2015 has a group of competitors to Titleist’s dominance of the ‘tour’ level golf ball market, including some very solid options from Bridgestone, Callaway, TaylorMade, Srixon and many more. But, in the price fixing world of golf equipment, all the ‘tour’ level balls are priced similarly at $44-$47 a dozen. When there’s demand, at what most consumers believe are an over-priced amount – that opens the door for the secondary market to slip in. Cheaper alternatives have always been around, referring to Pinnacle, TopFlite, Wilson and more than you can probably name. But with that price reduction, the performance of the ball differed significantly. Golf snobs will tell you they won’t play ‘rock balls’, referring to the ionomer or surlyn covers, because they felt too hard or perhaps wouldn’t stop on the greens. Other players will tell you they have to have a ball that spins, or feels great off the driver, irons, wedges and putter. Whichever the case, better players seem united in their opinion that you need a 3-piece (or more) urethane covered ball to get the performance they want.
Here’s where things get interesting….there are quite a few new manufacturers in a tertiary market – names you probably haven’t ever heard of or know very little about. Companies producing balls called ‘Nicklaus Black’, ‘I Need Some’, Kick-X, Monsta, Lightning, OnCore, 3UP and Snell. But the question is…are they legit?!? Over the next few months, I’ll be spending a significant amount of time reviewing many of the balls mentioned above, as well as some of the most popular brands/models. But for today, let’s take a look at the Snell Golf ‘My Tour Ball’.
What/Who is Snell Golf?
Most golfers have no idea who Dean Snell is, much like most drivers have no idea who is the lead engineer at Ford. But, if you’re a golfer, there’s very good possibility you have used one of his designs! Don’t think so? Well, Dean Snell is the proud owner of 38 golf ball patents. He was the designer or co-designer of some of the best performing and most popular golf balls in the industry. While working for Titleist, he was responsible for the ProV1/ProV1x, Tour Prestige, HP2 Tour and HP2 Distance. After 7 years with Titleist, he moved over to TaylorMade as the Vice President of Research and Development where he invented the TP Red LDP, TP Black LDP, Penta TP, Penta TP5, Lethal, Tour Preferred, Tour Preferred X, Burner, Noodle, RocketBallz and Project (a) golf balls.
‘My Tour Ball’
We all select golf balls for different reasons…some golfer’s want a ball that flies farther than the rest, others want green-side spin, while yet others clamor for the soft feeling.
You can certainly find any of those things in wide variety of golf balls, but when you combine them all – you step into a new category…one commonly referred to as a ‘premium’ or ‘tour’ ball.
There are several options in in that category, most coming in at a ‘Premium’ price, but for the purpose of this review – I focus on a relatively unknown company called Snell Golf.
If you’re following along, the resume of Dean Snell is pretty impressive. He started his own company to bring an affordable ‘tour’ ball to the masses. The company mission statement is pretty straight forward “…bring tour caliber equipment to the amateur golfer at an affordable price.” It’s a great idea – but regardless of a great price, if it doesn’t perform like a ‘tour’ ball, then it becomes relegated to just another golf ball.
Snell Golf ‘My Tour Ball’ is a 3-piece urethane cover, low compression golf ball designed to have a soft feel, long off the tee and superior greenside spin. Everything you could ask for in a ‘tour’ ball. But, do the claims hold up?
A little about me…I’m a single digit handicapper, with driver swing speed at 105 mph. To test these balls, I took them out for 3 simultaneous rounds on two different types of courses. The first plays at 7,000 yards, commanding long tee shots, littered with trees on every fairway. The other course is a shot-maker’s course with tight fairway’s and some fast, undulating greens. A pretty good test for a performance ball!
After a good warm-up session, I walked onto the first tee box, a slight dog-leg left, 362 yard Par 4, protected with a steep fairway bunker down the left hand side and water short of the green. I typically take a 5-iron in, placing me just inside the 150 yard marker and keeping me short of the bunker. Opening tee shot felt really nice coming off the tee, soft – yet solid. As I approached my ball in the fairway, I realized I was well inside the 150 marker, leaving a 130 yard Sand Wedge into the green. Interesting…a little further than normal, maybe I just hit it pure?!? My approach shot was caught a little fat, but cleared the bunker and rolled out like you’d expect a slightly fat shot would do. The feeling off the putter was very pleasant – again, soft, but not mushy. Two putts, relatively easy Par and I’m off to the next hole. I pull the driver out and stripe one down left center. I typically struggle with this tee shot, over doing the draw and putting it in the rough on the left side. Today, I’m left-center…nice. I immediately realize that this ball didn’t over-spin off the driver, which I really like. It was the primary reason I switched from the ProV1 to a ProV1x.
