I love going down to the PGA Merchandise Show help in Orlando, Florida. It’s an exciting time where you get to try the newest and latest. Sometimes well in advance of everybody else.
Among the many appointments that I had during the week of the 2018 installment of the PGA Show I had one with TaylorMade Golf to discuss the golf ball range for 2018. It may come to nobody’s surprise that TaylorMade Golf is running the highly successful Tour level balls TP5 and TP5x. Even for golfers not playing on Tour those that I’ve talked to swear by them from an all-around performance standpoint. It’s sort of odd that I’ve never put one into play to review them now that I think about it.
During my time spent at the TaylorMade Golf booth I spent my time with Eric Loper. Mr. Loper is the Director of R&D Golf Ball Division with TaylorMade Golf. I had the opportunity to discuss two new golf ball offerings for 2018. There are two new models (not including the relaunched Noodle brand) that will be getting released to the golf consumer in 2018. The first is a golf ball that was first released in 2014 which is an updated Project (a) golf ball. While the second is a newcomer to the brand the TaylorMade Project (s).
Before talking about my testing of the two golf balls while extending my time in Florida let’s have a closer look at what each ball brings to the tee.
Project (a) – First introduced in 2014 (and met by rave reviews) the Project (a) golf ball was known for giving the average golfer the spin and control that Tour level golf balls offer. According to TaylorMade Golf the Project (a) is the only “major OEM ball outside of the Tour ball category using Cast Urethane; the #1 cover material used on Tour and the gold standard in performance”. In 2016, The Project (a) saw a slight update that was made softer. had lower compression while still maintaining the greenside spin. For 2018 the Project (a) features a 3-piece multi-layer design, a seamless cover that features a new 322 LDP design (which is the same design as the TP5 and TP5x), a “Dual Distance Core” which is designed to “scrub off unwanted spin while providing great feel. The stiffer outer core allows for increased rebound and velocity. In addition to reducing driver and long iron spin, the stiffer outer core also aides in pinching the soft cast urethane cover between the clubface, creating more greenside spin”. Compression of the Project (a) is measured at 70.
Project (s) – New for 2018 is the Project (s). The Project (s) was designed with two words in mind. Soft… Distance. The Project (s) boasts a softer feel while still maintaining lower driver spin and more distance. As TaylorMade states golfers no longer to choose between either a soft feel or a distance ball because they get both attributes with the Project (s). Project (s) features a Dual Distance Core which “dual distance core is a two-layer system that has a large, low compression inner core that reduces unwanted driver spin and creates great feel. The outer core consists of a softer-resilient polymer that also improves feel and maintains high ball velocities”. The Project (s) uses a soft Ionomer cover that is durable, offers soft feel and control around the green and utilizes a 342 LDP dimple pattern. Also of note is that the Project (s) is also offered in a matte fluorescent yellow and orange finish that is UV resistant. The compression is measured at 60.
Just prior to wrapping things up at the TaylorMade Golf booth I managed to get a sample of the Project (s) and Project (a) to test out prior to leaving Florida. I managed to squeeze in three rounds of golf at different courses in various conditions. The first course featured the softest playing conditions while the second course featured what I would best describe as ideal (firm greens) and the third was definitely firm all the way around.
As mentioned I would tee these balls up on different occasions. Because I was on a golf course literally by myself for the first round I was able to test them out head to head against each other and occasionally against other balls previously tested.
Driver– My first tee shot at the first golf course (Apollo Beach) saw the Project (a) receive the honors. Having had a decent experience with the previous generation(s) I thought that it would only make sense. The weather was cool (for Florida standards) as it was 62*F with a chilly breeze and drizzle coming in off of the Gulf. The first tee shot was muffed a bit as I struck it off of the toe. But I managed to keep the ball on the left side of the fairway leaving myself a wedge in. All in all not bad at all for a miss. I teed up the Project (s) and even though it wasn’t fair to compare I really liked the feel of the Project (s) more. As testing wore on I thought that the Project (a) flew a bit lower than the (s) and as much as I liked the feel of the Project (a) off of the driver I loved the Project (s). I’ve never been shy about preferring a softer golf ball. From a driver distance standpoint I would find that the Project (s) flew longer and that point was confirmed through use of my Game Golf device. Both balls were consistent in the wind off of the tee during testing with a slight advantage going to Project (a). I just found that it was a little more resistant to the wind and held its line a tad better.
