The Local Knowlege

Gear & Equipment

How the Titleist Pro V1 revolutionized golf

Editor's Note: In his new book, Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn from Them, Mark McClusky examines the various ways sports at the highest level have benefited from scientific innovation. That certainly includes golf. In the excerpt below, McClusky, the editor of WIRED.com, discusses how the Titleist Pro V1 contributed to a dramatic jump in PGA Tour driving distance in the early '00s.

mcclusky-book-350.jpg
In 1993, Bernhard Langer won the Masters, one of golf’s four major tournaments, using a driver made of persimmon, rather than one of the new generation of metal “woods” that had been slowly infiltrating the game. He would be the last player to win a major with an actual wooden wood -- by 1997, Davis Love III retired his persimmon driver and old school woods left the tour for good. Meanwhile, metal drivers were becoming better and better, leading to that steady improvement.
 
And then things got a little nuts. The next year, 2001, average driving distance leapt six yards in a single season. There was a very clear reason for that huge jump -- the introduction of what might be the single most influential product in the history of any sport: the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball. For decades, top golfers had all played with balls constructed in the same way: A liquid-filled rubber core was wound with thin rubber thread, building the ball up to the correct diameter as if it was a ball of yarn. This was covered with balata, a type of rubber harvested from a tropical tree called the bully tree. The balls were sometimes inconsistent, but they offered the best level of spin and distance for strong players. Other types of balls, made for high handicappers, emphasized distance over control and used solid rubber cores, but low-handicap golfers viewed them with disdain.

Early in 2000, Nike introduced a solid-core ball aimed at tour- level golfers, which its star endorser Tiger Woods began to use. Titleist, the largest maker of golf balls, had its own solid-core model under development, which combined a large rubber core with a harder mantle layer. The outside cover was made of urethane, a soft plastic. The ball yielded the distance of solid-core balls with the control of the balata models. It was like nothing the sport had ever seen. Balata balls were very inconsistent -- some seemed to fly better than others, and players would struggle to adapt to a different performance every time they’d break out a new ball. And over time, the balls would start to break down, getting out of round or cut by the club during a shot.
 
titleist-prov1-518.jpg
Photo by Getty Images

Solid-core balls like the Pro V1 were much more consistent and reliable. The durability was better. The solid core allowed engineers to tune the ball to react differently in different situations. When smashed with a driver, the ball would spin less than a balata ball, keeping it from hooking or slicing. When hit with a wedge, it would spin more quickly, giving the player more control to stop the ball on the green. And in every situation, it flew significantly farther than a balata ball when hit with the same force.
 
The first week the new Pro V1 model ball was available for tournament play, in October 2000, forty-seven players switched from their previous ball. That sort of wholesale equipment change was unprecedented in the history of golf. How fast was the transition across the sport? At the 2000 Masters, fifty-nine of the ninety- five players used a wound golf ball. One year later, only four players used one. By the end of 2001, not a single tournament champion on any of the world’s major professional tours had won using a wound ball; the rout was so comprehensive that Titleist stopped making them at all.
 
Today, the seventh generation of the Pro V1 and its brother model, the Pro V1x, are made at Titleist’s ball plant 3, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Walking the factory floor, you’re surrounded by balls in various states of manufacture, from the raw rubber to the cork-shaped billets that are then molded into spheres. There are bins and bins of centers, of balls with the covers molded on that haven’t been polished, of polished and painted balls waiting to be packaged. They make three hundred thousand Pro V1s here each day, balls destined to win major titles or to find the bottom of a lake after a duffer’s bad drive.
 
The invention of the Pro V1 started out as a little bit of an accident. The company’s engineers were just trying to combine some of the technologies in their balls for amateur golfers with the ones in their pro models, and they stumbled upon the construction of the Pro V1. From that point, its refinement became a process that involved five years of prototypes and endless testing at the company’s facility in Massachusetts. “We didn’t have a clue what we really had at the time,” recalled Bill Morgan, the company’s head of golf ball development, in a 2013 interview. It took a day in which a hundred of the company’s sponsored pros used the prototype ball -- and gave it rave reviews --  for the company to fast-track it into production.

From Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes--and What We Can Learn from Them by Mark McClusky. Reprinted by arrangement with Hudson Street Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright ©Mark McClusky, 2014.
... Read
Gear & Equipment

Phil Mickelson continues in role as ultimate pitchman, makes surprise visit at Callaway sales meeting

Few men are better equipped to be a company spokesman than Phil Mickelson, if only based on his history of gushing about the clubs in his bag. Remember Phil extolling the virtues of his new Callaway Big Bertha Alpha driver at the beginning of 2014? It was like off a script.

"It’s just mind-boggling the way it’s made a difference in my game and it allows me to swing like it’s a 7-iron or a 5-iron, and my irons are the strength of my game," Mickelson said in a press conference prior to the Farmers Insurance Invitational last January. "Now that I’m able to make the same swing with both driver and irons . . .  I’m going to be able to be a much more aggressive player.”

