Nike today introduced its new line of RZN balls with the RZN Tour and RZN Speed, but while the announcement focused on products of the present, they also were produced with an eye toward the future.
We still have so many opportunities to innovate the golf ball,” said Rock Ishii, Nike Golf’s senior director of innovation for golf balls, who noted that these balls are the culmination of a six-year project. “This is innovation. This is where we are now. And we are heading toward our future.”
The RZN Tour (available in Black and Platinum versions, with the Black producing less spin, $48 a dozen) is a four-piece urethane-cover design that uses a new resin (RZN) material that allowed the core to be made 10 percent larger for a faster ball speed while also providing the opportunity to soften the feel by about seven percent. The core boasts an x-shaped surface pattern that created 26 percent more surface area than the previous generation to allow for a more efficient energy transfer.
A more visible difference is on the cover, which features a 344-dimple pattern with 13,558 micro dimples (approximately 40 per dimple). According to Ishii, the microdimples improve lift and drag properties, particularly at the end of the ball’s flight.
“We knew there was something in these small protrusions, especially in the second portion of the ball’s trajectory, after the apex,” said Ishii. “It’s visible and it works. Golf ball aerodynamics are not as simple as an airplane wing.”
Rory McIlroy has noticed the difference. McIlroy put a prototype version of the Platinum ball in play for the last three events on the European Tour and had success with the ball, winning the DP World Tour Championship and with it, the season-long Race to Dubai title.
“I started testing at the very start of 2015 and continued to test throughout the year until we found something that I really, really liked,” McIlroy told GolfDigest.com. “I saw a significance increase in my ball speed and iron distance. I feel like that has been a huge help to me in the three tournaments I’ve played with this ball. I don’t feel like I have to go after my irons as much. The new dimple pattern also helps it cut through the wind. I’m able to hit some shots that I wasn’t able to hit before.”
The increase in iron distance, says Ishii, was important due to USGA regulations governing the ball. “This is huge because we knew we were already up against the USGA Overall Distance Standard limit, so to increase iron distance without going beyond the ODS was a big achievement.”
In addition to the RZN Tour the company also unveiled the RZN Speed ($30 a dozen), a three-piece ball in two versions (White for softer feel and Red for longer carry). The balls use a softer RZN formulation as well to enhance feel.
Not a bad way to look to the future—or the present.