Wilson Staff Model R Golf Ball – Key Takeaways
- Wilson’s Staff Model R is a completely raw/unfinished golf ball.
- It’s expected to launch lower and spin more than the standard Staff Model ball.
- Retail price is $44.99 per dozen.
Between off-center cores, concentricity issues and inconsistencies with diameter, weight and compression, MyGolfSpy’s Ball Lab has given you plenty to worry about with your golf balls. With the release of the new Wilson Staff Model R, the company is giving you one more.
About the Wilson Staff Model R
The Staff Model R golf ball is an idea that started under Wilson’s experimental labs initiative. The R stands for raw and, much as it does in the wedge space, raw refers to the fact that the ball is completely unfinished. It lacks both paint and a clear-coat protective layer.
For those of you unfamiliar with the golf ball manufacturing process, understand that Wilson’s new approach is unusual, to say the least.
The typical process for finishing urethane golf balls goes something like this:
The ball is painted (usually white). It’s then stamped (logos, player numbers, geometric patterns, etc.), and, finally, a protective clear coat is applied to give the ball a glossy look and protect against scratches and scuffing.
It’s worth pointing out that not every manufacturer paints all of its golf balls. The urethane Bridgestone uses in its Tour B series, for example, isn’t painted but the company does apply a clear-coat finish.
With the Wilson Staff Model R, Wilson skips steps 1 and 3 entirely. Seams are polished, the raw balls are stamped, boxed and (Shimmy Shimmy Ya) shipped to retailers.
The Problem With Paint
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Why is paint bad?”.
Dimples drive the aerodynamics of a golf ball. Paint coats the dimples. Therefore, paint has the potential to impact and even disrupt the aerodynamic performance of the golf ball.
It should go without saying but every golf ball manufacturer is aware of this and so every manufacturer accounts for the thickness of the paint layers when it designs dimples. That said, as with all things golf ball, perfection is not easily achieved. Sometimes mistakes happen. Sometimes big mistakes happen.
On those occasions when paint isn’t applied to the prescribed thickness and, especially when it isn’t applied evenly, the ball isn’t going to fly as intended. When paint isn’t perfect, it can be the difference between hitting or missing the green on a 200-yard shot. When paint is poor, it can be the difference between dry land and the Pacific Ocean on #4 at Torrey Pines South.
Wilson Staff Model R Versus the Competition
As you would expect, Wilson’s data suggests that its paintless Staff Model R provides tighter dispersion than competitors’ (and presumably, its own) painted offerings.
The first of the two caveats is that the home team always wins in these types of comparisons so a favorable result for Wilson is to be expected regardless.
The second is that for its testing, Wilson chose the worst of what it pulled from competitors’ boxes so, while better is still better, the typical results might not skew as heavily in favor of the raw ball.
It’s also worth mentioning that Wilson’s tests showed some of its competitors to be significantly better than others. Without being specific, it’s a case of where you can round up the usual suspects and have a good sense of how things shake out with respect to paint quality.
Wilson Staff Model R Design and Manufacturing
Notwithstanding the lack of paint, the Wilson Staff Model R golf ball is the same as the current white Staff Model. It’s a Wilson-designed golf ball (including the dimple pattern) manufactured by Foremost in Taiwan.
As we’ve mentioned, Foremost is one of the leading factories in Asia. Generally speaking, the quality of the products we test out of Foremost falls within the average and, occasionally, the above range for our Ball Lab metrics. That said, on more than one occasion we’ve encountered a run of bad balls from the factory. Several in a dozen over the USGA’s weight limit and unacceptable compression range within a single box being the most notable problems.
For its part, Wilson has employees working inside Foremost to, in part, oversee the quality of the product. That’s also a relatively common story among brands who do a high volume through Foremost (and other factories). We’ll have a better sense of to what degree those efforts are successful after we’ve run the Staff Model R through our Ball Lab.
For now, we can tell you that the compression is 98. That puts it solidly in the firm category alongside balls like the Titleist Pro V1x, RZN HS-Tour, and the TaylorMade TP5x.
