December 4 2013
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Armed with Nike's new RZN Black and Platinum golf balls, Nike's chief ball designer Rock Ishii made his way to Firestone Country Club earlier this year, site of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, for some on-course product testing with Rory McIlroy, Russell Henley and Paul Casey.
The goal behind the product testing? To glean as much feedback as possible on the prototype balls from the Nike athletes in the field. Ishii assumed the feedback would be mixed.
What he didn't expect was for everyone to have the same glowing remarks.
All three players noted the ball was longer, more responsive around the green and had better sound and feel. Not surprisingly, all three switched to one of the two versions in the coming months.
Others have since followed suit in what Ishii called the easiest transition to-date.
"I've been doing this for 23 years and this is easiest and best transition to a new ball I've been a part of," Ishii said. "It's so easy. We started bringing this ball out and players started saying, 'Wow, I can play this ball right now.' It's partly due to the design, but it also has to do with how closely we worked with the players on this ball."
Along with RZN Black and RZN Platinum -- both four-piece balls -- Nike also announced the new ball line will include RZN White and RZN Red -- three-piece distance performance balls that promote more distance (Red) and a softer feel (White) -- giving players of varying skill levels and swing speeds the opportunity to select a ball that best suits their game.
Black and Platinum version are the models Tour pros will likely use. The Black is a low-spinning ball -- Rory McIlroy used RZN Black to win the Australian Open -- while Platinum is a mid-spinning ball that's already being used by, among others, 2013 Irish Open winner Paul Casey.
Ishii also confirmed Tiger Woods has been experimenting with RZN Platinum, using the ball most recently during his exhibition match against McIlroy at Mission Hills Golf Club in China.
While Woods has been playing Nike's One Tour D ball for four-plus years, Ishii said he expects the 14-time major winner to switch to RZN Platinum at some point in the near future.
What separates the 2014 RZN ball from its predecessor is the company's new resin Speedlock core technology. The interlocking core design -- the core’s surface is similar to that of a waffle iron -- interconnects with the compression layer to form a more cohesive bond that delivers more energy through impact.
"I think this new SpeedLock technology just makes the ball more efficient," McIlroy said. "For example, you've got 250 yards to the pin and 230 yards to clear the bunker. For me, I'd normally have to bust a 4-iron to get it over the bunker. With the new ball, I know that if I put a good swing on it, it's going to get there. I've gained about half a club with this new ball."
The energy increase also boosts distance, ball speeds and flight. According to Ishii, the unique design for Nike's new three-dimensional core came from studying the core of old wound golf balls.
"The [wound ball] was the inspiration for the Speedlock core technology," Ishii said. "The surface geometry of the wound core is not by design, because the wound rubber thread made the surface on the core. We started testing out new three-dimensional cores to see how it interlocked with the compression layer and found that the energy transfer was significantly better."
Along with a revolutionized core, Nike also added a new spin-optimized coating to the surface of the ball that's designed to grip the grooves of the club for improved control on iron and wedge shots. The softer cover and compression in the core also helps with improved sound and feel, especially on off-center shots.
Nike's RZN Platinum and RZN Black will be available Mar. 3 for $46 per dozen, while RZN White and RZN Red will cost $30 per dozen.
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