There are fundamental truths in this world one can’t really argue with. One of those is if you want to play golf, you’re going to need golf balls.
Let’s pause and allow the brilliance of that observation sink in.
Another fundamental truth is where there’s a need, there will always be battalions of people with machinery making stuff to fill that need, troops of marketers convincing you you can’t live without it, and a cadre of salespeople making sure you buy theirs. Case in point – hit the PGA Tour SuperStore website and you’ll find 321 different ball offerings from which to choose. Sure, some are colored variations of each other, but the list doesn’t include Direct-To-Consumer brands such as Snell, Vice, Cut, and others, nor does it include the Bomb Cyclone of golf balls – the Kirkland Signature.
One last fundamental truth: while a handful of choices is good for a consumer, an avalanche of choices can be overwhelming, leading to one of two things: blindly picking the leading brand because it’s safe (well hey there, ProV1), or sticking with what you’ve always used, AKA: maintaining the status quo.
It’s why market shares don’t flip flop overnight and why changing buying habits is a long term – and often costly – proposition.
With all that as a backdrop, the question of the day is simple: does the world really need another Tour-level golf ball?
Mizuno seems to think so.
“We were waiting until we had something unique, a different story we could tell,” Chris Voshall, Mizuno Golf Brand Manager, tells MyGolfSpy. “Our whole thing is we weren’t going to bring something out until we had that.”
That something is two Mizuno balls new to the North American market: the RB Tour and RB Tour X. And before you ask – no, the golf balls aren’t Grain Flow Forged.
What might be news to some of us in North America is Mizuno isn’t new to golf balls – the company has been designing and selling balls for over 15 years in Japan and, more recently, Europe. But Mizzy’s first North American foray is very much the result of Nike’s demise.
“These are being made by Feng Tay out of Taiwan,” says Voshall. “They have expertise in manufacturing premium urethane golf balls, and they produced all of Nike’s premium balls.”
In no way should you leave this article thinking these are old Nike balls repackaged with the Mizuno name on them. Far from it, says Voshall.
“We wanted to utilize their mold making and production capabilities to go along with the research and development we created. This is all stuff that was developed by Mizuno while utilizing their materials expertise.”
So what makes the RB Tour so unique that Mizuno would finally take the premium ball plunge?
Cone Dimples, of course.
Kind of a Drag
Golf Ball 101 says golf balls have dimples to reduce drag, which allows the ball to pierce through the air and delay speed loss during the journey. Dimples also determine lift, or how high the ball flies. Shallow dimples give you a higher flight while deeper dimples create a lower flight. Lift and drag go hand-in-glove, and finding the right balance is one of the factors that determines distance.
For the RB Tour/RB Tour X, Mizuno developed a unique dimple geometry – what it’s calling the Cone Dimple (or C-Dimple) – which minimizes drag while maintaining a requisite amount of lift.
“We would make different dimples and test them in our wind tunnel,” says Voshall. “Lift and drag go hand-in-hand, so for someone to say we’ve minimized drag but still have plenty of lift – there’s some bullshit in there because they go together.”
The Cone Dimple itself is like an inverted, truncated pyramid. The bottom of the dimple flattens out sharply and abruptly compared to a traditional round-bottom dimple. Those sharp angles create additional trigger points where air flow starts to detach and becomes more turbulent. Since turbulent air flows faster, drag is reduced, and the ball won’t slow down quite as quickly. The longer you maintain ball speed, the longer the ball will stay in the air.
“Our big thing was could we minimize draft more than we affect the actual lift performance?” says Voshall. “With the Cone Dimple we could see through wind tunnel testing the drag is slightly lower compared to lift as we go through different speeds and different spin rates.”
What does all that mean in non-engineer speak? A ball with a flatter, more piercing trajectory that still has plenty of distance due to its ability to maintain ball speed longer.
Longer? Sort Of
So, will you hit this thing a ton longer off the tee? Voshall offers a refreshingly frank answer.
“With driver distance, we haven’t seen any big change because spin rates are already relatively low,” he says. “What ours is doing is flattening out, but that flattening out is kind of paired with an overall lower peak trajectory, so it’s a wash in terms of distance.”
Mizuno’s own testing and 3D simulations against the usual suspects (ProV1, ChromeSoft, Tour B, Srixon, etc.) showed a lower trajectory with virtually the same carry. While initial velocities were identical, Mizuno says the RB Tour balls showed higher velocities at peak height and at descent. The real performance difference, says Voshall, will be found with irons, particularly mid- and long-irons.
“With irons, you’ll tend to get more carry due to that reduced drag just because of the more penetrating ball flight,” he says. “What we’ve seen in our testing is slightly faster velocities due to reduced drag and slightly longer carry, because reducing drag is going to affect a higher spin rate more than it would a lower spin rate.”
Based on ITR Launcher tests (the same test and testing equipment used by the R&A and USGA), Mizuno also found its RB Tour balls will have slightly higher spin rates compared to the competitors, which helps create the additional carry.
“When you get into these premium golf balls, you’re really splitting hairs on a lot of things,” admits Voshall. “But the thing we want to point out is the measurable difference we’ve been able to from having more detached trigger points and more turbulent airflow due to the Cone Dimples.”
We’ve stated it many times before, but it’s a message that can’t be worn out by repetition: OEMs are happy to share their own internal test results with us, but we’ve never seen any OEM test results in which the OEMs product doesn’t outperform its competitors.
Facts. Figures, Pricing
The RB Tour and RB Tour X are virtually identical balls, with the only difference being compression. Both balls have the same dimple pattern and Cone Dimple geometry, as well as the same 4-piece construction with a urethane cover, ionomer mantle layer and a similar dual core with graduated firmness made from Butadiene rubber.
The RB Tour is the softer of the two, coming it at a compression of 93, while the RB Tour X compression is 110. Virtually every OEM with a standard and an X model follow the same compression recipe. In simple terms, higher compression equals more ball speed, and lower compression equals less driver spin. When it comes to fitting, Voshall says if you’re a low spin player with a positive angle of attack and you’re not going to get damaged by having more spin, take the X every time.
“You’re going to get free ball speed due to higher compression,” he says. “If you battle flight, if you already spin a lot and any more spin will be detrimental to your distance, then the RB Tour is going to help you more due to reduced spin. The lower compression, while it does equal lower ball speed, also equals lower driver spin.
Cosmetically, the RB Tour features black numbering and lettering, while the RB Tour X features Mizuno Blue numbering and lettering.
Mizuno introduced the RB Tours at the PGA show and started shipping them to retail earlier this month. Voshall admits the question of whether the world really does need another Tour-level golf ball weighed heavily on its sales forecast.
“We estimated about 60% of our national accounts would bring them in, and maybe 30% of off-course accounts would bring them in,” he says. “Those numbers have been blown away. Every national account took them in, which surprised us to the point where we’re basically already in back-order.”
“It’s a good problem to have.”
The RB Tour and RB Tour X sell for $42,95/dozen and are available at retail and on Mizuno’s website.