By E. Michael Johnson
Bridgestone Golf’s new Tour B line of premium, multilayer urethane covered balls—like its previous Tour B line—again will offer four options, more than any other major brand.
That, however, is where the similarities pretty much end. The new Tour B line isn’t merely a continuation of the previous series with a subtle tweak here and there. Rather it is a complete reimagining of the line, save for the names which will remain Tour B X, Tour B XS, Tour B RX and Tour B RXS to cover a wide swath of swing speeds, launch conditions and feel preferences.
The new line started with pondering a question every golf-ball designer has dealt with since the modern-ball era began in 2000: How to increase driver distance while enhancing greenside spin? The result usually coming in the form of some sort of compromise between the two.
Fortunately for Bridgestone, it’s a company used to dealing with rubber-based products and has more than 900 rubber and polymer engineers worldwide. Bridgestone leaned on that expertise—along with the input of 15-time major champion Tiger Woods—to try and decouple that problem and arrived at a new cover formulation in the process.
Named “Reactiv” by the company, the cover utilizes an “impact modifier”—an additive to the urethane that acts as a shock absorber on slow-impact shots, thus delivering more spin. It’s also highly resilient on longer shots with faster swings for more distance. In short, the cover behaves differently dependent on the force of the impact. Impact modifiers have been used in automotive, electrical and electronic industries for similar dual purposes.
“It’s a new technology that we have been working on for several years,” said Elliot Mellow, marketing manager for Bridgestone golf balls. “It’s not easy to work with, so it took some time.”
All the balls in the series will feature versions of Bridgestone’s gradational core design that gets firmer as it moves to out toward the cover to produce better energy transfer and less spin. The core also is slightly larger than the previous version and slight changes have been made to the dual-dimple pattern (smoother edges on the larger dimples) to create less drag for better performance in the wind. The three-piece balls also contain the company’s “activation acceleration mantle” layer.
As for Woods, he has spent two years testing new balls for Bridgestone, offering feedback at every level. During a test session in February, 2019, Woods told Golf Digest, “My main thing with the guys at Bridgestone is I know my feel at impact and I know where the ball needs to be in my window and if it’s not there, I can tell them where it should be and they’re going to be able to tell me the reasons why it’s not and how we address it.”
While Bridgestone staffers Matt Kuchar and Bryson DeChambeau already have the Tour B X in play, Woods will be teeing it up for the first time in competition at the Farmers Insurance Open.
“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,” Woods said in a statement.
Of course, not everyone swings like Tiger Woods, which is why in addition to the Tour B X and Tour B XS which is designed for players swinging 105 miles per hour or more, the company will continue to produce the Tour B RX and Tour B RXS for players swinging less than that. Fred Couples and Rocco mediate are expected to us the RXS version on the PGA Tour Champions.
Tour pros, of course, have immediate access to ball fitting any time they want it. To help provide as close to that service as possible to everyday players, Bridgestone—long a proponent of ball fitting—also is introducing its VFIT service where golfers take a video of their swing, send it in and receive a ball-fitting recommendation. The video is of a driver swing and needs to be shot ion a specific manner so an algorithm can calculate the player’s launch conditions from which a ball recommendation will be made, usually within 24 hours. For more information on VFIT, click here.