With more and more golfers taking the time to get custom fit for their clubs, and realizing the benefits, Bridgestone is hoping players will start to do the same thing when it comes to golf balls.
For the past two years, Bridgestone Golf has sent vans loaded with launch monitors and balls to driving ranges and practice areas around the country, asking people to compare the ball they play with the company's offerings. So far, more than 14,000 golfers have taken the Bridgestone Challenge. Not everyone has switched, but the company has collected huge amounts of data that have become the foundation for its approach to making balls.
According to Brandon Sowell, Bridgestone Golf's marketing manager, 75% of the golfers who compared their preferred ball to Bridgestone's had a swing speed below 105 mph, yet 50% used a ball optimized for a tour-level player's swing.
"Obviously there are a lot of premium golf balls out there," Sowell said, "and they are optimized for Tour players first, then introduced to the marketplace. For the small segment of the market that has fast swing speeds, that's all well and good, but our research showed that three-quarters of the golfers out there don't have that level swing."
For golfers who want soft feel and spin around the green, but swing their driver below 105 mph, Bridgestone released the three-piece B330-RX ($43/dozen) late last fall.
The core of the B330-RX is larger, and softer, than other premium Bridgestone balls, which should help slower-swinging players add yards on tee shots. At the same time, the Urethane cover is soft, which should help players generate spin on wedge and short-iron shots around the green.
For players who demand greenside control but do have fast driver swing speeds from 100-115 mph Bridgestone has updated its B330 and B330-S balls ($43/dozen). The new versions are now both four-piece balls and feature two mantles around a soft core.
"The main thing we wanted to do with those two balls is optimize the performance off the tee for better players, tour pros, and elite amateurs," Sowell said.
The core of the B330 and B330-S (the S is for soft), like all Bridgestone balls, is softest in the middle and gets gradually firmer as it goes outward, toward the edges. The core is then encased in two mantles, and finally enclosed with a Urethane cover. "This allows for great deformation at impact and a better transfer of energy to the core at impact," Sowell said. He also notes that because each layer is firmer than the one it encases, the B330 and B330-S rebound into their original shape faster after being struck, which decreases spin and improves launch conditions for fast-swinging players.
"In testing, slower-swing speed players just didn't have the force to penetrate both those mantle layers [to fully compress the core]," Sowell said. For that reason, slow-swinging players will lose distance off the tee if they use the B330 or B330-S.
On the other end of the spectrum from players who demand short-game control above everything else, many golfers just want a ball that will help them add yards off the tee. For these players, Bridgestone offers the e+ family of balls.
"With the B330 series, you use your swing speed to select the right ball. With the e+ series, it's about analyzing your ball's trajectory and picking which e+ series ball is going to improve your trajectory in order to maximize your distance," Sowell said.
• e5+ Designed to increase spin for players who have trouble getting the ball in the air or who hit shots that fly too low. Bridgestone says this is the only two-piece, Urethane-cover ball on the market. That spin-generating Urethane cover should not only translate into control around the green, but should also give more lift on tee shots and long irons.
• e6+ Designed for players who generate a lot of spin and hit shots too high. This three-piece ball is the softest multilayer ball Bridgestone makes, having a compression of just 50. The Surlyn cover helps to reduce spin, which should not only lower your ball flight, but should also reduce slices and hooks to help you hit the ball straighter.
• e7+ The newest ball in the e+ line, this three-piece ball is designed to fit between the e6+ and e5+ and produces a slightly-lower, more penetrating ball flight. With a larger core than the e6+ to create a higher ball speed off the tee, yet having the same Surlyn cover, it is the firmest-feeling ball in the e+ series.
All of the e+ balls are available for about $27 per dozen.
"We don't believe in one size fits all when it comes to golf balls," Sowell said. And with the easy-to-understand B330 and e+ lines, golfers shouldn't have much trouble figuring out what Bridgestone thinks is just right for their game.