Is Vice Golf Redefining Golf Ball Design?
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Is Vice Golf Redefining Golf Ball Design?

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Is Vice Golf Redefining Golf Ball Design?

Today’s story on Vice Golf isn’t the story I was expecting to write.

If you’re a regular reader of MyGolfSpy, you know “partner content” is usually a corporate profile and a discussion of that company’s products and what makes them different/unique. When I sat down with Vice Golf co-founder Ingo Duellmann and Chief Growth Officer Benny Pfister, that’s pretty much what I thought would happen.

Instead, I was thrown a curveball that even Sandy Koufax or Dwight Gooden would have envied. And that curveball came with a nice dollop of German mustard on the side.

I don’t know if Vice Golf’s new approach to designing golf balls means their golf balls will be “better” than everyone else’s. Heck, the company itself says their balls won’t fly farther or be more accurate. But this story is about the process, not the end result.

Vice Pro Golf Balls.

And the process, dear readers, is the story. Whether the results of that process (i.e., the 2024 line of Vice Golf balls) work for you is, well, entirely up to you. But for today, the process is the compelling story.

Vice Golf Balls: Quick Background

Before we dive into the process, let’s take a quick look at the Vice Golf backstory. It’s a little different, too.

Co-founders Ingo Duellmann and Rainer Stoekl were German law students who met in 2008 while indulging in their favorite pastime: surfing. They struck up a friendship and, when they became lawyers, a partnership. One of their first clients was one of the biggest golf ball brands in Asia. During that process, they got to know a little about the golf ball business.

And that led to Vice.

“Instead of trying to solve other people’s problems as lawyers and consultants,” Duellmann tells MyGolfSpy, “we decided to start a business and solve our own problems.”

Vice golf balls.

Neither partner was a golfer but they saw golf balls as consumables. By 2010, they noticed the rise of internet-based, direct-to-consumer companies such as Dollar Shave Club selling razors and Warby Parker selling glasses. They decided to take the plunge.

“We didn’t have exclusivity with our supplier,” explains Duellmann. “We were their smallest customer and it took some convincing from our side. They finally said, ‘Let’s give these German guys a shot.’”

Their first order was for 60,000 golf balls (5,000 dozen), which jam-packed the tiny Vice warehouse.

“When they showed up, we were like, ‘We’re never going to sell all these.”

But they did. And they grew.

Vice golf balls.

Coming to America

By 2015, Vice opened U.S. operations as one of several emerging direct-to-consumer brands.

That’s also when it met Acushnet. Or, more accurately, Acushnet’s legal department. Acushnet sued Vice and nine other DTC golf ball companies in federal court over patent violations, specifically over a “triangular dipyramid dimple pattern” that was patented in 2003 and was the foundation for the Pro V1x.

“Of the brands sued, it was just us who fought it,” says Duellmann. “After a year or so, it was cleaned up. There was a settlement that I’m not allowed to talk about.”

Ultimately, Vice sold the same balls after the suit as it did before and is the only one of the defendants that didn’t close up shop rather than fight.

Vice golf balls

“That really kick-started our business,” Duellmann says. “At the end of the day, it was better to have had that lawsuit than to not have it.”

Five years later, Vice Golf decided to take is business in a new direction by adding retail to its DTC model.

“We noticed we had grown to a 20 percent market share of ball sold online,” Duellmann says. “That’s when we decided to go the opposite way and challenge the heritage brands on their home turf.”

It started at Walmart and Target, which had been selling second-tier golf balls and were looking to add a premium offering. Vice Golf’s U.S. sales force has grown to 37 reps and the company has penetrated green grass accounts and into PGA TOUR Superstore. Currently, Vice is in over 1,500 green grass facilities and more than 10,000 retail locations.

Vice Golf balls

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about HIO.

Who, or What, Is HIO?

HIO is one of Europe’s largest brand-agnostic fitting studios, similar to Club Champion, True Spec or Cool Clubs. It was founded in 2009 and has 15 years’ worth of detailed swing data on its hard drive. Just over a year ago, HIO merged with Vice Golf.

