Equipment

Best Ball

Photo: Schecter Lee

Our readers were fit using the Nike IFS (Intelligent Fitting System) launch monitor. Nike fitters use this technology (in conjunction with club fitting) to conduct ball fittings in 70-plus locations across the country. Go to nikegolf.com and click "360 custom fitting" for location information.

How Nike's Ball Fitting System Works
1 The player hits five to 10 balls using his own driver and a "Nike 360" control ball. The company's proprietary IFS launch monitor records ball speed, launch angle and backspin rate. The "Nike 360" ball is used exclusively for Nike club and ball fittings. It is not sold at retail.

2 The fitter examines the player's specs (ball speed, launch angle and backspin) to determine the general type of ball to play.

3 The player answers a series of questions about his game, personal preferences, etc. This allows the Nike fitter to pinpoint an exact model for the player's needs.

Rick Stevens
Current ball: Multilayer urethane cover
Age: 50 Handicap: 1
Height: 5'11" Weight: 180 lbs.
Occupation: Construction co. president
Residence: Suwanee, GA New ball: Nike One Tour D

Rock Ishii, Nike Golf Product Development Director, Golf Balls: "Rick has a relatively high ball speed (150 to 160 mph) for an amateur, and his spin rate off the tee hovers around 3,000 rpm. This is about optimal for his launch angle and ball speed (see Zone 1). He also has a hard, steep swing with his irons. Rick says that his steep swing also affects his wedge game, giving him too much spin on short approaches."

Rock's recommendation: "The One Tour D should complement Rick's game by giving him max distance and reducing wedge spin. He'll still have plenty of stopping ability without the fear of coming up short or rolling off the green. The 3-piece construction and harder cover give a nice firm feel on chips and putts, which Rick prefers."

Stephen Loflin
Current ball: Multilayer urethane cover
Age: 38 Handicap: 12
Height: 5'8" Weight: 155 lbs.
Occupation: Bartender
Residence: Duluth, GA New ball: Nike One Vapor

Rock Ishii: "Stephen's flight characteristics off the tee [medium-high flight, 140 to 145 mph ball speed, 12-degree launch angle and a slight draw] suggest that he could play any of our Nike One balls. He rarely shapes shots. He is more concerned with feel around the green rather than added distance. That's because he hits so many wedges into greens. He thinks he already has plenty of spin with his wedge, which might become too much with the four-piece Nike One Tour."

Rock's recommendation: "The softer-compression Vapor would be my suggestion. It doesn't have a urethane cover (like the One Tour and One Tour D). But its low compression and soft cover should ensure that Stephen has soft feel on chips, putts and longer iron shots. Vapor could provide a little more distance, too."

Stewart Cink
Age: 36 Height: 6'4"
Weight: 205 lbs.
Residence: Duluth, GA
Hero Stuff: 5 career PGA Tour victories
Current ball: Nike One Black
New ball: Nike One Tour D

Stewart Cink: "I really liked the Nike One Black ball [I played last season]. It gave me a lot of distance, even more than I had a couple years ago, and I liked its flight characteristics. It's so stable because it's a lower-spin ball. At times, though, I needed a little extra spin to stop it, and it occasionally flew farther than I expected. I'm trying to get a little wider with my swing, and the shallower swing path gives me less backspin, especially with irons. Toward the end of last season I experimented with the One Platinum [a four-piece ball]. I got extra spin with the Platinum, so I could be more aggressive with my irons since I didn't have to worry about the ball getting away from me distance-wise. Now I get the best of both balls with the Nike One Tour D."

Rock Ishii: "We've fit Stewart for seven years, so I have a good sense of what he's looking for. I have years of data to work from, too. His preferences for a low-ball flight, soft feel and great distance off the tee remain the same. But his new swing creates less spin on approach shots. Today, we fit him to a prototype One Tour D ball. It's the same construction and technology as the market version, with a slightly softer cover for his precise requirements. The softer cover mimics our 4-piece ball (e.g., softer feel and increased spin around the green) without sacrificing the enhanced distance or lower ball flight of the 3-piece design."

Tout Fit
Fitting PGA Tour pros such as Stewart Cink requires a lot of time (on the range and course), patience and a trained eye to decipher the subtle performance differences among balls. Read on for the step-by-step process.

On the range:
1. Stewart began the session by hitting his 9-iron three times with a "Nike 360" control ball. He then hit Nike's One Tour and One Tour D balls. The Trackman launch monitor recorded data.
2. The fitter [in this case, Rock Ishii] examined the "numbers" and compared them to previous fitting sessions.
3. Steps #1 and #2 were repeated using a 6-iron, 3-iron, driver and, finally, three-quarter swings with Cink's 60-degree wedge.
4. Rock and Stewart selected balls for further testing.

On the course:
5. Stewart hit two to three drives each with the Nike One Black ball, One Tour, prototype One Tour D and One Tour D.
6. Stewart hit these balls to the green from 160 yards and 60 yards.
7. Stewart hit 20 to 30 chips from 10 yards off the putting green, then repeated the process from five yards off.
8. Stewart stroked putts on the green.
9. Rock and Stewart concluded that the prototype One Tour D performed best. However, they also felt that further testing is required.

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