The Art of Control - Bridgestone Tour B Series
One of the highlights of what will be remembered as an Open of rare vintage was the sight of a rejuvenated Tiger Woods relishing in the cauldron that was Carnoustie and displaying the vision and shot-making artistry that made him such a dominant major champion. And here's your chance to experience Tiger's ball of choice – the Bridgestone Tour B Series
The 147th Open Championship will go down in history as one of the most intriguing of all time – not least for the extended bout of glorious hot summer weather that turned Carnoustie into a golden speedway, the sun-baked, ruttled fairways, in places, running faster than the greens. To the delight of the purist, the examination was all about control – the art of shot-making and the ability to ‘see' and manufacture solutions to order. In other words, the conditions were right up Tiger's street. And after a sensational third-round 66 the three-time Open champion was in the thick of the action with a late afternoon tee-time on Sunday.
“The five-under par round of 66 that Tiger carved out on Saturday will go down as one of the great rounds in his career,” commented legendary swing coach David Leadbetter, who had observed Tiger up close in his role inside the ropes with BBC Radio 5 Live . “Like all golf fans I have been hoping to see Tiger get back to somewhere near his best and it was fascinating to watch the way he played Carnoustie, the shot selection, tee-to-green strategy, and the ability he has to work the ball both ways. In that department he's second to none.
“As someone who has spent a career studying the golf swing it's fascinating to see Tiger emerge after all of the surgeries he has endured and there's a comparison here with Ben Hogan and the changes he made in the aftermath of his car accident. If you look at Hogan's extraordinary career he played his best golf in the years following his near-fatal collision. The leg injuries he sustained pretty much forced him to slow his lower body action, calming things down to where he was better able to synchronise his lower and upper body. The way I see it, back surgery has had a similar effect with Tiger. He no longer has that violence in his swing which caused so much inconsistency. He seems so much more comfortable with his swing and it's notable the way he has his arms and body movement in sync; his balance is so much better and he has a wonderful blend of upper and lower body and he is better able to deliver the club in a more controlled and consistent manner.”
Controlled and consistent – for all but a couple of loose shots on Sunday those words perfectly described Tiger's golf at Carnoustie in a performance that earned the respect of players and fans alike. “I can't say I've ever been so excited for Tiger Woods before, “ tweeted Ian pouter during the final round. “If he pulls this one of it'll be the stuff dreams are made of.”
Ultimately, the week would belong to Italy's Francesco Molinari – deservedly so after going bogey-free over the final 36 holes to clinch his first major title. But there was no denying the Tiger magic, nor the buzz that consumed the championship from the moment the name of the 14-time major champion appeared on the leaderboards. There's no more simple truth in golf: when Tiger plays, more people watch…and the better he plays, the more golfers take notice of what he's playing.
“The great thing about the Open Championship and links golf is that you have to be creative,” said Woods at Carnoustie. “That's why Tom Watson won five titles – and he nearly made that six when he came so agonisingly close at Turnberry in 2009. Creativity plays such an important role. It is mainly about trajectory and learning to hit the same same numbers [yardages] with different trajectories. You also need to be comfortable hitting the ball both ways, to manoeuvre it, and obviously keeping it down. That's the fun of links golf – and I love that challenge.”
“You can't beat the pack by playing the same ball as the pack” – Tiger Woods
[For the golf equipment sleuths out there, Tiger officially made the switch to Bridgestone when his former equipment supplier, Nike, ceased production of golf hardware at the end of 2016 – though as Tiger himself let slip during a Q&A last year, Bridgestone made Nike golf balls under license…]
“Controlling launch and trajectory is critical and the golf ball is an essential part of my equipment. The accuracy and aerodynamics of the new Tour B series ball is incredible.” Tiger Woods
Bridgestone's legacy in golf goes all the way back to 1935, when the world's largest tyre manufacturer identified the opportunity to leverage the knowledge of its 900 rubber polymer science engineers worldwide to produce high-performance golf balls. Today the brand is a byword for state-of-the-art products that push technology and performance to the limits – and the latest model lines coincide with a global rebranding as international markets are aligned with the same brand assets and packaging, the instantly-recognisable B convention replacing Bridgestone Golf.
The science behind the humble golf ball has exploded in the last 20 years and, intriguingly, Bridgestone's intensive R&D programme has been supported – and indeed inspired – by one of the largest swing data bases on the planet (garnered through its world-wide golf ball fitting programme), enabling Bridgestone to optimise the performance of each ball according to detailed information in relation to swing indices reflecting various categories of player. Bridgestone first unveiled its B330 line (the numeric correlating with the number of dimples) in 2005 and has continually upgraded the ball since. Today, the Tour B Series caters for tour players and lower handicap amateurs (with a swing speed of 105mph+ with a driver) while the e6 model offers regular amateurs a more resilient but equally competent ball that optimises performance at lower speeds. There's also a Bridgestone Precept Lady, a 40 compression ball designed specifically to help ladies enjoy flighting the ball with a higher trajectory and spin.
“The data-base is hugely important to Bridgestone's engineers in terms of matching a ball to the desired criteria of a specific player,” explains Elliott Mellow, chief of Bridgestone's R&D. “So, for example, the Tour B X/XS balls are targeted for the lower handicap player, the R&D confirming that for this bracket the most important criteria is feel . Players in this category control trajectory and hit the ball far enough so distance in itself is not the most important factor. So if we are going to give them one thing that is most valuable to them it would be feel and control around the green.”
