Busy month for Srixon-Cleveland, wouldn’t you say?
Oh yes, balls.
According to multiple sources, Srixon’s U.S. ball market share in units sold (i.e., number of balls) hit an all-time high in July at roughly 8% after hovering around the 4% range for the last few years. The bulk of those sales are reportedly in the value/lower-priced ball category, as opposed to the higher priced, Tour-level ball category (Not for nuthin’, the value end is where the bulk of the money is made in the ball biz). Srixon’s balls are top sellers in the UK, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere, but they’ve been just one of the crowd here.
“We’re basically huge everywhere, but under-indexing in the US,” says Srixon Marketing Director Brian Schielke. “We’re pricing slightly below the competition, and we’re aggressively trying to grow market share.”
The Q STAR TOUR – Srixon’s urethane covered, Tour-level 3-piece ball priced to move at $29.99 per dozen – was introduced nearly two years ago, serving as a bridge between low-priced value balls and higher priced Tour balls. As we head into fall, the Q STAR TOUR is getting a bit of a facelift for its next two-year cycle.
Best Value in Golf?
That’s what Srixon calls the Q STAR TOUR, with near Tour-level performance for golfers with what would be considered normal swing speeds: somewhere in the 75 to 95 MPH swing speed range. How it compares in terms of value to, oh, say the Snell MTB’s is a conversation we can have another day, but Srixon says it’s happy with Q STAR TOUR sales in its first sales cycle, and is jazzing it up a bit for the encore.
The most obvious upgrade – if you can call it that – is the Q STAR TOUR will now be available in Tour Yellow as well as the traditional Pure White color. While it’s not the Day-Glo Lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds color trip of Wilson or Volvik, a little color never hurt anyone.
There’s also a new dimple pattern – 338 dimples versus 324 in the old version. You wouldn’t think 14 dimples would matter that much, but the Q STAR TOUR’s new dimple pattern is the same as the Z STAR’s and is designed for better aerodynamics and wind performance.
Srixon has also made the ball a bit softer, with a 72 compression compared to 75. Industry-wide, balls are getting softer, which can result in a slight loss in ball speed. However, that’s usually mitigated by lower spin, which can result in more carry, making it a wash mathematically but a plus in terms of feel.
SpinSkin & EGGs
The new Q STAR TOUR also features Srixon’s 3rd generation of SpinSkin, the same coating that’s found on the Z STAR (the original Q STAR TOUR features an older SpinSkin version). SpinSkin is an elastic coating Srixon says enhances friction between the cover and clubface for better greenside and approach spin.
Srixon, of course, is a division of the Sumitomo Rubber Company, one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers. Like Bridgestone, Srixon leverages its parent company’s rubber technologies for golf ball R&D, and the result is what Srixon calls its Energetic Gradient Growth Core.
It’s a single rubber core that’s softer on the inside and firmer on the outside, kind of like a Tootsie-Pop. Bridgestone’s Gradational Core is basically the same idea and purportedly allows the moderate swing speed golfer to more fully compress the ball.
“It helps maintain ball speed while maintaining higher launch and lower spin off the tee,” says Schielke. “It’s the same concept as what other people doe with multi-piece balls. A 4-piece ball has a softer center, then a firm mid-core, then a firmer mantle layer.”
What that means is what other companies do with layers, Srixon (and Bridgestone) can do with a core with varying firmness – basically a different route to the same destination.
Tour Level Performance?
Srixon’s unique selling proposition for the Q STAR TOUR is Tour-level performance with a softer feel and a lower price. To back it up, Srixon commissioned its own independent study comparing the Q STAR TOUR head-t0-head with both ProV1 and Chrome Soft.
OEMs aren’t in the habit of sharing studies that don’t show their products are better than their competition, and this one’s no different. From a strategic standpoint, Srixon is clearly trying to position the Q STAR TOUR is a viable alternative to ProV1 and Chrome Soft for us normal golfers in terms of distance, spin and accuracy.
The Value Proposition
While not an official combatant in #BallWar, Srixon’s unit share is growing. There’s momentum there, even if it is primarily fueled with lower-priced balls. Smart Business 101 says momentum is a hungry beast and needs constant feeding. To that end, you’ll see Srixon’s Field Service Reps in stores and at courses this fall with ball fitting events. These won’t be launch-monitor, Bridgestone-style fittings, but instead discussion-based, educational, interview-style sessions to help fit golfers into the best ball for their game.
It’s no accident Srixon, in its internal testing and promotional material, is comparing Q STAR TOUR head-to-head with ProV1 and Chrome Soft, and is targeting those comparisons for what’s best categorized as the average golfer – the 75- to 95-MPH swinger who’s gaming a ProV1/Chrome Soft and likes urethane-covered, Tour-level performance. Even though Srixon’s data shows the Q STAR TOUR outperforms both balls, it’s fair to say we average golfers will probably find performance to be fairly similar. With that, Srixon is banking on its lower price – roughly $18 lower – will be a compelling reason for golfers to at least give the Q STAR TOUR a whack or two.
Another business truism, however, is that in the minds of consumers, a higher price equals higher performance – or at least, it should. That truism, however, has been broadsided over the last three years by the direct-to-consumer barrage and the Kirkland phenomenon, and everyone from the scratch player to the weekend warrior has more options at more price points than at any time in recent memory.
Depending on how you buy your golf balls, you can find Tour-level performance, or at least close enough to it, for under $30 a dozen. If you don’t mind volume buys online, it’s hard to beat the value of Snell or Vice. At $29.99 a dozen, the Q STAR TOUR is a solid value for golfers who prefer to buy by the dozen.
The Q STAR TOUR is available online and at retailers now.