- Relatively minor updates for Srixon’s Tour-level balls
- Z-STAR gets a slightly thicker cover for better approach and greenside spin.
- Z-STAR XV gets reformulated inner and middle cores for enhanced ball speed.
- Slight price increase for 2021 to $42.99 a dozen
The new Srixon Z-STAR and Z-STAR XV golf balls represent a golf industry truism: When your two-year life cycle is up, you better have a good story to tell. Srixon freely admits the 2021 edition of its flagship Z-STAR golf balls is strictly an evolutionary upgrade. That, however, doesn’t mean there’s no story.
“These aren’t a major departure from where we’ve been or what these golf balls are designed to do,” says Srixon R&D VP Jeff Brunski. “We want to make incremental improvements but we won’t do it at the expense of the overall performance that we already had.”
Translation: Don’t f*** it up!
The updates to the Srixon Z-STAR and Z-STAR XV balls are minor compared to their last two iterations. The line is definitely not broken so it’s really a matter of a pinch here and a skosh there. Given the renewal of ball war hostilities between Callaway and Titleist, Srixon appears to be flying under the radar this year.
Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Srixon Z-STAR: Through Thick and Thin
The big story with the 2019 Z-STARs was a new urethane cover. At 0.5 millimeters, it was among the thinnest in golf. For a reason.
“A thin cover means you can have a larger core,” says Brunski. “It’s the engine of the ball and you can really get some nice ball speeds and distance with a thin cover and large core.”
So the 2019 Z-STAR was all about distance. Well, at least as much distance as the USGA will allow. For 2021, Srixon is going back to the future and making the Z-STAR cover just a wee bit thicker.
And by wee, we mean 1/10th of a millimeter worth of wee.
“We’re taking a very small step with a little bit thicker cover in combination with our SpinSkin coating,” says Brunski. “We’re trying to turn up the approach and greenside spin a little bit.”
But isn’t going back to a thicker skin going to dial down ball speed and distance? That is, after all, the reason the 2019 Z-STARs went with the thinner skin in the first place.
Yes. And no.
Cores and Compression
To compensate for the thicker cover (and its natural consequence, a smaller core), Srixon is tweaking both the mantle and core layers.
“The overall compression is the same (90 for the Z-STAR) and that’s a clue,” says Brunski. “If you have a thicker cover—and that’s the soft part of the ball—the fact we’re still at 90 compression means we’ve firmed up the mid-layer and the core. That’s going to affect feel and it’s going to affect ball speed.”
Brunski says ball speeds for the Z-STAR are very similar to the 2019 models but with more spin on approach shots and around the green. And if you’re thinking a thicker cover might improve durability, you’d be right. In theory.
“Durability is complicated,” says Brunski. “A thicker cover can be more durable but durability mostly has to do with cover hardness. With our SpinSkin coating, we already have best-in-class durability but this is only going to help it.”
So what’s the bottom line on the Srixon Z-STAR? As Brunski says, some minor iterative changes to tweak performance, specifically more spin without sacrificing ball speed.
Z-STAR XV – Long to the Core
The Srixon Z-STAR is the softer-feeling, higher-spinning version of Srixon’s Tour-level balls. The Z-STAR XV is the bomber. It’s higher compression and lower spinning and gamed by long hitters Cameron Champ, Grayson Murray and Ryan Brehm.
The 2021 Srixon Z-STAR XV updates are also iterative and a wee bit different from the Z-STAR’s. First off, Srixon isn’t changing the cover thickness on the XV. It remains at 0.5 millimeters. Instead, Srixon is updating the inner core composition for, you guessed it, better ball speed.
“The inner core material is more resilient,” says Brunski. “It’s a higher COR-type material and is helping to drive an incremental increase in ball speed and distance.”
For the record Brunski did, in fact, emphasize incremental.
Specifically, the new FastLayer inner core is soft in the center but firms up towards the outside. The mid-layer has also been firmed up just a tad but the overall compression for the 2021 Z-STAR XV is unchanged at 102.
Both Srixon Z-STAR balls are getting an updated dimple pattern. It’s still 338 dimples—the same as previous editions—but the dimples are a little deeper.
“That’s to fine-tune ball flight,” says Brunksi. “It’ll produce a little bit lower ball flight. That’s based on Tour feedback and will produce a bit more consistency in windy conditions.”
Srixon balls do have a reputation for performing well in the wind.
“I’ll get a text whenever a Srixon player is at the top of the leader board,” says Brunski. “Someone will text me and say ‘hey, it’s windy our there. Our players are doing well.’ That happens pretty much every year.”
While the Z-STAR, which scored well in MyGolfSpy’s Ball Lab last fall, is being made in Japan, Brunksi says the XV’s are being made in both Japan and Indonesia (Srixon’s Q-STAR Tour which scored poorly in our Ball Lab is also made in the Indonesia plant). He also affirmed what’s generally known in the ball biz: making a four-piece ball is significantly more difficult than making a three-piece ball.
“I can’t put a number on it but it’s definitely more difficult,” he says. “We were as shocked as anybody seeing some of the results you guys (MyGolfSpy) had in your recent studies. But from an X-ray standpoint, a destructive testing standpoint, we are committed to best-in-class quality. And we have the same machinery and same quality practices in both factories.”
Both Srixon Z-STARs are getting updated SpinSkin coating as well. It’s an ultra-thin extra layer of urethane with a cross-linked molecular structure calls Slide-Ring Material or SeRM. The coating adds durability to both balls and helps increase friction and spin on chips and pitches.
Srixon Z-STAR and Z-STAR XV: Specs, Price and Availability
As mentioned, the three-piece Srixon Z-STAR is the softer model, coming in at 90 compression. Srixon categorizes the Z-STAR as a mid-launch ball with the highest greenside spin and low driver spin.
The four-piece Srixon Z-STAR XV is the firmer of the two (102 compression). Srixon says it’s mid-high launch and not quite as spinny around the green as the Z-STAR but still low spinning off the driver.
One other update for 2021, which matters neither a jot nor a tittle when it comes to performance, is Srixon’s new packaging. The new boxes are much cleaner looking which should help shelf appeal at retail.
Speaking of retail, the new Srixon Z-STAR balls are getting a bit of a price hike. For years, Srixon had been selling the Z-STARS for a relative bargain (for Tour-level balls) at $39.99 a dozen. This year, the price is bumping up to $42.99. Scream bloody murder if you like but it’s still less than what Bridgestone, TaylorMade, Callaway and Titleist charge for their Tour balls.
Both balls will be available Pure White and Tour Yellow. They’ll hit retail Feb. 26.
For more information, visit Srixon.com.