Wilson Staff Model R Performance
The lack of paint is not without performance implications. Despite being fundamentally the same as the standard Staff Model, you can expect the Staff Model R to perform a bit differently. With that in mind, Wilson is positioning the Staff Model R as a performance alternative to the standard model, not just a cosmetic one.
The lack of finish creates a bit more friction between ball and club throughout the bag. Because of that, the Staff Model R can be expected to launch lower and produce more spin throughout the bag.
The upside is you’re going to get more stopping power on approach shots and greenside play. The downside is you’re going to generate more spin off the driver, which typically means shorter drives that potentially stray a bit further offline.
What About Durability?
The durability chapter of our Wilson Staff Model R story is interesting. To some degree, paint and clear coat exists to protect the ball but neither is essential to the design of a golf ball.
When a ball gets a minor scuff or scrape, it’s typically in the paint layers. Urethane is more durable than paint so Wilson contends the Staff Model R will prove more resilient to the minor damage that most golfers associate with durability.
That doesn’t necessarily mean golfers are going to love the way the ball wears over the course of the round. Bottom line: don’t expect the Staff Model R to look as good as new for more than a hole or few.
Without the protective layers, numbers and logos are likely going to wear and stains from grass and dirt are going to impregnate the urethane. Whether that means the ball looks unpleasantly dirty or, as Wilson suggests, will develop a cool patina, is entirely golfer dependent.
On Course with the Wilson Staff Model R
Using the Wilson Staff R over the course of a round, I was able to get some sense of both performance and durability.
First, whether you want to call it dirt or patina, that part of the story is absolutely real. The ball discolors relatively easily and while a good bit of the worst of it will come off in the ball washer, if you like your golf balls shiny, bright and white, the Staff R probably won’t be your favorite.
Despite no contact with trees, cart paths or anything other than normal ground conditions, I did observe some scuffing … bits of slightly shredded urethane on the surface. I also found a reasonably large strip of urethane in my grooves after a crisp wedge shot. Maybe it’s something, maybe it isn’t, but in two years of moving between Bridgestone’s Tour B X and Titleist’s Pro V1x Left Dash, I never had to clean any ball out of my grooves.
For what it’s worth, our John Barba, who also played the Staff Model R, found no cause for concern.
Interesting, but Not For Me
The performance piece is intriguing, though not in a way that works for me. I’m a high-spin guy, so any ball that can deliver on a promise of more spin throughout the bag isn’t going to ideal for me.
On wedge shots, in particular, the flight was a bit lower than what I typically see from my gamer. With that came appreciably more spin as well. Sucking back wedges – which is basically what happened with every clean wedge I hit – is something nearly every golfer loves to see. That part was fun.
Sucking back 7- and 8-irons, even if it’s only just a couple of feet, is less ideal. That happened and it was less fun.
The bottom line is that the Wilson Staff Model R, anecdotally anyway, appears to live up to the lower-launch, higher-spin billing. Unfortunately, that also means it’s not a particularly good fit for me.
If you’re looking for more spin, however, the Staff R appears to be a legitimate option to deliver just that.
Staff Model R – Parting Thoughts
Fit issues and durability concerns aside, I find myself warming up to the idea of a raw golf ball. As a challenger brand dealing with competitors who are splashing color, painting lines, patterns and even fruit on their golf balls, Wilson’s path to differentiation in the market place is narrow. And, yet, here we are with Wilson occupying an entirely unique position in the ball space.
There’s no guarantee raw will succeed or even outlast its release cycle. It’s also true that Wilson’s Staff Model R is unique – and therefore compelling – only as long as its competitors allow it to be.
Everybody has the capability to not paint a golf ball.
For now, though, Wilson offers something in the ball space that nobody else does. Between brand loyalists and the curiosity factor, lack of paint may be just the thing to move the needle for Wilson (on a relative basis) in the Tour category.
Pricing and Availability
Retail price for the Wilson Staff Model R golf ball is $44.99. Available now through Wilsongolf.com.
For more information, visit Wilsongolf.com.