The story of the new Penfold Ace golf balls is actually two stories.
The story of the golf ball itself is interesting in a “retro-brand-bringing-back-a-classic-name” kinda way.
But the story of how that ball came to be, and the path Penfold had to take to make it a reality, is a little more interesting.
Let’s talk about the ball first.
Penfold Ace Golf Balls
We’ve given you the big-picture scoop on Penfold before so here’s the short version. Penfold is a long-forgotten British golf ball brand that at one time could lay claim to making some of the best balls in golf. Founder Albert Penfold, while working in R&D for Dunlop a century ago, developed the very first golf ball to carry the name Maxfli. He started his eponymous company in 1927 and immediately began making a name for himself on both sides of the Atlantic.
Penfold was killed in 1941 when his cargo ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat. The company soldiered on, led by Penfold’s son Dick. He eventually sold to Colgate-Palmolive in 1973. A series of ownership changes later and Penfold faded into obscurity. The company was revived in the U.S. a few years ago as a retro-lifestyle brand, providing unique apparel, gloves (including MyGolfSpy’s Best Direct-to-Consumer glove in 2022) and accessories along with golf balls.
The original Penfold Ace golf balls date back to the early 1960s and were played by the likes of Gary Player and Lee Trevino. Seve, in fact, won his first pro event in the UK with a Penfold Ace.
This new Penfold Ace won’t necessarily bring back the glory of days gone by but it is a good quality, four-piece urethane ball. And if you’re the type who likes to game something unique, it’s something you’ll definitely enjoy playing.
Fact and Figures
As mentioned, the Penfold Ace is a four-piece ball with a 332-dimple, injection-molded urethane cover. As far as urethane balls go, it’s on the softer side of firm, coming in at a compression of 80. Its best comp for launch and spin characteristics would likely be the Bridgestone Tour B RX.
Each sleeve of balls is labeled with a playing card suit so you’ll be playing either an Ace of hearts, clubs, diamonds or spades.
If you’re looking for the latest, greatest and most innovative ball going, it’s not the Penfold Ace. It is, in fact, an off-she-shelf open-model ball that Penfold is sourcing from Launch Technologies in Taiwan.
“This is an OEM ball,” says Penfold co-owner Gavin Perrett. “We haven’t gone down the road of designing our own golf balls. We did have other samples from other manufacturers but we went with Launch Tech because it was a better golf ball, even though it cost us more money.”
The new Penfold Ace golf balls will run you $40 per dozen. When you compare it straight up against the new PXG Xtreme, Vice or Maxfli, you’d probably think there’s a joker in the deck somewhere. But Perrett says the entire Penfold aura isn’t about competing in the golf ball arms race. It’s really more about something nostalgic that you’ll enjoy playing.
“Have fun with it but know you’re getting a quality product,” he says. “We’re not aiming for the cheap and nasty. With the Penfold name comes quality. You’re not buying a piece of crap. You’re buying quality and you can have some fun while playing it.”
Penfold Ace Golf Balls: The Nassau Connection
The story of how the Penfold Ace came to be is perhaps more interesting than the ball itself. Penfold was one of several small, direct-to-consumer companies that were unceremoniously jettisoned when TaylorMade bought out the Nassau golf ball factory in South Korea.
As MyGolfSpy first reported a little over a year ago, TaylorMade decided its new facility would produce only TaylorMade-branded products. That decision caught Penfold, and others, off-guard.
“They just cut loose anyone and everyone,” says Perrett. “We had a relationship with Nassau for 30 years.”
Perrett says he spent weeks trying to get in touch with Nassau about upcoming orders with no response. He finally had to hound the factory manager to find out what was going on.
“They don’t even have the decency to reach out and explain the situation to customers of Nassau, to say, ‘This is the situation and I’m sorry but we won’t be carrying you on.’ If they had just said that, that would have been fine.
“I have no problem with them buying out Nassau. Why would you? That’s fair enough. I get it. We’re in the middle of ball shortages all over. It was a difficult situation for everyone. But to do it in the manner they did it …”
MyGolfSpy reached out to TaylorMade for a response. They chose not to comment.
Help From an Unexpected Source
Perrett had discussions with Callaway after losing his Nassau connection.
“They said if push came to shove to let them know. They were very positive and supportive of our brand. We’re all trying to achieve the same thing. We’re all trying to bring some joy and some fun to the people who care about the game the most.”
Ultimately, Perrett didn’t need Callaway’s help. He was able to source balls through Launch Tech, which has become the go-to ball supplier for DTC companies. The new OnCore Elixr is made there as are balls from upstart DTCs such as Renegade. And Callaway’s ERC and Supersoft are made at Launch Tech.
From what MyGolfSpy has learned, TaylorMade has eliminated all subcontracts from its Nassau plant which is now known as TaylorMade-South Korea. We don’t know, however, whether that also includes longtime Nassau customer Snell. In any case, the Taiwan-based Foremost is the only semi-independent factory capable of making cast urethane golf balls. TaylorMade also owns a major stake in Foremost.
Penfold Ace Golf Balls: Final Thoughts, Price and Availability
Given its place in the golf ball world, the Penfold Ace will probably register as a novelty. But after one February bonus round in Massachusetts, we can say it’s a perfectly decent and playable golf ball. Distance certainly kept pace with expectations. And we were pleasantly surprised with its hop-‘n-stop performance on the greens. As Perrett says, it’s a golf ball you’ll enjoy playing.
However, there is one important note about the Penfold Ace: It is not listed with the USGA.
Which isn’t the same as saying it’s non-conforming.
“We haven’t submitted it,” says Perrett. “If the ball sells well and people like them and want to use them in tournaments, then we will.”
He adds, however, that since the Ace is an open-model OEM ball, it is likely the same ball sold under another name is listed with the USGA.
As mentioned, Penfold Ace golf balls sell for $40 per dozen. They’re available now on Penfold’s website