It’s been nearly 15 years since the iconic Titleist ProV1 golf ball franchise debuted. The dominant sphere flavour worldwide at amateur and professional levels has rolled along nicely for Acushnet but it’s path has not been static, it’s been one of continual upgrade.
That’s the case for the 2015 model that became available at retail today and it will continue for the next iteration that arrives in 2017. In fact, the process for the development of that next ball has already begun.
New cosmetics on the packaging would seem to be the biggest change visible to consumers with the latest model but you need to crack a sleeve and give them a swat to reveal all.
We did that last week, just a couple days removed from a chat with Bill Morgan, the Senior Vice President of Golf Ball Research and Development at Titleist. While some of his words might have been a little technical for most us (he’s really, really smart), what we saw on the golf course was in line with what he explained. The new golf ball is all that you would expect from a ProV1, just better.
Most notably there was a softer feel around the greens when we compared them with the 2013 model. This was in the ProV1, we’ve yet to test and form an opinion on the ProV1x. (Watch for a more in depth review in the future)
When a golf ball is already so pervasive in the market place you might wonder why the company would consider an upgrade. Frankly, it’s your fault.
As Bill Morgan explained, “We’ve added technology and it’s really a result of our continual development process. We are always talking to golfers. We talk to tour players, we talk to amateur golfers through our Team Titleist vehicle (and we have a lot of Canadian members these days), and we’re also fitting golfers. Through all these interactions we’re always asking golfers what we can do for them to shoot lower scores. At the end of the day with lower scores you enjoy the game more, you want to play more, and everybody is happy because of that.”
As for the specific changes in the 2015 model, they came directly from their collaborative process between Titleist developers and testers, according to Morgan.
“We react to the feedback we got since we introduced the spectacularly successful 2013 ProV1 and ProV1x where we’d gone into the cover and added a new paint system to improve the durability. A lot of golfers said don’t anything, these are the perfect golf balls. But we probe and probe and finally they say ‘but if you are going to do anything maybe you can make them softer and add some short game control.'”
The companies’ R&D team then engaged in a process to accomplish those goals. Without adversely affecting the most favoured properties of the golf ball, of course. Because the company creates their own urethane rather than buying it they were able to make a change to the cover properties of the ball and the play characteristics quite rapidly. They are enhancements that Morgans calls “subtle but meaningful”.
He adds that consumers will see the same durability,flight, and spin (on full shots) they are used to but in the shortest part of the game there is a softer feel and a “slight uptick” in spin rates.
White box sampling with golfers was very positive and conversion rates on tour have also been good. It’s a sure sign that the road to a better product is heading in the right direction.
But even while production ramps up and the new ProV1 family makes it’s way into the golf shops the company is already looking ahead.
Morgan admits that is a difficult process to keep improving their premium product but it’s a must in his mind; they will keep looking beyond their walls to push them where they go next. Beyond the 80 scientists and technicians in their offices they consider tour players and amateur players that they speak with world-wide as the key. “It’s very real to say they’re part of the team because it’s their information that drives what we do in next generation changes.”
He concludes, “Prototypes for 2017 have already been made. They’re being testing by various people around the world. They don’t know what they’re testing yet but that’s okay. The process has begun to look for what we need to do the next time. It never stops.”