History of Titleist: An X-ray vision

Titleist, maker of the PGA Tour‘s most popular ball used by Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas, dates back to the 1930s, an amateur golfer, a missed putt and an X-ray.

The American golf equipment brand, also known for manufacturing clubs and bags, is owned by the Acushnet Company, with its headquarters in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Acushnet began its life in 1910 as a precision molded rubber company, founded by Phil Young, an MIT graduate and dedicated amateur golfer.

On one fateful Sunday in 1932, Young was playing a round when he missed a simple putt. Convinced it was the ball at fault, Young asked his friend and playing partner that day, who was a dentist, to X-ray the ball.

The X-ray showed that Young’s hunch, as a rubber specialist, was right: the ball’s rubber core was off centre. After his discovery, he ordered X-rays of more balls and found that most were poorly constructed with off-centre cores, making them prone to erratic shots.

Young was now inspired. He had a dream of creating the world’s highest quality and best performing golf balls. So he persuaded Fred Bommer, a fellow MIT graduate, rubber specialist and avid golfer, to head up Acushnet’s new Golf Division.

After three years of experimenting with different materials and designs, they eventually developed a ball, made by a machine that wrapped the rubber string around the core perfectly every time, that offered superior distance and accuracy compared to other golf balls of the time.

The first Titleist golf ball was born in 1935. It was a revolution in professional golf and changed golf ball manufacturing forever. To this day, every Titleist golf ball is X-rayed during production.

Where did the name come from?

The Titleist name came about when the first Titleist-branded golf balls were made in 1935. Young and fellow Acushnet executives were looking for a word that was synonymous with winning or being a champion. They eventually settled on Titleist. They now needed a logo.

An executive suggested using the handwriting of office secretary Helen Robinson, who was known for her beautiful writing. She was asked to write the word ‘Titleist’, and the way she wrote the word is exactly as the name appears today on every piece of Titleist equipment throughout the world.

Targetting professionals

Though most golf equipment was sold in department stores, Young and Bommer settled on an early distribution policy of ‘sold through golf professionals only’. They saw golf professionals as the the best judges of a golf ball’s performance. They had taken the first step towards becoming the leading golf brand of the professional and the golf pro shop.

By the 1940s, the brand began also began targetting golf tournaments and the game’s top players, based on the idea that if the best players trust your golf ball then it must be the best golf ball. In 1949, Titleist was the most played ball at the U.S. Open at Medinah

Pro V1 revolution

The brand’s celebrated Pro V1 ball made its debut on the PGA Tour at Las Vegas in late 2000, and was made available to the public by December. Gone were the days of wound rubber bands in favour of a revolutionary layered construction with a thermoset urethane cover. Three years later, the Pro V1x hit the market, which retained the soft feel of the Pro V1 while reducing spin and increasing distance.

Billy Andrade won that event in Vegas with the new ball and the rest is history. The Pro V1 is today the most played ball on the PGA Tour and has been for the past 20 years, picking up the most worldwide wins from its brand ambassadors, which include Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Max Homa, Cameron Young, Will Zalatoris and Jessica Korda, and players who are not directly under contract.

Continued growth 

Over the years, the company has grown and expanded, developing a wide range of golf equipment. In the 1940s, Titleist introduced its first line of golf clubs and throughout the 1950s and 60s continued to develop its products including the first Titleist golf bag and the popular Acushnet Bullseye putter.

In 2022, Titleist launched their new TSR range of drivers and fairways metals, which have proved popular among Tour pros including Matt Fitzpatrick. Cameron Smith won the 150th Open at St. Andrews with the new TSR model in the bag, as did runner-up Cam Young, cementing Titleist’s place in the game’s history.

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