Equipment: Nike introduces Tour golf ball
Here is the core of golf ball development: Players want a ball that goes far off a driver, holds its line in flight and stops quickly with a wedge. To address these desires, Nike has re-engineered the core of its new tour-quality golf ball, the 20XI, which will be available at retail May 1.
At the center of the 20XI is a resin core. Most balls have a core made of rubber or a rubber derivative. Resin is a lightweight polymer with excellent rebound characteristics.
Rock Ishii, Nike Golf’s product development director for golf balls, says that because the core is lighter, he and his team were able to move a small amount of additional weight to the outer layers of the ball. This produces what Nike refers to as “perimeter weighting” or, in simple terms, more stability during flight.
Nike quantifies such performance as better MOI. What does this mean? Many golfers have heard of MOI testing for golf clubs, but not golf balls.
For starters, MOI stands for moment of inertia. It is a measurement (in grams per centimeter squared) of resistance to twisting. The higher the MOI, the higher the resistance to twisting.
Less twisting means more stability, which is a good thing. This is just as true of golf balls as it is clubs. A more stable golf ball is one that reaches its apex and does not fall precipitously from the sky or deviate abruptly from its flight pattern.
As Nike engineers explain it, MOI readings are easier to obtain for golf balls than they are for golf clubs. This is because the golf ball is a sphere and not a stick with pronounced head, butt and middle sections. All these MOI tests are performed with a machine designed expressly to measure MOI.
Nike says the 20XI has an MOI reading that is about two and a half percent higher than its previous One Tour ball.
And stability isn’t the whole story. Nike says that “internal tests have shown an average of 2-3 MPH increase in ball speed (over the Nike One Tour ball).”
The resin core is the result of a collaboration between Nike’s product development director for golf balls, Rock Ishii, and DuPont chemists. From the beginning, the idea was to create a ball that produced less spin on tee shots and more spin on shorter shots.
The 20XI has two thermoplastic urethane outer layers for increased softness and feel. The previous One Tour has a urethane outer cover and an ionomer inner cover.
The move to resin didn’t happen overnight for Nike. Ishii spent four years on this project, working with DuPont on various iterations. “What we have achieved is, I think, very important,” he said.
There is no word yet on whether Tiger Woods will play one of the new 20XI balls. In 2011 appearances in the United States and Dubai, Woods used the Nike One Tour D ball.
The 20XI, which will be available by May 1 at a street price of $45.99, will come in two versions – 20XI-S (spin) and 20XI-X (distance).
“Both have tour-level distance and tour-level spin,” said Mark Alan, Nike’s product manager for golf balls.
Such a two-tiered approach for golf balls – a practice established roughly a decade ago by Titleist’s seminal introduction of the Pro V1 and Pro V1x – has become commonplace in the market place.
Preliminary indications are that the 20XI-X may become the more popular of the two balls among Nike’s touring pro staff. Already Stewart Cink, Eduardo Molinari, Carl Pettersson and Stephen Ames are using the 20XI-X.
Here are some of the key 20XI performance attributes as described by Nike:
• Less spin off the driver, more off the wedges.
• A reduction of 100 to 200 RPM in driver spin at impact.
• High MOI results in additional carry as the ball passes its apex.