TaylorMade Prepares Penta TP Ball

After three years of development, TaylorMade Golf announces the new Penta TP, the first five-piece golf ball to reach the market.

Bag DropNormally, when choosing a ball, one takes into account that there is a subtle tradeoff between maximum distance and maximum spin around the greens. Golf ball technology has progressed so that there is less of a tradeoff, and TaylorMade claims to have eliminated it with a new ball they’ll introduce soon: the Penta TP.

Titleist has been dominant in the ball market, despite challenges, for decades. Though TaylorMade’s TP Red and TP Black were reviewed well, they did little to take away from Titleist’s market share and have been heavily discounted at retailers for most of 2009.

The Penta TP is TaylorMade’s next offensive attack.

TaylorMade Penta TP

Golfers are very lucky to be playing today because of the amount of customization and personalization available. In the past couple of years, ball fitting has become almost as common as club fitting. It’s an area where players have seen significant improvements in their game just by choosing a ball that fits them better than one(s) they normally play. TaylorMade may have created the closest thing to a “one size fits all” ball with their “Progressive Distance” technology. We’ll have to wait a little while to see how it works, but for now, some information.

TaylorMade receives some criticism for the rate with which they introduce new clubs, but it seems to work for them and they may very well be taking that same approach to the golf ball market. With the groove regulations going into effect at the beginning of 2010, it’s only natural for the OEMs to compensate for the loss of spin in other areas – and the golf ball is one of the easiest places to look.

Getting Down to the Details
Let’s dive in and take a look under the skirt of the Penta and see what makes it tick.

Penta TP Cutaway

Outer Layer – “Cover”
Much of the spin can be attributed to the soft urethane cover. Inside of 100 yards, the most desirable shot is one that is going to have a lower trajectory with enough spin to bounce and check up. The ball isn’t compressed much at all on these short shots (which includes greenside chips and pitches), and so the urethane cover is almost entirely responsible for this shot. The soft cover also gives that desirable soft feel that most all “distance first” balls just don’t have off the putter.

Second Layer – “Outer Mantle”
The outer mantle helps the player achieve an optimal spin rate on their short irons by placing the fastest mantle immediately under the cover. Optimal in this case refers to a shot that will check up but which won’t zoom backwards like a Greg Norman wedge shot, leaving a great golf shot 30 feet short of the flag. TaylorMade also claims that this layer is of great benefit to the player with a slower swing, as it helps him achieve a higher ball speed and greater distance.

Penta TP Cover

Third Layer – “Middle Mantle”
This mantle aids in the prevention of ballooning (which will lead to distance loss) and promotes a mid-launch trajectory and medium spin. These characteristics are a result of the semi-firm and fast material used in this layer.

Fourth Layer – “Inner Mantle”
The Inner Mantle of the Penta is softer than all the outer layers we’ve already mentioned, though not as soft as the core, and is one of the contributing factors to the softer feel of this ball with the longer clubs, which will compress the ball to this layer fairly easily regardless of swing speed.

Penta TP's 5 Layers

Fifth Layer – “Core”
The vital layer of the Penta is the core, which employs the softest, lowest compression material found in the ball. These characteristics lead to low spin and a high launch, further promoting longer distances off the tee. TaylorMade says that despite the fact that the core is low-compression and soft, it is still very fast, and will promote faster ball speeds to those players that put it out there between 140-180 MPH. They also claim that the Penta TP will be most likely be longer than their current ball.

Progressive Distance
The basic idea behind this ball is that the higher the clubhead speed, the more layers of this ball come into play in terms of compression, hence TaylorMade’s term “Progressive Distance.” So a slower swing (as in the type of swing normally used from 100 yards and in) may only get the rebound effect from the first layer or two, while the faster swing (as in a swing with driver or fairway wood) compresses all of the layers, down to the core.

Progressive Distance Chart

As for real world results? TaylorMade staffers such as Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, and Sergio Garcia have all played the Penta TP and given it rave reviews. Normally, I’m one that takes everything said by anyone with an equipment contract with a grain of salt, but knowing Sergio’s outspoken persona, I’m pretty sure that if he didn’t like it, he’d say so. The Penta TP has also been used on the PGA Tour by Retief Goosen, who finished tied for eighth this past weekend at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

LDP Technology
TaylorMade’s LDP technology has also been worked into the Penta. For those unfamiliar, LDP stands for Low Drag Performance, and promotes maximized distance on off-center hits through the use of TM-proprietary aerodynamics. The dimple pattern on the Penta TP was taken from the TP Red and TP Black, and was designed to reduce the effects of wind on the ball.

Though the Penta TP was created for the pros, the technology in this ball should benefit all players. As stated before, each layer’s unique characteristics promote the desired results, regardless of swing speed.

Pricing and Availability
The Penta isn’t available at this time, but if you live in the Southern states (like me!), look for them around December 1. TaylorMade says that nationwide availability will be mid-February, 2010. Though they’re saying Feb. 15th, I’d be surprised if they weren’t readily available at your favorite online retailer on December 1. Expect to pay $45.99 per dozen.

