(Written By: GolfSpy Matt) When my father-in-law, who doesn’t have cable, doesn’t read magazines, and rarely finds his way into a golf store, asks me about a product, I know it has a lot of buzz. I knew that TaylorMade had turned up the hype machine to 17 when he recently asked me, “So, what do you know about those TaylorMade Rocketballz?”
For 2012, TaylorMade has released an entirely new golf ball line up. The lineup includes
- Penta TP5 – a 5 piece tour ball that replaces the original Penta
- Penta TP3 – a 3 piece ball with a urethane cover
- Rocketballz – the distance ball
One of the things that really separated the original Penta from other tour balls was its feel: I have yet to find a ball that felt as soft. Now I’ve found two: the new Penta TP3 and TP5. The TP5 is definitely softer than the TP3, but, in my opinion, you have to be really focusing on feel to notice the difference. I believe that if someone slipped a TP3 in my box of TP5’s while I was on the course, I probably wouldn’t know the difference. That said, if you want the softest of the soft, the TP5 is for you.
The Rocketballz is…well…it’s a distance ball. I probably have a harsher view of it simply because I was comparing it side by side with the two Pentas, but it is definitely a firm, click-y feel.
All three TaylorMade balls get very high marks for durability. For all the testing (which includes a lot of shots, including plenty of wedges), I only used one sleeve of each ball. Even after the testing, the balls used are pretty much unmarked, and I will definitely use them to play.
For the Data section, I tested each ball on a launch monitor. With each club, I hit until I had 10 “good” hits with each ball. The 10 good shots were averaged and the results for each ball were compared. Across the three balls, launch angle and ball speed were found to be quite consistent, so the focus of this section will be spin. As ever, I don’t suggest that my findings are definitive, but simply a starting point for you to figure out which ball might be best for your game.
As you would expect, the Rocketballz was the lowest spinning ball off of the driver. For me, it spun about 300 RPMs less than the TP5. Of the three balls, the TP3 was the highest spinning off the driver, but only by about 300 RPMs compared to the TP5. One thing to note is that I am quite low-spin with my driver, so players who generate more spin might see more discrepancy between balls.
Much like the driver, the spin rankings with the 4I was Rocketballz, TP5, and TP3 (from lowest spin to highest). The difference with the 4I was actually even smaller than the driver, with only about 400 RPMs separating the Rocketballz from the TP3.
The biggest surprise of the whole test was with the 7I: all three balls produced numbers that were virtually identical with regard to spin, launch angle, and ballspeed. While I was surprised at first (and actually went back to confirm the results), it made sense to me after I thought about it: regardless of what ball I’ve ever played, I’ve never had a problem getting a 7I to stop on a green. This testing seemed to show me that most balls tend to perform similarly in the middle of the set, but reveal distinct characteristics with the long and short clubs.
When I got to the pitching wedge, each ball started to reveal a unique character again. As expected, the Rocketballz was the lowest spinning: roughly 1,500 RPMs less than either of the Pentas. Between the TP3 and TP5 there was a small, though measurable difference: the TP3 had about 250 RPMs more backspin than the TP5.
60* Performance – Half Swing
With a half swing 60* wedge (a 60 yard shot), the Penta TP5 had the most spin. The TP3 spun well, but about 650 RPMs less than the TP5. The Rocketballz lagged considerably with 3000 RPMs less than the TP5 (roughly half the spin).
The TaylorMade Rocketballz, Penta TP3, and Penta TP5 are price at $27, $35, and $46, respectively. I’m a little surprised by the price of the Rocketballz: to my mind, it’s a basic distance ball that shouldn’t be more than $20. The Penta TP5 is a first-tier tour ball and it’s priced as such. While I wouldn’t say it’s a huge value, it’s priced appropriately. The Penta TP3, in my opinion, is the best value of the group because you get more than you pay for. As I said above, the TP3 is almost indistinguishable from the TP5, yet it costs $11 less.
Overall, none of the numbers were particularly surprising: the Rocketballz will be the longest for most people (due to lower spin), but it lags in short game spin. The TP5 and TP3 are remarkably similar. TaylorMade indicates as much with the graphics on the back of each box: essentially they claim that they are identical except for more spin in the irons with the TP3.
On the Course
The first TaylorMade ball that I took out to play is the Penta TP5. So far, I don’t think there’s a single thing I don’t like about this ball. It’s at least as long as the “old” Penta, while retaining all the short game spin and soft feel.
I’ve also had a chance to play a round with the Penta TP3, and, in all honesty, I’d have a hard time telling the difference between it and the TP5. I’d like to say that I could, but I’m not a machine: any performance differences I saw were more likely attributable to me than the ball.
I have yet to take the Rocketballz on the course, but, in all honesty, it’s not really the type of ball that I would use during a “serious” round of golf. If I can’t rely on a ball to check with a half wedge shot, I won’t play it. Also, given that I don’t spin my driver (or any other clubs) very much, there’s not a distance boost for me.
The Rocketballz is likely the best fit for the weekend golfer. It’s going to be long, and it’s not terribly expensive. It doesn’t give great spin around the green, but there are plenty of golfers who don’t/can’t use spin around the greens anyway.
The Penta TP3 and TP5 are both going to be a great fit for better or more avid players. It will really come down to a preference for feel and how much a player wants/needs a little more greenside spin and a little less driver spin.
I think that TaylorMade did a great job with this 2012 ball line up. When you factor in the Burner ball (not reviewed here), they’ve covered every price point and every player. While all the balls will fit someone, there’s little question in my mind that the Penta TP3 is the star of the show. At $35, it raises the bar for what a golfer can expect from a ball that doesn’t cost more than your green fees.