When the 800-pound gorilla in the market (see: Titleist) releases a new version of their premium balls, what are their competitors to do? Srixon has answered the challenge with the release of their newest balls, the Z-Star and Z-Star X.
With names like that it is pretty easy to see that Srixon wants to directly challenge Titleist and take the gorilla head on. Some PGA Tour pros, including Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, and Tim Clark have been using the Z-Star line of balls since they came out. In a short time, the Z-Star and Z-Star X has grabbed a decent chunk of the premium ball market on the PGA Tour.
The question remains: will it be enough to convince the rest of the golfers out there to not only give the new Srixon's a try, but to convert? Read on to find out if it could convert this long-time Pro V1x user.
Design and Technology
The Z-Star is a three-piece ball with a very thin urethane cover (Z-Coat Exterior Layer) to help provide spin and control on approach shots to the green. An elastic ionomer mid-layer "creates a smooth transition to the core for greater control and distance." Smooth is a good thing. The core is where it's at, though. The Energetic Gradient Growth Core (clever, clever) is a design which features a gradual compression shift from the center of the ball out to the perimeter (from soft to firm) in order to create lower spin and high ball speed.
The trajectory for that ever-popular "aggressive" ball flight is aided by the Powershear Dimple Technology. The older Z-series balls had 330 dimples while the new Z-Star has 324 "low drag with high coverage" dimples to give you the best amount of spin through your ball flight. Also, the Invisiseam Technology makes sure of the uniformity of the dimples across the entire surface of the ball to give you consistent flight and performance.
You can thank the Energetic Gradient Growth Core for the acceleration given to the Z-Star with its gradual compression which works with the ultra-thin cover to help transfer the energy to the core to improve distance as well as to help reduce energy that is lost in the cover. That exterior layer is softer which provides you with added feel and control on the "touch-shots" around the green as with the putter.
Like its sibling, the Z-Star X version is three-piece construction as well and shares many of the same design characteristics (dimples, thin cover, etc). However, it more designed for the higher swing-speed golfer 105+ MPH) who is gunning for "extreme tour distance."
The main difference is a slightly firmer cover as well as a firmer core (104 compression) than the Z-Star in order to accommodate the big hitters of the world. Figure the Z-Star X for more distance and the Z-Star, which is a bit softer for a more feel. In general, the balls break down as follows.
Feel and Spin
As you may have read in my other reviews, how a ball feels off the face of the club is more important to me than any other aspect, feature, or measurement. After years of golfing, I know that the ability to control the ball the way I want in a consistent manner in the scoring area (80 yards and in) shapes my scoring more than distance off the tee, control in the wind, or anything else.
Following the Pro V1, the regular Z-Star is a softer ball than the Z-Star X. I wouldn't consider the gap between the two Z-Star models to be as big as the one between Pro V1 and V1x, but there is a definite, noticeable difference in performance. The problem is that the gap between the Z-Star balls and the Pro V1 is too much for my liking.
On the green the Z-Star and Z-Star X felt too firm off of the putter face. I've been spoiled with a softer feeling that wasn't too soft with the Pro V1x, and while the Z-Star was the softer of the two Srixon balls, both felt closer to a Titleist NXT on the green than the top-tier balls they are trying to emulate. After a few putts with all the balls, to confirm what I was experiencing, I was able to push my fingernail into the cover of both the Pro V1/Pro V1x much more easily than either of the Z-Stars. The Z-Stars even have that hard "blueish" look to them.
On the spin side of things, the Z-Star balls performed well. On full swings, even though the ball felt harder off the face you could generate plenty of spin. This was evident on just the second hole I played with the Z-Star X. I hit a smooth 6-iron that spun at least eight feet more than the Pro V1x did. Where my Pro V1x just simply hit and stopped, the Z-Star X pulled back more than I've ever spun a Pro V1x - or even a Pro V1 for that matter. With the wedge I could generate plenty of spin with both of the Z-Star balls. If you're looking to make sure that you won't lose stopping power, don't worry. You can stop a Z-Star X just fine and a Z-Star even better.
