Some three years ago, the Acushnet Company opened its Titleist Ball Plant No. 3 to the public for tours. This 250,000-square-foot facility sits in an industrial park in New Bedford, Massachusetts, just down the road from the Acushnet headquarters in Fairhaven. It’s where most Pro V1s and Pro V1xs are made.
Given the popularity of those balls, it is not surprising that tours became popular for those who wanted to get an up-close-and-personal look at the very exacting ball-manufacturing process, from cover to core.
The visit starts with a video presentation that includes cameo appearances by many of the brand’s staff professionals, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth among them, talking about the tour that they, too, have taken at Ball Plant 3, and the reasons why they use Titleist golf balls.
Then, it is out to the factory floor, for a look at the dozen steps in the ball-making process, beginning with the mixing of the synthetic rubber and other materials for the cores and continuing through their molding and grinding, which leaves them perfectly round. The casing layer is applied next and after that the urethane cover. The balls are subsequently buffed before being painted and stamped with the Titleist and ProV1 names and the play numbers.
Then the balls are X-rayed to ensure the cores are all properly centered. That was a process that Phil Young, who created the Acushnet golf division and in 1935 introduced the first Titleist golf ball, added after he missed what he thought was a well-stroked putt during a game at a local club. Afterwards, he and a golf buddy, who happened to be the head of an X-ray department of a local hospital, took the ball there to see whether an off-center core was the reason it did not drop into the hole. Indeed, it was, and from that point on, every Titleist ball was X-rayed before it was sold.
There isn’t a more precise process in all of golf manufacturing. When the Pro V1 was first introduced, it revolutionized the golf ball industry. For decades, three-piece golf balls were known for their extra distance but lack of precision and workability. “Rocks” was a common pejorative. But the softer balls preferred by better players had their own problems. Many tour players carried compression testers in their bags, a cylindrical contraption with a brass ring that tested a ball’s roundness and compression.
Players under 30 years old have no idea what that means, in large part because of the innovations the Acushnet Co. patented around the turn of the millennia.
I also learned in the tour of Plant 3 that during manufacturing, there are 90 process and product quality checks for Pro V1, which is a three-piece product, and 120 for Pro V1x, which is a four-piece ball.
As well as that inside-the-ropes experience has been received, Titleist officials were compelled to halt tours of Ball Plant 3 when the pandemic hit. But as time went on, they considered other ways showing golfers how they make their best-selling golf balls. That led the company to offer the virtual tours on Titleist.com, led by Iona Stephen, the Sky Sports Golf broadcaster and former Ladies European Tour professional.
It takes people on the same 90-minute journey around Ball Plant 3 and truly is the next best thing to being there.
As for the in-person Ball Plant 3 tours, Titleist officials say they will start up again when conditions allow.
To take the virtual tour, click HERE.
Photos: Courtesy Titleist
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