Pro V1 performance... at half the price? Can the new mail order balls really compete with a Titleist? We found out.
Mail order golf balls weren’t even a thing five years ago. Back then your choice of premium tour-level balls boiled down to the traditional major brands – Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway and Srixon. All brands who’d like you to believe tour-level balls need to be played on tour to be considered validated.
But there’s new ball upstarts out there like Vice and Snell Golf, who think a bit differently. Both spotted the huge potential in premium tour golf balls and a significant gap in how balls are sold to golfers.
Each developed their own ball, but without the overheads of marketing a ball on tour – player deals, advertising – it means they can sell a premium tour ball for half the cost of the market leader, Titleist’s Pro V1.
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Our recent “best sub-£30 golf ball test” highlighted the Vice Pro as a cracking ball, but could a ball with such a low price tag – £20 a dozen cheaper – really compete against the No.1 ball in golf? It only seemed fair to put the latest mail order golf balls up against the market leader and find out.
How we did it:
We invited the leading mail order golf ball brands – Vice, Snell and Pearl – to send us their best tour balls, and we bought a dozen Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x to test them against. We got our pro to hit each ball with a driver, 7- iron and wedge so we could gauge the difference between long, mid and short game performance, all while our launch monitor watched on. Once each ball had been hit with each club we analysed the data alongside our test pro’s comments to come up with our conclusions.
Ben Frost - Pro
Senior Instructor at The Belfry Academy, an expert in club fitting.
Review: Vice Pro & Vice Pro+ golf balls
Who are Vice Golf?
Vice was founded by two Germans in 2012 (Ingo Duellmann and Rainer Stoeckl) in Germany before expanding out across Europe and into the US market in 2015. Prices, they say, are cheap, but the golf balls aren’t. They reckon their balls have been tested by independent, international institutes, and the results show Vice balls are as good as any comparable ball available.
Difference between the two balls:
The Pro+ is designed to be lower launching and lower spin for longer drives. Both balls are suited to advanced golfers with medium to high swing speeds.
We first tested the Vice Pro and Vice Pro+ back in our sub-£30 golf ball test in February and our test pro was mightily impressed from the off. It speaks volumes that our pro (who was different this time) agreed with everything Kevin Hale said back in February. The Vice Pro+, which would be Vice’s equivalent of our test pro’s usual ball (Pro V1x) gave up nine yards of carry off the tee with a driver, which of course is significant as most golfers would want to be as far down the fairway as possible. But that extra nine yards comes at a cost of £1.84 per ball more (or £22.08 a dozen, or £265 a year if you get through 12 dozen), which is a huge factor to many golfers.
Our test pro’s usual Pro V1x wasn’t quite such an emphatic winner when it came to his irons and wedges, though. A slightly faster ball speed in favour of the Vice Pro+ with almost the same carry distance (just one yard in it) with a 7-iron can legitimately be declared a dead heat. But the data’s flipped on its head when it comes to wedge backspin. Both Vice balls registered over 8,000rpm, while neither Titleist could break the 8k barrier.
Our test pro happily admitted not being able to tell the difference between the Vice and their equivalent Titleists, so there’s absolutely no doubt in our minds Vice are a premium tour level ball. It’s inescapable how closely-matched both Vice balls are to our pro’s usual ball, yet the costs are so different.
Review: Snell Golf MTB Black & Red golf balls
Who are snell Golf?
Founder Dean Snell has more than 28 years experience in the golf industry. He was involved in designing the original Pro V1 during seven years at Titleist; 12 years at TaylorMade saw him develop their first tour ball and he was responsible for golf’s first five-layer ball, the Penta. He holds 40 US patents and, before entering the golf industry, worked in defence and aerospace, designing parts for F16, F18 and Blackhawk helicopters.
Difference between the two balls:
Dual feel technology means the four-piece Red ball feels a bit firmer and is a bit faster on longer shots than the softer feeling Black.
The first time Snell ball’s have been involved in a TG test, and it’s fair to say they made an instant impact. The Black was the lowest spinning of all our test balls with the driver and irons, which should make it attractive for golfers looking to reduce spin. Our pro felt the black was super-long when hit with an iron (it tied on 186 yards as longest with the Pearl PurePro X) which showcases beautifully how complex modern ball designs can be optimised to perform at varying club speeds. It’s a point which explains well how the Pro V1x is so strong for our test pro from the tee, but not quite top of the tree when it comes to iron and wedge performance. Our pro said if he blind tested each ball the Red would be the only one he could sense was slightly harder with the driver (just as Snell promises). But he also said the difference was purely down to sound, rather than any difference in “feel”.
Whatever our data shows the Snell balls give up against the Titleist Pro V1x with the driver, it was made up for by a seriously strong iron performance. Wedge spin was spot on middle of all eight balls tested (and just ahead of both Titleists ) which we reckon can be summed up as a solid across the board performance. All in all emphatically answering our question… yes premium mail order golf balls really can compete against golf’s No.1 ball. And the best bit is you’ll keep over £22 quid in your pocket for every dozen Snells you buy over the Pro V1.
