TaylorMade Tour Preferred Golf Ball is LETHAL-IER

TaylorMade Tour Preferred Golf Ball is LETHAL-IER

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The latest in a recent run of poorly kept secrets has been revealed. Today TaylorMade officially (it doesn’t count unless it’s official) announced their new Tour Preferred and Tour Preferred X Golf Balls.

Sorry guys, the LETHAL’s run is over.  I know…I was right there with you. I mean who here wasn’t desperately hoping for the 2014 LETHAL-IER, or perhaps something even more regal like SUPER DEATH NINJA (TP of course).

The absolute fact of the matter is that TaylorMade knows LETHAL was a stupid name. Really…they really do know it. When I discussed the subject with Josh Talge, TaylorMade’s VP of Metalwoods and Golf Balls, he suggested that in addition to the ridiculous name, packaging the balls to look like a Metallica album perhaps wasn’t the shrewdest marketing move either.

Keep in mind, Josh came from Old Spice. When the guy whose former company brought us “I’m the man your man wants to smell like” and “I’m on a horse” willingly concedes that aspects of the previous product were a little too over the top, you might have gone just a little too far.

While LETHAL was a really good ball that sold pretty well, it turns out that the heavy metal crowd isn’t one of golf’s key demographics.

Exit LETHAL. Enter Tour Preferred.

Like LETHAL Tour Preferred is a serious golf ball (actually it’s 2 golf balls), for serious golfers (and anybody else willing to spend $45 per dozen). Unlike LETHAL it has a name that isn’t going to chase anybody away before they actuall hit it, and packaging that’s a whole lot less Enter Sandman.

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Enough About the Name What About the Ball?

As you might expect given the Tour Preferred’s position as TaylorMade’s latest and greatest, TaylorMade is claiming that the Tour Preferred franchise is the best performing ball the company has released to date.

Who would have guessed.

As you might imagine, there are a few key features of the new balls that TaylorMade would like you know about, so I’ll just copy and paste them right here:

  • REACT™ Core for greater ball speed on all shots for increased distance.
  • Spin Mantle™ designed to deliver precise and consistent spin rates on given shots throughout the bag.
  • Low-Drag Performance Aerodynamics (LDP™) A 322-dimple pattern designed to minimize distance loss on low spin shots and also maintain a penetrating ball flight into the wind.
“Golf ball innovation doesn’t just happen overnight. Rather, it is a series of ongoing conversation with our Tour players. These conversations have led to the introduction of breakthrough technologies including low drag aerodynamics for ultimate wind resistance, a five-layer construction for superior control throughout the club set and now our softest and most durable cover.” – Dean Snell, Vice President of Golf Ball R&D, TaylorMade Golf

The other featured technology found in the Tour Preferred balls is what TaylorMade is calling Soft Tech™. Soft Tech™, is marketing speak, or maybe marketing double-speak for a cover material that TaylorMade claims is softer and more durable than anything they’ve ever produced.

The end result is a ball that lasts longer while providing softer feel around the green.

The Cover Really is Thinner…and Softer

Keep in mind, when it comes to thinks like cover thickness, improvements are generally measured in micrometers, but when TaylorMade’s Lindsay Main (TaylorMade’s Product Manager for Golf Balls) pulled samples of LETHAL’s cover and Tour Preferred’s cover out of her purse for me to compare, the differences were substantial.

Tour Preferred’s cover is significantly and noticeably thinner, and again, that’s no small thing considering the scale we’re talking about. Tour Preferred is, as TaylorMade suggests, actually noticeably softer as well, which absolutely did make me question the durability of the new ball.

Main assured me that the new material, despite the softer feel, is absolutely more durable. I haven’t spent enough time with the new balls to confirm, but I will say that I experienced the occasional shearing problem with the LETHAL.

Also…the woman carries golf ball parts around her purse. Did you catch that? That’s kinda hot, right?

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We’re Number 2!

One of the more interesting aspects of the TaylorMade Tour Preferred Press Release is the right-out-of-the-gate mention that they are The #2 Golf Ball Brand on the PGA Tour.

Generally speaking, “we’re 2nd best” isn’t the best way to advertise your product, but in this case, I think it actually makes sense. Titleist is #1. Everybody knows Titleist is #1, and you know what, if everybody is willing to be total honest about the situation, they’ll tell you that Titleist is going to stay #1 for the next little while.

Probably worth a mention as well, TaylorMade is not the #2 brand at retail, so I’m guessing the thinking is your basic pyramid of influence stuff. If it is on Tour, it often is with the consumer too. Right now there’s not a clear #2 as far as market share is concerned, and before you can make any kind of serious run at Titleist, you have to be the most dominant #2. And so…hey…we’re number 2we’re number 2.

If you can’t beat ‘em (and nobody can right now), join ‘em.

To that end, TaylorMade has moved away ridiculous names (LETHAL, RocketBallz), colors (TP Red, TP Black), and even softness designators (S, not S) in favor of the regular vs. X approach of Titleist and one or two others.

If you’re trying to paint yourself as a viable alternative to the leader, you’ve got to make it easy for the consumer to understand which of yours compares to which of theirs. When I play Titleist, I play the ProV1 X, so it probably makes sense for me to take a look at the Tour Preferred X.

That was easy, right?

The two new balls are nearly as similar as they are different. Performance off the tee and around the green should be comparable. You can expect even more greenside spin than LETHAL. Performance differences will be more apparent on mid-to-long iron shots. In those situations, Tour Preferred will spin more and launch a little higher.

Comparatively, on those shots, Tour Preferred X will spin a bit less and provide a more penetrating ball flight. TaylorMade estimates that roughly 80% of its Tour Pros will settle into the Tour Preferred X.

TaylorMade isn’t making any noise whatsoever about the number of layers in each of the new balls. It’s not good for anyone if golfers approach the new lineup with a 5 layers is better than 4 approach. Like most anything else in golf it’s about finding what fits you best. That might be the 5 layer Tour Preferred X, it might not.

There is no best, only what’s best for you.

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Hands On With TaylorMade Tour Preferred

I’ve only played a fairly miserable 18 with the new golf balls. What I can tell you based on my poor performance is that that Tour Preferred is that it’s really good off the tee and it doesn’t’ float. I’ll spend some more time with it once my game crawls out of the dumpster behind Arby’s.

It’s early yet, but TaylorMade can already claim 3 Professional wins with the Tour Preferred X. Sergio Garcia has won twice (Thailand Golf Championship and Qatar Masters), and Jessica Korda just won the Pure Silk Classic with the same ball.

Tour Preferred and Tour Preferred X will be available at retail on March 1st at $45.99 per dozen. For more information, please visit www.taylormadegolf.com

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