Early January is to golf equipment writers what early April is to tax accountants – it’s when the you-know-what flies fast and furious as every major, minor, and wanna-be golf company has something new for you to read about and us to write about.
Golf balls can get lost in the shuffle, especially if it’s not a major brand Tour-update. Well, Srixon certainly is a major brand, but its Q-STAR Tour line of balls is in that nether-region between Tour-level balls and your garden variety 2- or 3-piece ionomer ball.
Still, the clock on the wall says it’s time to update the Q-STAR Tour – an interesting ball in a weird category.
Not Quite Tour-Level
Tour-level balls – and you know which ones they are – are clearly Tier-1. Your Tier 3 balls are the $24-$26/dozen ionomer balls with some firmness and some spin tech built-in, while Tier 4 balls are you basic, soft, 2-piece ionomer balls in the $20/dozen range.
It’s Tier 2 that’s a bit weird.
There you’ll find the likes of the TaylorMade Project (a), Wilson Duo Professional, Titleist Tour Soft, and others. Some feature urethane covers, others ionomer, but all are softer than Tier One balls, while touting enough spin for the average Joe. They’re also priced in the $30 to $35/dozen range.
Less expensive than Tour-level balls, no doubt, unless you look to the Direct-To-Consumer Tour brands, such as Snell, that will sell you Tour-level balls in bulk for the price of a Tier 3 ball. Like I said, it’s a weird category.
Srixon first introduced Q-STAR Tour three years ago as a 3-piece, urethane ball for those of us who don’t swing it like Shane, Hideki or Keegan. The biggest difference was compression. The most recent Z-STAR has a compression of 90, while the Z-STAR XV comes in at 102. The original Q-STAR Tour had a compression of 75 (this new version, like Gen 2, is 72), and with its performance characteristics, Srixon could have called it Z-STAR Soft.
Generation 3 of the Q-STAR Tour adds the most recent Z-STAR technology to the line – specifically Srixon’s FastLayer Core and the latest version of Spin Skin – along with a new alignment aid.
Cores, Skins, and Arrows
The SRI in Srixon stands for Sumitomo Rubber Industries, the Japanese tire and rubber giant that owns Dunlop Sports, Ltd and, by extension, Srixon-Cleveland-XXIO. Like its Japanese itoko Bridgestone, Srixon leverages its homegrown rubber engineering juice to develop new core technology. And as is consistent in the ball industry, Tour-level technology eventually works its way into Tier 2 offerings.
Specifically, with Q-STAR Tour, we’re talking the FastLayer Core and SeRM coating.
FastLayer made its debut in the current generation Z-STAR line. The short story is the FastLayer core is relatively soft on the inside and gradually gets firmer on the outside. Srixon – and other ball makers, for that matter – get there through a combination of rubber chemistry along with time, temperature, and pressure variations during the baking process.
“In effect,” Srixon Marketing Director Brian Schielke tells MyGolfSpy, “the core acts like it’s built from thousands of really thin cores.”
As with the Z-STAR, the FastLayer core allows Srixon to make the core just a bit larger in the Q-STAR Tour than the previous model, which featured Srixon’s older Energetic Gradient Growth (EGG) core. Srixon says the result should be overall distance and short game spin similar to its Tour balls, with a softer feel at 72 compression.
“Softer does produce lower ball speeds,” says Schielke. “But ball speed isn’t the only thing that impacts distance. The FastLayer core helps Q-STAR Tour have a remarkably high launch and low spin relative to compression, so it’s really long off the driver and irons, even though the actual ball speed might not be as high as Z-STAR.”
The new Q-STAR Tour ball also includes the latest version of Srixon’s Spin Skin with SeRM – or Slide-Ring Material. The cover itself is urethane, and SeRM is an additional urethane coating that bonds to the cover on a molecular level. SeRM actually crosslinks the urethane molecules, making them stronger and more flexible at the same time, which enhances both durability and spin.
“SeRM is ultra-elastic for more greenside spin and control,” says Schielke. “It gives us that one-hop-and-stop performance on the green.”
And it may not seem like a big deal, but Srixon is adding a bold alignment side-stamping to the Q-STAR Tour.
Price, Availability, and Final Thoughts
The new FastLayer Core and SeRM coating are adding to Q-STAR Tour’s price – a $3/dozen increase from $29.99 to $32.99.
“Those are the same technologies as used on our Z-STAR Tour-level balls,” says Schielke. “They’re not easy to manufacture.”
That price tag is right in the sweet spot with other Tier-2 balls, but also in the wheelhouse of Direct-To-Consumer brands such as Vice and Snell, which offer Tier-1 balls at the same price, or better if bought in bulk. Schielke says Srixon stands on its performance, quality, and consistency to justify its asking price.
“We’ve been engineering top-performing golf balls since 1930 (under the Dunlop brand at that time), with a focus on getting better each generation,” he says. “All those years of testing, improving and perfecting each aspect of the golf ball has led to the high quality, top-performing balls we have today.”
While Direct-To-Consumer is growing, the fact remains most golf balls are sold by the major brands, either at retail or online – it’s a comfort-level thing as much as anything else. Titleist, obviously, dominates the field, with Callaway a distant 2nd. After that, it’s a horse race between TaylorMade, Bridgestone, and Srixon.
Srixon leapfrogged Bridgestone into 4th place in units-sold ball market last year for about a month, thanks to a BOGO promotion on the Z-STAR line. It slid back into 5th place once the promotion was over, but the promo did its job as Srixon’s overall market share grew. Srixon has never been bashful about sales promos, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see another Z-Star deal this spring or summer, as well as a late-season promo on the new Q-STAR Tour.
As mentioned, the new Q-STAR Tour will retail at $32.99/dozen and will be available in Pure White™ and Tour Yellow™, and will hit the stores and the world wide web January 17th.