Early Monday morning as the sun rose into a cloudless sky above TPC Summerlin, Fordie Pitts strolled onto the practice range with a pair of white boxes tucked under his arm. The boxes were mostly devoid of logos and colorful markings. They were nondescript white boxes, which on the PGA Tour means one thing: prototype.
The only markings on the boxes were small on the side: Pro V1 and Pro V1x.
Once again, Titleist chose to introduce its newest premium balls to the PGA Tour here in Las Vegas, where the first Pro V1 debuted in 2000 at the Invensys Classic.
Pitts and other Titleist representatives would not share any details about the new balls, but Titleist did bring a crew of videographers to capture footage that will be used in TV commercials and on the company’s website. On any given week, about 65 percent of the field at a PGA Tour event will use either a Pro V1 or a Pro V1x ball. That percentage is higher on the LPGA, at collegiate events and in elite amateur tournaments, so anytime a next-generation ball comes out, it’s noteworthy.
If history repeats itself, the balls officially will be released to the public at January’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, and for the next several weeks Pitts will be asked the same questions he gets every two years by the pros.
“First of all, there’s the inevitable, ‘What’s it do?’ and then we will speak about the construction changes that we made and tell them what that does to launch, spin, flight, trajectory and distance,” Pitts said. “There will also be questions about whether it spins more or less, we’ll get that. Then it’s, ‘Let’s go out and test it,’ which can mean looking at some (launch monitor) numbers or going out on the golf course and trying it.”
The new Pro V1 and Pro V1x have updated side stamps: The alignment arrows are filled in black instead of with a light gray. It can only be assumed Titleist made other, more substantive changes to balls, but they are likely to be more subtle than the wholesale modifications that occur when drivers come to market.
Pros – and amateurs who have taken the time to test balls – know what their shots should look like and how they should feel. Changing balls can produce potential benefits, but there is a risk of tradeoffs.
“When you have something that you know works well, everywhere, that’s the hard part of making a ball change,” Pitts said. “Not everyone notices little, subtle differences, and they tell me they can adjust and play that easily. Other guys are more sensitive. A lot of what we do is getting them to trust it.”