After 4-months in limited release, the AVX is getting full-blown stocked everywhere Titleist and other fine golf balls are sold.
We covered AVX when it launched (albeit quietly), and biased though my perspective may be, I’d highly recommend you read that original story on the AVX. For those who don’t know what AVX is and are only hungry enough to digest the bullet points, let me give you the brief rundown of what is, in my estimation anyway, mostly boilerplate golf ball stuff from Titleist.
AVX is Titleist’s latest offering in the tour/premium ball space. It’s Titleist’s first modern ball in the category that’s not explicitly part of the Pro V1 family, though as you’ll see, the new model fills a need in the lineup and offers a new fitting option.
Sidebar: Yes, fitting matters for the golf ball as well, and while some of you may not think you’re good enough to tell the difference, I think you’re probably wrong.
It’s also soft…Titleist’s softest offering in the tour ball category.
A good bit of the ball flight stuff coves from a core that Titleist describes as high speed and low compression (sound familiar?).
The greenside control comes from a proprietary thermoset cast urethane elastomer cover technology called GRN41.
A catenary dimple pattern (feel free to google that) delivers a lower trajectory (relative to Pro V1 and Pro V1x), stable ball flight.
It’s also available in Yellow – also a first for a premium Titleist offering.
You can get all of that for the low (not so low) price of just $47.99.
Ok, so it’s not exactly 3-piece, K-Sig pricing, but obvious lack of graphene aside, it’s not far off from where the 2018 Chrome Soft sits, and that’s notable. While Chrome Soft has unrelenting loyalists, there’s a segment of golfers for whom Chrome Soft represented a value proposition. By raising prices and firming up the feel, Callaway sacrificed some of its competitive advantage for higher margins, and in doing so, may have widened the opening for AVX.
My sense is that while consumers don’t love the new Chrome Soft Price, Titleist couldn’t be more excited about it…at least to the extent that Titleist gets excited.
The AVX Challenge
AVX began as a test case. It brought with it plenty of unknowns, and there was at least some risk that AVX could do more harm than good for Titleist. That said, most of us assumed – and reasonably so - that if things went anything but terrible, Titleist would take AVX mainstream.
You may recall from our original story (which hopefully you just reread) that we had a few questions about how AVX would fit-in alongside Pro V1 and Pro V1x.
Who is the AVX buyer? Is he a guy who would otherwise buy Pro V1 or Pro V1x? If AVX’s greatest accomplishment is cannibalizing Pro V1 sales, I don’t think that’s a win.
What about the competitors? Would AVX help Titleist regain lost market share – some of it to preference-driven products?
And about that…how does a company that’ has worked tirelessly to establish a brand synonymous with performance, succeed with a product where feel is the headline?
If you’re Titleist, how do you sell a product that isn’t a Pro V1, can’t be seen as better than a Pro V1, but also can’t be less than a Pro V1?
It’s fair to say Titleist had similar questions, which is why AVX started in only three states and its why Titleist included survey cards with every dozen and incentivized golfers to fill them out. It’s also why Titleist conducted follow-up surveys to see what golfers thought off the ball after they’d spent some time with AVX.
The reasons why golfers initially purchased AVX are pretty much what you’d expect. It’s a curiosity. A new premium ball from the market leader with an entirely different pitch (it’s soft) – that’s reason enough to give it a try. I’ve spent years trying to avoid playing Titleist balls, and even I’m curious.
Of perhaps greater importance is where those sales were coming from. A significant percentage of buyers – more than would be typical for a new ball release – came from golfers who reported playing other brands. Survey results indicated that a good portion of those golfers would buy again and while survey results aren’t remotely the same thing as sales, and there’s no guarantee that AVX’s sunbelt success will translate to the larger market, there’s at least the suggestion that AVX could help Titleist reach a segment of the market it was missing with its other two premium offerings.
Call it upside potential.
There’s no need to be coy about it, initial results have made Titleist optimistic that AVX can help it reclaim some of what it has lost to Chrome Soft and other challengers.
Feel vs. Performance
We’ve discussed it before; the golf ball market is trending softer. Chrome Soft, Duo, Project (a), etc.; often these products don’t offer any specific performance advantage over higher compression alternatives, but there are golfers who prioritize feel to such a degree that they’re even willing to take a performance hit in exchange for soft.
When you think you can’t tell the difference anyway, why not play what feels best? I reject the premise, but I understand the logic.
To be sure, there are golfers who will buy AVX for softer feel, and that’s awkward given Titleist performance-centric position, but the company wants you to know that there are legitimate performance reasons to consider AVX.
Titleist believes that the Pro V1 remains the ball that will perform best for the greatest number of golfers. To borrow from shaft parlance, it’s a mid-mid offering in that it offers mid launch and mid spin characteristics relative to Titleist’s other two premium offerings.
The Pro V1x is higher launching, and higher spinning…think of it is the far end of the bell curve.
AVX sits at the near end of the bell curve. While Titleist is quick to emphasize that AVX is not low spin around the green (remember that GRN41 stuff), compared to either of the Pro V1 offerings, it is lower launching and lower spinning through the bag.
Take feel out of the conversation and AVX is a good fit for the golfer who has no problem creating spin and who might actually benefit from bringing ball flight down. The differences between AVX and the Pro V1/Pro V1x are likely most appreciable in middle and long irons where, for the right golfer, the lower spin of the AVX can create more distance while not negatively impacting the ability to hold greens.
There will be golfers who try AVX, love it, and stick with it. Others will decide it’s not for them and move back to one of the Pro V1 models or whatever else they may have been playing.
Effectively what you have is an updated fitting matrix that now includes three premium/tour offerings. The primary fitting differentiator isn’t clubhead speed; it’s launch and spin and the ability to optimize performance for more golfers.
AVX and the #BallWar
Now that Titleist has gone full AVX, I expect Callaway will ramp up the #BallWar it declared shortly after Titleist released its ionomer covered Tour Soft accompanied by an ad claiming it is superior to Callaway’s urethane-covered Chrome Soft. It remains to be seen what the next salvo looks like but given Titleist’s stance that AVX will also significantly outperform Chrome Soft, I expect it won’t be subtle.
Chrome Soft has its loyalists, and it’s unquestionably a good ball, but there’s enough noise among golfers to suggest that for some Chrome Soft consumers, all the graphene in the world can’t offset the extra $5 per dozen Callaway added to the price this year (prior generation balls are still available for less). For its part, while there was thinking that Titleist might price the AVX below $40, the company has decided to maintain a premium price position, and that could limit its appeal.
$40 appears to be where a healthy number of consumers draw the line. It’s at least part of the reason for Callaway’s recent success as well as why direct to consumer brands like Snell are succeeding. Consumers don’t love higher prices (thanks, Captain Obvious), but Titleist prides itself on keeping its average sale price in the premium category above $40/dozen, and it has very little company in that regard. Among its competitors, it’s likely that only TaylorMade can make the same claim.
The challenge for Titleist comes in finding an audience for a tour-level ball that isn’t a Pro V1 and doesn’t get any play on tour. For that to work in any meaningful and sustainable way, it may need to convince more golfers that the ball and ball fitting matter. That’s no easy task when golfers can walk into Costco and pick up two dozen, 3-piece, urethane covered golf balls for less than $25.
The reality is that the ball market has changed significantly in the last couple years, and there’s at least a chance that there may not be a place in it for third premium-priced Titleist ball, even if it is really soft.
The Titleist AVX golf ball is now available in the U.S. Worldwide availability is scheduled for later this year. MAP price is $47.99/dozen.
Have Your Say
Have you tried the Titleist AVX? Let us know what you think.