Along with Titleist’s new ProV, few balls are as hotly anticipated as Nike’s Platinum release. The stories are already out there — Tiger wins the Masters with it! Tiger chips it in on the 16th! Tiger gets 20 more yards out of it!
At the same time, Callaway is pushing its revamped HX ball and Maxfli has released its BlackMax as an attempt to claw its way back into the golf ball market. With Titleist dominating this market, everybody is playing for second. But, like on the PGA Tour, second place can be pretty lucrative.
I’ve had the opportunity to play the Nike Platinum, which is just now hitting the market, for two rounds recently. At first it felt a little like previous Nike product — a bit hard, with little touch around the greens where it counts.
But following a second try, this time at Glencairn, a faux-links located outside Toronto, I’ve come away impressed. The distance factor is clearly a big component of this ball and it comes off especially hot while limiting sidespin. I hit several drives of 285 yards into a strong headwin and found the Platinum to perform well with my short irons. I did find the ball could balloon a bit with longer irons, but that may have been a spin issue and could be more about my swing than the ball.
The big change with the Platinum, in my estimation, was around the greens, where it offered better touch than the rocks Nike had previously sold.
This could well be the breakthrough Nike has been looking for since introducing its golf line. Now it is a marketing issue — something the company is exceptional at — since Nike will have to convince golfers that the Platinum is a viable alternative to the ProV. It’ll be interesting to see if they aim their campaign at low handicappers — the ones most likely to see benefit from the new ball.
The other alternative is Callaway’s HX56 Tour, a variation on a ball introduced last year. The HX was a great, hot ball that offered fine touch around the greens and was a big improvement over anything Callaway had offered previously.
The problem? The cover in the HX cut easily (a problem experienced previously by Hogan when it introduced its balls a few years ago) and simply did not stand up to the punishment one would normally inflict on a ProV. What you had was a similar priced product that performed nearly as well as Titleist’s best, but simply didn’t have staying power.
The aim was to fix the problems in the HX56 Tour so the fraying of the cover was a thing of the past.
The new version of the HX offers the same performance and, in my experience, similar problems to the earlier ball. The cover still gets cut very easily, making it expensive, considering the price of the Callaway balls rival ProVs. It is a great performing ball, but gets cut like a debutante at a plastic surgeon’s convention. And that’s not good enough for a ball with this kind of price tag. Still, most golfers will likely lose their HX before ever having frayed the cover, so maybe this isn’t that big an issue after all…..