2002: Golfweek Preferred - Pro V phobia curable, at $24.99 a session

I have been told I need therapy. Or at least a 12-step program. . . . My name is Brian, and I have an obsession with Pro V1 golf balls.

I suspect I am not alone in this obsession. And the reason I have chosen to “out” myself publicly on this matter at this time has mostly to do with a recent visit to an Edwin Watts golf store in Orlando, Fla.

But first let me tell you a little more about my Pro V1 obsession: I hate losing Pro V1s so much that I am often unable to put them into play at all. The thought of losing a new Pro V1 off the first tee is especially abhorrent. Many times I have lost a Pro V1 during a round and been so upset that I have placed myself on “Pro V1 probation,” forbidding myself from using another Pro V1 the rest of the day.

I recently received, as a gift, two dozen Pro V1s. And I almost fainted. Sometimes I feel as if I’m a collector and Pro V1s are 18-carat, gold-encrusted, handmade glass, Russian czar Faberge eggs.

For those of you who may not know, the Pro V1 is Titleist’s wildly popular – and not inexpensive – two-piece ball that dominates the ball count at PGA Tour events and routinely sells out at pro shops all over the world. This is not to say other companies don’t make good golf balls. Wilson’s new True ball has wonderful playing characteristics, and I am very curious about the Hogan Apex Tour ball that Spalding is rolling out. Maxflis, Stratas, Callaways, Nikes . . . I like ’em all just fine. There’s just something about the Pro V1 – more specifically, about losing a Pro V1, that has gotten under my skin and inside my head.

As a guest recently at a prominent private club in the Midwest, the member in our group pounded his drive out of bounds. He asked if anybody in our group had a ball in their pocket for his provisional. I did. It was, you guessed it, a new Pro V1. When the member pumped it out of bounds, I nearly went into acid reflux shock. When he paid me back two holes later with a Titleist DT, I quietly offered my suffering to the poor souls in Purgatory.

Anyway, getting back to Edwin Watts. While there I discovered a shelf of Pro V1 “practice” balls and another stack of Pro V1 “X-outs.” They were marked down significantly from the regular Pro V1 price. And they made me stare. The regular Pro V1s were selling for $39.99 per dozen. The ones marked “practice” were going for $34.99. The X-outs were listed at $24.99.

“Occasionally,” said Edwin Watts employee Terry Lindberg when asked how often the Watts stores receive these balls. “Typically, they don’t last a week.”

I needed to know more. So I called the Titleist people at their headquarters in Massachusetts. I explained my phobia about losing Pro V1s to Titleist spokesman Joe Gomes.

“We make plenty of them,” he offered politely.

Just as politely, I emphasized that I wasn’t just another golf writer looking for another freebie. Gomes referred me to George Sine, Titleist’s vice president for golf ball marketing.

Sine told me that Titleist expects to produce 8 million dozen Pro V1s in 2002. He said less than 1 percent of the “product stream” of Pro V1s doesn’t pass Titleist’s “top grade” standards for cosmetics or weight and size. Those balls become “practice” or “X-out” Pro V1s. Titleist releases them on an “as available” basis to its accounts.

“Pricing,” he said, “is at their discretion.”

Both the practice Pro V1s and the X-out Pro V1s, he said, conform to U.S. Golf Association ball standards. The infinitesimal number of Pro V1s rolling off the line that don’t conform, Sine said, are destroyed.

Destroyed?

My mind went foggy and my eyes got that dull look you see on the faces of unwed teen fathers on the “Jerry Springer Show.”

“We recycle the materials,” Sine said.

By now my head was reeling and my heart was racing. Why had I not been able to pull the trigger and actually buy a dozen of the X-outs? Deft work with a black Sharpie pen easily could have covered up the telltale markings. Nobody ever would have known. And how was I to come to grips with the stunning fact that 8 million dozen Pro V1 golf balls will go into circulation before the end of the year?

Sine reminded me that there is nothing new about selling practice balls and X-outs.

“It’s not a strategy,” he said. “It’s a tactic.”

This is all more than I can comprehend. . . . My name is Brian, and I have

an obsession . . .

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