Srixon has two new balls hitting pro shop shelves in 2009, the Z-Star and Z-Star X (both for $40/dozen). The balls target better players who want uncompromising control around the greens.
Srixon's engineers wanted to achieve two goals with the three-piece Z-Star balls increased ball speed on drives and added predictability when hitting from poor lies. To achieve those goals, they relied on several new technologies.
First, to increase ball speed, Srixon made the core of the Z-Star bigger than the core of the ball it replaces, the ZUR-S.
Srixon also developed a process that allows the company to vary the compression of a ball's core. So, instead of being a uniform softness throughout, the core of the Z-Star balls gets softer toward the center. According to John Rae, manger of Srixon's performance research group, this has allowed the company's engineers to create a ball that is faster off the tee but does not spin so much that players will sacrifice distance.
The core developed for the Z-Star X is slightly firmer in the middle than the core of the Z-Star, which makes it a better fit for fast-swing golfers like Vijay Singh, Boo Weekley and Jim Furyk (who have all switched to it).
"The harder you swing, the more you are going to compress the ball," Rae said. "Slower swingers just can't compress the ball enough, so they will only be activating the outside of the core. They will get the benefits of ball speed, but not the benefits of the softer center, so they will tend to spin this ball [Z-Star X] too much with the driver."
However, for players who swing between 80 and 105 miles per hour, Srixon says the Z-Star is a good fit.
According to Rae, the aerodynamic properties of a ball are different in a dimpled area than they are across a seam. To help maintain ball speed in the air, Srixon developed a system that fuses the two halves of the ball together without creating a straight seam. Instead, the seam is created between, over and around dimples. By eliminating the straight seam, the ball should simply fly better, and more predictably, through the air.
To help golfers better handle ugly lies in rough and sand, Srixon has also developed a proprietary outer-coating process that puts a highly elastic film around the outside of the ball.
"Typically on a wedge shot, the cover of the ball distorts and increases against the clubface, which in turn leads to more spin," Rae said. "But when you hit out of the rough, you typically get grass and dirt between the ball and the clubface, reducing that contact. Because it's so elastic, this coating distorts a little bit as well so you get a little more feel between the ball and the clubface, which leads to more spin out of the rough."
Don't worry. Despite all that high technology, the Z-Stars still look and feel like other golf balls when you pull them out of the sleeve.
From Sports Illustrated Golf+ Equipment Issue (February 8, 2010)
\nBoo Weekley on the Z-Star balls: "The Srixon Z-STAR balls take off faster than a scared duck on the first day a' huntin' season!"