Some golfers are superstitious about colored golf balls, as in, “Hey, man, I don’t wear colored underwear and I don’t play colored golf balls.”
That being said, colored balls have been around for almost 100 years. Golf, an undeniable game of fashion, has never suppressed brightly colored apparel or golf balls, in spite of the superstitions that may be harbored by some of its participants.
With its Hol-Hi golf ball, Wilson Sporting Goods promoted brightly colored balls as far back as the early 1920s. Colored balls reached their zenith in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when both Wayne Levi and Jerry Pate won PGA Tour events with alternative colors — yellow balls for Levi, orange for Pate.
Ordinary golfers, though, proved to be a conservative bunch. Consumers were stuck on white, and colored balls remained something of a curiosity, particularly in the United States.
Nobody knew this better than Volvik, the South Korean golf ball manufacturer known for its distinctively colored Crystal ball. Volvik began selling its golf balls in 1989, mostly in Asia.
Slowly but steadily, colored golf balls have gained traction around the world. Even in the USA.
Colored balls today account for roughly 15 percent of annual U.S. golf ball sales. Compare that with Japan and other Asian countries, where colored balls have claimed approximately 40 percent of the market.
It might seem logical that a generation of young golfers — millennials, if you prefer — would favor balls available in a variety of colors.
However, this is not necessarily true. Golf’s most popular models, the Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x, still are sold only in traditional white. The manufacturer most often associated with colored golf balls is still Volvik, which operates from its new U.S. headquarters in Orlando.
On the positive side of the golf ball equation, Volvik has surprised even itself with 2017 sales. According to Jon Claffey, national director of sales and marketing at Volvik USA, the company’s new Vivid ball will double its projected sales in 2017.
The Vivid has a unique matte finish. It is designed primarily for golfers with swing speeds less than 95 miles an hour, although the ball’s appeal has stretched across the golf ball spectrum.
Why the fascination with Vivid? The answer to that question is simple: It offers an attractive combination of length, control and feel. This definitely is not your grandfather’s rock-hard distance ball. It retails for $29.99 a dozen.
Volvik is the king of colored balls and is widely recognized as such. Amateur golfers are paying attention to the brand. Even before it was officially announced that Bubba Watson would switch from a white Titleist Pro V1x to a pink Volvik S4 in 2017, the word was out, and avid consumers started buying the S4 as if it were gold.
“It’s absolutely true,” said Claffey. “We saw a huge uptick in the S4. Bubba really moves the needle. In seems like every month we’ve established a new record for our company.”
Watson was among the audience that watched the Golf Channel presentation of the 2016 World Long Drive Championship. What he saw was thousands of pink Volvik Vivid XT balls being pounded by golf’s longest hitters. Joe Miller of London, England, won the title with a 423-yard blast.
The response from fans and golfers was so enthusiastic that Volvik decided to become the WLDC title sponsor in 2017. The Golf Channel will telecast the world finals Sept. 5 and 6 live from Mesquite, Nev.
With all this visibility, here are a few Volvik questions and answers.
Question No. 1: What’s the difference between the two Vivid models?
Answer No. 1: The four-piece Vivid XT is designed for golfers with higher swing speeds (say 95 MPH and up), while the three-piece Vivid is aimed at the large population of golfers with slower to more moderate swing speeds (under 95).
Question No. 2: The Vivid is available in how many different colors?
Answer No. 2: Green, orange, pink, red, sherbet, white, yellow (seven, listed alphabetically).
Question No. 3: How many different Volvik golf ball models are there?
Answer No. 3: Eight, including the two Vivid models plus six more varieties.
Question No. 4: Why do white golf balls dominate the marketplace?
Answer No. 4: It’s a mystery.
Colored golf balls are easier to see in the air and on the ground. In the rough, they stand out like fluorescent eggs. And they perform with the same distance and durability as traditional white balls.
Will colored balls capture a significantly larger portion of golf ball marketplace? Maybe, maybe not.
The modern movement toward colored golf balls is spearheaded by senior golfers, whose eyesight may have deteriorated with age. Virtually everyone agrees: Finding a colored ball in high grass is a piece of cake compared to a white ball.
Informal visual testing was conducted by the Achenslice crew with white, orange and pink balls from distances of 25, 50 and 100 yards (on the ground). The white ones were much more difficult to spot. For many seniors, the visual difference was dramatic.
Because of quick identification, many golfers are likely to play slightly faster with colored balls.
A side note: These are real golf balls. “It’s important to remember that these are not putt-putt balls we’re talking about,” said Corey Consuegra, Bridgestone Golf’s senior director of marketing. “These are high-performance golf balls.”
In Japan, Bridgestone is the No. 1 seller of colored golf balls.
Circling back to Volvik, no other manufacturer worldwide has placed so much emphasis on balls of different colors. Yes, Volvik makes a white ball, but the company is hanging its golf hat on a lineup of different colors.
Who else but Volvik would come up with an offbeat golf ball color called sherbet? No, you can’t eat it.
For amateur golfers who would like to try colored balls, here are some games, contests or insights associated with Volvik balls. This discussion will focus on the popular Vivid model.
- You may tire of answering question about your colored golf balls. In general, golfers appear to be mesmerized by all the color choices.
- Fearsome foursomes: American golfers rarely play an alternate-shot format, even though this scheme is part of the Ryder Cup. Anyway, it is quick and easy to engage in foursomes play, especially if two opposing teams use golf balls of two different colors.
- Four players, four colors: Superstitions aside, it is fun to take balls of four different colors and draw to see which player uses which color.
- Any competition involving multiple teams is an obvious candidate for golf balls with team colors: Oh, those crazy superstitions again.
“It’s been a wild ride,” summarized Claffey, “and we couldn’t be happier. Golf is supposed to be fun, and we’re doing our part.”
—Jim Achenbach Senior Golf Insider firstname.lastname@example.org