How Tiger Woods helped make Bridgestone’s new Tour B golf ball a reality
Before Tiger Woods ever put Bridgestone’s 2018 Tour B XS golf ball in play, he was given the opportunity to test a prototype that was not yet ready for public consumption. Woods’ ability to discern minute changes in sound and construction from one ball to the next is what separates him from his peers.
It’s because of Woods’ extreme attention to detail that Bridgestone’s golf ball R&D team knew they were onto something when Woods continually started picking out the same prototype during the infancy stages testing, based on how it performed off the putter face, around the green and from the tee.
“We laid it down and had him go through and test a bunch of [prototypes], and he gravitated very quickly to that one that had the early prototype cover on it,” Adam Rehberg, Bridgestone’s golf ball fitting manager, told GOLF.com. “Quite honestly, he’s owned this whole process back from four years ago to now putting the new Tour B XS ball in play at Torrey Pines.”
The cover Woods gravitated toward during the prototype sessions turned out to be the Reactiv cover formula found on Bridgestone’s 2020 Tour B X, XS, RX and RXS golf balls. Even when Bridgestone rolled out eight prototypes during the first official testing session, Woods continued to pick out the ball with the Reactiv cover.
“Having Tiger for the full run was a completely different process this time — in a good way,” said Elliot Mellow, Bridgestone’s golf ball marketing manager. “His feedback about his prototypes and some of the other things we had him look at ultimately contributed to all four Tour B’s.”
Bridgestone believes its new Reactiv is far superior to traditional urethane materials. By adding “impact modifiers” to the urethane, the cover reacts differently depending on the force imparted at impact. For example, a driver swing speed forces the cover to recover quickly, which in turn generates more ball speed and distance. However, when a softer touch is delivered — think a deft wedge shot — the cover stays on the face longer, taking on more of the grooves to produce additional greenside spin.
“Across the board, players (pros and amateurs) are seeing 1.5 to 1.6 mph ball velocity and 350-400 RPMs of greenside spin,” said Mellow. “It doesn’t matter what clubs they’re using, swing or skill level, they’re all seeing basically the same thing, which is kind of nuts.
“It’s having a positive impact on all 14 of your clubs. In the past, we had to pick and choose our spots when it came to innovation.”
Bryson DeChambeau can attest to the added greenside spin. When he switched to Tour B last year at Greenbrier, it was due in large part to the extra 750 RPMs of spin he saw during testing. Players have also seen extra distance off the tee due to the cover, including 7 yards for Woods and 10 yards for Kuchar.
“I’ve worked with Bridgestone’s R&D team for nearly 20 years now so I know they are the market leader in golf ball innovation,” Woods said. “But the last couple of years have been different. Working closely with the R&D team I’ve been able to take ownership of this design more than any other ball spec in my career.”
Bridgestone’s three-piece Tour B X and Tour B XS are built for driver swing speeds of 105 mph and above, with a gradational compression core that gets progressively firmer going from the soft middle to the active acceleration mantle layer. Firming up the outer layer of the ball ensures “tour-level” distance in the long game. Of the two balls, the Tour B XS offers a softer feel and more greenside spin.
While the change was subtle, both the Tour B X and XS underwent minor tweaks to accommodate the new cover construction, most notably a redesigned dimple depth to fit the launch window players like Woods and DeChambeau prefer.
In the past, the three-piece Tour B RX and Tour B RXS (under 105 mph swing speed) were considered urethane models for recreational golfers with moderate swing speeds, but with Bridgestone’s Reactiv cover acting as the engine for both balls, elite golfers are starting to see the benefits, former Masters champion Fred Couples included.
Couples, along with Rocco Mediate, plan to play the softer Tour B RXS this season on the Champions Tour after noticing an uptick in distance. Couples, in particular, will opt for a high-visibility yellow version he can track easily in the air.
“At one point in time, Fred commented that RX was almost too long — to the point he’d have to relearn too much with his mid-irons,” Mellow said. “It wasn’t necessarily a good fit. Tour B RXS is a great combination for him with increased ball velocity in a lower compression, making it hotter off the face.”
Bridgestone’s Tour B golf ball line will be available Feb. 14 with a retail price of $44.99.