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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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The most popular golf hitting nets on Amazon right now (Fall 2020 edition)

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What are the most popular golf hitting nets on Amazon right now? From time to time, we like to get out of our little bubble of OEM releases and what’s being played on tour to look at what golf consumers are buying on one of the largest online retail marketplaces: Amazon.

Here are some of the best-selling golf hitting nets on Amazon as of October 2020.

1. GoSports Golf Practice Hitting Net

From the listing:Improve your swing both indoors or outdoors with this portable at-home golf hitting net (mat not included). Beware of other nets made by foreign companies with no real golf experience. The GoSports golf net was designed in the US and is made by golfers for golfers. Incredibly durable reinforced nylon net with innovative golf ball return feature for added convenience and increased golf swing practice time – no more chasing balls.”

Price: $59.99

Buy here.

2. FUNME Golf Hitting Net with Target Sheet Golfing Portable Swing Training Aids

From the listing:Golf net practice is made of high intensity nylon and high quality polyester,oxford built the base and the net Golf driver net is wide-opened tent, 9.8ft W x 5.9ft H x 6.5ft D. Perfect for indoor and outdoor use.Like backyard and indoor.Available in two sizes, adults or kids,every golf net has a durable carry bag. Designed with large hitting area and target sheet, this golf net target sheet can better helps beginner improve swing, ball striking and strength, helping you become a professional golf player.”

Price: $60.99

Buy here.

3. Heavy Duty Golf Net 

From the listing:Once the net is setup the hitting area 10 feet wide by 7 feet tall. This will give you plenty of room to hit any club from a driver to a lob wedge and hit the net. You can use this net as and indoor golf net or the backyard, at a park, in a garage, in the basement, at any field. Simply setup and start swinging. You can setup and take down this net in minutes. You will swing in minutes. When you finish practicing and training you can collapsible in minutes and place in the supplies carry bag.”

Price: $79.99

Buy here.

4. MESIXI Pop Up Golf Chipping Net

From the listing:The chipping net is not that easy to get flimsy with enhanced design. TWO Color: Very classic colors: red and blue. Pick your favorite color and show off to your friends. NO-BLOW-AWAY DESIGN: We sent 8 ground nails with the pack to spin the net and hitting mats to the ground. No blow away anymore.”

Price: $39.99

Buy here.

5. RELILAC Pop Up Golf Chipping Net

From the listing:Your Rolilac Golf Chipping Net is a perfect compact and versatile chipping training aid. It features multiple pockets and targets to improve your short distance pitching accuracy and keep challenging yourself. Best for golfers of all levels! Your Rolilac Golf Chipping Net can be packed in a 1.2 ft. handbag, and weighs a mere 1 lbs. Since it’s lightweight, foldable and portable, You can play golf whenever and wherever (backyards, parks, on the course and more) you want, indoor/outdoor day&night without weather limitation.”

Price: $19.99

Buy here.

6. SAPLIZE Golf Practice Net with Hitting Mat

From the listing:The dimensions of the net is up to 10ft (L) X 7ft(D) X 7ft(H)?large , light but stable. Increasing 30% area of chipping training curtain gives more protection of driving practice. Support driving and chipping practice. Hitting Mat is also included in the the package. The net is made of high impact polyester fabric and oxford cloth with good anti-tearing characteristics. Ideal golf nets for all golfers and can be used for training at indoor, backyard, outdoors, etc.”

Price: $79.99

Buy here.

7. Aoneky Golf Sports Practice Barrier Net

From the listing:Reinforced with a 1/4″ rope border along perimeter. Knotless mesh construction, rugged durability and premium quality. Hang/Install from vertical poles, cables/wires, structures, fences/trees, hooks. Works great as a barrier for homes or outdoors to practice shots with irons.”

Price: $59.99

Buy here.

