Ball tested: Srixon Z-STAR SL
Tested for golfers with average driving distance of: 196 to 245 (carry + roll) / 246 to 300+ yards (carry + roll)
Specs: Construction – Three-piece; Cover – Urethane; Core – Energetic Gradient Growth; Dimples – 324
Some manufacturers do not reveal or emphasize the compression ratings of new golf balls. Some models are now designed and marketed to fit and appeal to a golfers preferences for price, distance, spin, feel and control.
Price as tested (new): $44.99 per dozen
Ball notes: The softest of the three balls in Srixon’s Z-STAR lineup, the 80-compression Z-STAR SL is geared toward golfers with driver swing speeds below 100 mph. This differentiates it from the Z-STAR and Z-STAR XV, which are best suited to players who swing faster.
Available in yellow, the Z-STAR SL joined its mates as a gold medal winner on Golf Digest’s 2013 equipment Hot List. Let’s see how it stacks up.
On the clubface: A ball with a urethane cover and low-compression core should be soft, and the Z-STAR SL is soft, indeed. You don’t have to be a gorilla to compress it against the clubface, either. The ball smushes and springs off the driver and irons regardless of swing speed, and retains the light feel on and around the greens.
Off the tee: While it takes considerable clubhead speed to get sufficient height out of standard-issue tour balls, like the Z-STAR and XV, the SL version launches nice and high off a driver swung at 85 – 95 mph. Length was good if not great, but it’s difficult to find a ball this soft and playable that’s also long for average swing speeds. Accuracy was quite good, with just enough sideways action to allow for fades and draws without much fear of slices and hooks.
From the fairway / rough: Sometimes, it’s tough to guess how an extra-soft ball will react off the irons. Will it generate too much spin, or flutter rather than penetrate? The Z-STAR SL eased any concerns with a stable, piercing trajectory, plenty of height and a decent amount of spin. This ball feels terrific when struck on the sweet spot, and we loved the hop-spin-and-stop action with the wedges.
Around the green: The SL proved a solid performer in the short game, if not quite as versatile as the standard Z-STAR and XV models. That said, it will suit the needs of most amateurs more than adequately. It’s exquisitely soft off the putter, perhaps too soft for some tastes, and seemed to require a tad more hit on medium-speed greens.
Bottom line: If you’re among the fortunate percentage who can break 105 mph with the driver, we’d recommend the Z-STAR or Z-STAR XV over the SL. But if you’re under 100 mph and want “tour” ball performance without losing yardage, this one makes an excellent choice – especially if soft is your thing.
Value/Recreational/Distance – Designed for mid- to high-handicap golfers with swing speeds below 90 mph; typically feature two-piece construction and firm covers; promote greater distance over high spin rates. Examples: Pinnacle Gold, Slazenger RAW Distance
Premium – Designed for low- to mid-handicap golfers with swing speeds of 90-99 mph; typically feature multi-layer construction and medium-soft covers; happy medium between Value/Recreational and Tour categories for distance and spin qualities. Examples: Titleist NXT Tour, Callaway HEX Diablo
Tour/Advanced/Performance – Designed for low-handicap and professional golfers with swing speeds in excess of 100 mph; typically feature multi-layer construction and soft covers; promote greater spin rates and enhanced feel over distance. Examples: Titleist ProV1, Bridgestone Tour B330