And this is where the story gets even more interesting.

“We do fittings for everyone from the beginner to the scratch golfer,” says Benny Pfister, an HIO founder and now Vice Golf’s Chief Growth Officer. “We have all that data from the past 15 years and we used that to develop our new products.”

Like most fitting studios, HIO collects launch monitor and swing biomechanical data. They focus on the usual suspects: ball speed, launch angle, spin, peak height, landing angle, carry and total distance, dispersion, attack angle, face angle, swing path, dynamic loft and impact location. That mountain of data was used to design the 2024 line of Vice golf balls.

As far as we can tell, it’s the first time golf balls have been designed based on actual club fitting and performance data from golfers other than Tour pros. We know Bridgestone uses data from its ball fittings to refine its R&D process but it also leans on Tiger Woods and Jason Day. Most major OEMs rely on advisory staff, professionals and, of course, robots. But we don’t know of any that bases their designs on this kind of extensive launch monitor fitting data from regular golfers.

Vice drive golf balls

Vice Golf balls, it would seem, are made for you and me.

Six Player Profiles: Which One Are You?

Based on 15 years of data, HIO and Vice created six distinct player profiles. Vice then used those profiles to design its 2024 product line. Let’s meet them, shall we?

Beginner Ben (yes, they went there) is a COVID-newbie golfer, playing for less than two years but enjoys it. He plays regularly but struggles with impact quality and overall consistency. He’s not looking for specific spin outcomes on the green. He just wants satisfying sound and feel. And he wants to get better.

Average Andy is a seasoned golfer who loves the game but doesn’t have time to practice. He’s reasonably confident and reasonably consistent and is the very definition of “the average golfer.” He struggles with dispersion and hitting greens in regulation. He’s not terrible, he’s not great. He’s, well, average.

Vice Air golf ball

Short Sammy loves him some golf. He’s consistent, doesn’t lose many balls and has a decent short game. What he doesn’t have is distance due to a slower swing speed, inefficient trajectory or both. He scrambles to make par and can’t really increase swing speed through athleticism but will benefit from optimizing spin.

Fast Freddy swings fast and is long … in every direction. He hits it high and far but without much control. He’s not a “lessons guy” but he could use more consistency in his game.

Wild Wayne also doesn’t care for lessons. When he’s on, he’s a dangerous opponent. When he’s off, he’s just plain dangerous. He hits it all over the clubface, so consistency is a problem, and he has no predictable flight pattern or trajectory.

Finally, there’s Scratch Steven, the par machine. He knows what he’s doing and is looking for distance and control. He likes high spin on his short game and can honest-to-God “work” the ball on command.

Fitting Balls to Golfers

While not ironclad, Vice believes it can fit 99 percent of all golfers into one of those player profiles. By extension, Vice also believes it can fit those same golfers into a Vice ball that’s best for their games.

“If you have a high swing speed but can’t get enough short game spin, you go for the Pro Plus,” says Pfister. “If you aren’t super long but want a softer feel, higher launch and lower spin, you go for the Pro Air. And if you can’t decide, the Vice Pro is the one in the middle.”

In its fittings, HIO collects data from driver, 7-iron and sand wedge. From that data, patterns emerge. Ball speed, dispersion and peak height are key metrics. Specifically, does a shot have enough “air time” to gain distance and create enough landing angle to hold the green?

For example, let’s look at golfers with 7-iron ball speeds below 100 mph. The HIO data says three-quarters of them don’t hit the ball high enough to maximize distance or hold greens. Inexpensive Surlyn balls try to achieve more distance with lower spin but low spin leads to lower trajectories. Vice says its new Vice Pro Air is designed for low spin plus higher trajectory for more air time and a good landing angle. That makes it a good fit for Andy, Sammy and Steven (if he – or she – is looking for more distance).

