Hey, Team Titleist!
I recently had a fun opportunity to visit the west coast to help with an important undertaking for us at Titleist – the global validation of the new 2023 Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls. Validation is the final stage in golf ball product development, a broad and extensive final test that 2023 Pro V1 and Pro V1x had to pass before we could bring the new models to market in January.
During validation, we supply golfers with what we hope are the final version of new golf ball models. I say "hope" because determining whether we've succeeded or not is not up to us. It's up to you. And thousands of golfers like you. Players at every level of the game – from champions on the worldwide tours, to PGA club professionals, to competitive and aspiring amateurs – they all test these late-stage prototypes and decide whether we move forward or head back to the drawing board.
'How do I not have my clubs right now?' I thought as I walked around the corner of the golf shop to meet Jason Owen, coach of the Men's golf team at California State University - Monterey Bay. Bayonet and Black Horse are the home courses for the Otters and my jaw hung open as the property spread out before me. Holes winded down and across a vast hillside that ran straight down to the Monterey Bay. The Pacific glistened in the near distance. Amazing view to start the experience. I only wish I could have played alongside Jason and Tommy, Noah and Luke, the three members of the Men's golf team that would be teeing up the new 388 prototype and 348 prototypes that afternoon. All four players are sticks and even though it stung not to play, it was a lot of fun to tag along and see what the new products could do in the hands of these accomplished players.
Tommy tested the 388, the Pro V1 prototype. Jason and Luke played the 348, the Pro V1x prototype. Noah put both models in play, eager to see how the models compared. My role beyond assisting our photographer, Nick Hamilton where I could, was to answer any questions the players had about the balls during the course of their round.
I didn't hear a peep until five or six holes in. They guys were all-business, paying close attention to ball flight and reaction of the prototypes around the greens. I walked with Luke on a par-5 on Blackhorse that led downhill towards the bay, and he talked about the drive he had just hit. "I really liked how the new X reacted on that drive," Luke said. "I like to play a low fade when I try to hit the ball straighter. With the new ball, that shot had less spin and went farther than with the previous model. That allowed me to hit my fairway-finder, without losing too much distance."
A few holes later, the group came to a long, 230-yard par-3. The weather was turning cooler and windy, and Jason hit two shots, one with his current Pro V1x and a second with the new 348 prototype. He used a T-200 3-iron on both shots and they both sounded very solid to my ear. His first shot bled to the right and ended up a little short, in a greenside bunker. His second shot pierced through the air, hit hole-high and settled towards the back third of the green. "I noticed the biggest difference in the wind," Jason told me. "Hitting 3-iron into that crosswind, the prototype held its line way better than expected. That was a pleasant surprise."
The next day, Nick and I visited Pasatiempo Golf Course, where we teamed up with Matt Beauchesne and Scott Warman from the Creative team at Titleist Golf Clubs. It was cold and raining steadily as day broke, and the parking lot was nearly empty when we pulled into the club. But we were very pleased to see that our players – Marissa M., Kiara R., Kris S. and Barclay B. – were already checking in as we entered the golf shop.
Again, we were fortunate to be working with a group of truly gifted players. Marissa is a decorated amateur and a key member of the committee that is overseeing the greens restoration project at her home course, The Olympic Club. Kiara has had a highly successful junior golf career and when we met her, she had just committed to joining the Women's golf team at Oregon University. Both Kris and Barclay are seasoned amateurs and top collegiate players. Kris plays for San Jose State University and Barclay is a member of the Stanford Cardinal squad. Kris and Barclay will be meeting again at Pasatiempo this April 10-12 when San Jose State hosts the prestigious Western Intercollegiate tournament.
You could write volumes on what makes Pasatiempo such a special golf course, but Marissa summed it up perfectly: "Marion Hollins and Alister MacKenzie collaborated to create two courses: Cypress Point and Pasatiempo. While many may never get the chance to play Cypress, Pasatiempo offers an incredible opportunity for the public to play a classic, Golden Age design by the master architect MacKenzie. The course is a great test of golf tee to green, especially due to the rarity of a flat lie in the fairway. But greens are where the real challenge begins. There is a wide range of green complex sizes, but all have slopes that make you think a little more about your read. After many years of playing events there, I still have to focus a little extra around the greens."
After one false start, where the group was only able to play down No. 1 and back up No. 9 at Pasatiempo, the weather cleared enough to venture away from the clubhouse. It turned out to be a perfect opportunity. Nick, Matt and Scott were able to capture photos and video footage in a number of different weather and lighting conditions. This shoot differed a bit from the Bayonet/Blackhorse experience because we had the course to ourselves, a rare opportunity at Pasatiempo. Our players were able to hit multiple shots, compare models and enjoy their time together. Some great feedback from Marissa, Kris and Kiara:
Marissa M. on 348 prototype (New Pro V1x)
"I really like that I've gained some distance but it doesn't feel like I've lost control of the ball. Sometimes when I gain distance, I sacrifice accuracy and general control. But to be able to gain both distance and maintain control is awesome. Super excited and grateful! Can't wait for the Mid Amateur and Amateur championship season to get underway to get these in play."
Kris S. on 388 prototype (New Pro V1)
"Something that stood out the most to me was the short-range distance wedge shots. Although I wasn’t at a yardage to generate enough compression to get enough spin normally from short range distance, with the new ball I noticed I was able to get the ball to react more around the hole even in short-sided situations. For example, I had a 40-yard wedge shot to a front pin that you do not want to go pass of because of the green speeds. I was able to keep the ball short of the hole while still being able to fly it on the green. For my game these types of shots are very crucial if you’d like to shoot low numbers."
Kiara R. on 348 prototype (New Pro V1x)
"I liked how the golf ball was easier to control when hitting different shaped shots like fades or draws. With the old Pro V1x, I would get too much side spin creating bigger fades and draws than I would like. This new golf ball creates lower long game spin which keeps the ball on a tighter line while still keeping high short game spin and a softer feel. I was super excited that I was chosen to be a part of the validation process of the Titleist Proto 388 and 348. Titleist is by far the best in the game, and I’m honored to be a part of the team."
While I still haven't been able to cross off Bayonet/Blackhorse and Pasatiempo from my playing bucket list (I'll be back!), I genuinely enjoyed being able to walk the holes at each facility. It was rewarding for me to play a part in our validation process, and it was great to see first-hand how well our new flagship products performed on some very demanding tests of golf. I'm really looking forward to the start of the season, when I'll be able validate the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x for myself.
Want to join the validation discussion with other Team Titleist members? Click here to share your thoughts over on the TT forum.
And if you've had a chance to experience the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls, please weigh in and hear what other players from around the world have to say on on our Pro V1 and Pro V1x Validation page.