The story of golf equipment in the 21st century is impossible to tell without the Titleist ProV1. When the Massachusetts-based manufacturer released the first version of the now-iconic golf ball in 2000, it helped usher in an unprecedented era in the improvement of golf’s bedrock implement.
Three pieces of technology spurred the great leap forward that propelled the Pro V1 to widespread adoption from the professional ranks down through recreational players. By combining a responsive, solid core with a cast urethane cover and sophisticated multi-layer construction, Titleist found the holy grail of golf ball performance: superior distance and buttery feel with plenty of spin into and around the green. The ball launched higher off the tee than pros had been used to, but its stable flight in the wind and greenside feel converted dozens of them practically overnight. The first week the ball was available on tour, 47 players switched.
By destroying the distance-or-spin conundrum that had previously existed, Titleist had created a golf ball that appealed not just to touring pros, but the rest of us as well.
Some 23 years later, though many other very good and even great golf balls have sprung up, the Titleist Pro V1 remains king.
Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x – what’s the difference?
Refinements to the initial Pro V1 prompted Titleist R&D to realize there was an unmet need for a slightly different launch/spin profile, and in 2003, the Pro V1x was born.
Cosmetically, the initial Pro V1x had fewer dimples than the Pro V1 – 332 against 392. It also had red numbering where the Pro V1 had black. Generally speaking, golfers came to expect the four-piece Pro V1x to launch higher than its big sister, but spin a little less.
Over the years, that performance dynamic has been changed. Refinements to the 2017 and 2019 versions – Titleist releases a new Pro V1 and Pro V1x on odd years – turned things on their head; now, the Pro V1 feels a little softer, launches a little lower and spins a little less than the Pro V1x.
The 2023 Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x, reviewed
Spending several weeks testing these two new models (they retail for $55 per dozen) convinced me of the importance of working backwards from green to tee when determining the right golf ball for me, and you.
Many golfers simply default to the ball that flies farthest, as long as it feels agreeable to them. I do not believe this is the correct way to choose a golf ball, so I’m starting this review closer to the cup.
I like the feel of both golf balls, and it took me about 15 minutes to start really noticing the difference between the two. In short, the Pro V1x is slightly firmer, though not unpleasantly so, and announced itself with a slightly higher-pitched “tink” off my putter, an Evnroll ER5. The Pro V1 is by no means mushy-feeling, but I did detect a slightly “fuller” feel, as if the ball was staying on the putter face a fraction of a second longer than the Pro V1x. Speed control was fine with both; I’d be equally confident facing meaningful putts with either ball.
This is where my personal preference for the ProV1x started to emerge. Hitting shots from both fairway and rough, I found the Pro V1x agreed more with the way I like to play these shots. Again, playing the same shot with one of each ball, I found that the Pro V1x tended to have just a little more bite than the Pro V1. This manifested itself on the first bounce, especially on longer pitches. The Pro V1x would sit up a bit more upon landing, while the regular Pro V1 seemed to like to skip forward before settling. Though not a huge difference, I liked what I saw out of the Pro V1x here, especially on short-sided shots.
Full shots – wedges, irons, fairway woods
This is where the ProV1x really won me over. The slightly firmer feel at impact is neither here nor there to me, but the higher spin of the Pro V1x made me feel even more confident in being able to manipulate trajectory and spin, especially with short irons and wedges, than I did with the Pro V1. We’re not talking enormous differences here, but a December round when I peppered flags on several occasions with less-than-full swings was what ultimately convinced me that I ought to switch to the Pro V1x.
When I did some half-hearted testing of the 2021 Pro V1 and Pro V1x last summer, I rejected the Pro V1x after hitting a drive with each on a few holes and finding that I hit the Pro V1 about five to eight yards farther each time on comparable swings. That alone turned me off to the Pro V1x back then. Frankly, my results with the 2023 versions are similar; I am probably giving up about five yards off the tee by hitting the Pro V1x. So why, as someone with average-at-best power among my peer group (scratch-ish 30-somethings), would I choose the shorter golf ball?
In the end, the greater sense of control I feel with the 2023 Titleist Pro V1x on approach shots and short shots around the greens outweighs what I see as ultimately minor distance sacrifices off the tee (around five yards) and with my irons (maybe two or three yards).
I want to mention one other observation that doesn’t have to do with performance. One of the most impressive aspects of the Pro V1 in recent years has been its durability. The 2023 version is no exception; if you can keep it in play and away from cart paths or hardwoods, you can get 36 or more holes out of a single one. But even though its firmer feel would normally imply it’s more durable, I found the opposite to be true of the Pro V1x, where normal wear and tear does seem to show up a little sooner on the Pro V1x. If you find yourself torn between the two, that might be a useful tiebreaker and cause you to lean Pro V1
Have I played plenty of good golf the last several years while gaming the Pro V1? Absolutely. Could I be happy continuing to game it? No doubt. Again, the differences in the two golf balls are not enormous, but they are noticeable enough to give each a distinct identity. Many Titleist professional staffers play each ball; there’s no objectively superior model.
And while Titleist’s competition has never been fiercer, I expect to earmark most of whatever pro shop credit I accrue in 2023 towards new dozens of the Titleist Pro V1x.