FIRST LOOK: Titleist’s Tour Speed is anything but your standard golf ball release
The release of Titleist’s EXP-01 golf ball late last year was met with raised eyebrows from many in the industry. Titleist isn’t completely predictable, but it’s fair to say their product release cadence for flagship offerings is Swiss clock-esque. Running on a biennial schedule, most golfers have a good idea of when the next Pro V1 or a new line of metalwoods is coming down the pipeline by simply looking at the previous launch schedule.
There’s comfort in knowing what’s coming, but curveballs can be fun on occasion. And the EXP-01 was every bit the knee-buckling, backdoor curveball no one saw coming. For a company that typically doesn’t bring products to market until they are at the finish line, the experimental ball broke all the rules.
Unlike Titleist’s “white box testing,” where a product is sent out in the prototype stage to garner feedback before coming to market, the EXP-01 was jettisoned into the marketplace with a generic EXP-01 (“Experimental”) name, destination unknown. The goal at the time was to gather organic feedback from recreational golfers on a multi-layer MTR urethane cover system that was still in the infancy stages.
Titleist had no idea how golfers would respond to the cover — or ball for that matter — and made no plans to restock after it was off the shelves. It was a shot in the dark. Ten months after EXP-01 made its debut, it’s clear Titleist ball designers were onto something with the cover design.
The new thermoplastic urethane [TPU] cover found on the Tour Speed golf ball is the result of those tests, geared for the golfer who needs distance but doesn’t want to sacrifice greenside spin.
If this sounds a lot like Titleist’s Pro V1x and AVX, it’s important to note the cover found on both of those balls is a proprietary thermoset cast urethane that offers all-world performance from tee-to-green at a higher price point. The goal with Tour Speed was to create a better-performing thermoplastic urethane offering similar performance benefits at a more palatable price point ($40 per dozen).
“Finding a quality TPU was extremely important for us,” said Michael Fish, Titleist’s golf ball product manager. “We went through hundreds of TPU formulations to get to this version. It’s a vital part of what makes this ball perform.”
While Titleist has released new ball offerings in recent years — some taking the place of flagship products — Tour Speed has a prime spot in the lineup. Titleist has already added a wing at its New Bedford, Mass., plant that’s specifically designed to make the ball’s TPU cover.
“All of the feedback we received on this ball from golfers who purchased it and those who underwent extensive blind testing at [Titleist’s] Manchester Lane [Testing Facility] with Fordie Pitts [Titleist Tour rep] reinforced our belief that there was a place for this ball in the marketplace,” said Fish.
In addition to the TPU cover, the three-piece ball features a 346 quadrilateral dipyramid dimple design that produces a penetrating, consistent flight. An ionomer casing layer, situated just underneath the cover, is built to generate fast ball speeds with low spin when sandwiched between the TPU cover and core.
Golfers who still have sleeves of EXP-01 balls at home are probably wondering if they possess an identical version of the Tour Speed retail ball. According to Fish, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
“Tour Speed grew from EXP-01, but there are many tweaks that were made to every aspect before it got to this point, including the side stamp,” Fish said.
Tour Speed is slated to hit retail shelves on Aug. 7.