Wilson Golf’s Frank Simonutti on the Wilson Staff DUO Soft [Interview]
The Wilson Staff DUO golf ball was revolutionary with its ultra-soft feel and performance for a 2-piece ball. The Chicago company is now coming out with an upgraded version, the Wilson Staff DUO Soft.
We wanted to know more about this new golf ball and how it could possibly get any better than its predecessor. So, we went directly to the source. We spoke with Wilson Golf Ball Innovation Director, Frank Simonutti to discuss the new DUO Soft golf ball. Here’s what he had to say (Note: The interview is edited for flow).
Global Golf: Thanks for joining me, Frank. Let’s jump right in: We’ve seen the 29 compression rating in the Wilson Staff DUO and now again in the Wilson Staff DUO Soft. What’s that number mean?
Frank Simonutti: First of all, it’s a pleasure to join you. To answer your question: Compression rating has been around almost 50 years. It’s basically just a measurement of the decimation of a golf ball when you apply a load to it. In the standard test for Wilson, we apply a 200-pound load and measure how much the ball deforms. Every one-thousandth of an inch is one compression point. What it means is, compression is a measurement of how soft the ball is. The lower compression number and the more the ball deforms under an applied load and the softer the ball will sound and feel.
GG: Why is that something a golfer should look for?
FS: We’ve been doing, what we call “pursuing soft” for years. This goes to the overall feel of golf balls. The average player is not going to be able to tell if one ball is a few yards longer than another, generally. Most golfers can’t tell how much the ball spins, and in a lot of cases, they don’t need higher spin.
One thing that any player can tell the difference in is feel. We’ve done blind testing on pretty much every product we’ve developed since Staff Titanium in the late 90s. We would put ball one up against another in blind testing and just have testers pick which ball they felt helped them. Two-thirds to three-quarters of players, regardless if it was 80 vs 70, 60 vs 40, 40 vs 29, pick the softer ball as the preferred ball. So, it’s a point of differentiation that people can get. That’s the reason behind soft.
GG: That makes sense. I know the matte finishes aren’t coming out yet, but I’m curious why matte and how you decided to go with the colors you went with.
FS: The matte finishes are just a different look. It’s an interesting look and it makes golf balls more visible. In the sunlight, with the amount of optical bright we put in them, you can see the flight unbelievably well. It’s surprising to me and I’ve been doing golf balls for 27 years.
For the colors, we basically brought in a bunch of colors. We had people test and review the balls. We had a lot of people test them on course. These colors were the ones that were the most preferred and, in my mind, the most visible. Visibility was one of the criteria we were trying to emphasize when we were testing.
GG: Looking at the ionomer cover used in the DUO Soft, how does that play into the softness?
FS: Ionomers are used in the majority of golf balls (everything but the high-price, tour-level balls, which are urethane). The key to the softness of the DUO Soft is the specific ionomer blend we use and the core of the ball. What we try to do is balance the core compression and the cover hardness to give you both softest possible feeling ball with the best performance that you can get.
In our development of low compression golf balls, the core is softer than the cover. We made the core larger on the new DUO Soft. That allows us to put a slightly softer cover, with the core and cover getting closer together in their hardness, which, for us, is improved performance. With a 3 percent larger core than the previous DUO, we see a longer golf ball. We’re also able to maintain lower compression. So, it’s the balance of the two components. It’s never a single part of the ball that gives you your overall performance.
GG: Does the blend you use help with the strength and durability of the golf ball?
FS: Yes, actually it does. The issue you have in making soft golf balls is if your core is too soft and your cover is too hard, when you impact ball, you go beyond the yield point of the cover. So, in other words, you deform it too much and it can crack. You have to be below a certain level of hardness. If you can go larger on the core, you can make the cover softer and you can increase the durability while maintaining performance. The hardness of the cover is a very big factor as far as the durability of the ball. Also, the thinner the cover is, it’s better off to make it a little softer, for the durability purposes.
GG: Switching a little bit to the dimples. I saw that you guys use a 302 dimple pattern on the DUO Soft. What role does that play for the consumer?
FS: Everybody develops their own dimple patterns, for aesthetic purposes in a lot of cases. Obviously, there’s flight performance, but you can make good flying patterns with any number of dimples. Generally anything over 300 and less than about 432, you can make a good performing dimple pattern. The performance is based on making dimple patterns such that it creates the highest amount of lift and the lowest amount of drag to get longest distance performance. We’ve changed the dimple pattern that we’re using now.
We kept the same 302 dimples that you see on our previous DUO ball and the new DUO Soft. It’s the same layout. What we’ve done is we’ve adjusted the dimple depth a little bit to be shallower. There’s a new machining process used in fabricating our dimple tooling, which gives a sharper break angle. The angle from where the sphere would be into the dimple is sharper. Both of which provide improved distance performance. We actually see a higher trajectory than the previous DUO ball and a longer carry distance. We improved the overall total distance as well.
GG: What level of player is the DUO Soft golf ball aimed at?
FS: It tested out as the longest premium, two-piece ball on 90 mph swing speed testing. It tests just fine at 105 mph. It’s not a low swing speed ball. It will perform for all swing speeds. It’s a low spin ball off the tee. A low spin ball off the tee is better for both sides because it’s going to hook and slice less. You’re going to hit more fairways. All the spin in the world doesn’t help you if you’re in an inch of rough. It’s a straighter ball, got a nice high launch angle so it’s easier to get the ball in the air, and it has a great trajectory on an approach shots. It’s going to spin as well as any other premium 2-piece ball. It’s not going to be a ball you can work left or right. You’re not going to back it up on the green. Bottom line, this ball is a great ball for most players.
GG: How does the DUO Soft compare to other golf balls in the same category.
FS: Our description of the ball is “Softest.Longest.Straightest.” Compared to all premium 2-piece golf balls, testing at 90 mph, its the longest ball. It has the lowest spin rate, which means it’s going to be the straightest flight off the tee and it has the lowest compression, so it’s the soft feeling golf ball.
We know it works. We know people like it. We’ve seen it, both from our success with DUO, and to be fair, everybody else’s success with the category and going soft. So for most players, I don’t know what else you can ask for.
GG: Anything else you wanted to share about the DUO Soft that we haven’t covered already?
FS: It’s something, as a company, that we’re very proud of. Looking at what it’s done to the market, and even the competitive balls that have come out, I think these are all good for most golfers. It makes the game easier to some degree. It benefits the average player and that’s who needs the benefit the most. Overall, in my mind, it’s it’s the best ball for most players.
GG: Thank you so much for sharing your time and knowledge with us. We greatly appreciate it!
FS: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.
Check out these other Wilson articles