According to Dean Snell, TaylorMade’s vice president of research and development for golf balls, the first time Justin Rose tried the prototype that became the company’s new Lethal ball, it only took nine practice holes for him to decide that he wanted to put it into play that week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
The Lethal will replace the Penta TP5 as Taylormade’s top-of-the-line ball. Like the Penta TP5, the Lethal is a five-piece ball with a urethane cover that is designed to deliver lower spin off the tee to maximize distance and lots of spin around the greens to maximize control. It will retail for $45.99 per dozen when it arrives in pro shops in early February.
“Aerodynamics play a role in the golf ball’s performance from the driver through the 5-iron,” Snell says. “When you get to the 6-, 7-, 8- and 9-irons, the spin and the launch angle kind of control the distance a little more than aerodynamics. So on the driver, the 3-wood, and with your 3- and 4-iron, where the spin rates are low, the aerodynamics need to be there to keep the ball in the air and to ensure that drag doesn’t make the ball fall out of the sky. So we have to be able to balance both.”
The Lethal features a new dimple pattern that covers 86 percent of the ball’s surface area, up from 80 percent coverage of the Penta. TaylorMade says the new pattern’s aerodynamic properties make it work through the wind more effectively with longer clubs. Because the Lethal’s inner layers are identical to the Penta’s, however, Snell says shots hit with short irons and wedges will behave identically to the Penta. TaylorMade says this is the best of all worlds.
For golfers who want a premium ball at a lower price point, TaylorMade is releasing the three-piece RocketBallz Urethane. At $29.95 per dozen, it offers a 360-dimple pattern with a cast urethane cover for soft feel on chips, pitches and shots hit from close range. It also features the thinnest cover of any TaylorMade ball (including the Lethal, which will be $15 more expensive).
“It’s very soft,” Snell says, “so it gives you a little more spin with the wedge and a little more spin off the irons.” At the same time, he says that it has solid durability.
Compared with the Lethal, the RocketBallz Urethane will spin more off the tee, so it won’t give you the same carry distance, especially for players who generate a lot of spin with a steeper swing. However, around the green, the two balls will behave similarly.
For those reasons, Snell anticipates that nearly all of TaylorMade’s staff players will switch to the Lethal in 2013, but a few players, like Fred Funk, who won a Champions Tour event using a disguised RocketBallz Urethane ball in 2012, might go the three-piece route.