8. SUNHOO Pop-up Golf Chipping Net with Dual Turf Hitting Mat

From the listing:Sunhoo golf chipping net Combo comes with the Lawn Saver Mat, practice Golf Ball and removable Rubber Tee, greatly save your shopping time and shipping cost. The golf net measures 12” by 12” only when folded, 25” by 25” after fully open; Really portable to carry thanks to the collapsible design.”

Price: $39.88

Buy here.

9. IPOW Golf Practice Net

From the listing:IPOW Golf Training Net adopts the super-strong 210D encrypted Oxford cloth, 170g / yard polyester mesh, and 11mm fiber poles, which makes it able to handle all kinds of severe weather and heavy use. Save Your Time & Energy: The uneven bottom design (high on both sides, low in the middle) is to allow all your shots to be collected into the net, avoiding the trouble of picking up the ball frequently.”

Price: $69.99

Buy here.

10. Club Champ Golf Practice Net

From the listing:9-feet wide by 7-feet tall. Net stops the hardest of shots. Sturdy, weather-resistant nylon net. Plated steel poles lock together. Easy set up and take down.”

Price: $19.97

Buy here.

Alternatively, find out how to build your own hitting net and simulator in Ryan Barath’s guide here.

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Equipment

WRX Insider: Inside the bag of Ryan Palmer

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Ryan Palmer has seen a bit of a career resurgence in the last 9-12 months. The four-time PGA Tour winner has always been known as one of the most consistent ball strikers out there, but even more, a player who stays ridiculously loyal to his clubs.

Case in point: The irons he played before his current set. Palmer cycled through multiple sets of Titleist AP2 710’s for almost nine years. In that time, Titleist introduced four iterations of the AP2.

“Why would he do this?” you ask. “Because they worked,” is the answer.

The same can be said for multiple drivers, 3-woods, and 5-woods that stayed in the bag for 3-4 years at a time.

It might not seem like a big deal but on tour it is. OEMs cycle in new gear almost every year, and these days the equipment improves from cycle to cycle, so having a player like Palmer stick to certain parts for so long is a bit of a rarity. The only other players I know who do it at this rate would be Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer.

RP and I have become friends over the past couple of years, and his approach to equipment is what every golfer should aspire to: it has to work. And if it does, don’t ditch it until it breaks or something comes around that is significantly better.

Over the past 9 months, Ryan has made more changes to his bag than any over the past decade. He replaced a driver, a four-year-old 3-wood (M2), and a five-year-old 5-wood (R15).

But as you will see when we look a bit closer, the changes have been for the better in every capacity.

Driver: TaylorMade SIM (9 degrees, Upright Setting, 18G Back weight)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS Smoke RDX USA Limited Edition 60 6.5 (D4, Tipped 1″, 45.25 Inches) 

“This combo was good from the start. Faster and longer than my M6 setup. I wanted to draw it a little easier than my M6. We dialed it in with Shawn Mullin and True Temper. It started more left than I wanted, so Adrian went to work to help correct my start line. I still wanted to hit my fade off the tee. He went and changed the sleeve to half-degree flatter and boom…was exactly what I was looking for. I’m excited about what this driver has. Faster, longer, and more stable. Even my mishits are longer and not as offline. With the help of Shawn and True Temper and the great mind of Adrian, we dialed it in. Getting longer at 44 will add to the excitement 2021 will hold.”

According to TaylorMade’s Senior Tour Manager Adrian Rietveld

“The main fix was I found a sleeve that sat max 1/2 flatter for the driver, and I bent loft onto his 3-wood without telling him before I ran it out to him on the course. I knew the 3-wood was near perfect, and when he asked for a backup driver exactly the same, I knew that was money too. He is as good off the tee as anyone—in my top 10 for sure.”