Final Thoughts
I cannot wait to try this ball. I’m neither a TaylorMade lover or hater, though I’ve always respected them as a company for some of the advances they’ve made in the equipment industry. Some may shrug this off as another gimmick by TaylorMade, but a company like TaylorMade does not sink millions of dollars and three years of research and development into a gimmick. Real-world reviews from average golfers have been positive, and our own extensive review is in the works.

If this ball spins as much as TaylorMade claims, and goes as far as TaylorMade claims, the Penta will surely be a pretty big hit. Of course, I don’t expect Titleist to give up without a fight, and the next few years could be interesting in the ball market.

23 thoughts on “TaylorMade Prepares Penta TP Ball”

  1. Is this 5-layer concept patented?

    If not, then I expect we will see a Titleist/Callaway/etc. response soon.

    If it is, then I expect to see more infringement litigation soon.

  2. Is this 5-layer concept patented?

    I don’t think you can patent “a golf ball with five layers.” After all, some of the balata balls probably had five layers: balata, a mantle, the rubber windings, the rubbery pouch, and then the liquid inside. You can probably patent certain things about the five layers, or how they’re made, or even their exact composition, dimensions, etc.

    But “a golf ball with five layers”? Probably not. But who knows – the patent business is a weird one.

    Oh, and Titleist’s next premium balls should come in 2011. And it still remains to be seen whether this ball is all it’s cracked up to be. It might be a dud. I liked the TP Red and TP Black (not more than a Pro V1x, but close), and they didn’t make much of a dent in Titleist’s sales.

  3. I don’t think you can patent “a golf ball with five layers.”

    I don’t think this is correct as a matter of pure legality. The standard (oversimplified) is whether the proposed invention is novel, non-obvious, and useful. Depending on what has been patented before, it may, as a matter of principle, be possible to patent a golf ball with five layers – or rather, there is no intrinsic reason why five layers would not be considered unpatentable, assuming the standards are met.

    A quick search shows an existing patent for a “multi-layer” ball, US Patent No. 7438651, whose abstract states:

    “The present invention is directed to an improved golf ball displaying the desired spin profile and having a generally rigid, thermoset polybutadiene outer core surrounding a relatively soft, low compression inner core. In general, this golf ball has an inner core and at least one outer core layer surrounding the inner core. The inner core has a hardness less than a hardness of the outer core and a specific gravity less than or equal to the outer core specific gravity. Overall the inner core compression and outer core are formulated to provide a combined overall core compression of greater than about 50, preferably greater than about 70. A cover layer is provided to surround and to cover the outer core layer. A moisture barrier layer is provided between the outer core layer and the cover layer to protect the inner and outer cores from degradation due to exposure to water. The moisture vapor transmission rate of the moisture barrier layer is selected to be less than the moisture vapor transmission rate of the cover layer.”

    Also existing US Patent 6106415 covers “mutli-layer structures”:

    “A multi-layer structure solid golf ball is composed of a solid core (2), an intermediate layer (3), and a cover (4). An adhesive layer (5) is interposed between the intermediate layer (3) and the cover (4). The intermediate layer may be formed from an ionomer or a urethane resin, or a polyester resin. The cover may be formed of an ionomer or a polyester elastomer or a urethane resin. The adhesive is selected from the group consisting of epoxy resin adhesives, urethane resin adhesives, vinyl resin adhesives and rubber adhesives.”

    I don’t know the status of these patents, and one would have to look at specific existing patent claims to determine whether a “5-layer” ball would meet the patent standards. But clearly there seems to be some precedent for trying to patent something along these lines.

  4. Trav – err you just proved Erik’s point there about how you could patent the composition of the layers etc. but not the simple fact that it has 5 layers; try re-reading what you quoted.

  5. Trav sets out the correct legal standard for patentability. Erik gets the correct result that a patent claim that simply says a “golf ball with five layers” would not be patentable. I am a patent lawyer.

  6. To get back on topic, thanks for explaining the layers of the Penta TP. I find the engineering of the various golf balls quite fascinating.

    I think it is most important to pick a golf ball that is designed for my swing speed. And I simply refuse to pay $45 for a dozen golf balls.

    I like the Bridgestone web site for its ball fitting and there is a lot of information there about the design and features of their various balls. To me, the B330 series at $45 are not $20 better than the E+ series at $25.

    It would be useful if Titleist had a similar site that explained the design features between the ProV1’s and the NXT series. And probably the best value is the recycled ProV1’s at $25.

  7. JE – I’m with you – I think the design/engineering and technology that goes into todays balls is amazing. The thing is, once you think about how the different layers interact, it starts to make a little more sense. The best analogy I could think of was a mattress on a bed, and how the rebound effect and bounciness of a bed changes if there is a box spring underneath the mattress, and then it changes again if you put a foam mattress cover on top. That’s my oversimplified take on it, and I could be way of base with that analogy, but it makes sense to me 🙂

    I also agree that $45 is way too much for a dozen balls, though I’ll spend that kind of money for a box at least once, usually because my curiosity gets the better of me. Once the Penta reaches the market, I know I’ll buy at least one box to see what they’re all about, but I’ll feel really guilty about it in the morning 🙂

    As far as a Titleist putting together a similar site that explains the design and features of each ball, I’ll go a step further than that and say I’d like to see a site that has that info for all the offerings from Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Bridgestone, etc.

