Mark Alan, Nike Golf's product line manager for golf balls, will tell you the biggest recent advancement in balls was the switch from wound balls to solid-core models.
But Alan and Nike think the next major advance is about to be made with the 20XI-s and the 20XI-x, both slated to be available May 1.
The most unique aspect of the new 20XI (Get it? 20+XI=2011) is its core, which is made by injection-molding a new resin that Nike developed with DuPont. The material took four years to perfect, and Nike claims that the new core makes the 20XI 2-3 mph faster than the company's previous offerings with compression-molded rubber cores.
Because the core material is so light, Nike engineers were able to use heavier materials in the layers that surround the core, which should add durability and increase the ball's moment of inertia (MOI).
"You can think of it as a perimeter-weighted golf ball," Alan said.
A high MOI helps a club resist twisting on off-center impacts. In golf balls, Nike says the increased MOI affects the 20XI's spin.
"It resists spinning at impact with the driver," Alan says. "But once you get the ball spinning, it stays." It also means the ball is less affected by cross winds.
That should come in handy this week in Hawaii, where both Anthony Kim and Francesco Molinari are expected to play the ball during the PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Alan says the balls should leave the clubface with 100-200 rpm less spin than Nike's previous premium offerings (the ONE Tour), but will have 100-200 rpm more spin after the ball reaches the apex of its trajectory. That should mean more green-grabbing spin on approach shots.
While both models are made using four pieces—including the same core and compression layer—the 20XI-s has a softer urethane cover that should produce more spin around the greens. The 20XI-x also features a urethane cover, but its firmer, so the ball should produce slightly more distance.
Expect to see the new Nike 20XI-s and 20XI-x in pro shops for about $45.99 per dozen. See-Try-Buy: Learn more about Nike clubs and schedule your fitting with GolfTEC or Golfsmith. Related: Follow David Dusek on Twitter | Facebook