For tour players, switching golf balls is a decision that’s not taken lightly. It requires hours of detailed examination, testing, comparison and validation. On tour, the man chiefly responsible for guiding the world’s best through this process is Fordie Pitts, Tour Consultant for Golf Ball R&D.
Pitts is on the road more than 30 weeks out of the year, traveling to stops on numerous tours and working closely with players, acting as a liaison between them and Titleist product development teams back in Fairhaven, Mass. Fordie's mission is a microcosm of the Titleist mission - to ensure players on the PGA TOUR are outfitted with the best performing golf ball products in the game.
The current stage in the Pro V1 development process (publication on the USGA’s List of Conforming Golf Balls and player validation of the final models) has the feel of a crossing the finish line, but in fact, it’s just one phase in a perpetual cycle of examination, testing, data collection, feedback gathering, communication, prototype development, re-testing, validation, and constant performance monitoring.
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We were interested in knowing a bit more about this important step for new Pro V1 and Pro V1x, so we reached out to Fordie and he provided the following insights:
TEAM TITLEIST: What is the reaction on tour to the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x?
FORDIE PITTS: Validating our golf balls on tour is one of my favorite steps in the process. Players are always excited to test new Pro V1 and Pro V1x and they typically want to know how we could possibly make the best ball in the game even better.
I love seeing a players reaction when they hit the ball for the first time and nothing makes me happier than when a players asks, “Can I put this in play today?”.
Scroll through the gallery below for an up-close look at the tour validation process for the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls.
TEAM TITLEIST: How do you determine what new performance enhancements you’ll bring to market?
FORDIE PITTS: You know, some of the things that we considered for the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x go back as far as a year, two years, three years ago. Some new materials and aerodynamic features go back even further, five years ago. It’s a never-ending process and we’re always looking at implementing new things. When we find something we like, it may go into that very next product in development. Or we may hold it back a generation or two depending on how ready we are to incorporate it effectively.
TEAM TITLEIST: What does this final validation stage look like?
FORDIE PITTS: In final validation, we want to put players in a couple different scenarios where they have some targets to shoot at. We want to get on the golf course and make it a little more game-like. We don’t necessarily have to go through the whole bag, but we want to look at a few key clubs.
We want to look at a full wedge or short iron, where balls can get spinnier, and we’ll take a close look around the greens – how does it feel, how is coming off the face of the wedges on chips and pitches. We’ll also want to look at something longer, a mid- or long-iron, where guys may want to see a slightly different performance – are they getting proper flight? Is it high enough? If it’s too high, can they flight it down?
We’ll certainly look at driver to see what kind of gains they make in distance and control. For players at this level, little, subtle differences can make a big difference.
TEAM TITLEIST: How big of a consideration is distance for tour players in choosing a golf ball.
FORDIE PITTS: We’re always trying to build distance into our golf balls and for these guys distance is important, too. But it’s not the be-all, end-all. You have to balance distance with proper performance. You know, we could keep pulling spin out of the golf ball and guys would be hitting these mini-fliers, but that’s not going to help them play better. Striking that balance of low spin but enough spin is really what will help them score their best.
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Thanks very much, Fordie. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more news on the new Pro V1 and Pro V1x and what players are saying about the new models.