As the round progressed, I realized the distance with this ball was slightly longer than my usual ProV1x. Measuring it out with my GPS, I averaged almost 7 yards longer with the driver and 4 yards further with irons. Spin into the green seemed slightly less than a ProV1, but very similar to the ProV1x. Most balls would hit, check and have some minimal roll-out. On more than one occasion I was able to spin the ball back, in particular on a Par 5, with 128 yards – I clipped the ball clean and spun it back 8’.
Subsequent rounds with the ‘My Tour Ball’ were very similar. One of the best characteristics of the ball was after 2-1/2 rounds with the same ball – it was virtually unblemished. My rounds sprinkled in 2 hit trees and even one cart path. But this ball, despite its soft cover, was very durable. The ball could have easily continued into a fourth round, had it not been for a fat shot over a pond. Certainly an ‘operator error’!!
After three complete rounds, I was determined to do some comparison shots with this ball. I went down to the short game, practice area to document the results for green-side spin. For starters, this was not a scientific test, with lasers, ball velocity or spin. It was pretty straight forward. I put myself 25 yards out, aimed at a target and tried to hit shots that would check and minimize roll-out. To keep things interesting, my shot shape was set-up to keep the height of the ball no higher than 6’. To further validate the test, I asked a golf buddy to hit the same shot to summarize our combined results. If shots were hit fat, or thin, I removed them from the calculation. The results, far from precise, were more to provide a guide for what you might expect from a similar shot.
To provide a comparison, we included several different types of balls, but to be 100% fair, the Titleist balls tested were not the 2015 version. The numbers shown in Figure 1 are measured in feet, the total rollout after the ball struck the green. The balls were hit from fairway conditions into a manicured practice green.
Interestingly enough, the Snell ‘My Tour Ball’ led the category in the lowest roll-out in the test conditions, but in overall play, I found the Snell ball to spin less than a typical ProV1, off the driver, irons and wedges. Whether you prefer that for your game is solely up to you. For my game, I certainly gained some advantage from the minimal spin off the driver, metal woods, hybrids and long irons. There is plenty of spin off the wedges and around the green.
There is a lot to like about the Snell ‘My Tour Ball’.
Price – at $31.99 a dozen shipped, they are the lowest priced premium golf ball of all the legitimate contenders. You’re paying for the ball, not for marketing and bonuses paid to executives.
Technology – 3-Piece, Urethane cover with low compression to reduce spin and increase distance off the longer clubs. Add in that golf ball engineering legend, Dean Snell is the man behind this ball and it brings immediate legitimacy.
Spin – Overall green side spin is comparable to the ProV1X, though not as “grabby” as the ProV1 (despite what the limited test numbers indicate). I found there to plenty of check for well struck shots.
Distance – this ball is superior to the ProV1X that I typically play. It averaged almost 7 yards longer off the driver and 4 yards longer off the irons! You could expect this from a ‘distance’ ball, but a performance ball with spin…wow!
Feel – soft, yet solid feel to the ball, it seems to jump off the face. The feel off the putter was exceptional.
Durability – much better than expected, based upon the ‘soft’ feel. My test ball easily lasted 2-1/2 rounds and didn’t have a noticeable blemish after two trees and a cart path.
Improvement – There were only a few things I don’t love about this ball. The name ‘Snell’ is larger than I like, but certainly not a deal breaker! ‘My Tour Ball’ and its little brother ‘Get Sum’ (NXT Tour equivalent) seem like ‘gimmicky’ names. I would personally prefer a more serious name. Finally, I just wish I could walk into GolfSmith and buy them, but if that means the price goes up, then I’m ok with mail-order only.
Try It / Buy It – this is a “Buy It” ball. This is easily one of the biggest no brainers in golf. Throw in no tax and free shipping, you will not find a better ball in terms for performance and value. In fact, after helping me with my short game test, my playing partner went home that evening and ordered his own Snell ‘My Tour Ball’s! After raving about them, I let one of my regular golf buddies play a Snell ‘My Tour Ball’ on the back-9 of our home course. At the conclusion of our round, he had one comment – “Better than a ProV1”.
Check them out for yourself at www.snellgolf.com
-- P.J. Evans, GolfBalled Tester