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GOLF BALL REVIEW! – Nike XI-S, XI-X & Vapor Black

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Introduction

(Written By: GolfSpy Matt) Memo to Nike’s marketing department: You make cool ads that go over the head of 99% of golfers.  Golfers are simple creatures: tell them that your new ball is longer off the tee and they might try it.  Tell them what “RZN IS” and you start to see that foggy, “You’re making me think too hard” look.

Now, whether you get their ads or not, Nike is trying to bring some real innovation to the golf ball market.  By using a core made out of RZN instead of rubber, they believe that they can make the “spin slope” steeper.  Did I lose you there?  I’ll try again: LONGER OFF THE TEE, MORE SPIN AROUND THE GREENS.  See how simple that was, Nike?

Of course we can’t just let a claim like that be, we have to test it.  Here's what we tested:

And here’s what we found:

Nike golf ball reviews

Feel

Each of the three Nike balls offers a fairly distinct feel.  Off of the putter, both 20XI balls have a low-pitched “thud,” though the X is clearly firmer than the S.  The Vapor has a much “click-ier” sound and feel.

With the other clubs, the 20XI-S really separates itself as the softest of the three, combining a softer cover with a lower compression.  The 20XI-X feels markedly firmer and harder to compress.  The Vapor Black feels more similar to the X with a full swing, though it seems to achieve this feeling through a firmer cover and lower compression.

With one exception, all of our testers rated the Vapor the firmest, and the 20XI-S the softest.  That one exception rated all of the balls a perfect 10 for softness.  He also rated all the balls equally super-high spinning.  Whatever he’s drinking…I’d like one, too.

Durability

Of the Nike balls tested here, I would say that the Vapor Black was the most durable.  At the end of the testing, the ball was scuffed, but not cut or unplayable.  The 20XI-X was in similar shape, though a bit more scuffed than the Vapor Black.

The oddity of the group was the 20XI-S.  This ball was noticeably scuffed after the 7I testing, long before I even got to the wedges.  Despite this early wear, the 20XI-S stayed in basically the same condition for the rest of the testing.

Our testers rated these balls anywhere from a 5 to an 8 on durability.  Basically, they aren’t going to explode in a cloud of white shavings after one swing nor will they last forever.  Average to above average durability throughout.

Driver Performance

With the driver, both the Vapor Black and the 20XI-X showed themselves to be very low spin and practically indistinguishable.  The 20XI-S was still very low spin, but slightly higher (300 RPMs) than the Vapor Black and 20XI-X.  Standard warning: I tend to produce low driver spin, so you may see larger differences between these balls than I did, though I doubt the order would be different.

Our test group felt that both of the 20XI balls were equally long, with the Vapor lagging a bit.  One tester did distinguish between the two 20XI balls: he felt that the 20XI-X could be the longest ball ever at times and substantially shorter other times.  He felt that the 20XI-S was more consistent in its length.

4I Performance

As I moved to a long iron, the 20XI-S remained the highest spinning ball.  The 20XI-X was in the middle and produced about 500 RPMs less backspin.  The Vapor Black was the lowest spinning with a long iron: more than 700 RPMs less than the S and about 300 less than the X.

Regardless of whether they found them to be high or low spinning, our test group found the 20XI balls to be virtually indistinguishable, which meshes with the launch monitor results.  Most found the Vapor to be lower spinning, though one saw some ballooning and another rated the Vapor equal to the 20XI’s.

7I Performance

The spin rankings of these three balls remained the same from the 4I to the 7I, though the gaps shifted slightly.  The 20XI-S spun only 250 RPMs more than the 20XI-X.  This is consistent with what we’ve seen from other ball manufacturers: the differences between balls shrinks in the middle of the set.  What stood out was that the Vapor Black spun markedly less than either 20XI ball: over 800 RPMs less than the S and over 600 RPMs less than the X.  This is the biggest gap in 7I performance I’ve seen between any two balls yet.

PW Performance

As expected, the 20XI-S was the highest spinning ball with a pitching wedge, producing roughly 500 RPMs more spin than the 20XI-X.  The drop off between the 20XI-X and the Vapor Black was significant: almost 1,800 RPMs.

