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By Mike Stachura
Yes, there is a new Pro V1 ball coming to the market. No, it’s probably not for you. Even if you play on the PGA Tour.
Titleist’s family of multilayer urethane-cover golf balls, which includes Pro V1 and Pro V1x, the dominant No. 1 balls in golf, as well as the AVX, that combined account for nearly two-thirds of the ultra-premium tour-level balls sold and three of every four balls played on the worldwide professional tours, is adding a fourth tour-level construction to its retail lineup, albeit only by custom order.
The company confirmed today it will be making the “Left Dash” Pro V1x, a ball played by several tour players and elite amateurs, as a custom offering that can be ordered directly through authorized Titleist accounts. (The “Left Dash” designation refers to the dash to the left of “Pro V1x” on the ball’s sidestamp.) The “Left Dash” is expected to be available for custom order beginning 1st October but only in the US, there are no immediate plans to offer this model in Irish and UK markets.
The reason the ball is only available by custom order is that it’s for a very small minority of player types, according to Titleist’s Michael Mahoney, vice president of golf ball marketing. Mahoney estimated that at least 95% of Titleist’s elite players were being served by its current lineup. He equated the “Left Dash” offering as similar to an extreme set of specs in a custom club fitting.
“Our goal is not to go down the road of offering 31 flavours,” Mahoney said. “But we also didn’t want to be in a situation where an elite player who had been using this ball would not be able to special order it through his pro.”
In the current Titleist lineup of premium multilayer urethane cover balls, Pro V1x is designed for high launch and relatively high spin, Pro V1 is aimed at a mid-launch and mid-spin and the softer-feeling AVX would produce the lowest launch and lowest spin of the three balls. “Left Dash” is designed with a higher launch and lower spin in mind.
This special version of Pro V1x is one of three “custom performance options” Titleist offers on the global professional tours, Mahoney said, although there are no plans to bring the others, Pro V1 H and “Left Dot” Pro V1, to any form of retail availability. The latest versions of Pro V1 and Pro V1x were introduced in January and that line has traditionally gone two years between updates. The first AVX was introduced two years ago as a trial run for some markets before becoming a wide-scale offering in the spring of 2018.
In fact, Mahoney stressed how small the demand is even among elite players. “There was an opportunity to provide some players with this higher flight, lower spin option, but more broadly, we’re finding more players on tour asking for more spin, not less,” Mahoney said.
That’s not to say that the learnings from the special versions might not find their way into future Titleist balls, and indeed they already have. Mahoney said the “Left Dot” Pro V1 influenced the eventual 2017 Pro V1, although the finished retail ball was “a superior product for more players,” he said. Mahoney likened what Titleist has done with limited runs on the club side of its business and how those products helped in the development of future clubs. “I think you can see a lot of what was part of the original C16 irons strongly influenced how the current iron line was engineered,” he said. “I think already there were some of the developments of ‘Left Dash’ in  Pro V1x.”
But this release of the “Left Dash” model is not exactly a new type of business plan for Titleist golf balls, Mahoney said. “I think broadly across all consumer products there has been some fragmentation with a lot more customization,” he said, noting that while “Left Dash” and balls like it have existed for some time because of the globalisation of elite golf, there is more crossover play across all tours. Mahoney agreed that Titleist as the No. 1-played ball in professional and elite amateur golf felt a sense of fairness in making the “Left Dash” Pro V1x more readily available (at least somewhat) through this custom retail offering. “We want to be consistent in what we make available for all players.”
He stressed that while it might be possible for a club pro to stock a few extra dozen for players and members he knows might fit into the ball, he stressed that the “Left Dash” Pro V1x would not be a model that would ever be stocked on top of the counter or on the sales floor of a retail golf store.
“We don’t expect to be this huge groundswell, and the vast majority of golfers will likely never ever see it or know about it,” he said.