  8. If the Penta becomes their premium ball (pro-v1 price range) will the Red & Black stay at their current “discount” price and become their new mid-range balls?

  9. Trav – err you just proved Erik’s point there about how you could patent the composition of the layers etc. but not the simple fact that it has 5 layers; try re-reading what you quoted.

    I’ve worked with enough patent lawyers to understand that a mere claim for “5 layers,” without anything more, may not be patentable. However, that was not my original question or my point. My question was simplified because I did not intend to turn this into a legal discussion among non-lawyers, hence my original question was simply whether this 5 layered concept is patented.

    JE can correct me, but I believe it’s not unusual for inventors to seek patents based on a claim referencing a certain number of repeating layers, as long as they can explain how the extra layers function as an invention (think multiple blade razors).

  10. I play a Titleist Pro V1x. But I buy them used over the internet, so they are reasonably affordable. I will give this TP ball a shot, once it has been out long enough for an appreciable number to be lost and resold.

  11. Dean Snell, TaylorMade’s Chief Ball Engineer, held the same position with Titleist when they introduced the Professional and the ProV1. TaylorMade has given him the resources that he needs to make the best golf balls possible. I think this ball will be great.

  12. I echo the comment ‘another expensive ball’. I’ll wait for enough to be sold and lost and then buy them used to try them out.

  13. Didn’t Sean O’Hair use the Penta the last few weeks and throughout the playoffs? Seems like he responded to it well.

    If TM continues to make the Red and Black will they force another ball out of their line? I’ve been playing the Burner TP for the second half of the season and love it, replaced NXT tour for me and would hate to lose them.

  14. Had a chance to test them, they seem to hold up to all of the claims. I can’t speak for a high swing speed, but otherwise it’s a great ball. A better ball than the Pro V1 or V1x (basically combines the best features of both), and they have been my preferred balls for years.

  15. Yup, another expensive ball. I play with Titleist NXT Tour and found distance and spin comparable to the Pro V1X but the touch off the putter is incredible (and it’s half the price)

  16. Srixon is the best ball out there now. I have done my own extensive testing. I have played Titlest, Srixon, TopFlight, Callaway, and Nike. None of these can beat the Srixon Z Stars. Distance, feel, approach and around the greens is better than all others. BUT I will be testing this new Penta when it comes out. If you take a close look at TM, you will see that all the Penta is is an update of the TP Red. Do some research and you will find out that this is the case. Don’t go buy a dozen of these, get a sleeve and do your own shot testing at your local golf course practice area. Do your around the green pitches, flops and then back up to around 50 yards and hit some into the practice green. This is your best way tio find the ball for you. But if the TM claims are true this could be the ball that will actually beat the Pro V on tour. But then again Titlest pays everyone under the sun on tour to play Pro V’s. Number 1 ball in golf…. maybe not in the near future.

  17. I am currently using a ProV1 and am extremely pleased with it’s performance, but am always looking for a better arrow. I just purchased a dozen Pentas for $46 at Edwin Watts to see if they are a better ball. I used the ball today for the 1st time and am very impressed. I really do not know exact “numbers” for the ball, but it is longer, has similar feel and sound, equivalent spin and control, and has a perfect trajectory. I think the ball is well worth the $. Titlesist will need to reduce the cost for their ball to remain competitive.

  18. I’m in California and came across these balls at a Golfsmith in town. They are AMAZING. I was playing the TP blacks before and the new Penta TP golf balls get a ton more spin. I was typically a two hop and stop player but I can stop them on a dime and spin them back with any club in the bag. I didn’t see any distance loss and could still turn them left and right without losing control.

    I did notice that because they are so soft, they came off the putter differently than my old ball but it’s nothing a few minutes at the putting green couldn’t fix.

    Overall I’m extremely happy with them (although I wish the price was a few bucks less) and will be getting them as often as my budget allows.

  19. I’m a club pro and cannot keep them in stock. My customers say that they are longer than the Pro V1 and V1x and have the same if not better feel around the greens. I have also personally switched to the Penta TP after playing the Pro V1x for 5 yrs.

  20. You play used golf balls? Do you use Playskool clubs? Stick with the x’d out Kro Flites in the barrel folks, you won’t notice the difference anyway if you don’t play with custom clubs. Let the better players use the new premiums. Get my ProV1x’s with golf shop credit won in tournaments, haven’t paid for balls since ’80. Also good are Srixon TriSpeed, some Bridgestones and Nike Black. Check out annual golf ball surveys in golf mags. TM should stick to drivers, the R9 series with custom shaft is outstanding. New Burner irons not bad either.

  21. Picked up a dozen Pentas last weekend. Very first swing from my R9 resulted in a giant scuff through the outer layer. Calm swing and drive distance of about 290. A huge ugly scar. By the end of the front 9 I had caused three separate markings on each of two balls I was swapping.

    Nice ball, but amazing damage.

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