Five years ago, the Titleist Pro V1 golf ball was introduced to the public. Those who attended the PGA Merchandise Show in January 2001, got a sneak preview. Around the United States, golfers were about to be exposed to the ball that would change golf.
The long-term effect of the Pro V1 wasn’t immediately clear, but soon enough everyone would know the truth: The high-performance solid ball had arrived, and the wound golf ball was on its death bed.
The Pro V1 was a solid ball that appealed to touring pros. Although it made its official tournament debut Oct. 11, 2000, at the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas, it had been in development for more than five years.
Brad Faxon had been testing the ball off and on since 1996. Faxon’s buddy, Billy Andrade, used the Pro V1 to win that coming-out event in Vegas.
“Five years,” mused Faxon at the 2006 Sony Open in Hawaii. “That’s an awful long time for a product on Tour to be around these days. Has it been the most successful ball ever? Probably.
“They took a long time to decide (to introduce it). There was a sound difference. The “click” was different, and Titleist was wondering if players would switch to that. Once the players saw, hey, this could give us a huge jump in distance, and we’ll still have control around the greens, it was a no-brainer.”
Distance came from a high-energy solid core. Control and feel came from two separate covers, an inner cover (sometimes called a mantel or casing) made of firmer Surlyn and an outer cover made of softer urethane.
Solid balls were not entirely new to the PGA Tour. Spalding had pioneered solid balls and even predicted the demise of the wound ball. However, solid balls historically had been plagued by spin issues. Most didn’t spin enough, while a few spun too much.
Greg Norman became a fan favorite at least in part because of the gigantic amounts of spin he produced with Spalding’s solid Tour Edition. Ironically, he would later say this cost him several tournament titles.
As good as the Pro V1 proved to be, Titleist kept working to make it better. Thus consumers ended up with two basic choices: the original Pro V1 and the somewhat firmer Pro V1x.
Golfers with extremely high swing speeds sometimes say they get slightly more distance off the tee and perhaps a lower trajectory with the Pro V1x. On the PGA Tour, about 65 percent of all Titleist players use the Pro V1x. This leaves 35 percent for the Pro V1. The percentages are reversed for the public (about 65 percent Pro V1 and 35 percent Pro V1x).
Titleist has shown no hesitation to place “improved” labels on the two balls, the original Pro V1 being “improved” three times and the Pro V1x once. The last time this occurred was March 2005, when both models earned improved status.
One more thing: Modern urethane-covered balls such as the Pro V1 seem to last forever. The outer covers do not easily scuff or shear.
“I went from using nine or 10 balls a round to using three balls,” Faxon said.
As anniversaries go, this marks an important one, because the Pro V1 changed golf as we know it.
– Jeff Babineau contributed