Fast forward to this week, when Callaway was having its National Sales Meeting, and Mickelson continued in the role of ideal company man. According to Callaway, the five-time major champion asked to speak to the company's sales representatives in San Diego because he was so enthusiastic about the upcoming Callaway product line.

Here's a Vine of him first showing up in the meeting:


And here's Phil on stage with Callaway Senior VP of Marketing Harry Arnett.

mickelson-arnett-518.jpg
No truth to the rumor Mickelson also whipped up a batch of his world famous macaroni salad for the company picnic.


... Read
Gear & Equipment

Wedge company forges new ground with its RxF forged offering

loop-renegar-forged-wedge-280.jpgFor designer Bob Renegar, it has long been about how the wedge moves through the turf. His clubs use a sole shape with a low leading edge and higher bounce on the trailing edge.

This design is easier to achieve when the clubhead is cast instead of forged. That's why the forged RxF ($209) uses a complex five-step process that Renegar says is "the equivalent of investment casting in precision and consistency."

The difference is that it's forged from soft 1025c carbon steel. The RxF is offered in four stock heads available in lofts from 45 to 60 degrees and sets matched for an array of specs, including elements like component weights and whole club MOI.

Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.

 

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Adidas' newest additions to its Tour 360 x shoe line have plenty of tech to talk about

The latest entry to the Tour360 shoe line from Adidas Golf -- the Tour360 x -- features a new outsole and additional cushioning in the midsole for comfort. The Tour360 x's nine-cleat design is intended to increase stability and reduce the shoe's weight.

loop-tour360-X-Q47033-profile-518.jpg

Also joining the line is the Tour360 x Boa, which uses a dial on the tongue to adjust for comfort and fit.

loop-adidas-tour-360X-Family-518.jpg

The Tour x ($140) will be available in six colors—three of which: white/silver/black, blue/gray/white and silver/white/black—go on sale Nov. 1. The other three colors will be available in February. The Tour360 x Boa ($180) will be offered in two colors and available Dec. 1.

... Read
Gear & Equipment

This video will make you feel less lazy about wanting your own personal golf-ball teeing system

A personal golf-ball teeing system seems, at first glance, like a bit of an indulgence. Yet the utility of the Neuroswing, particularly for instructors working on a lesson tee, makes this latest accessory to surface on Kickstarter more than just a curiosity. Unless, that is, you're chiropractor, in which case it might be your own worst nightmare.

loop-neuroswing-518.jpg

The portable device assembles in less than a minute and holds 42 balls, according to company co-founder Pascal Perrin. It requires no power to use because golfers manually control the tube that feeds balls to the tee.

Does it really take that much effort to bend over and tee up a golf ball? No, but when you start to read Neuroswing's promotional material and see the potential for reducing strain on your back from repeatedly bending over, suddenly it doesn't seem so unnecessary after all.

Here's a video that shows how it works:


Perrin hopes to raise $35,000 before the Kickstarter campaign ends Nov. 16. The plan is to begin production in 2015 with the hope of shipping units, which would retail for $100 to $150, in the summer.


... Read
Gear & Equipment

Ian Poulter keeps his word on being quick about picking a new equipment company

loop-ian-poulter-titleist-bag-300.jpgLast week when Ian Poulter took to Twitter to say, "I will let you know my new endorsement partners very soon" after splitting with Cobra-Puma Golf he wasn't kidding. Poulter announced Tuesday via the social-media site, "Seriously pleased to announce I will be a full staff @Titleist @FootJoy staff player for 2015 season. So excited." 

Accompanying the tweet was a photo of Poulter's new staff bag which appeared to house a 915 series driver and 3-wood along with a pair of hybrids. The irons appeared to be a split set with two Titleist CB irons and the rest being the company's MB model. A trio of Vokey wedges also were in the bag. Not visible was the putter, and it will be interesting to see if Poulter -- who tends to be finicky about his flat stick -- switches to a Scotty Cameron model.

As for why Titleist took on Poulter, who at 38 may already have seen the best days of his playing career, one only needs to look at the company's full-line players from Europe. Other than Victor Dubuisson, there aren't many high-profile players under contract. Signing Poulter then may be an effort to bolster the roster abroad as well as secure a recognizable name should Dubuisson bolt for big bucks elsewhere in the future.

... Read
Gear & Equipment

I just got done packing up 2,235 lbs of Hot List golf clubs (and boy, are my arms tired)

The photo below is of 65 staff bags, totaling 2,235 lbs, packed with samples of all the 
clubs that are going to be on the market next season. Yep, you guessed it: These clubs are going to be shipped to the site of this year's Golf Digest Hot List Summit, where they will be evaluated thoroughly as candidates for the 2015 Hot List. Many are called, but not all are chosen. 

hot list boxes.jpg
I feel strongly enough about this photo to share it because I'm the Hot List coordinator, which means packing all those boxes has been my singular focus for the past month -- my life's work. (Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad! Aren't you proud?)
 
