As in, it is—we believe—the first golf ball designed specifically for the Professional Long Drivers and World Long Drive Associations. If you watch any of those long drive competitions on TV, they’ll be smashing the new Bridgestone e9.
And it also fills a bit of a void that’s been in the golf ball marketplace since the days of the old Rock Flites: a firm true distance ball.
Just how this ball came about is actually a pretty cool story. We promise you, if you tee this one up, it’ll go high, far and deep.
Bridgestone e9 Long Drive – The Genesis
“It’s a culmination of two different projects we’ve been working on,” says Elliot Mellow, Bridgestone’s Golf Ball Marketing Manager. “The perfect storm ultimately led to the e9.”
That storm had two very distinct fronts.
First, Bridgestone learned through its research that a void had developed in the marketplace for a truly firm distance-focused golf ball.
“The true ‘distance ball’ category has turned into a soft golf ball category,” says Mellow. “The higher-compression, firmer distance ball has gone by the wayside.”
So while Bridgestone had been working on that track, a separate parallel project opened up to develop a ball specifically for long drive competitions.
“We got hooked up with Bobby Peterson and the Professional Long Drive guys,” says Mellow. “They’ve never had a ball that they’ve used in competition that was purpose-built for them. They had a ball sponsor and that sponsor would give them product but it was never a product they had any input on.”
And when ball sponsors changed, so did the ball.
So Bridgestone R&D worked with the Long Drive crew in much the same way they’d work with Tiger to develop a Tour ball.
What Makes the e9 Long Drive Long?
Long drives in long-drive golf need the same things in a ball that long drives in non-long-drive golf need. The ball needs to be firm for ball speed but not so firm that it spins too much if you happen to mishit. And when you swing like long-drive guys swing, slight mishits are more common than you think.
Specifically, it needs to stay in the air longer so it’ll carry farther.
“We have a pretty kickass aerodynamic package,” says Mellow. “We put a modified 330 dimple pattern on the ball, similar to the old B330 ball Fred Couples played on Tour. And we changed some radii and some dimple depths and then injected-molded the cover so there’s no seam for less drag.”
Bridgestone also changed the gradational compression in the e9’s core. If you read yesterday’s piece on the new e12 Contact, you know Bridgestone (and pretty much everyone else) is really good at developing a single core than acts like a multi-piece core. Today’s cores are generally soft in the center and get firmer toward the outside. The soft center mitigates driver spin for straight flight while the firmer outside is all about ball speed.
“With e9 Long Drive, we went with a more extreme gradational situation,” says Mellow. “There’s a bigger difference from the inner to the outer region for more ball speed while maintaining low driver spin so the ball doesn’t balloon when someone really goes after it.”
And the long drive guys always go after it.
“They’re swinging fast but not necessarily reaching a 1.5 smash factor,” Mellow explains. “They’re swinging so fast they find it difficult to hit the center. That extreme gradational slope helps with overall forgiveness.”
The Need For Speed
The new Bridgestone e9 Long Drive has been in use on the Long Drive tour since November and it will be the official ball for all competitions.
Apparently, it’s delivering.
“They’ve had a handful of guys hit over 232 mph in ball speed,” says Mellow. “That’s been the unicorn for them, kind of an un-gettable number.”
For the consumer market, the idea for a firmer distance ball does have some merit. The idea behind a “soft” ball being long despite the ball speed penalty has some merit. A softer ball will spin less so it has a better chance of staying in the fairway or at least on the golf course. A firmer ball would have more ball speed but would also spin more, making it hard to control.
The new Bridgestone e9 Long Drive is a wee bit firmer than Tiger’s Tour B XS but not as firm as the Tour B X. It is, however, considerably firmer than the marshmallow-y Wilson DUO Soft+ or Srixon Soft Feel. Bridgestone says its compression is 75 while the Tour B XS is 73. In our Ball Lab, we tested the Tour B XS to around 80. That’s due to the different methods of measuring compression.
“This baby’s all about distance,” says Mellow. “And there’s always one person in every foursome who just wants to hit it a mile and couldn’t care less about anything else.”
Hey, if nothing else, it’ll be a great scramble ball.
Price and Availability
The Bridgestone e9 Long Drive is a Surlyn-covered ball designed to do one thing: Go like hell.
As a result, it’s only going to go like hell in one color: white. When you watch Long Drive competitions, you’ll see different colors but Bridgestone is doing that just for the competitions.
They’ll run $29.99 per dozen.
As with yesterday’s e12 Contact announcement, Bridgestone isn’t giving a specific date the e9 Long Drive will hit retail. It’s a soft launch and the closest timeframe they’ll give us is “March.”