The In­vis­i­ble Ad­vance­ments

A look in­side Titleist’s Ball Plant 4

Golf Asia (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - BY KEN LYE PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF TITLEIST

When golfers talk about golf balls, more of­ten than not, the word Titleist comes up, specif­i­cally its pre­mium ball, the Pro V1 and V1x. Since 2001, the evo­lu­tion of each ver­sion of the Pro V1 and V1x has seen it be­come the num­ber one choice golf ball for pro­fes­sion­als on tour, elite am­a­teurs and many club golfers. Ball tech­nol­ogy has come a long way since the days of the hum­ble gutta per­cha. But un­like club tech­nol­ogy where tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are mostly vis­i­ble to the golfer, the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in a golf ball are not vis­i­ble. To all golfers, a golf ball still looks round, white and dim­pled, be­ly­ing the tech­no­log­i­cal im­prove­ments un­der the white dim­pled cover.

So what does it take for Titleist to make their flag­ship ball bet­ter and bet­ter each time? Re­cently, Golf Asia “braved” a long bus ride about an hour and a half to two hours from Bangkok to a non-de­script look­ing in­dus­trial area to find out. We had come to Titleist’s “Area 51”, where upon ar­rival we were to sur­ren­der our cam­eras and mo­bile phones be­fore we were led into the heart of one of Titleist’s Pro V1 and V1x ball man­u­fac­tur­ing plants. It is in­side this over 25,000sqm Ball Plant 4 that also houses a 300+ work­force, where the ubiq­ui­tous golf ball is man­u­fac­tured to Titleist’s high­est and strictest qual­ity stan­dards.

We bring you some history, fun facts and a look at how the num­ber 1 golf ball is made. We also have a quick Q& A with the man re­spon­si­ble for the qual­ity and per­for­mance of the Pro V ball, Bill Frye, Titleist’s Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent of Golf Ball Op­er­a­tions.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

The Titleist brand started with a vi­sion… and an x-ray. The Titleist suc­cess story be­gan one Sun­day in 1932, when Phil Young, a ded­i­cated am­a­teur golfer and owner of a pre­ci­sion moulded rub­ber com­pany, Acush­net Process Com­pany, missed a well-stroked putt in a match with his friend, who was head of the x-ray depart­ment at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal. Con­vinced that the ball it­self was at fault, Young and his op­po­nent went to the hos­pi­tal, x-rayed the golf ball in ques­tion and found that its core was, in fact, off-cen­tre.

With his dis­cov­ery, Phil Young per­suaded Fred Bom­mer, a fel­low MIT grad­u­ate, rub­ber spe­cial­ist and avid golfer, to head up the Acush­net Golf Di­vi­sion. They set out to de­velop the high­est qual­ity and best per­form­ing golf ball in the world, one that

would be uni­form and con­sis­tent in qual­ity, ball af­ter ball.

It took Young and Bom­mer three painstak­ing years to per­fect the first Titleist golf ball. But when it was ready in 1935, it was in­tro­duced to club pro­fes­sion­als and golfers as the best ball ever made. Ap­ply­ing a les­son well learned, Young im­ple­mented a process check that is still in prac­tice to­day: ev­ery Titleist golf ball is x-rayed.

TITLEIST PRO V1 & PRO V1x GOLF BALL PRO­DUC­TION PROCESS 1. Core Mix­ing

The core makes up the cen­tre and largest com­po­nent of ev­ery Pro V and V1x golf ball. It is the en­gine, com­prised of a high­re­siliency rub­ber com­po­si­tion. The core of each ball model uti­lizes a spe­cific set of chem­i­cal in­gre­di­ents. Once selected, those in­gre­di­ents are blended to­gether to pro­duce a block of rub­ber that is then heated, pressed, and rolled out into sheets. A unique colour is also mixed into the in­gre­di­ents of each core for easy iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. The dark green core sig­ni­fies the for­mu­la­tion of the Pro V1. The in­ner core of the Pro V1x is red, while the outer core is pur­ple.

2. Core Mould­ing

Por­tions of the sheet are cut into blanks. The blanks are then com­pres­sion moulded at high tem­per­a­tures us­ing Titleist’s in­no­va­tive ZG Process.

3. Core Grind­ing

The core emerges from the moulds with a small rub­ber seam that is then ground, re­sult­ing in a per­fectly round cen­tre.

4. Casing Layer

A thin, clear ionomeric casing layer is then moulded around the core. This casing layer pro­tects the core from mois­ture and helps in­crease speed and con­trol spin. Af­ter go­ing through the grind­ing process once more, the moulded core is ready for Titleist’s patented cast ure­thane process.

5. Ure­thane Cover

The soft ure­thane elas­tomer cover sys­tem on both Pro V1 and Pro V1x is cre­ated by a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion that takes place dur­ing the so­phis­ti­cated cast­ing process. Spe­cific liq­uid ma­te­ri­als, pre­cisely for­mu­lated for the Pro V1 and Pro V1x, are com­bined in the ball plant and re­act to form the solid cover. This ure­thane is termed "ther­moset," mean­ing that the cover, once formed, will not re-melt.

Ther­moset ure­thane is very dif­fi­cult to work with, but pro­vides com­plete con­trol of the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion, al­low­ing Titleist R&D to dial in de­sired prop­er­ties of spin con­trol, soft­ness and dura­bil­ity.

From there, mould cav­i­ties are used to form the ure­thane elas­tomer cover and dim­ple pat­tern on each ball. Tens of thou­sands of mould cav­i­ties are needed to sup­ply the Pro V1 and Pro V1x ure­thane cast­ing lines. In or­der to achieve ball-to ball con­sis­tency, it is cru­cial that ev­ery

mould cav­ity pro­duces the same re­sult. To guar­an­tee this level of pre­ci­sion, the Op­er­a­tions team man­u­fac­tures the cav­i­ties and the tool­ing used to make the cav­i­ties (called “hobs”) in-house. An in­vest­ment in new equip­ment to make the mas­ter hobs for the 2017 models has pro­vided even tighter tol­er­ances.

6. Re­mov­ing the Casts

Once the cur­ing of the ure­thane elas­tomer cover is com­plete, the golf balls are re­moved from their moulds with an un­fin­ished, white matte ap­pear­ance.

7. Buff­ing

The golf balls make their way to a buff­ing ma­chine via a se­ries of metal chan­nels run­ning along the ceil­ing of the ball plant. Ex­cess ure­thane on each ball is buffed out at this stage.

8. Paint­ing

Three small tines hold each golf ball into place as it is spun at high speed. This al­lows a thin layer of paint to be ap­plied. Af­ter two white coats, the balls are now ready to be stamped with the Titleist Script, as well as their ball num­ber and sidestamp. Fi­nally, a clear coat is ap­plied that gives the ball its fa­mil­iar shine.

9. Hand Checks

The fin­ished prod­uct is hand-checked to en­sure there are no ball de­fects, or marks or ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the paint ap­pli­ca­tion process.

10. X-ray­ing

As the fi­nal step, harken­ing back to the roots of the Acush­net Com­pany, each golf ball is X-rayed and mea­sured by ma­chine. This process checks the uni­for­mity of the prod­uct, en­sur­ing that any golf ball that does not pass the Titleist stan­dards are re­moved from the line. Once passed, the golf balls are then sent to the Acush­net Com­pany’s pack­ag­ing and dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­ity.

Com­pleted Pro V1 ball

Liq­uid ma­te­ri­als of the ure­thane elas­tomer cover be­ing poured into outer casing mould cav­i­ties

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