This moment is also significant because:
1. Those recurring nightmares of missing the shipping date should stop. And…
2. We're one big step closer to determining the 2015 Hot List. But there are many more to go. (Like going through all the dozens of other boxes of clubs shipped directly by manufacturers to the Hot List Summit site. Yes, I have my own personal box cutter.)
 
The clubs are heading out to our testing site, soon to be joined by myself and other Golf Digest editors, Hot List panelists (made up of guys and girls like you), a few swing teachers, scientists, and retailers. We're going to figure out which clubs are the ones you should be placing high on your wish list, so sit tight, stay tuned, and get ready to want to start next season with some new sticks.  

... Read
Gear & Equipment

It's that time of year: Titleist introduces new Pro V1, Pro V1x in Las Vegas

When Titleist golf ball players arrived at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Monday there was a sense of excitement as well as deja vu. That’s because Titleist had stuffed several dozen balls in plain, white boxes in their lockers as well as handed some out on the range. Inside were the latest iterations of the Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls as this is the first week tour players can use the balls in competition.

prov1-518.jpg
Photo from Titleist

Since Titleist first unveiled the Pro V1 at the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas in 2000 (where Billy Andrade won with it the first week out, sparking the Pro V1 phenomenon), the Vegas stop on the PGA Tour has often been the initial proving ground for new Pro V1 and Pro V1x models. The last time Titleist launched new Pro V1s and Pro V1xs at the Shriners, in 2012, 18 of the 85 players using a Titleist ball in Vegas switched over to the new spheres (four in the Pro V1, 14 in Pro V1x) including Bill Lunde, who finished solo fifth using the V1x.

Although Titleist was mum on details about the new balls, if previous models are a guide, expect the Pro V1 to be a three-piece multilayer ball (single core, mantle layer and cover) and the Pro V1x to be a four-piece multilayer ball (dual core, mantle layer and cover). And expect a number of players to switch over -- and quickly.

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Nike tour staff with early debut of Vapor fairway woods

VaporSpeedFairway.jpg
Nike recently made a splash when Rory McIlroy switched to Nike’s Vapor Pro driver at the Ryder Cup. Less visible, but key to the company's continued quest to become known for its equipment was some players putting its Vapor Speed fairway woods in their bags at the Frys.com Open. Scott Brown, Kevin Chappell and Jhonattan Vegas all had at least one Vapor Speed fairway wood in play at Silverado Resort and Spa. 

Nike announced Monday not only the Jan. 30, 2015 availability of the Vapor Speed at retail, but its Vapor Flex fairway woods as well. The Vapor Speed has a 25-percent larger footprint with a lower and deeper center of gravity than previous Nike models. It also features a compression channel to boost ball speed and a cavity-back design on the sole. The non-adjustable clubs (lofts of 15 and 19 degrees) will be priced at $199 each.

“Athlete insights drove significant chassis refinement in the Vapor fairway woods.” said Nate Radcliffe, director of engineering for Nike Golf. 

VaporFlex_Fairway.jpg
“Our athletes wanted tighter but forgiving leading edges, fuller profiles and added ball speed. … Athletes including Tiger Woods requested larger face profiles in fairway woods, but it was vital that we do that without compromising ball speed or optimal launch conditions. We successfully modified the chassis by sloping the crown to lower the CG which optimized launch characteristics across the family.”

As for the Vapor Flex ($249), the club incorporates most of the same technologies found in the Speed model, but on a more compact chassis and with the addition of adjustability through Nike’s FlexLoft 2 system that provides 15 different settings covering five lofts (13 to 17 degrees in the 3-wood and 17 to 21 degrees in the 5-wood) and three face angle settings. For those who have Nike’s previous Covert fairway woods, those shafts with the original adaptor can be used in the new fairway woods as well.

... Read
Gear & Equipment

Srixon took a material made for car engines to strengthed the face of its new irons

loop-srixon-Z545-6-Iron-350.jpgEven with irons, it's rare to find a player who isn't looking for distance. Of course, that often has meant giving up a classic, compact forged iron to find extra length. But recent introductions from Mizuno, Nike, Callaway and TaylorMade, among others, have paired a high-strength-steel face insert with a compact stainless-steel body to help boost distance.

Srixon is joining the game with its Z 545, which has a face insert made of a SUP10 steel, a material developed for automobile engines that's 10-percent stronger than traditional 17-4 steel.

The long and middle irons also make use of tungsten in the toe to position the center of gravity more in line with the center of the face.

The Z 545 ($1,000) will be available in November.

Interested in more stories on equipment? Signup to receive Golf Digestix, a weekly digital magazine that offers the latest news, new product introductions and behind-the-scenes looks at all things equipment.

 

... Read
Subscribe to Golf Digest
Subscribe today