V or X? The Choice at the Open Championship for Hovland and Smith

The final men's major of the season is upon us, as The Open Championship returns to the small town of Hoylake in the northwest corner of England. This will mark the 13th time that Royal Liverpool Golf Club has served as host. The course has gone through a number of changes in preparation for this year's Open, including a new 136-yard par-3 that will add a significant drama as the penultimate  17th hole.

The Open Championship is unique among majors. The links courses in the Open rota present much different challenges than the green, tree-lined parkland courses on which most professional tournaments are staged. The firm turf, strong, shifting winds and volatile weather demand much different strategy and style of play.  Which player ultimately rises to the challenge this week at Hoylake is anyone's guess. But one thing is certain. As has been the case since records have been kept, Titleist will be the #1 ball at Royal Liverpool.  More players will trust a Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x than any other golf ball at the 151st Open Championship.

At Royal Liverpool Golf Club, there will be an almost dead-even split between those who play a Pro V1 and those who tee up a Pro V1x. You may be asking, 'Why does Titleist design and manufacture two premium models instead of just one?'. The answer is simple. Players are unique and different players need different performance from their equipment. We don't want players to adjust their technique or shot selection to make a single ball work. We design different golf ball models so players can get the specific performance they need – without changing the things that they do so well, naturally.

Case in point, Viktor Hovland and Cameron Smith. Both are highly skilled. Both are long drivers of the golf ball and elite ball-strikers. Cam, the defending Open champion this week, plays Pro V1x. Viktor, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour and runner-up at this year's PGA Championship, favors Pro V1. Both players have succeeded at the very highest levels of the game, but their games are distinctly different.

Cam Smith Practice Round at Royal Liverpool

"Cam is a low-spin player," said Fordie Pitts, Titleist's Director of Tour Research and Validation. Fordie is on the road, working with Tour players more than thirty weeks out of the year, traveling to stops on numerous tours. He's worked extensively with both Cam and Viktor, and he serves as a liaison between elite players and Titleist golf ball development teams back in Fairhaven, Mass.

Viktor Hovland Tests the New Pro V1 and Pro V1x

"In contrast, Viktor is a high-spin player. Some of that has to do with the way they load the club and release it. Some has to do with their angle of attack into the ball. There are many factors, but the important thing to keep in mind is that there is no right or wrong. Cam and Viktor both strike the ball beautifully and you wouldn't want to change either of their swings. But by having both V and X golf balls, we're able to optimize the trajectory, distance and spin for both of their unique techniques."

In discussing Cam's game, Fordie told us that Cam has always been reluctant to lose any spin in his golf ball. But with both 2023 Pro V1 and Pro V1x, Titleist engineers were able to take a little spin out of players' full shots without sacrificing any of the spin in the short game.

"For this new generation of Pro V1, Pro V1x, we took a little bit of spin out of both models, but we maintained the comparative relationship between the two in terms of how they feel, fly and spin. The 2023 Pro V1 is a slightly softer golf ball, and it does tend to spin a little bit less than the 2023 Pro V1x. Aerodynamically, V also peaks a little bit lower. Conversely, Pro V1x is slightly firmer, there's a little bit more of a sound to that golf ball and it does fly a little bit higher.

Through the bag you will see a slight increase in spin with the X versus the V. The difference is smaller when you're looking at tee shots with the driver, but as you get into the irons, that's where you'll start to see a little bit more of a spin difference between the two products."

"I think they did a really good job of maintaining the feel around the greens," Cam said about the new Pro V1x.  "But the longer shots have gotten so much better. For me, it just brought down my ball flight a little bit with probably six iron and up. I'm able to control it much better into the wind and it's just a lot more consistent."

The ability to flight his shots down while maintaining high spin on finesse shots around the greens was a key to Cam's stunning performance last year in winning the 150th Open Championship at the Old Course. Those same performance attributes will be just as important this week at Hoylake, as Viktor told us:

"In the type of wind you see at The Open, you can't spin it too much because if the ball spins too much, you don't really have any control. You want it to go the same distance every single time.

At the same time, you're going to miss some greens. And the greens can get so baked out. They're firm and fast and especially with wind. If you can create spin around the greens from less-than-ideal lies, you just have so many more opportunities to make it up and down. Even if you're short-sided, when you need to get the ball up in the air and get some spin – you can attack more that way. To have that kind of soft feel and spin that I get with Pro V1, that's the perfect world."

Regardless of which golf ball model a player chooses, perhaps the biggest performance consideration is consistency. For tour players, this means that the golf ball flies, spins and feels the way the player expects on all shots, regardless of conditions, regardless of what is at stake. As Cam told us,

“The golf ball absolutely has to be precise. It's everything. It's the only equipment we have that we use every shot. We don't miss too many shots, so we need the golf ball to be there with us. We have to trust what it's going to do.  X is so consistent. I love the stickiness around the greens. It suits my windows. I'm able to shape it great. It's great in the wind, so it ticks all the boxes for me."

In the final analysis, players choose both Pro V1 and Pro V1x because golf is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

"It's like anything in this game, Fordie Pitts shared. "It's player dependent. Some guys need more height, more spin, some guys need less. Some have a strong feel bias and other do not.  That's why we need to have a comprehensive matrix – the right mix of golf ball products to be able to satisfy all those performance needs."

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Our sincere thanks to Cam, Viktor and Fordie and good luck to all of #TeamTitleist at the 151st Open Championship!

Cameron Smith | Why I Play the Titleist Pro V1x

Viktor Hovland | Why I Play the Titleist Pro V1