3-wood: TaylorMade Sim Max ([email protected] degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS Smoke Green “Hulk” 70 6.5 (D4, Tipped 1.5″, 43 Inches)

According to Ryan, his old 3-wood was just fine, but it took a lot of work to turn it over, so on a hole like 13 at Augusta, he couldn’t hit the shot he wanted, with the SIM Max, not only can he turn it over at will, he has every other shot. Rietveld simply added .5 degrees of loft to get spin up a bit. RP says off the tee he can get 280-290 out of this no problem and is champing at the bit to get to Augusta with it.

5-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (19 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZURDUS Smoke RDX 80 6.5 (D4, Tipped 2″, 42 Inches)

How did this 5-wood finally bump the trusty R15 out of the bag? “It does everything way better. I loved my old 5-wood because I trusted it with multiple shots. When Adrian dialed me into this one, I added even more versatility to it and some distance, which I’ll never run away from.”

Irons: Srixon ZU85 (23), Srixon Z 785 (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Elevate VSS Pro X (4), KBS Tour 130 X (5-PW)

After his final set of 710 AP2 irons basically keeled over and died, RP tested a few sets and fell in love with the turf interaction of the Z785.

“I already get into the ground fine, so I like irons with a bit of bounce to add some speed through the turf. Once I had a chance to get around with these at home, it was pretty clear that they were an ideal replacement to the 710. Now I just hope I can stockpile 20 sets.”

His U85 came after some testing with the Z585 4-iron he played for a few months. He liked but didn’t love that iron for a few reasons but it was a shaft test with the U85/Elevate combo that won him over.

“I was at a tournament and finally brought this combo out to try and VERY quickly knew it was a gamer. I can hit it up/down/left/right and it flies to my number with a nice descent angle. It’s the first time I’ve had that much versatility with a club between my 5-wood and 5-iron. The shaft was the key—it’s simply awesome.”

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (50-08F, 56-10S @55, 60-04L)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X (50), KBS Tour 120 S (56, 60)

SPECS Length/Lie/SW

According to Vokey’s Aaron Dill, Palmer is fairly low maintenance when it comes to his wedges.

“RP is a pure feel player with impeccable tempo. It may look like he’s gliding thru the ball but with his lag and great hands, he not only creates great speed at the bottom when he needs to but can also take a lot off with little thought. The only real tweak we have made lately is going to a softer shaft (KBS 120 S) in his 55/60. This helps with feel obviously but also added a bit more spin out of those shorter shots.”

Putter: Odyssey Rossie II

“I tried some different putters over the past year or so, but this one just has so much history for me. I’ve used it since college, and no matter what, I can always go back to it and feel at home.”

– Ryan Palmer

Grip: Flat Cat

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

58R/+3 wraps/Logo Down

  • ONLY WADE LILES on TM truck does his grips, no one else.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x ‘21

“I’m killing this thing. It’s really fast off the driver.”

Carry Distance (Stock) 

Driver: 295

  • Swing speed: 117 (Stock) 120 (Hard)
  • Ball speed: 175 (Stock) Low 180 (Hard)
  • Spin: 2100-2200 (Stock) 1800-1900 (Hard)
  • Launch: Try to stay at 12-13 degrees

3-wood: 265 carry off ground. 275 carry off tee

5-wood: 245 off ground. Stinger 5-wood flies 230-240 and runs out to 270-280

U: 225

5: 200-205

6: 190

7: 175-180

8: 165

9: 152-155

PW: 142-145

50 degree: 130

56 degree: 115

60 degree: 92-95

 

 

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Whats in the Bag

Wyndham Clark WITB (October 2020)

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Driver: PXG 0811 Proto (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana TB 60 TX

Hybrid: PXG 0317 Gen 1 (17 degrees @15.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei White HY 90 TX

Irons: PXG 0211 FB Proto (3-9)
Shaft: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 130 X

Wedges: PXG 0311 Sugar Daddy (46), Sugar Daddy Milled (52 degrees @51, 56, 60 degrees @61)
Shaft: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 130 X

Putter: PXG Gunboat

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

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