Go out to any course with the new 2016 TaylorMade Golf top-of-the-line golf balls — the Tour Preferred, Tour Preferred X and the Project (a) — and tee up each one. The company promises that each ball will produce a distinct sound and feel coming off the clubface. Why this distinct feature matters informs us of the state of the golf ball world in 2016.
Why Are These Golf Balls Tour Preferred?
TaylorMade is proud of its close association to Tour professionals and the status that this loyalty gives the brand in the mind of golf consumers. They’re so serious about listening to its stable of big-name professionals – Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, etc. – that they’ve segmenting its premium golf balls right down to club selection. Both the Tour Preferred and the Tour Preferred X are engineered specifically for top performance with the driver and approach shots to the green inside 100 yards, though there are a few differences between the two.
The 2015 Tour Preferred Ball was designed to spin more off the mid-irons and long irons than its sibling, the Tour Preferred X. Tour players responded enthusiastically to the performance difference caused by this small tweak in TaylorMade’s best golf ball, but the pros reported they really could not tell any difference in feel between the Tour Preferred and the Tour Preferred X, as both were 88 compression balls. So TaylorMade went to work, determined to bring serious feel improvements on the 2016 editions.
Under the Skin
Forty-three prototypes later, the design team had what they were looking for. Both balls retain their Soft Tech cast urethane cover, but it was made ever so slightly thicker – now .035 inches instead of .030 – to make the balls play softer. The microscopic .005 inches pushes back to the one of the inner layers of the four (Tour Preferred) and five (Tour Preferred X) layered golf balls.
If you dive deeper into the 2016 TaylorMade Tour Preferred and 2016 TaylorMade Tour Preferred X golf balls, you’ll find several new differences. TaylorMade expanded its Spin Mantle Technology to the new Speed Mantle 2 on the Tour Preferred model. The company claims a flexibility increase of 65 percent will help the golfer experience a softer feel at impact, while the compression of the Tour Preferred ball reduced to 80 – the lowest compression TaylorMade has ever offered in a Tour-model golf ball.
The Ball for the Rest of Us
While the 2016 Tour Preferred and Tour Preferred X cater to the needs of low handicappers and Tour professionals, the average golfer can still find their A-game in another TaylorMade golf ball. 2016 TaylorMade Project (a) golf balls are designed for competitive players of slower swing speeds, and is the company’s best-selling ball thanks to its fantastic feel and exceptional performance.
For 2016, in lockstep with consumer demand for softer golf balls, TaylorMade has dialed the compression of the Project (a) down to the same 88 as the Tour Preferred and Tour Preferred X, circa 2015. TaylorMade claims to have performed extensive research to determine that most amateurs miss the green by wide margins from 150 yards, and in response, the popular three-piece Project (a) was given a new core and re-engineered to provide even more spin on those testy pitches from 30 yards and in. Now shots on mid irons, short irons, as well as the putter get impressive control, even though amateurs typically generate 50 percent less spin on their shots than touring professionals.
What Does It All Mean Off the Club?
All three new TaylorMade golf balls are designed to provide the same maximum distance off the tee. Players who prefer a lower drive will favor the Tour Preferred X, as the Tour Preferred launches at a slightly steeper angle than its sibling. Better players looking for softer feel will also sidle over to the Tour Preferred camp, and, of course, if your need is increased spin on long irons the Tour Preferred is your ball as well.
The Project (a) will deliver maximum spin in its class of three-piece balls throughout the bag, and will be worth a try for those looking to shave strokes off their score in the short game with greater control around the greens.
Learn more about TaylorMade’s new line of 2016 golf balls here:
- 2016 TaylorMade Tour Preferred Golf Balls
- 2016 TaylorMade Tour Preferred X Golf Balls
- 2016 TaylorMade Project (a) Golf Balls