WILMINGTON, DEL. — It may be difficult to imagine just how much science, not to mention rubber and plastic components, go into a golf ball. But global giant DuPont Co. believes that it has found the holy grail of golf balls with a new product comprised of ionomer resin technology.
DuPont's science is at the core of Nike Inc.'s next generation RZN golf ball (known as the resin black ball), which was designed to deliver more energy at impact for faster ball speed, longer distance and a more stable ball flight. Released commercially this spring and retailing at more than $40 per dozen, the Nike Golf RZN ball has “broken the linear relationship between soft and fast,” according to Janice Granato, DuPont global golf ball segment director.
“For years, you have had soft balls, which are great around the green, and harder balls, which are perfect for distance,” she said. “But we have taken it a step further and now have the most advanced ball available.”
DuPont “broke the paradigm,” she said, with a new resin composition for golf ball cores that provides compression (softness) and speed for golf balls. Nike's proprietary Speedlock RZN core technology uses this science of DuPont's engineered advanced ionomer resin technology to achieve both distance and control.
These balls are based on a patented, advanced ionomer technology that enables unprecedented levels of ionic crosslinking to deliver a combination of high resilience and low compression previously reserved for thermoset polybutadiene rubbers.
DuPont has been involved in developing the material science of golf balls for more than 50 years, helping to pioneer “cut resistant durability” in the 1960s and evolving into high-performing balls over the past decade, Granato said. The company provides material science for virtually all golf ball manufacturers, and has professionals dedicated to golf ball technology in three locations around the U.S.
“It's a huge challenge because a significant breakthrough in new (golf ball technology) science can take many, many years,” she said. “This industry moves so quickly that we have to come up with new and exciting material science on an annual basis.”
Nike was the partner for DuPont for this particular golf ball project, but the company has deep relationships with others. Advertising campaigns have been developed and will be seen through the summer.
The advanced performance resin technology also offers the potential for improved sustainability in golf as up to 30 percent of the core material's weight is from renewably sourced content.
In a statement, Nike said the key to this design is core technology based on an interlocking design—with a surface area similar to that of a waffle iron—so the compression layer forms a tighter bond and helps promote better energy transfer at impact.
“We knew we hadn't pulled 100 percent of the energy that we could out of the existing RZN core,” said Rock Ishii, senior director, Nike Golf product development. “Working in partnership with DuPont, we were able to develop a softer and faster RZN material ... that means more distance, especially with fairway woods, irons and wedges, and softer feel and sound around the greens.”
The depth of technology with golf balls would shock any consumer, Granato said.
“That little white golf ball has many layers—multiple mantel layers, outer and inner cores. With each one of those layers, the golf ball manufacturers are responsible for the design science, and we are responsible for the material science,” she said. “It's an amazing combination of science and art. These are made of compressive materials that are very resilient from a thermoplastic standpoint.
“Our goal is not to compare against other materials but to provide what the market in general needs for golf balls. We try to come up with the material science to make it more fun for anyone—including a duffer like me — to play golf.”
Most golfers representing Nike Golf, including Europeans Rory McIlroy, winner of this year’s British Open, and Paul Casey, have used the ball in 2014.