Irons – First of all I want to say that the feel of both models of ball while using irons was really good. Personally speaking, I thought the feel of the Project(s) was perfect with the Project (a) being a little more firm… not by a lot as the compression numbers would justify. The Project (a) penetrated while the Project (s) flew a bit higher. The full iron spin of Project (a) allowed me to back up the ball with my PING S 55 irons. Meanwhile, the Project (s) clearly exhibited “stop and drop” control. Even on one particular hole at Schalamar Creek (Lakeland) the pitch mark was on a slight downslope and the Project (s) managed to stop only a few feet away. The control of both golf balls was very impressive but from a distance standpoint I really feel that the Project (s) had a slight distance advantage. About half to a full club worth. Again, I am basing this on my findings with the Game Golf device. An example… on a Par 3 that was playing 132 yards I played both. Where the Project (s) flew 129 yards the Project (a) flew 124 yards.
Greenside Spin – Now that we’ve made it to the area around the green it’s time to compare where things really matter. Saving strokes. For the first time in the testing of the two balls from TaylorMade this is where I found that the Project (a) had the most to offer over the Project (s). The greenside of the Project (a) is every bit as good as ever tour caliber golf ball that I’ve used to date regardless of make. In fact, it was superior to some models including my former “long-time gamer”. The Project (a) really checks up especially on chip shots around the green. Pitch shots even moreso. That said, the Project (s) was no slouch. Yes, there’s a little bit more runout (a little being the operative word) but all in all the Project (s) is very admirable. In fact, you could describe the Project (s) as predictable. the On more than one occasion the Project (s) bailed me out and a short game shot later I scrambled for the up and down par. Usually, I have a problem with short game control after a long layoff and for some reason I was on in Florida. Was it these two golf balls? I have to give them some of the credit.
Putting – The feel off of the putter is soft with both the Project (a) and Project (s). Maybe the feel is more “muted” with the Project (s) while the Project (a) offers a soft click. Both golf balls feature a clear alignment aid to assist in lining up your putts. Rolls are true with both golf ball models.
Durability and Covers – The covers both seem very durable although I can’t comment on the Project (a) as much here. For the second and third time in two years of Florida testing I watched someone walk off with my golf balls. At the time of “ballnapping” the urethane cover of the Project (a) never had a blemish. Did I have enough of a sampling to conclude definitively? Likely not. Meanwhile, the Project (s) would be “ballnapped” on my last hole in Florida while following a group that I caught up to I hit a 3H and it rolled up in to them (I misjudged where the carts were parked) and then I saw them pick it up. But I just wanted to say that the fluorescent matte covered balls are vivid and hold up well to a little bit of abuse (cart path and tree) and the cover was blemish free at the time of disappearance.
TaylorMade Golf has two winning golf balls here that are going to cater to a lot of golfers that may want to say a few dollars over the TP5 and TP5x. Both golf balls are premium offerings with top-tier performance. TaylorMade Golf R&D did an amazing job with the development of both golf balls. The 2018 Project (a) & Project (s) golf balls will be available at retail on February 16 and April 1 at an MSRP of $44.99 & $29.99 CAD per dozen, respectively. Project (a) will be offered in gloss white or yellow, while Project (s) will be offered in gloss white as well as matte orange or matte yellow. The Project (s) offers a lot of performance at that price point. If you’re interested in trying some new balls have a look at these models of ball from TaylorMade Golf.
Until The Next Tee!!