Soft = slow.
If nothing else, last week’s MyGolfSpy Ball Test drove that point home with all the subtlety of a flying pile driver.
It’s arguably odd that Bridgestone would be so willing to discuss its two new balls – the e6 and e6 Lady – that, at 44 and 40 compression respectively, are among the softest the company has ever produced.
Odd, that is, until you consider the target golfer.
Slow Swings Get Soft Things
Bridgestone’s reformulated e6 is unabashedly aimed at slow swing speed players. Very slow.
“Distance can come from a lot of places, not just the velocity of the ball,” says Elliot Mellow, Bridgestone’s Golf Ball Marketing Manager. “It comes from launch condition optimization, spin management, etc.”
Yes, soft does equal slow, but as swing speed goes down, so does the difference in ball speed between firmer and softer balls. At 115 MPH driver swing speed, our test showed the ball speed difference between slower, softer balls and firmer, faster balls was around 4.5 MPH. At 85 MPH swing speed, that difference shrunk to just about 2 MPH. Since the relationship between ball speed and swing speed is linear, the differences for sub-85 MPH swings would be even smaller.
“It’s for a golfer who’s not catching it as flush,” says Mellow. “He’s not swinging quite as fast; he’s struggling with accuracy and struggling with high spin rates. It’s those kinds of extreme launch conditions where e6 can be most helpful.”
“I think this player knows who he or she is. This isn’t as defined as the over/under 105 MPH we have with the high performing e12 or Tour B series. This is more for the recreational player – maybe they know their swing speed, maybe they don’t, but in general know where they stand.” – Elliot Mellow, Bridgestone Golf
Conventional wisdom says a softer ball – and 40 to 44 compression is trending toward marshmallow level softness – deflects less and has greater compression time on the clubface, which means it spins less. Conventional wisdom also says reducing spin for the target golfer may turn a slice into the right rough into less of a slice onto the right fairway, and you always get more roll out on short grass than on long grass. Additionally, a mitigated slice that lands in the right rough is probably an easier second shot than a full-blown exit, stage right slice that winds up in the right forest.
Of course, conventional wisdom also maintains two-piece surlyn balls don’t spin much on the green, either.
“Anything that’s fading is an open-faced shot,” says Mellow. “So, backspin goes up, the spin axis goes up, all those variables go up, which means shorter carry and shorter run out. In general, that’s what the e-series franchise is designed to fix. The RX and RXS do that on the Tour ball level, but not to the extreme the e6 does.”
So for the target golfer, distance doesn’t come from increased ball speed, it comes from lower spin, keeping it in play and getting some extra roll out if you happen to hit the fairway.
In other words, you take distance where you can find it.
When Bridgestone announced the e12 SPEED and e12 SOFT in January, the company said it was rare to see that level of innovation in a mid-range ball. Usually, innovation starts with Tour-level balls and trickles down as needed. For a two-piece surlyn ball selling for $22/dozen, there’s not much room for innovation, but Bridgestone says it did squeeze some in.
“It’s a thinner cover than we’ve done in the past, which allows for a larger core,” says Mellow. “The sooner you can activate that core, the more the golf ball starts working for you. In the case of this ball, it’s higher quality compression time, more velocity (compared to comparable balls) and lower spin off the tee.”
Balls in this category will typically have shallow dimples for higher launch, which is something the slower swing speed player could use. “The e6 is the only product in our lineup that has what I call a traditional dimple pattern,” says Mellow. “We have the Dual Dimple in the Tour B, and the Delta-Wing Dimple for spin reduction in the e12, but for the e6 it’s a traditional dimple structure, which causes the ball to climb higher, which helps with carry.”
Obviously, with such a low compression, the ball is going to have a soft feel that golfers – regardless of handicap or swing speed – can find addictive. Mellow admits Bridgestone may have underserved this market in recent years, despite balls such as the TreoSoft and Extra Soft.
“Down at that price point, the innovation wasn’t up to the standards the e6 is now at,” says Mellow. “Often those products were launched even without a media blitz.”
“We’re aware that segment is growing, and we decided to put a little more effort into making balls that would be competitive in terms of performance at that price point.”
The Bridgestone e6 and e6 Lady are available now on Bridgestone’s website and will be at retail this week, selling for $21.99/dozen. The standard e6 is available in standard white and in Optic Yellow, while the e6 Lady is available in white and Optic Pink.
About That Ball Test…
Mellow says based on Bridgestone’s own internal testing of its own balls as well as its competitors, there was nothing in MyGolfSpy’s test that caught Bridgestone off-guard.
“We didn’t have the single longest golf ball, but were we the longest brand, in our opinion,” he says. “We invented the low compression Tour ball for folks who don’t swing 105, and we had three of the four longest golf balls in terms of driver distance. And the Tour B X was the longest of all the major OEM balls, once you take Direct-To-Consumer out of it.”
Another interesting factoid is when combining the 115 MPH data and the 85 MPH data to extrapolate the MPH swing speed performance, the Tour B RX had the highest total distance of any golf ball tested.
“By total, I mean tee to green, driver and 7-iron combined,” says Mellow. “We’re not really surprised by that. We’re doing it with combined velocity. The RX didn’t have the highest velocity in the test, but it did do it through launch condition optimization.”
“By measuring the full shot, the aerodynamics of the ball come into play,” he adds. “The Tour B dimple pattern is designed to have less drag, so the ball doesn’t lose velocity quite as rapidly. Different dimple structures used by different manufacturers are causing balls to lose velocity at different rates. From the testing we’ve done we know the Dual Dimple pattern holds its velocity at a stronger rate than some of the traditional dimple patterns do.”
While comments and social media chatter have certainly been favorable to Bridgestone, it’ll be a while before we know if it’s helping where it matters – at the cash register. However, that little shindig in Augusta about a month ago is still reverberating in Covington.
“We focus on all trade channels: from green grass to big box to online retailers,” says Mellow. “But sometimes your truest indication is what those online guys do. Amazon, for example – we don’t advertise on Amazon, so any sales that happen there happen organically – and we are by far in record territory in terms of the amount of ordering they’ve been doing daily with us since then.”
“It’s a pretty good indication the consumer demand and awareness is out there.”
But as they say in business, the first order is nice, but it’s the second and third orders that really count. Tiger notwithstanding, it’s not lost on the Covington crew that their balls outperformed both Callaway and TaylorMade, which happen to be ahead of them in ball market share.