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By Mike Stachura
The Titleist EXP·01 is the newest ball from the No. 1 ball company in golf, but the funny thing is you might not have a chance to buy it and it might not ever see the light of day again. At least not by that name anyway.
Fact is, the company really doesn’t want you to know too much about the ball. It would ruin what the company’s R&D team is trying to do with the new product.
Come again? Yes, Titleist’s new ball isn’t merely a new ball, it’s a consumer research project that the company is inviting you to participate in.
The Titleist EXP·01, the “EXP” represents “Experimental,” is a limited run prototype that the company’s R&D team is hoping to learn from as it develops the company’s next urethane-cover ball. While the usual new product cycle for Titleist’s flagship urethane cover balls, Pro V1 and Pro V1x, would have new versions of those balls reaching retail in early 2021, this prototype seems to be a departure from the line.
While the arrival of EXP·01 seems similar to the company’s AVX product timeline (it was introduced two years ago as a limited run before becoming a full-run product in the spring of 2018), there’s been no mention of the next AVX. Instead, it’s this prototype that features a new core chemistry and a new kind of urethane cover formulation, what the company is calling MTR Developmental Cover System.
Titleist is mum on what MTR stands for, only saying that it features “short game spin enhancing urethane.” Underneath the cover is a new core and mantle layer construction, designed for “high speed … and low spin on long game shots.” Its 346-dimple pattern is distinct from current urethane cover Titleist balls, including the 352-dimple Pro V1, the 328-dimple Pro V1x and the 352 tetrahedral catenary dimples on the AVX.
Of course, what actually matters about this ball seems to be what consumers have to say about it. Titleist is seeking input from those who purchase the balls, providing a link to a survey on a card enclosed with every box.
“The EXP Project invites golfers into the early stages of our R&D process, and allows us to broadly test experimental materials, constructions and processes that could be integrated. into any segment of our golf ball line,” said Michael Mahoney, vice president, Titleist golf ball marketing. “EXP·01 is truly an exploratory product and there’s no better way to evaluate our progress than getting it into the hands of dedicated golfers.”
But for the consumer playing test to work, Titleist doesn’t too reveal too much about the EXP·01. In a message to its retail accounts who will stock the ball in limited supply, the company revealed little.
“We will not be providing full details of the product design as we do not want to influence the performance of this product,” the message reads.
While the company has distributed trial versions of its balls to its Team Titleist group of company-faithful customers and it’s also recently released specialised versions of the Pro V1 family played on tour (including the Pro V1x “Left Dash” a few months ago), the desire for this product was a larger audience, especially non-Titleist loyalists it seems.
Indeed, the consumer survey asks golfers what their preferred ball is and in addition to top companies (Callaway, TaylorMade, Bridgestone and Srixon) the list of choices includes lower-priced direct-to-consumer brands like Snell, Vice and even Kirkland, the consumer warehouse Costco house brand that offered balls several years ago that became a cult favorite. That ball also led to a legal battle between the two companies that was eventually settled out of court.
The EXP·01 survey also asks consumers to rate the ball compared to the ball they normally play in the following criteria in this order: driver distance, spin on full shots into the green, iron distance, feel, spin on chip/pitch shots around the green, durability, appearance and (again) feel.
Test marketing a new product isn’t a foreign concept in golf. It’s much like what Titleist did with the initial launch of AVX. But in that case it seemed like there was a finished product. It’s not clear whether EXP·01 is a finished product or subject to change (or even complete disappearance) based on consumer feedback. In short, consumers could be determining where Titleist’s product line goes next based on their feedback on EXP·01.
The Titleist EXP·01 is available for a limited time in the U.S. and Canada and at the My Titleist section of titleist.com