Review: Pearl Golf Pure Pro and Pure Pro X golf balls
Who are Pearl Golf?
Pearl have come from absolutely nowhere in the last 18 months. They’ve spotted how more and more premium golf balls are being bought online, and they’ve got on board before the market becomes saturated. Based in Germany they’re completely dedicated to producing the finest quality balls, bags and accessories, and say by eliminating the “middle-man retailer” golfers get to buy direct for reasonable costs.
Difference between the two balls:
The firmer feeling X is slightly longer on all shots, but the standard Pro ball spins slightly more, increasing control with the irons.
Back in February when we ran our “best ball for under £30 test”, the Pearl PureSoft balls performed brilliantly. The X posted both the fastest driver ball speed and highest wedge backspin numbers which is incredible, when you can buy them for just £18.99 a dozen.The PurePro and PurePro X involved in this test are brand new for 2018 and aimed directly at competing with premium tour balls, whereas the PureSoft primarily is for the emerging softer ball stage.
Our numbers alone spell out how Pearl is a very strong alternative to a Pro V1. 2.5% less driver distance (and our test pro’s second longest driver ball) with a 2mph lower ball speed pale into insignificance when you see the Pearl PurePro was our highest spinning wedge ball, with 12% more backspin than Titleist’s highest spinning model. The Pearls were no slouch when it came to irons, either; 63% of the balls we tested were within two yards (carry) of each other with a 7-iron. The PurePro was within that 63%, while the PurePro X was tied longest on 186 yards with the Snell Black.
A seriously impressive performance from both Pearl balls, and the numbers are completely backed up in terms of feel. Our test pro said there wasn’t a ball here he wouldn’t use himself… and he certainly wouldn’t have said that a few years ago. Pearl are newest to the mail order golf ball stage and they’ve got some work to do to get their name out there. But we’ve proved the performance is there.
Seven things we learned...
1: Mail order balls are every bit a match for the market leader
Our numbers speak for themselves, and emphatically answer YES to the question: Can mail order balls really compete against the No.1 ball in golf? But we’d say this model only works for premium balls because the profit margin (when you’re not paying tour players to use them) is so good. It’s difficult to make the model work for say a two-piece ball which would need to sell for a similar cost as a well-known ball, but isn’t available in American Golf or pro shops across the country.
2: Ball fitting really should be a thing
Titleist will hate us for showing how differently our pro’s best fitting Titleist (Pro V1x) fared against the standard Pro V1. They’ll argue what’s the point, and what’s to be gained? Well, in this instance it illustrates brilliantly how important it is to get the right fitting ball, as giving up 22 yards off the tee is huge, especially if your decision is based on a bit more feel and workability. Admittedly, you can’t get fit for any mail order balls in our test, but through a process of trialling a “selected pack” which contains all the balls a brand produces at a lower cost, you can try your way to a perfect new ball.
3: Is it time to stop blindly playing the Titleist Pro V1?
If you’ve blindly played the Titleist Pro V1 for years we couldn’t think of a better time to reassess if it’s still your best ball. The Pro V1 underwent some updates at the start of 2018 and Titleist said themselves that some players would now be better off switching between the 1 and 1x.
REVIEW: Longest 2018 irons
4: It’s got to be covered in urethane
If you absolutely swear your game demands a tour-level ball, then you have to make sure the cover is urethane. All the top brand’s tour balls are urethane covered and so was each of our mail order models. At this moment in time a urethane cover has got to be the absolute bare minimum for a ball to be considered a tour ball.
5: A Pepsi challenge on balls would throw up interesting results!
We didn’t expect our test pro to admit to not really being able to feel the difference between our test balls. That’s how far the mail order competition has come. To be fair, he thought all the ‘X’ style balls felt similar, as did the slightly different feeling/sounding standard balls. But he was adamant that if we were able to blindfold golfers for a proper “Pepsi challenge” – where participants can’t be swayed by brand perception and marketing – we’d end up with some very interesting results.
6: Go for the hardest ball you can tolerate
There are very few golfers who want to give up distance from the tee, and rightly so as it’s proven the further you’re down the fairway from the tee equals closer approaches. Our test pro reckoned if you want a rule of thumb for picking a ball in the tour-level category, go for the hardest ball you can tolerate. It means you won’t give up distance. Just remember, the longest driver ball isn’t always the longest iron ball, so a combination of both is a great idea.
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7: You’d still want to put any new ball to the golf course test
Our numbers are created within a controlled environment, so we can bring you data that’s not contaminated by wind, temperature or mishits. It means we can compare each ball accurately. The ultimate test, though, is taking any new ball to the course, and comparing it to your usual ball from every situation – including your wallet’s point of view!