It's been just a few short weeks since the USGA staged its first U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. This week, the USGA is heading west again, where, for the first time in its storied history, Pebble Beach Golf Links is hosting the U.S. Women's Open.
Pebble Beach has hosted fourteen major championships to date, including six U.S. Opens, a PGA Championship and five U.S. Amateur Championships. Widely rated among the very top courses in the world (and certainly golf's most highly regarded public course), Pebble Beach has also hosted two U.S Women's Amateur Championships, but this will mark the first time that the Monterey Peninsula will serve as the backdrop for the most prestigious championship in women's golf.
What makes Pebble Beach so unique, aside from its breath-taking beauty, is its green complexes. The course architect, Jack Neville, believed that the best way to test golfers was by asking them to hit long irons into small greens. The average Pebble Beach green is just 3,500 square feet (the smallest of any played on the PGA Tour). The average green depth is just 26 paces. You could fit nearly four Pebble Beach greens into the average St. Andrews green (13,600 square feet). And those tiny greens are surrounded by 118 bunkers — or six more than the Old Course at St. Andrews. If conditions get firm and fast, those greens become effectively smaller, rewarding only the best of shots from players.
Who will ultimately rise to the challenge this week at Pebble is too tough to call, but one thing is certain – more players will trust a Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x than any other golf ball at the 78th U.S. Women's Open.
At Pebble Beach Golf Links, there will be an almost dead-even split between those who play a Pro V1 and those who tee up a Pro V1x. Why do some players choose V and others X? The answer is simple. Players are unique and different players need different performance from their equipment. As a player, you shouldn't have to adjust your technique or shot selection to make a single ball work. We design different golf ball models so that you can get the specific performance that your game requires – without changing the things that you do so well, naturally.
To illustrate how important it is to play the golf ball that best fits your game, consider two prominent Titleist golf ball players in the field this week – Leona Maguire (the first woman from Ireland to win on the LPGA Tour) and her fellow two-time LPGA Tour winner, Marina Alex.
In November, we sat in with Leona and Marina as they hit their first shots with the new 2023 Pro V1 and Pro V1x. The testing was conducted by Jeff Beyers, Tour Consultant for Titleist Golf Ball Performance. Jeff performs a crucial function for Titleist Golf Ball R&D, working with elite players across multiple world tours. He works extensively with players like Leona and Marina, introducing new prototypes, capturing ball flight data and relaying player feedback to our development teams back in Fairhaven, Mass. This is how Jeff Introduced the new models to Leona and Marina:
"In 2021, we made some substantial design changes to both Pro V1 and Pro V1x – and we had great success, on all the professional tours that we serve. For the new 2023 Pro V1 and Pro V1x, we wanted to build on that step forward. So, our big objective was to take everything we liked and that players liked about the 21 V and X and just make subtle tweaks where we saw opportunities to improve.
So, we changed the core formulation, made it a little bit faster in both models. We were also able to optimize spin throughout the bag. We took some RPMs out to maximize distance, especially with the driver and longer clubs, but we retained that same aerodynamic performance. We maintained the same level of short game control, spin around the green – everything that players love about the 2021 models."
During Marina's testing, she quickly saw positive results from the subtle, but significant changes we made to the 2023 Pro V1x. She made the switch to 2023 X almost immediately.
"I absolutely love the new 23 Pro V1x. It's perfect for my game. I maintain all of the spin that I need on my short irons, shots around the green, and it putts awesome. In my longer clubs, I noticed specifically drivers, fairway woods, I was getting a little bit more distance out of it, which is great. Spin rates were a little bit on the lower side and I saw a little higher launch, so for me, it was just an easy switch and it's been incredible."
Why is Pro V1x the right ball for Marina's game? She explained that Flight, Spin and Feel are all important considerations, but for her, Feel is an important priority.
"I played Pro V1 for a little bit in the early stages of my career out here on the LPGA Tour, but when I switched over to the X, I immediately felt like I was getting better feedback, especially with putting. When I hit a center-struck putt, I hear a nice little click and it feels good. And when I don't hear that click, I can see the difference in the quality of my putts. Getting that clear feedback on my stroke really helps me in practice as well when I'm playing tournament rounds."
Like, Marina, Leona evaluates every aspect of performance before committing to a golf ball model. For her game, though, Pro V1 is the best fit. And Spin might be the biggest determining factor in her decision making.
"Distance control is a big thing for me," Leona said. "Knowing where the ball will land and the way the ball will spin off the club face. Having control into the green, especially when I'm hitting shots that are not quite full. Half-wedges and chipping around the greens. As a golfer, ultimately, control is exactly what you want."
So why does Leona play Pro V1 and not Pro V1x?
"Feel-wise, they weren't too different. A little different noise off the face. But I know exactly how the Pro V is going to react. I've hit thousands of shots and I get confirmation from the numbers on TrackMan. I know what it does on the golf course. So ultimately when it gets down to a really important shot and a really important tournament, I know exactly what my golf ball is going to do."
Many amateur golfers claim that it doesn't matter which brand or model golf ball they play. When we shared this with Marina and Leona, this is what they had to say:
"I build my bag around the golf ball," Marina said. "It is the most important thing. It is what you're hitting. The object of the game is to get the ball into the hole, so you need to know what the golf ball is going to do. You rely on that consistency. And then you can work backwards and find optimal shafts, optimal heads in your irons and your driver, everything to make that launch, the spin, the carry distances, all work. You use that equipment to match the golf ball."
Leona Maguire | Why I Play the Titleist Pro V1
"In golf, there are a lot of things outside of your control," Leona said. "I can't control what other people do, what the weather does, how the golf course is set up. So, I just focus on what I can do and one of those things is playing every day with the golf ball that lets me play my best. Trust is a massive thing, so removing any doubt about what the golf ball will do gives me a lot of peace of mind on the golf course."
At the time of their golf ball testing, neither Leona nor Marina had played Pebble Beach. But they had each circled the dates on their calendars:
"The U.S. Open is the biggest event on our calendar," Leona said, "and Pebble Beach is one of the biggest venues in golf. I grew up watching the guys play there in the AT&T Pro-Am and U.S. Opens. Obviously, GMac, fellow Irishman, won there in 2010, so I remember watching that. So I have to get a few tips from him before I head out there. But yeah, I'm really excited. It looks incredible and hopefully it plays a little linksy. A little bit linksy and a little bit windy is probably a good thing for me."
"I'm so excited," Marina said. "It has so much history. I think Gary Woodland was the most recent Pebble Beach champion. There's just been some very iconic and historic U.S. Opens played there and I'm so excited that the women are getting to play at Pebble."
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Thanks to Leona, Marina and Jeff and good luck to all of #TeamTitleist at the U.S. Women's Open!