Jack Nicklaus has played enough different brands of golf balls, tested them enough and talked about them enough to determine he could build his own ball. And he's decided to do just that.
Golf World has learned that Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 professional major championships, is introducing a line of golf balls starting in November with the objective of helping golfers select a ball that best matches their skill level. Three balls will be available: Nicklaus Black, Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White, corresponding to the tee markers from which golfers regularly play. The Nicklaus Black is designed for the single-digit handicap golfer who might typically play from the back tees. The Nicklaus Blue is for players who use middle teeing areas, while the Nicklaus White is for higher handicap players, either men or women, who play from forward tees.
In the past, Nicklaus has lent his name to signature brands of golf balls, but the new Nicklaus line is proprietary, manufactured to his specifications after three years of testing. Nicklaus said Bridgestone is manufacturing the balls and counseled on its design.
A percentage of sales will be donated to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, which Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, established in 2004 to support pediatric programs nationwide.
"We all know that the game of golf can be challenging enough, so we are trying to simplify the decision-making process of selecting the right golf ball and at the same time provide consumers the highest-quality golf balls and at a price that encourages charitable support," Nicklaus, 73, and winner of 73 PGA Tour titles, said in a statement. "By buying these balls, players will get the added benefit of supporting these wonderful charities that help children in need as well as the families that dearly love them."
The balls, which go into production within the next few weeks, will be sold online at www.nicklaus.com and through golf shops at more than 200 courses in the Nicklaus Design portfolio. The Nicklaus Black will have a suggested retail price around $50 per dozen in pro shops, while the Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White models will be priced in the mid-$40s. Online shoppers can purchase the balls for $32 and $26, respectively, with the option of adding a donation earmarked for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.
"For more than three years, we have contemplated entering the golf ball business, so over that time, I have been researching and testing golf balls," said Nicklaus, who has been a proponent for growing the game through the First Tee, Tee It Forward and other initiatives. "There are a lot of very good balls on the market, but I was not able to find a ball that fully met my expectations and hopes -- not just for me or other professionals, but more importantly, for the everyday golfer. So I simply decided not to enter the business until I found that ball. Well, I found that ball. Actually, I found three.
"These golf balls are designed for every level of play, from the everyday or recreational golfer -- be it men, women, children, or seniors -- to the tour professional. No matter the age or ability, there is a golf ball to fit your game. Our strategy is based on a simple principle: skill level is an extremely important factor when selecting the right golf ball. From the tees you play, we know your swing speed; this is paramount when choosing a golf ball. But no matter the percentage of players who know their swing speed, 100 percent of them know the tees they play."
The introduction of a Nicklaus-designed ball is the latest venture with Nicklaus Companies co-chairman Howard Milstein, New York Private Bank & Trust Chairman and CEO, with whom Nicklaus partnered in 2007. "The beauty of these balls," Milstein said, "is they solve the golfers' dilemma of which ball to play -- all you need to know is the tee you play from -- and no matter what your skill level, you know we've designed the highest quality golf ball best suited to your game."
For more than three decades Nicklaus has been outspoken about calling for golf's governing bodies to rein in the distance that modern golf balls travel. The extra distance makes golf more expensive through additional land, water usage and maintenance costs. He remains consistent on the subject.
"The game of golf is a lot bigger than any individual or any individual piece of it," Nicklaus said. "My position hasn't changed in relation to the golf ball. What's important is what's best for the game of golf.
"This is another way for me to contribute to the game of golf in a positive way and to help grow the game," the Golden Bear added. "It's about helping the average golfer enjoy the game more. The average golfer has to make up his mind whether he wants to hit it as far as he can or get the results that he wants around the greens. He really can't have both with today's balls. What we are offering them is a chance to play the best ball they can get that will give them the most distance, the most playability, and the most control for their swing speed."