For Faster Swingers …

Even with 7-iron ball speeds approaching 110 mph, spin can be a problem. The data says one-third of those golfers don’t create enough spin to control trajectory and landing angle. That leaves some distance on the table. Vice says the new Pro Plus is designed to optimize greenside spin while keeping driver and long-shot spin under control. Steven and Freddy should love it.

Andy, Freddy, Wayne and maybe Steven are good candidates for the Vice Pro. It simply splits the difference between the Air and the Pro Plus. All three balls are multi-piece, cast urethane balls. The Pro Air flies higher and is designed for air time. The Pro Plus is firmer and spinnier and the Vice Pro is the tweener: distance with a softer feel and lower spin than the Pro Plus but firmer, lower spinning and lower flying than the Pro Air.

The Vice Tour and Vice Drive are lower-priced Surlyn balls designed for distance. They’re not exactly “soft,” but are perfect for Beginner Ben or any of the others. They’re inexpensive balls with some performance that they won’t mind losing.

Vice Golf balls

Is Vice Golf Redefining Golf Ball Design?

The answer to that question is yes and no. Vice Golf doesn’t, isn’t, and likely won’t be designing golf balls with Tour pro input. And since it’s leveraging swing and impact data from thousands of “regular” golfers – something that, as best as we can determine, hasn’t been done before – we can say yes, that does qualify as “redefining” golf ball design.

The result is three urethane balls with distinct performance profiles. Vice says its data-driven process has created far more separation between its three urethane balls than its previous iteration, so much so that the Vice Pro Air replaced the old Vice Pro Soft. At the very least Vice has redefined its own design process.

Conversely, if you’re a serial cynic and live to dismiss everything, it’s easy to say, “Nothing new here, move along.” You can point to the Pro V1/1x/AVX, Callaway Chrome Tour/Tour X/Chrome Soft, TaylorMade TP5/TP5x/Tour Response and Srixon Z-Star/Z-StarXV/Z-Star Diamond trios for reference. Bridgestone offers four urethane balls and Snell has three new urethane offerings.

Vice golf balls

But, as we said early on, the story here is the process. It’s a data-driven process, derived from real club fittings from regular golfers and is not easily copied. Additionally, Vice Golf has leveraged that information to create an online ball fitting tool. That’s something other golf ball OEMs have but, again, the fit is derived from 15 years’ worth of data.

Will all that translate into a good fit for you? The good news is trying the fitting tool doesn’t cost anything. Additionally, with Tour-level balls from the mainstream OEMs running upwards of $55 per dozen, $39.99 for a dozen Vice balls isn’t a particularly high barrier.

And finding the right ball for you is, like this story, all about the process.

This article was written in partnership with Vice

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John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John is an aging, yet avid golfer, writer, 6-point-something handicapper living back home in New England after a 22-year exile in Minnesota. He loves telling stories, writing about golf and golf travel, and enjoys classic golf equipment. “The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight.” - BenHogan

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John Barba





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      fa ma

      4 weeks ago

      Dropping their entire line of RED color options is a HUGE MISTAKE. It is one that is going to bite them in a big way. They are already losing a customer in me and I have been playing vice for nearly 8 years. They already made a mistake in getting rid of the matte finish a few years ago, this just compounds the problme

      Reply

      Duffer1

      1 month ago

      Its refreshing that Vice simplifies ball fitting. Other brands reap confusion with so many similar models in an effort to flood the market. I’ve bought boxes of Vice and they are excellent!
      JB is correct when he points out there still is Titleist, Srixon, etc., so its a price play, or in Vice’s case maybe artwork too. :) Overlooked is DTC OnCore, which I’ve found to be a good ball.

      Reply

      Dennis Mack

      1 month ago

      I was given two sleeves of vice golf balls to use. After two weeks in my bag I decided to try them. Two of the balls had bubbles in them. I put all the balls back in my bag and a few days later I e. mail the Vice people stating my problem. THEY WOULD NOT HELP ME. KEPT ASKING ME FOR A VOUCHER #. I put the balls in my trash can and refuse to use them.

