Golf ball revolution
We tried out Nike's new 20XI golf ball, which they say is the biggest innovation in golf in a decade.
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH
Last Updated: 06/01/12 4:01pm
There's a revolution coming in 2012, or at least Nike hope so as they launch their most ambitious attack on the golf market with their new 20XI ball hitting the European markets this year.
Already out in America, the 20XI is Nike's biggest move yet to try and really grab the golfing headlines, and they have spared no expense in developing what they believe will challenge Titleist's Pro V1 as the best ball in golf.
Hitting the shops in February, the 20XI comes in two models, the 20XI-X which is longer and the 20XI-S which promotes more spin, although both are set to provide both a boost in distance and spin thanks to the technology packed inside it.
Nike are certainly going all-in on this new golf ball, with their media launch event held up at Fairmont St Andrews to prove this point, and with several of the company's big-hitters present to explain just why they think they can change the world of golf balls.
First and foremost it's important to understand that Nike is still a relative newcomer to the golfing world, but they have proven in other fields that they will use every piece of technology available to produce market-leading products, and this is what they have done with the 20XI.
At the heart of the matter, quite literally, is the revolutionary new RZN resin core to replace the traditional rubber core which, in short, they say will give you more distance and yet more spin control around the greens all in one ball.
True, they have two balls which offer more of a bias towards distance and spin, but just one will do for all as they have steepened the spin graph so you have less with the driver but more with the wedge - the perfect combination!
Nike's golf ball guru Rock Ishii also made an appearance at St Andrews to talk the assembled media through the new product. This is the man who works closely with Tiger Woods on golf ball technology and is renowned throughout the world, so he knows what he is talking about.
His enthusiasm is there for all to see, and so it should after three years of testing and tweaking with Woods and Stuart Cink they now feel they have come up with 'the biggest innovation in golf in the last decade'.
Priced at £40 a dozen they are going directly head-to-head with the Pro V1, a bold move indeed but it is a battle they are convinced they can win thanks to their revolutionary resin core. In fact all of the big-hitters I spoke to at St Andrews were confident the 20XI would be the next go-to ball for Tour pros over the next few years.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel was on hand, so I managed to grab him for a few minutes to see if he would be using the 20XI in 2012, he told me: "I don't change things often, but when it works it works.
"I try things all the time that the guys give me but don't usually change, but when you get something that's so dramatically better you have to take notice. I didn't think you could improve on my old ball, the Tour D, but this new golf ball honestly is really something."
"It goes further, it really does. I'm getting an amazing flight out of my irons yet chipping I get the same feel. It's amazing you can make something like that."
We were treated to a go with the new 20XI ball around the course at Fairmont St Andrews, and you do notice an immediate difference from a regular golf ball, most notably the noise, it sounds a lot harder and a lot more solid than ordinary golf balls.
Talking to the guys during the round and even personally we did notice a bit of a boost in distance, although my dodgy swing is hardly the most reliable to judge on these things, but with a few of us there were certainly a few more yards gained off the tee specifically.
It's that noise that will either put you off or give you a huge boost of confidence. It would sound different as there is a revolution happening within that tiny golf ball - it's remarkable to thing just how many man hours, how much money and how much technology went in a ball which, sadly, ended up in the North Sea off the open face of my three wood.
Ultimately it is on the pro tours where the battle will be won and lost, if the top pros start noticing such a difference they will soon switch, anything to get that few extra percentages of performance, and then the punters will follow.
Nike have done all they can, they are determined to muscle in on the big boys of golf and prove they can do what they've done so well elsewhere and lead the way in innovations, we'll just have to see if 2012 does in fact bring about a 20XI revolution.
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