There are a lot of parts to a golf ball. Typically, we talk about a cover and a core, and these days we increasingly talk about the importance of a mantle layer or layers to create a performance ball that goes far on full shots and spins well on short shots.
One part we almost never talk about in dissecting golf balls, though, is paint.
Wilson, on the other hand, does. And a discussion that began in the Wilson Labs team about the effect paint has on a golf ball's performance led to the introduction of a new Tour-caliber ball, the Staff Model R.
The Staff Model has been an early winner for Wilson, with the four-piece ball proving a firm-compression (95 rating) powerhouse that performs well up against similar firmer balls for higher swing speeds. What the Wilson innovation team was curious about, however, was whether the paint on the ball, or any ball, holds back performance. After looking at a smattering of data, the Wilson team came to the conclusion that inconsistent paint application can make a ball spin less and fly more offline. So they decided to create a version of the Staff Model without paint, or a raw look, hence the R in Staff Model R.
The ball looks the part. It looks like it's missing something because it is. The paint is gone and so is the clear finish on the ball that typically helps preserve the paint job. All that's on the ball is stamping and numbering.
It's not like the ball is unfinished. The seams are still polished, but that's the extent of it. The idea is that a better player -- professional or low-handicap golfer -- will benefit from a ball that's more consistent from dimple to dimple, giving them confidence to attack the course.
“Staff Model R is unpainted as the dimple cross-section geometry and the pattern of dimples on a golf ball are critical aerodynamic elements that affect the flight performance of the ball in terms of trajectory, distance and directional stability. These dimples are a mere 0.004-0.007 inches deep and super sensitive to the level of paint on the ball,” said Bob Thurman, Vice President Wilson Labs.
If you're the kind of golfer who feels the need to have a new-looking ball throughout a round, the Staff Model R may not be for you. Without paint or a clear coating to protect that paint job, the balls will stain and discolor throughout a round or several rounds. After all, the golf ball comes into contact with myriad surfaces during a round.
The Staff Model R flies lower and spins more throughout the bag. That's good news for a high-ball hitter looking to keep the ball down, but the downside might be spinning too much off the tee. Depending on the kind of player you are, it might be great for your iron play. I hit a moon ball with a good amount of spin, but I could stand to hit the approach shots lower and suck the ball back a little more.
This ball seems to be asking better golfers if they would trade off some aesthetic value to their ball for some potentially better performance. It's not a fit for everyone, but this is the kind of ball that could find a strong cult following.