Titleist and Callaway may be the primary combatants in Ball Wars, but if this year’s MyGolfSpy Ball Test showed us anything, it’s that this is not a two-sided fight. Of course, the battle everyone’s glued to is between Tour-level balls: ProV1 vs. Tour B vs. ChromeSoft vs. Z-STAR vs. TP5 and so on. It’s mostly a battle for 3rd place, as Titleist remains far and away #1 with Callaway a distant but secure #2.
Then there’s the 2nd Tier near-Tour Ball war between Tour Soft, e12, ERC, Project (a), Duo Professional and Q-STAR Tour. Those rankings may be a bit more muddled, but with pricing ranging from the high $ 20s to upper $30s, there’s plenty of profit to be made.
Tier 4 is among the $20 softies: DuoSoft, Soft Feel, SuperSoft, and Bridgestone e6. Again, lots of balls sold, but the OEMs are the only ones keeping score.
That third-tier war between 2- and 3-piece balls in the $24 to $27 range gets the same kind of attention as a back-alley shoving match, but OEMs do sell a butt-load of them. This category used to be home to the rock hard distance balls, but trends being trends, it’s now the domain soft distance, and includes, among others, the Callaway SuperSoft, the TaylorMade Project (s) and the Wilson DUOSoft Spin.
Srixon’s entry is the Q-STAR, and it’s getting its 5th generation facelift today.
It’s rare for balls in this category to get first-generation technology – all the innovation goes to Tour-level balls, and it eventually gets filtered and trickles down the pecking order. The new generation Q-STAR is no different, although Srixon is touting it as a new-age ionomer cover ball with similar tech to its Tour-level Z-STARs.
“It’s the highest performing 2-piece ball,” says Srixon Marketing Director Brian Schielke. “We’ve brought many of our Tour technologies to this ball. It’s built for golfers of all swing speeds looking for maximum distance, with more spin and control than your typical ionomer-covered ball.”
Specifically, Srixon is bringing Z-STAR’s FastLayer core and its latest SpinSkin technology with Slide-Ring Material (SeRM).
Srixon introduced FastLayer Core this past January in its 6th generation Z-STARs. In plain English, it’s a core that’s soft in the middle and gets progressively firmer towards the outside – virtually every ball company has its own variation – and it’s designed to find that balance point between soft feel, low driver spin and maximized ball speed.
“FastLayer helps generate more ball speed,” says Schielke. “And it still produces a high-launch, low-spin ball flight off the tee.” This 5th generation Q-STAR does have the same 338 Speed Dimple pattern as its predecessor, which Srixon says reduces drag to maximize distance.
When it comes to performance on the green, no one will ever confuse an ionomer ball with a urethane ball, and Srixon isn’t making any claims to the contrary. It is, however, juicing up Q-STAR’s spin with its latest version of SpinSkin, with Slide-Ring Material.
SpinSkin is a spin-enhancing urethane compound bonded to the Q-STAR’s cover on a molecular level. Its job is to increase friction with the club face to generate more spin. This past January, Srixon added what it calls Slide-Ring Material (or SeRM) to the SpinSkin on its Z-STAR balls, and it’s using the same mix for the new Q-STARs.
What SeRM does is essentially cross-link the urethane molecules in the coating, making the molecules stronger and more flexible at the same time, enhancing both spin and durability when digging into wedge or iron grooves. “Q-STAR does have an ionomer cover, but SeRM does increase green-side spin and control closer to the level of urethane covered Tour golf balls,” says Schielke.
Srixon provided us with its own test results showing Q-STAR with higher greenside spin off a wedge than Titleist Tour Soft and Bridgestone e12 Soft (both Tier 2 balls and, theoretically, out of its weight class), as well as fellow Tier 3 Callaway Super Soft and, oddly, the Tier 4 Wilson DUO Soft, but not a direct category competitor, the DUO Soft Spin. Take that for what you will, but as we’ve said before, the next time an OEM provides us with their own test results showing their product not outperforming competitors, we’re going to throw a parade because it’ll be the first time.
Price, Availability and Final Thoughts
The new Q-STAR sits at the high end of Tier 3 pricing at $26.99/dozen – only $3 less per dozen than its urethane-covered brother, the Q-STAR Tour. It’s a little firmer than the Q-STAR Tour with a compression of 77 (compared to the Tour’s compression of 72), but it’s still in line with the soft-for-better-feel trend in its category. As we know from the MGS Ball Test, harder means faster and softer means slower, but softer also means less spin off the driver which, for golfers in the Q-STAR’s target audience, can mean the difference between the right fairway and the right rough. Or right forest.
And, as we learned from the MGS Ball Test, with Snell and Vice offering high-performing urethane balls at the same or lower prices than Tier 2 and Tier 3 balls, you can make a compelling case for even the budget-minded golfer to play urethane. Of course, many golfers still aren’t ready to buy golf balls online from non-mainstream OEMs. That paradigm is changing, but those mainstream OEMs do still drive the bus.
The new Srixon Q-STAR will be available at retail and online starting this Friday, June 28th, and will be available in Pure White and Tour Yellow.