With the wedge around the green, the increased firmness of the Z-Star comes out again. Again, most of my judgment comes from the feel and controllability in the scoring area. Like the putter, chipping was too much on the firm side. I could generate a bit of spin with the Z-Star and sometimes with the Z-Star X, but the consistency that I have with my normal ball was not there. I'm accustomed to stopping action with a wedge that has a decent amount of grab. I couldn't reproduce it with either of the Z-Star balls. Nearly every chip resulted in the ball rolling out some distance. It seems a bit odd given the added spin with full shots, but that's what I experienced.
Distance and Durability
As long as I don't start getting out-driven by an eight year-old, distance doesn't really concern me too much. Most premium balls are going to be within a handful of yards of each other and the Z-Star X was right there.
Given the firmness I experienced around the greens, I thought the Z-Stars would perform noticeably better off the tee. When I hit the Z-Star X and Z-Star with the Pro V1 and Pro V1x and didn't see much difference. The Z-Star was always longer than the Pro V1 and closer to the Pro V1x, while the Z-Star X performed similarly to Pro V1. Isn't that backwards?
If you're looking for a distance boost, it isn't here. That's OK though. Anyone playing the Z-Star or Pro V1 isn't looking for the longest ball off the tee but a more balanced ball on the performance scale of feel, spin, and distance.
When it came to durability, both Z-Stars outshone the Pro V1. Where I normally stretch a Pro V1 or Pro V1x to last an entire round, the Z-Star and Z-Star X could easily last another round as long as it doesn't make friends with a cart path.
When looking at the Z-Star and Z-Star X I didn't notice that much difference between the two. The gap between the Pro V1 and Pro V1x is much more significant than the Srixon balls. The softer Z-Star might have worn down a bit more but not to the point that it would be a determining factor between either of the Z-Star balls. Leave that decision to the feel and distance and whether it fits your game. As for durability, Srixon has made a ball that surpasses either of the Pro V1s.
Given the durability of the Z-Star, you're going to get more bang for your buck. At $40 a dozen, which is close to the Pro V1 price point, you'll get a few more miles out of the Z-Star than the Pro V1.
Charting the New Ball
Let's see how the Srixons chart against Titleist's premium balls.
These graphs show three things: Driving Distance, Firmness, and Greenside Spin. They use a relative scale of 1-10. These aren't actual measurements, and for the sake of this comparison the 1-10 scale is a relative scale which considers premium golf balls available today, like the Nike One, the Callaway Tour i, the TaylorMade TP, etc. Though only the Srixon Z-Stars and the leader in the category (Titleist Pro V1/V1x) are charted, consider the 1-10 scale as covering the entire premium ball category.
The Srixons are firmer than the '09 version of the Pro V1 and Pro V1x. I attribute this to the fact that the Srixons are a bit more durable. The difference, as mentioned above, is noticeable.
The Z-Stars spin more off of the irons but less around the greens - yes, it sounds odd. The firmer ball and cover does not grab as well around the greens. With the full swing there isn't any problem generating spin with the Z-Star or Z-Star X.
Distance is no issue with the Z-Star or Z-Star X. The Z-Star X is on par with the Pro V1x (or very close) and the Z-Star is actually longer than the Pro V1.
Not charted: durability. Both Z-Stars were more durable than either of the Pro V1 balls. Again, this seems to come at the expense of greenside spin and softness.
Srixon has a developed a couple good balls with the new Z-Stars. While a bit firmer than I like, the Z-Star and Z-Star X have found a home on tour with some of the bigger names playing both versions of the ball such as Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Boo Weekly. It was actually the second-most played ball the week of the WGC-CA Championship.
The Pro V1x has been my ball for as long as it has been in existence. I've only seriously considered changing once. That was when the TaylorMade TP balls came out a couple years ago. After a couple rounds with the Z-Stars I don't expect to change any time soon. It comes down to the fact that I prefer a softer feel and the amount of spin the Pro V1x produces greenside.
At $40, the Z-Star is priced lower than most premium balls. This might entice some players to give the Z-Stars a try. Srixon will win undoubtedly win some over - and that's not a bad thing. Competition is always healthy for the consumer.