      Reply

      Kevin

      1 month ago

      I just appreciate that their ball fitting tool will suggest Tour or Drive over their premium balls. I can’t imagine Titleist’s ball fitting tool suggesting a ball like Tour Soft on their website.

      Reply

      That’s Mr. Dirt

      1 month ago

      I’ve been using Vice Pro (via Sam’s Club) for a while now, pretty happy with them. I took the “fitting” and I’m a Tour Ball. I’m happy with that.

      Reply

      Vito

      1 month ago

      What about all the MGS statements about softer balls not being longer for anyone? The ball tests show that but the manufacturers continue to make statements about softer balls for slower swing speeds.

      Reply

      Jimmy

      1 month ago

      Those statements are conveniently forgotten when the OEM is paying MGS to say otherwise. Vice bought these words, so truth is less of a priority than selling golf balls. You’d think MGS would be on our side but here we are.

      Reply

      John Barba

      1 month ago

      Not entirely what article you gents are reading. The only ball here that could even be close to being categorized as “soft” is the Pro Air, which Vice says is a 75 Compression. That puts it in the same ballpark as Chrome Soft, Q-Star Tour and Tour Response. Softer is slower in terms of ball speed, but it also spins less and balls in this range generally have dimple patterns that promote high launch. Low spin and high launch equal “air time.” It’s a formula that can help some golfers regardless of swing speed, and can be of no use, or even a detriment to others.

      The juxtaposition of a soft urethane cover – which all of the balls cited above have – and a firm surlyn mantle layer – will create greenside spin to a degree, just not nearly the same amount as firmer balls. It’s up to the golfer to determine if the combination of price, performance and feel (if that’s important to them) makes a difference.

      The Pro is listed at 90 compression, the Tour and Drive are listed at 95 and the Pro Plus is listed at 100. Since there’s no real standardization in the industry on how to measure compression, my guess is our own testing will probably show compression a little lower, maybe about 3 to 5 points.

      pineneedlespro

      1 month ago

      Thumbs up for using actual performance data of 15 years and 3 types of urethane balls

      Reply

      Flsw19

      1 month ago

      Interesting approach, I will try their fitting – to see how it compares to my Ballnamic recommendations. The ProPlus has been the number one ball with and without price considerations. This year the Odin ball cracked the top 5. Not likely to buy since I already have a few dozen of ProPlus in Shade and Drip (or as I like to think of them as Jackson Pollock balls.) Tried the Gold – still occasionally use on par 3’s where direction will likely let me find them.

      Reply

      Steve

      1 month ago

      As a “close to scratch” Steven, I have been playing Vice as my go to for about 3 years. Pro and Pro Plus. Best ball for the money. I will occasionally cheat on them with a Pro V1 but rarely… The Shade balls drive the old school playing partners crazy so that is an added benefit.

      Reply

      Bob Kochuk

      1 month ago

      I have never purchased any Vice golf balls but have found more than a few while playing. I’m the Short Sammy profile, and I find more golf balls than I can lose, but I like playing these when I come across one.

      I guess what appeals to me most is their innovative color/design palette. It’s a good golf ball that simply makes the game more fun. And isn’t that why we’re out there?

      Reply

      Omar

      1 month ago

      I appreciate the data collection field. Normal and standard player. It’s a different evaluation. Tks.

      Reply

      BH

      1 month ago

      I love the Pro Plus in lime color for a winter golf ball. Easier for me to find with pretty decent performance and not so pricey.

      Reply

      Wesley Williams

      1 month ago

      Been playing the pro plus for a few years now and honestly get more out of it for my game than anything else I’ve played. I definitely fit in the Fast Freddy profile and the spin seems to suite me better than other balls out there. Enough to keep misses in play and check up around the greens, but not Kirkland level spinny.

      Reply

      Kyle

      1 month ago

      They make a solid ball not a Pro V but still great for the $, great article love to see the DTC guys stepping up their process it benefits everyone in the long run!

      Reply

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