Revealing the Best Golf Ball Through Blind Testing

Chris Edwards January 24, 2019
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"Many golfers think golf balls are all about the same, which in some respects is true… they are round and have dimples, but there are differences in performance, feel, and price. We have an R&D team here that is dedicated to evaluating new technologies, being innovative, and offering meaningful performance gains. Some players buy the cheapest golf balls available because it fits their budget, which I completely understand. And then there are players who buy Tour golf balls because they know they’re better, but they don't really know why. Often times they will just default to Titleist golf balls because 'everyone else plays it.'

Another misconception is that players at lower swing speeds should be playing a "softer" or lower compression golf ball to gain more distance off the tee, which really isn’t true. The higher compression Tour balls are just as long as the low compression golf balls, even at the lower swing speeds. Compression is only one dial we can use to tune performance; there are several others as well.

The result of lower compression is that it will feel softer, which is even more noticeable on mis-hits. And that's why we have Project (a), which is a 70 compression golf ball. Ultimately, will a lower compression golf ball give a slower swing speed player a benefit off the tee? Absolutely not.

The TP5x at 90 compression is going to be just as fast, if not faster, and likely longer for players with slower swing speeds. The slower swing speed players can play any golf ball available since the driver distance differences become smaller at lower swing speeds and the feel benefits typically outweigh a small distance loss. The higher swing speed players (>105mph) should be playing a ball with a compression of 80 or higher to minimize any speed losses due to deflection at impact. Anyways, this is different topic for another time…

So to help debunk some of these pre-conceived notions and showcase the benefits of TP5x, we put together a Blank Ball Test to compare our ball to any competitor ball out there. The idea behind the Blank Ball Test was to minimize any biases toward the blank ball they were going to be testing. Ideally, we would have had the player hit two blank balls and make comments on performance, but in this case, we wanted the player to use their current ball as a baseline.

With this test, we wore non-TaylorMade and non-adidas apparel, so it wasn't apparent we were from a golf company. We set up on a fairly wide-open par 4 approximately 70 miles north of our Carlsbad office. It was important to have the player be on the course (vs range) since we wanted the players to think about their style of play and hit shots they would typically want to hit. We wanted their raw, unbiased feedback.

The R&D teams at TaylorMade are very data-driven and we use this type of testing to help support what players experience out on the course. In general, we use data to help us make decisions and make significance claims—and in the case of this Blank Ball Test with the TP5x, we wanted to help support what the players were seeing with the blank ball versus their gamer.

In this test, there were noticeable differences. The trajectory was higher with a more penetrating ball flight which is better through the wind... and our test panel could see that. From there, we were able to use the tangible data we collected to reinforce their observations and better explain the how and why at the end of the test.

This product has a level of performance that is noticeably different, so this was our best opportunity for players of all types to see that difference compared to their current ball. We’ve been able to demonstrate these differences with our Tour staff—the best players in the world—but to take this product and demonstrate to the public what this ball can offer was a true test of how we can impact the golfer. We’re talking about a wide range of players with Tour-like speeds to players hitting a “banana hook” as their go-to shot. They had swing speeds ranging from 95-125mph and driver distances in the 218 to 329-yard range. What was surprising was the number of players having driver launch conditions outside of optimum. Several players having driver backspin higher than 3000rpm with some up towards 3700rpm—and many, if not all, of these golfers had been fitted for their clubs.

Off the tee, the players were seeing some noticeable significant gains through ball-speed increases, and most importantly, there was lower driver spin. In some cases, we were seeing over 10 yards of distance simply by hitting TP5x. Around the greens, the playability was excellent across the board (and you can hear their reactions to the spin in the videos). But where the players saw the biggest gains were with their irons.

They were seeing anywhere between a half to full-club length distance gains. This would allow them to take less club into the green to land it softer and get closer to the flag. A couple of the higher swing speed players had the typical, “I don’t need more distance with my irons because I hit it far enough,” response. However, the performance benefits of the TP5x are so much more than simply distance. To that kind of commentary, I typically respond with “would you rather hit a 6 iron or a 7 iron into the green?” Not once has a player responded “6 iron.” Everyone chooses a 7 iron since they feel it will generate a better result (closer to the pin) and the confidence is higher—and frankly a shorter club is easier to hit. Also, the ball flight of the TP5x will be more consistent and less impacted by the wind since it’s designed to minimize the up-shoot just prior to reaching peak height. All of this leads up to improved consistency, which is what the best players in the world are looking for in a golf ball.

For me, it is kind of a nice challenge—these are the types of players we want to work with to get them to switch. They embodied a full range of skill levels, yet each golfer takes the game—and took the test—seriously. We understand that making a change can be a challenge, especially if they already have a go-to golf ball. But based on our work together that day, we were able to get 15/16 players to make the switch to TP5x on the spot through demonstrating on-course performance benefits.

This test was a blank ball vs. the competition. We used TrackMan to create statistical averages, so we could definitively quantify the advantages that the testers were already seeing. It's the same thing we do with our Tour players... we don't go out trying to sell the blank ball, we want to get their feedback. Any feedback, positive or negative, is valuable. If we went out and no one saw a difference, that is still a result. All information is good information and is used in the design of future product.

Fortunately for us and the TP5x, the results were similar to what our Tour players have experienced… a difference that is noticeable and meaningful."