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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

2020 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Golf gifts for the Purist

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff. 

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to get better,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.”

You know the purist by his/her love forged irons, natural fibers, and Golden Age golf courses. 

Here are our best recommendations for “the purist” in your life.

Titleist Pro V1, Pro V1x: $47.95

 

 

The No. 1 ball in golf, yes, most widely played on the PGA Tour by a wide margin, yes…The performance of the Titleist Pro V1 is doubtless best-in-class. But for the purist, there’s nothing in the golf ball space quite so iconic as the “Titleist” script stamped on the Pro V1.

Buy here.

The Golfer’s Journal: $75/year

Do you subscribe to The Golfer’s Journal? If you consider yourself a purist, it’s surprising if you don’t. And if you’re buying a gift for the purist in your life, TGJ is the perfect pick for superb reading material, best-in-the-golf-media photography, and of course, as a coffee table adornment that signals your aesthetic sensibilities are as high as your appreciation for our maddening game.

Buy here.

Vintage Hogan blades

Classic blade models can be had from many manufacturers, but there’s something about the Ben Hogan Apex—one of the most iconic and influential iron models of all time—that warms the heart of every purist. The 1999 model was an excellent vintage. 

MacKenzie golf bag

The carry bag of choice for golf hipsters and purists alike. We’re big fans of the Waxed Canvas Original Walker (and the “Mac” custom builder).

Buy here.

Louisville Golf: Classic 50’s Series Persimmon Driver

Among companies still making persimmon, Louisville Golf is best in class. And as we all know, nothing resonates in the purist’s soul like a well-struck shot with a persimmon wood. (Our Peter Schmitt took a trip to Louisville Golf and filed this report). You can’t go wrong with the 50’s Series Persimmon.

Buy here

BB&F ferrules

It may seem counter-intuitive that the purist would want something more bold than the traditional black ferrule, that is until you remember that historically, ferrules were often times ringed with at least one color. BB&F is the best (only?) player in the bespoke ferrule game.

Buy here. 

Best Grips

The purist loves all things leather and antiquated. Grips were originally made of leather. Ergo, the purist will be entirely enamored of Best Grips offerings—we recommend the MicroPerf Leather Golf Grip.

Buy here.

Goodwood putter

No shortage of putter makers sit near to the purist’s heart. Tad Moore, T.P. Mills, and Scotty Cameron, among other, fill the wooden racks of both the purist’s home and the corridors of his equipment fantasies. Goodwood, however, which was “Founded on the idea that tradition still holds an important place among new technology in an ever evolving industry,” is plenty appealing to the purist.

Buy here. 

Western Birch Golf tees

Premium wooden tees in classic designs are plentiful, yes, but nobody does it better than Western Birch.

Buy here. 

Golf trip: Sweetens Cove, Bandon

While this is certainly for the budgetarily endowed, what could be better than sending the purist—with his golf architecture obsession—to one of his dream destinations for a round or two? The tracks at Mike Keiser’s Bandon and the Tennessee King-Collins gem are deeply etched on all purist bucket lists.

Buy here.

 

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2020 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Big Spender

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff. The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to get better,” and “the big spender.” In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to improve,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.”

You know the big spender by his/her when the math “golf bag + 14 clubs = more than the value of your car…and maybe house.”

Here are our best recommendations for “the big spender” in your life (and yes, in this scenario, you are a big spender as well).

JuCad Phantom Titan eX 2.0 Electric Push Cart: $4,990

Built from titanium and carbon fiber, the Phantom Titan eX 2.0 is one of the wildest pushcarts in golf. Super minimal design that hides the electric motors and battery in the frame on the cart. Comes with a remote control and double-sided electronic parking brake. Folds up small enough to fit in a large briefcase-sized case.

Buy here.

TAG Heuer Connected Golf Edition: $2,500

A smartwatch geared towards golf and crafted by one of the biggest names in luxury watches. TAG Heuer’s Connected Golf Edition gives you GPS data to any point on the golf course and its screen is bright and easy to read. It has the most comfortable band I have ever strapped on my wrist to keep it in place throughout the swing.

Buy here. 

Foresight GCQuad Launch Monitor: $20,500

This is one of the best launch monitors on the market and the best option for anyone stuck practicing indoors. The GCQuad accurately measures your clubbed through impact and has a Putting Analysis option to dial in your flagstick. The GCQuad will accurately measure your ball speed, clubhead speed, launch angle, spin, carry distance, and many more metrics.

Buy here.

Footjoy 1857 Shield Tip Golf Shoes: $495

Is there a more classic and well build golf shoe out there? Crafted from soft calfskin leather the 1857 Shield Tips are built with full leather linings and outsole. A Good Year rubber welt keeps the waterproof and a cork underlay cushions your feet hold after hole.

Buy here. 

Kjus Gemini Rain Suit: $1,048 ($549 jacket/$499 pants)

The Gemini series is lightweight, breathable, stretchy, and quiet. Creme de la creme of rain suits. It features a reversible design that allows you to also wear it inside out as a warm and ultra-breathable jacket. The Gemini features fully taped seams and an adjustable hem with a drawcord to get the perfect fit.

Buy here.

PXG 0311 Milled Wedges Black: $2,250 ($750/wedge)

Triple forged from 8620 carbon steel and then CNC milled to exact specifications. The iconic PXG weight screws help increase MOI and fine-tune CG location. Weight in the toe moves the CG higher for increased spin and better consistency on open-faced shots.

Buy here.

Titleist CNCPT Irons: $4,500 ($500/iron)

CNCPT irons are an exercise in engineering and pushing the limits of iron design. Titleist uses the CNCPT line to try new materials that have never been used in the golf space as well as packing more tech into smaller spaces. With three different models available, there is a set of irons for the low to high handicap player.

Buy here. 

Dormie Workshop “The Green Jacket” Headcover: $190

Who isn’t still thinking of the Masters and that green jacket? Dormie Workshop created this amazing headcover to pay homage to the most iconic piece of clothing in golf. Made from high-quality leather, this could be the crown jewel of your golf bag accessories.

Buy here. 

Full Swing VG2 Virtual Putting Green: $61,000+

This has to be one of the most advanced and customizable putting greens in the world. Dozens of individual actuator modules shape and mold the green into real-world topographies so you can practice any putt you can think of.

Buy here.

 

2021 Mercedes-Maybach GLS: $160,000+

If it is good enough for Rickie to promote all weekend during the Masters, it should be good enough for any unlimited budget golfer! With massaging seats and every luxury option you can think of, the Maybach GLSGLS could be what you need to relax after a rough round. Just remember, Joe Skovron (Rickie’s caddy) says the back seats should be set to 38 degrees of recline for optimal seating!

Buy here.

 

 

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GolfWRX Classifieds (11/24/20): Button Back, Titleist TSi2, Bettinardi tour department DASS

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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 KingKong – Titleist TSi2 3-wood

It’s new, it’s fast, it’s forgiving, and it can now be yours for a great deal!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: TSi2 fairway 

Member bigD77 – Tour Dept DASS Bettinardi

This is one very good looking putter. Made from Bettinardi’s DASS it also comes with a custom weld neck and Fit Face. Feel good, look good, putt good with this in your bag.

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

Member Beege35 – Scotty Cameron Button Back

Cameron “Button Backs” also known as TEi3 putters are highly sought after for their looks and feel, and this Newport is in stunningly mint condition—so you better act fast.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: SC Button Back 

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

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