60* Performance – Half Swing

Given the large spin gap on a full pitching wedge, I was expecting the Vapor Black would not spin at all on a half-wedge.  I was wrong.  The Vapor Black stood up admirably on half-wedge shots, spinning about 200 RPMs less than the 20XI-X.  The 20XI-X and the 20XI-S were separated by another 600 RPMs of backspin, with the S spinning more than the X.

Our testers were divided on how these balls perform around the green.  Half of them felt that the 20XI-S and 20XI-X offered equal spin around the green.  The other half felt that the 20XI-X was more of a “pitch and run” ball where the 20XI-S gave them the option of stopping it on a dime.  All the testers did agree that the Vapor was lower spinning than either 20XI.

Value

Both 20XI golf balls retail for $46/dozen and the Vapor Black sells for $25/dozen.  For those that want to play a tour-level ball, the 20XI is a comparable value to the ProV1, Penta, and others like it.  The Vapor Black is a strong value, in my opinion, for offering a three-piece ball  and solid short-game performance at a price usually reserved for a two-piece ball.

The test group generally rated the 20XI balls an average value.  The Vapor was seen as an equal or greater value except for one tester who said he felt it wasn’t as good as a Hex Chrome or NXT Tour.

Player Profile

As we’ve seen with most other ball line ups, the tour level ball (20XI) is likely the best fit for players with more club head speed and more need for short game spin.  The higher handicap player probably can’t take advantage of the 20XI’s performance, and, at nearly $4 each, losing them would get expensive.

The Vapor is a good fit for the intermediate player looking to move away from the two piece distance balls who doesn’t yet want to spend the big money on a tour ball.

Final Thoughts

Highbrow marketing aside, Nike has produced a solid line up of golf balls.  While we haven’t yet dipped into the comparative testing, I expect that both of the 20XI balls would stand up well in a comparison to any other tour ball, and the Vapor is a good choice for the improving player.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Yohanan June 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I still cant stop buying either a pro v or prov x depending on the temp. Providing i have control or an iea where the ball is headed. New course or i am not sure where the ball is going bridgestone e6 or pinnacle demension/exception.

Just picked a 15 pack of noodles to try.

Those pinnacles can be s bit sketchy putting. As in egg like.

Spin and mark what ever you play.

Its an smazing exercise.

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Myles June 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I started using the 20XI – S ball this season and have loved it! Thanks for the review.

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Victor June 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm

This may be a dumb question, but does selecting a ball really make that much difference to your game?

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TwoSolitudes June 10, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Victor, a ball can make a HUGE difference in your game no matter what your level. Play a ball you can’t compress and you are giving up 20 yards or more off the tee. Play a ball too soft and watch you spin numbers and accuracy go nuts. In fact one of the easiest ways to help if you are hitting too high, or spinning too litte is to just change the ball. In my case I can’t hit a Penta worth a damn because my swing speed is not high enough. I can out drive a penta by over 20 yards by simply using a Nike Crush. Amazing. But give the same two balls to someone with a 100+ swing and the will find the Penta longer.

Great review. The vapor sounds like it would be worth a try out for me and 26 bucks is not bad.

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Victor June 11, 2012 at 1:30 am

Thank you for your reply Two Solitudes! Maybe I will check out some of those ball fitting website.

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Shockdoc17 June 11, 2012 at 3:19 am

I haven’t actually hit the 20XI balls; however, I haven’t heard many good reviews. One of my major concerns is that at least one of Nike’s PGA players (Tiger Woods) doesn’t use the 20XI. It makes me wonder how good RZN actually is.

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Matt A June 11, 2012 at 6:50 am

I’ve found that the 20XI balls behave very odd off my driver; they seem to drop out of the sky – my guess is the spin is too low. I’ve spoken to a couple of good players and they have all said they noticed same thing. I have also heard that many tour pro’s (one being AK) have had to change shafts to get the benefits from the ball, but even then have ditched it. I’m betting they saw the same thing the driver spin is so low off the driver that the ball falls from the sky,

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Golfspy Matt June 11, 2012 at 7:50 am

One of our testers saw the same thing. He said the X fell out of the sky like it was hit with buckshot. Perhaps Nike made the spin slope too steep (i.e. driver spin too low). I didn’t see any crazy low spin numbers in my launch monitor testing, but that might be because my spin numbers are very low to begin with.

