDI Tour Preferred (19.5*)
Shaft: Tour AD AD-85 x

Irons: Srixon Z545 (4-PW)
Shafts: Nippon Modus3 Tour105 x

Wedges: Vokey SM8 (50-08F, 54-10S, 58T raw)
Shafts: True Temper AMT Tour White S400

Putter: Odyssey O-works Black 3T (WH Insert)
Grip: Odyssey SX Black

Golf Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV

Grips: Golf Pride MCC Midsize

Get submitting your WITB in our forum as we’ll be publishing more and more of them on our front page over the coming days and weeks.

Feel free to make it your own too by including some thoughts on your setup, your age, handicap, etc. Anything you feel is relevant!

Share your WITBs here.

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