The longer a curiosity lives without explanation, the more rumors take hold.

Case in point, the disappearance of the Costco Kirkland Signature Tour Performance Golf Ball. What was it really, why wasn’t Costco able to keep up with demand, and will it ever come back?

Was D.B. Cooper involved?

We’ve discussed that before. Well, maybe not the D.B. Cooper connection.

Back then we surmised that if any more Costco balls hit the shelves, they'd be different from the original K-Sig, and so here comes your proof.

USGA Approved: K-Sig Performance One

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Effective March 1st, the USGA has approved a new Costco Kirkland Signature golf ball. The new ball is called the Costco Kirkland Signature Performance One. Let’s call it the K-SigP1.

Like the original (the Tour Performance), the Performance One has a 360-dimple cover and is designated by the USGA as a mid-high spin ball. While the USGA doesn’t specify such things, it’s not the slightest stretch to assume it also features a urethane cover.

Where the balls differ is in their construction. It certainly doesn’t help that the USGA’s construction descriptions were written for 2 and 3 piece balls and haven’t been adjusted to fully account for 4 and 5-piece balls, but it is noteworthy that, as far as the USGA is concerned, there are differences.

The USGA lists the construction of the Performance One as 4P-3c (four-piece/triple cover). The previous ball (Tour Performance) is listed as 4P-SC-3c (Four-piece, solid center, triple cover). Obviously, both balls have solid centers, so it’s likely the distinction is related to the thickness of the individual layers.

Short version – it’s a different ball. In fact, unlike the original K-Sig (which shared specs with the Nassau Quattro), no other ball on the USGA’s current list matches the K-SigP1 specification. It appears to be unique.

My guess, different guts, same cover.

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What About the Manufacturer?

While the K-Sig Tour Performance was originally listed as manufactured by Nassau in South Korea, the most recent lists show the manufacturer as SM Global, LLC. The same company is listed as the manufacturer for the new ball.

Frankly, I’m not sure why USGA allows this as it appears to be an effort to obfuscate the true source of the golf ball. SM Global isn’t a manufacturer; it’s packaging company located in southern California. They manufacture as many golf balls in their facility as I do in my basement. Zero.

Do words not having meaning? I digress…

We’ll know more when we’re able to cut a Costco Kirkland Signature Performance One open, but we’re confident the cutaways will reveal a mostly different ball – and that’s not surprising.

I’d wager that the balls were produced in the same Nassau plant using different cores.

Here’s why.

As mystery around the original ball and its disappearance grew, a few different plausible explanations emerged.

We were told that Costco bought a massive amount of scrap cores (loosely called overruns) – and those cores may not all have come from the same model of golf ball.

A few weeks back we got a tip that Costco was sitting on a sizeable inventory of finished golf balls. While those could be the original Tour Performance, they could just as easily be a batch of the new Performance One (awaiting USGA approval).

Obviously, Costco has no pressing need to release a new ball. Unlike your average golf company, it’s certainly not bound by any type of release cycle, and it’s not like demand for the original has waned.

The new ball is almost likely born out of necessity – and it’s more than a little likely that necessity comes from the fact that Costco ran out of one pile of cores and is now working off a different generation of scrap. Depending on exactly what else Costco bought, it’s entirely possible there could be another new Costco ball six months from now.

At a minimum, the new ball seemingly validates much of what we’ve been told about the origins of the original K-Sig.

The second story we’ve heard (now from multiple sources) is that what may have been the 3rd shipment of the original K-Sig was halted due to the threat of legal action from one of the industry’s leading ball companies. Of course, that 3rd shipment could just as easily be the Tour Performance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that threats weren’t made.

These two things are not mutually exclusive.

Some industry insiders don’t believe the type of letter exchange that’s common within the golf industry is likely in this case. The argument is that the K-Sig’s market impact isn’t significant enough to threaten anybody.

Regardless of what’s already transpired, if there is a new ball, and it performs well, and it remains dirt cheap, I believe competitive ball companies will make an effort to shut it down for good.

My sense from talking to insiders at the PGA Show was that, for the industry, the K-Sig was fun, almost cute…while it lasted. It was tolerated because most believed it would run its course, and for all intents and purposes, it did.

If it pops up again - and it looks like something similar is about to - just about everyone who makes a tour ball is going to be taking a long hard look at their ball patents. I’ve been told that if a company looks hard enough, there’s almost always something in a competitor’s product it can argue infringes on existing intellectual property.

What’s Next?

Apart from the fact that the USGA has approved a new Costco ball, the rest is admittedly speculation. Take it for what it’s worth, but my 2 cents; it’s unlikely the K-SigP1 will be $15/dozen. Nobody, the factory included, makes reasonable money at that price. $20/dozen is plausible, I’d say even likely, but if there are legal threats, that won’t put an end to them.

$30 is more sustainable, though I don’t think it will happen. And, of course, all of the above assumes Costco is able to source more cores and make more balls.

I suppose we’ll have some answers soon enough. For now, keep checking the Costco website for Kirkland Signature Performance One availability.