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JBones June 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

I had the same experience with the S model. It got no distance, little wedge spin, and it felt like a rock. I haven’t like a Nike ball since the Tour Accuracy though and thats been quite a while.

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Brother June 11, 2012 at 8:28 am

I agree with Twosolitudes. My swing doesn’t work with the tour balls. They all feel heavier than other balls when I’m driving; however, if I could switch balls for wedge shots, I would prefer a pro v1. When I putt, I would go back to a harder, cheaper ball.

I have tried plenty, but I am settling on the Bridgestone e6.

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spencer096 June 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

strange ball…played a 20xi-x i found yesterday and had my best ballstriking round of the year. before, bought a sleeve of 20xi-s and thought it was the worst ball i ever played…would rather play a PD soft than a 20xi-s. really strange, but if a sleeve of 20xi-x’s performs like this one did for me, it’ll be a keeper.

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Michael L. June 11, 2012 at 11:50 am

review the top flite gamer v2. havent tried them, but they have insanely good reviews.

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Kitestyle June 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Nice Review. To Bad you did Not say anything about the generated distance of the balls. Of cource we expect a Tour Ball to have more Spin and a Derivate called S for soft or Spin to be softer and offer more Spin. Please Tell us if they are longer than the pro v1 or Not.

Greats from Germany

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robmailman June 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

i’ve tried all the nike ball’s and the one vapor speed is the best performing one on the course, it’s as soft as the xi-s but has a better flight off the driver and iron shot’s, the top flite gamer v2 and the new titleist velocity are the best ball’s for the money i have tried so far this year, next time i have to buy golf ball’s i’m gonna try the srixon q-star. quit wasting your money on tour ball’s, you don’t play tour yardage level courses, so why do you need a tour ball ?

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ron June 14, 2012 at 7:51 am

The 20XI-X is terrible. I play a tour version not able to be bought, no spin, will not hold greens, sounds like a ping pong ball. Got abt. 10 yards more, but not enough. They need to go back to the drawing board. Know a number of pro’s that feel the same. The tour D* and diamond were great balls. Hope they correct soon or going back to Titleist.

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Patrick Ethier June 16, 2012 at 6:24 pm

I’m a 10 whit a swing speed of 105mph… i have try Nike, Titleist, srixons, Taylor made…. I can tell you 1 thing, the Bridgestone 330 balls are awesome…. I play the B330-rx, this ball is long and short game soft, soft, soft

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Doc June 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Don’t want to jump the thread here, but along same lines, is there any listing available out there that shows relative stats on spin rates, distance parameters, etc of various balls? I have a huge amount of very good “used” balls I’ve found, but I don’t know which ones best suit my range. I have found that although I can hit the NXT’s, Pro-v’s and Bridgestone 6′s and newer RX-s with satisfactory results, I must stay away from the Pro-Vx and the other new Bridgestone.I assume the NXT Tour would be too much for my SS also….(and I have quite a few of them…sadly)
Just wondering…with thanks…

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tech December 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm

Early 2012 i tried a sleeve of both the 20xi s and x but found the ball to be “harder” feeling like putting a rock versus my trusty pro v1s. I didn’t notice much difference off the driver or irons but the sound and feel got to me. I didn’t like the feel off the putter which ultimately made me go back to the pro v1s. Later in the summer i found a vapor black on course an since it was a practice rd, i went on the play it for the last 6 holes of a rd. The vapor black felt softer and easier to compress, got roughly the same distance but felt better on putts and chips (which ultimately what i look for in a golf ball). I actually hit a half sand wedge from 30yds to a short sided pin with up slope and into a 10 mph wind and my buddy said hes never seen a ball check and spin so much EVER. I know Nike has new 20xi/resin balls coming in 2013 but i hope it has some characteristics of the vapor black. I also heard many nike tour pros play the old nike one or vapor black instead of the 20xi. the only player known using the 20xi was paul casey and he’s fallen off the face of the top 20 wgr.

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Tommy Zabawa October 7, 2013 at 6:34 am

I found some Nike balls, but they have a red check mar kand a green check mark on them.
What is the difference on those balls that don’t have black check marks?. Nothing?.

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