To achieve that objective, Bridgestone softened the urethane cover of the B330 replacement; the Tour B X being the firmer of the two balls, minimising spin with a driver. The Tour B XS is the softer (at 75 compression compared to the 85 compression Tour B X), but has a little higher ball velocity for more distance. The key ingredient here is Bridgestone's durable SlipRes coating – a compound that has been used in other parts of the company's 150 business for decades. But it's new to golf, where it softens the ball's surface, allowing it to stay on the clubface for an extra nanosecond, offering friction, which Bridgestone says resists slipping up the clubface off the driver, for lower spin, while grabbing the grooves on the irons for more spin.
The result? Better feel and enhanced control, around the greens.
The Tour B RX, meanwhile, is rated as a better player's ball with the emphasis on distance and accuracy, the increased ball speed delivered as a result of the proprietary core construction and enhanced aerodynamics. The dimple configuration of the Tour B RX is designed to reduce excessive spin with the driver – “the new dimple pattern slows the rotation of the ball and helps mitigate some of that driver spin for more efficiency,” continues Mellow. At the same time, the all-new mantle layer is designed to get the ball off the clubface as fast as possible before restoring the ball to its original shape – “the snap-back increases velocity,” adds Mellow.
“Bottom line? Bridgestone has a Tour B ball for every type of golfer, but there are key performance benefits common to every model,” adds Mellow. “The proprietary Gradational Compression Core optimises energy transfer to the ball, which is meant to improve accuracy. It's why golfers switching from our main competitor typically gain 6.9 yards with 39% less spin, for longer and straighter drives. The core is the engine of the ball – t's where the velocity is generated and distance is realised.” And with a suggested retail price of £38.99 per dozen, golfers will immediately recognise the exceptional value of Bridgestone's premium Tour B range in comparison to others in the comparable bracket.
“Finding the right ball is extremely important for every golfer and the Tour B is an essential part of my equipment. The Bridgstone ball is hands-down the best for my game. Controlling launch and trajectory is critical and with this ball I feel I have the total control to hit all shots accurately – and the innovative breakthroughs of Bridgestone ball can help you do that. – Tiger Woods
The key to choosing the right ball to suit your game lies in understanding the various elements (based on your own clubhead speed and other swing parameters) that determine ball speed, spin and trajectory – which ultimately determines landing distance and roll. And as Bridgestone's UK Tour Tech manager Stuart Gauld explains, even with that detailed information, regular club players find it very difficult to break long-habits when it comes to their ball of choice.
“Ultimately, my job when I'm in front of an audience is that of education golfers in a bid to help them identify with the golf ball that best suits their game,” says Stuart. “And the first thing I do is ask them to list the reasons why they play their current ball. What are the specific properties of the ball you use – and how does it ‘fit' your game? Most amateurs simply don't have a cohesive answer. I try to guide them towards a solution…would you hit better shots with a ball that is higher or lower compression?; ideally, would you rather hit the ball higher or lower than you do currently; does your typical ‘miss' fly either left or right of the target? Bridgestone is about solutions – and within our new range there's a ball to suit every type of golfer.
“The Tour B range features four balls aimed at the better player, the Tour BX and Tour XS designed for swing speeds of 105mph+ (and with relative compressions of 85 and 75 respectively) with a core/cover combination designed to over exceptional feel and control, while the Tour RX and Tour RS share the same playing characteristics for swing speeds below 105mph with the emphasis a little more on distance and accuracy. As I explain to all golfers, compression really is key. The secret is to find the ball that enables you to compress it on the clubface for the optimum time, thus producing optimum ball speed and trajectory. The reality is that these are precisely the variables that the majority of amateur golfers fail to consider.
Slotted in beneath the Tour Series at a slightly lower price point (SRP £28 per dozen), the Bridgestone e6 Speed (compression 72) and e6 Soft (compression 46) offer regular club players with a premium model ball featuring a more durable cover. Essentially this is Bridgestone's ‘distance ball' with the benefit of rubber/polymer technology that also promotes feel and spin. “This is where ball fitting gets very interesting in terms of compression,” adds Gauld. “If I am working with a player who hits the ball very low, as a result of not generating much in the way of backspin, then I'd recommend the e6 Soft, which due to its low compression immediately gives a player more height and spin, increasing both distance and control. To flip that on its head, if I have a player who hits the ball too high and with too much spin, we go for the e6 Speed, which would have the opposite effect.”
Completing the current range, Bridgestone offers the Lady Precept as a stand alone ball for lady golfers – and the difference in flight and distance here can be staggering says Stuart. “One of the things that surprises me most of all touring the country for Bridgestone is that the vast majority of ladies simply do not use a lady-specific golf ball, and often don't understand the difference in performance characteristics. The low compression of the Lady Precept (40) is designed designed to help ladies get the ball up into the air. Ultimately, if they hit the ball higher they will gain distance – it's as simple as that.”
Find my ball…
Bridgestone's online fitting programme is a simple three-step process that in just a few clicks will unite you with the Bridgestone ball to suit your game. The fitting tool features three options: I'm New to the Game ; I Know my Game and I've Been Fitted . Once you have provided your details Bridgestone email you with recommendation. Keep an eye on the website for details of speciality Benross/Bridgestone Golf fitting events with PGA professionals across the UK, where the emphasis is on iron & ball fitting together – the two being integral to optimising performance.