With the way the economy has been slumping, maybe you've decided to postpone purchasing any new drivers or sets of irons in 2009. But that doesn't mean you are giving up playing golf.
Rather, you've decided the woods and irons you have can get you through another season just fine. But you will need golf balls. To meet that need, just about every manufacturer in the business has introduced new ones for 2009.
In many cases, the "new" balls are upgraded versions of existing models, with thinner or thicker cores, thinner or thicker covers or new dimple patterns, designed to produce more spin, less spin, higher launch, less launch and other performance characteristics.
|Bridgestone Tour B330-RX ball|
"Our research revealed a large segment of skilled golfers with slower to moderate swing speeds who were not being fitted properly for a tour-caliber ball," said Dan Murphy, Bridgestone's senior director of marketing. Most tour balls available before RX, Murphy said, were best-suited for advanced players with higher swing speeds only.
According to Bridgestone execs, the Tour B330-RX is one of the fastest growing high-performance balls in sales since being introduced a few months ago. Overall, the company says, it now commands 20 percent of ball sales in the U.S., including its Precept models.
"Our focus, going forward, will be on our golf balls, although we will continue to manufacture and sell clubs that we believe are very good," said Murphy. "We are a large (Japanese-based) company with hundreds of patents and particular proficiency in working with rubber and rubber-like materials (i.e., automobile tires)."
Titleist two weeks ago launched new Pro V1 and Pro V1x models, a move that has been in the works for some time and is unrelated to any ongoing lawsuit by Callaway over Pro V1 series patent infringement. The new balls, according to parent company Acushnet Golf, do not infringe on any patents and bear a new, unique sidestamp for identification.
The Pro V1, of course, represents one of the most successful stories in golf ball history. Overall, Acushnet, which makes other Titleist models along with value-priced Pinnacle, sold more than 15 million dozen balls in 2008.
"For 2009, we have changed almost every characteristic of the new Pro V1 balls," said George Sine, Acushnet vice president of golf ball marketing. "Core, compression, cover. The new balls represent the best-performing Titleist balls ever."
The state of the art in making golf balls is such nowadays that any ball from any of the major manufacturers can be expected to be durable, consistent and perform as advertised. Here's a selected look at new balls introduced for this season (note that actual "street" prices will be less than suggested retail prices).
Callaway: Both the Tour i and Tour ix four-piece balls have been tweaked to adjust performance. "Inertia technology" utilizes a tungsten-infused outer core to shift weight away from the center of the ball, thus reducing driver spin off the tee for straighter shots. A reformulated urethane cover enhances feel and short-game spin. Both balls have Hex aerodynamics, which provides seamless dimple coverage. The Tour ix model has a thicker and firmer cover for greater distance; the Tour i ball should suit players seeking greater workability. List price for either is $45.99 per dozen.
The new Callaway HX Hot Plus ball is a three-piece construction with a new, high-speed core. A new speed layer between the core and cover also helps increase ball speed. List price is $27.99 per dozen.