The new Bridgestone e12 balls, the newest offering of three-piece surlyn-covered products in the company's average-golfer-targeted "e" family of golf balls, embody a technology that seems to turn the typical innovation flow chart on its head. Instead of developing elements for tour-played balls and then retro-fitting them for the paying customers, the e12 puts the rank-and-file first.
Like their decade-long successful predecessor, the e6, the new Bridgestone e`12 Soft and e12 Speed, feature low-compression cores designed to produce lower-spinning balls that provide better distance and straighter flight, or what Bridgestone's Elliot Mellow better describes as "forgiveness." The key to their improved performance over the e6 line, though, is a change in thinking and in the trendline for this category of golf ball, he said.
"Obviously, the trend at that distance category has been soft, soft, soft," Mellow said, noting the findings behind the new e12 were one important outgrowth of the company's 12 years of ball-fitting data and more than 2.5 million average-golfer swings. "But what we've started to see is that while 'soft' is a positive from a feel standpoint, it's becoming a detriment from a distance standpoint. A lot of these soft balls were getting so soft that they were losing ball velocity.
"So how do we maintain the feel but put them in a faster moving construction?"
The difference lies in the layer between the softer rubber core and the cover. The new mantle is made of a compound that "provides a more cohesive bond" to deliver more energy at impact, Mellow said. "In the past where we relied on the core exclusively for the velocity, we now have the core and the mantle working in conjunction.
"In a way, we have two engines in the golf ball now. If we had just made the core firmer, we might have had the performance, but we wouldn't have had the feel."
This mantle technology, what the company calls "active acceleration mantle," represents a shift in how technology is typically focused in golf balls.
"How we all typically operate is invest in the tour category and then trickle it all down," Mellow said. "It is a little unconventional to bring a new flagship technology to the non-tour category, but we felt it was necessary to deliver upon the distance plus the soft feel we were trying to achieve.
"Quite honestly, I'm amazed that we put it on the 'e' ball. It's usually the type of innovation we would reserve for the tour category."
The two new balls will feature different compressions with the e12 Soft at around a 50 overall compression and the e12 Speed around 75. The e12 Soft is targeted at swings under 105 miles per hour, while the e12 Speed is for the faster swing speed player. Both balls are designed to reduce sidespin for straighter tee shots.
The new balls ($30 per dozen) will be in stores Feb. 15, with the e12 Soft also offering three non-traditional color options (matte green, matte red and matte yellow).