What you need to know: Titleist Tour Speed, Tour Soft golf balls
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Titleist updates its Tour Soft and Tour Speed balls with enhanced aerodynamics on the former and a reformulated core and intermediate mantle layer to instill distance, feel and all-around performance at a price a click more affordable than those balls played on tour.
PRICE: Tour Speed, $40 (dozen); Tour Soft, $35 (dozen).
THE DEEP DIVE: The new Titleist Tour Speed, a multilayer design with a proprietary thermoplastic urethane cover, and the Tour Soft, a two-piece model with an ultra-large core designed for a combination of distance with soft feel, reside in that emerging $30-$40 price category of balls. These balls aim to provide all-around performance while living at a price just a notch below the balls at the top of the pyramid.
But building in that performance at a more moderate price requires deeper exploration of the technologies that Titleist’s team of engineers has at its disposal. That’s especially challenging when the supply-chain issues that are plaguing the golf industry put more challenges on those design goals than the Rules of Golf and the laws of physics combined.
The next-generation Tour Speed was hit especially hard by supply-chain issues for golf ball materials like the ionomers used in developing the mantle, or casing layer. Indeed, the project became one of not making it better, but figuring out how to make it at all, said Mike Madson, Titleist’s senior director of golf ball research and engineering.
“When our engineers are creating prototypes we have a lot of different tools in the tool box,” he said. “We have materials that we know and we can predict their performance and we can iterate around those different permutations. But it got to the point in the supply chain challenge that some of the tools in our tool box weren’t there anymore.”
Madson said that meant looking at new materials and new combinations and even new suppliers all in an effort to simply make sure that the 2022 Tour Speed was at least as good as the 2020 Tour Speed.
“It required a bunch of extra testing that we normally don’t have to do,” he said. “When we’re working with materials we know, we know how they’re going to perform from a durability standpoint, from a consistency standpoint. When we’re looking at new things, we don’t know that and that made for a very interesting challenge.”
The result is a reformulated high-compression core for the energy that fuels distance and a reformulated ionomer mantle layer that keys lower spin on the longer shots for better flight. The new Tour Speed also features the same proprietary thermoplastic urethane cover that is unique to the company and goes by the name Titleist Performance Urethane. Like the original, it’s a break from Titleist’s leading Pro V1, Pro V1x and AVX models, which feature a cast urethane cover. The difference may be marginally less short-game spin on some shots for some players.
Together the mix of old and new components produce a Tour Speed that gives players a penetrating flight with better spin, targeting average golfers looking for distance in a urethane cover ball at a price 20 percent less than Titleist’s other urethane-cover balls.
On the new Tour Soft, the design challenge was more traditional but no less complicated or constrained. Targeting an audience with a clear preference for soft feel, the hurdle was finding more yards without changing the proven success of the ultra-large soft compression core (1.60 inches) and ultra-thin ionomer/polymer-blend cover unique to Titleist. The answer came with the dimple pattern, what’s called quadrilateral dipyramid with 346 dimples. It’s similar to the pattern developed for the Tour Speed but tweaked to match the marginally lower flight of the Tour Soft.
“We were really pushing aerodynamic development on this ball,” Madson said. “The quad dipyramid has four-way rotational symmetry about the pole, and that particular layout lent itself very well to the injection molding process. This version is the same count as Tour Speed but a slightly different layout. The dimple arrangements are a little different, surface coverage is a little different.
“The best thing about aerodynamics is that it’s free distance. You don’t have to give up any performance anywhere else. If an aerodynamic pattern gives you more distance, it’s just better.”
The thin proprietary ionomer blend cover is designed to produce better greenside grab than typical non-urethane cover balls.
The 2022 versions of Tour Speed ($40/dozen) and Tour Soft ($35 dozen) will be at retail May 20. Both will be offered in white and yellow (Tour Speed yellow scheduled for June 21).