Introduction

(Written By: Golfspy Matt) Despite the fact that last year’s review of Nike’s golf ball line up (found HERE) failed to get me a job in Nike’s marketing department (I can’t believe it either), I’m giving away more brilliance for free this year:

Nike 2013 Golf Balls: ALL RZN, ALL THE TIME

If you don’t see that tattooed on Rory’s face for Masters Weekend, I’ll be shocked.

Marketing aside, in 2013, Nike has doubled down on RZN: not only is it at the core of their tour-level ball, it is also being used in the new ONE RZN, their new mid-level ball.  As with the original 20XI, Nike claims that the RZN core allows them to make a ball that offers low spin with the driver, high spin with the wedges, and great ball speed.  Does this new 20XI improve on the original?  Will a mid-level RZN ball be a game changer?  Read on to find out.

Balls Tested

Feel

For anyone that tried the original version of the 20XI, the biggest question is probably, “Does the new version feel better?”  Let me answer that with an enthusiastic, “YES!”  I often described the original 20XI as hollow feeling; others used “hard,” “brittle,” and a couple other words I can’t write here.  The new 20XI feels nothing like that: it is solid, maybe a touch firm, but generally quite pleasing.

When comparing the 20XI to the 20XI-X, the X is slightly firmer, as you would expect.  The surprise, in terms of feel, is the ONE RZN.  Off of a wedge or on a short putt, the ONE RZN is virtually indistinguishable from the 20XI.  On longer putts, it becomes clear that the ONE RZN is actually a little bit softer than the 20XI: the sound is a little bit deeper from the ONE where the 20XI is slightly higher pitched.

Durability

The entire Nike line up held up really well throughout testing.  Despite using a new wedge with clean, sharp grooves, these balls emerged from the test without any major scarring.

I was able to put a couple small marks on a 20XI that I played in California, but that was only after numerous hard wedge shots (and maybe a run in with a tree…maybe).

Data

Driver Performance

Whatever gripes people may have had with the original 20XI, high driver spin was not one of them.  In fact, for low-spin players like me, it was hard to keep that ball in the air.

The new 20XI does retain most of the ultra-low-spin characteristics of the original.  In my testing, I found that the new 20XI-X is almost identical to the old version in terms of driver spin.  The new 20XI spins slightly more than the original 20XI-S, a difference that I saw both on the launch monitor and on the course.

The ONE RZN balls are every bit as low-spin as their tour-caliber brothers.  As you would expect, the ONE RZN X spins a couple hundred RPMs less than the ONE RZN, a gap similar to the one between the 20XI and 20XI-X

Irons Performance

While we often find that the performance of different golf balls is nearly identical with the irons, Nike is a definite exception to the rule.  While their differences still aren’t as big as they are with the wedges, they can be noticeable, especially to a high-spin player.

As you would expect, the 20XI and ONE RZN both spin more than their X counterparts, to the tune of about 10% (about 300 and 600 RPMs with a 4I and 7I, respectively).  Overall, the 20XI was the highest spinning, followed by the 20XI-X and ONE RZN, with the ONE RZN X spinning the least.

PW Performance

In a change from past models, the mid-level ONE RZN was quite competitive with the tour-level 20XI on pitching wedge spin.  The 20XI out-spun the ONE RZN by about 400 RPMs, which is only about 6%.  The big gap was between the standard models and the X’s.  There was a difference of almost 1,000 RPMs between the 20XI and the 20XI and a similar gap between the ONE RZN and the ONE RZN X.

In comparing the new 20XI to the old model, there is now greater differentiation between the standard and X models.  The new 20XI spins slightly more than the old 20XI-S, and the new 20XI-X spins slightly less than the old 20XI-X.

Clear as mud, right?

60* Performance – Half Swing

The half-wedge shot is the one area where the performance of the ONE RZN drops off considerably from that of the 20XI.  On a 50 yard pitch shot, the 20XI spun over 1,000 RPMs more than the ONE RZN.  There was a similar gap between the 20XI-X and the ONE RZN X.

In comparing the old and new 20XI, I found the same thing with the pitch shot that I did with the full sand wedge: an increased difference between the 20XI and the 20XI-X.  Whereas the original 20XI-S and 20XI-X were separated by only about 600 RPM’s, the new 20XI and the 20XI-X are closer to 1,000 RPMs apart.  The new 20XI spins slightly more than the old 20XI-S and the new 20XI-X spins slightly less than the old 20XI-X.

Value

The 20XI balls will retail for $45.99 and the ONE RZN will sell for $29.99.  The performance of these balls meets or exceeds the other balls in their price range, so the Value is good.

Player Profile

We found that the biggest difference between the ONE RZN balls and the 20XI balls is short game spin.  For better players who can make use of the short game spin, the 20XI balls will be an excellent fit.  For the higher handicap player, the ONE RZN should be able to do everything they need.  In both lines, the X version spins noticeably less and will be a good fit for high-spin players.

Final Thoughts

Despite the fact that this review caused me to wear out my “Shift” key (lots of capital letters), I’m a big fan of what Nike has done with their 2013 golf ball line up.  I think the sound and feel improvements to the 20XI line will put it in the conversation with the best tour-level balls in golf.  That and the slight bump in driver spin definitely make it an early leader for the ball that I will play in 2013.

I also applaud Nike for having real, measurable differences between their standard and “X” golf balls: with many brands the difference is extremely minimal, but that’s not the case here.  Nike has produced four very distinct balls that should fit many different players and budgets.