We believe nearly every golfer should be playing tour-level golf balls. It’s the one part of the game where playing what the pros play makes sense.
What does that mean? It means balls with three or more layers, urethane (or something like it) covers and, short of direct-to-consumer brands like Snell Golf, price tags above $40. That’s your baseline.
That’s not to say companies haven’t undertaken significant efforts to sell you on other ideas. A good bit of that boils down to telling you what you want to hear and crafting elaborate stories that often gloss over the inherent shortcomings of products where performance isn’t the driving force behind your buying decision.
When the leader has more than 50% of the market, differentiation is your only hope. Differentiation, of course, comes in many forms – feel, paint and, in particular, performance specifications where “different” doesn’t always mean “better.”
The Company Line
Titleist believes every golfer who is serious about maximizing performance should play a tour-quality ball. I also know that Titleist believes it makes the best golf balls. With allowances for spec variations that could place you in a small niche that Titleist doesn’t service, the one-plus-one here is that Titleist believes serious golfers should play Pro V1 or Pro V1x.
I’ll stop short of explicitly recommending Titleist but, in broad strokes, I agree with the basic premise. Serious golfers should be playing tour-level balls but I’ll acknowledge there are a multitude of reasons why some of you don’t and won’t.
- Price is almost always a consideration.
- Many golfers have a preference for soft feel – and many have never considered what it might be costing them to get it.
- Some golfers like color choices or want lines and patterns stamped on their golf balls.
- Golfers often believe what they believe and often there’s no persuading them otherwise.
Point being that, regardless of what Titleist believes or what I say, golfers will collectively spend an unconscionable amount of money on something other than tour balls. I know this and Titleist does, too. So in the spirit of fishing where the fish are, Titleist is reloading its 2020 lineup with two balls updated for what can be described as the preference-driven golfer.
In both cases, one of the preferences being addressed is the desire to spend less than $40 on a dozen balls.
Titleist cleverly positioned its first iteration of Tour Soft to compete with Callaway’s Chrome Soft. Drawing comparisons between a two-piece ionomer ball and Callaway’s flagship urethane offering seemed absurd at the time. Given what we know now, it was probably more than reasonable.
Taking brand messaging out of the equation, Tour Soft is Titleist’s foray into the “not-quite-a-tour-ball” category. It sits on shelves alongside products such as QStar Tour and ERC Soft, flanked by offerings like Bridgestone’s E12 and TaylorMade’s Project A (urethane). A segment of golfers will find something to love about all of the above but from a performance perspective, none quite rises to the tour-level standard. It’s a good bit of why they cost less.
Admittedly sacrificing a bit of performance (particularly green-side) compared to Pro V1 and Pro V1x, the sales proposition for Tour Soft is, as the name suggests, soft feel…and that sub-$40 price.
The 2020 iteration of Tour Soft features a larger core – the largest of any Titleist golf ball. The benefits are the soft feel that many golfers want but you’re also going to get a little bit more speed on full swing shots, too.
That creates an opportunity to make other layers thinner (without making the ball bigger), and with Tour Soft, the only other layer is the cover. Upside – thinner covers almost always mean more green-side spin.
With all the requisite bits about golfers not having to sacrifice green-side control for more distance off the tee, the updated design virtually guarantees that to be true. Don’t take that as a suggestion that Tour Soft can match the green-side spin of Titleist tour offerings. It won’t, but perhaps it will close the gap a bit.
The new version features an updated dimple pattern that Titleist says provides a more penetrating ball flight than the original. Expect it to fly a bit lower than the previous model.
With respect to what golfers can actually see, the most noticeable update is a new “T” side stamp that helps align the ball with the target line on the putting green. This is where we are now, folks. Side stamps get listed among the features and benefits of a golf ball.
There are several reasons for that.
Callaway’s patented Triple Track is part of the story, but with year-over-year performance gains becoming more challenging to find, companies are looking at every little thing. That includes research into how golfers mark their balls as well as what’s being ordered through in-house custom and third-party channels like golfballs.com. If Titleist can eliminate the need for a Sharpie, it’s theoretically saving you money, right?
The retail price for Titleist Tour Soft Golf is $34.99 per dozen. Retail availability begins January 22.
Given the timing of the launch, it’s tempting to bill Velocity as the opposite of Tour Soft but a better comparison may be TrueFeel. Titleist’s late-September release is almost entirely about feel while the Velocity story is almost entirely about speed off the tee.
The name should tell you that.
Titleist says Velocity is designed to do one thing (go really far off the tee) and while it may be your buddy’s favorite scramble ball, playing it means you’re going to give up green-side performance. That’s the nicest way possible of saying that, on a comparative basis, it’s not going to spin much around the green.
If that’s your game, Velocity might be your ball.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Titleist took a distance-first approach to redesigning the ball.
A new spherically tiled 350 octahedral dimple design promotes a higher trajectory and more distance while a larger LSX core generates greater velocity with extremely low spin on full shots for more distance.
Anyone see a pattern here?
As with Tour Soft, the larger core means a thinner cover. Titleist says you can expect a bit more green-side spin this time around but don’t for a minute think you’re going to get Pro V1 hop-and-stop performance out of Velocity or any ionomer/Surlyn-covered ball, for that matter.
While the new Velocity might be a little better, not a whole lot has changed. The headline is that Titleist’s signature distance ball is now available in matte green, matte orange and matte pink.
Feel is a preference. Color is a preference, too. Again, fish where the fish are.
If three new matte color options (green, orange, and pink) weren’t enough of a draw, Titleist is making it interesting by tweaking the player numbers on the green and orange versions – 00, 11, 22, and 33. For better, worse, or the same, the white and matte pink versions come with traditional numbers (1, 2, 3, 4).
The retail price for the new Velocity is $27.99. Availability begins January 22.
For more information, visit Titleist.com.