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    Ball tested: Wilson Staff FG Tour

    Category*: Tour/Advanced/Performance

    Specs: Construction – Three-piece; Cover – Urethane; Core – Rubber; Dimples – 312

    Price as tested (new): $39.99 per dozen

    Ball notes: Remember Wilson? The company’s Staff irons once dominated professional golf. Its ProStaff ball was made famous when Jerry Pate used an orange version to win the 1982 Players Championship (the debut of the TPC Stadium Course).

    Compression: High

    Well, Wilson is back. In fact, it’s been back for a while. Padraig Harrington is the brand’s most noteworthy ambassador, having won three majors using Wilson clubs. Paul Lawrie and Kevin Streelman also represent the company on tour.

    Wilson is also back in the ball game, if you will. Its Staff FG Tour has earned solid reviews since being introduced in 2010. So has its sibling model, the FG Tour X. Both balls won silver medals in Golf Digest’s 2013 Hot List testing.

    Wilson touts the FG Tour as the “softest urethane ball on the market,” comparing its feel to the wound balata balls of old. Chalk it up to the 75 compression rubber core and a super-thin urethane cover. The FG Tour also features “Traction Control,” which keeps the ball on the clubface a split second longer to generate additional spin from clubs with at least 25° loft (i.e., 5-iron through wedges).

    Sound and feel: We’ve got to hand it to Wilson. The FG Tour is, indeed, the softest ball we’ve tried in a while. Yep, it even brought back memories of those marshmallow-like balatas of yore. That pillow-soft feeling was the same throughout the bag, driver to putter, ball sticking to clubface with a satisfying smush.

    One caveat: The FG Tour may actually feel too soft for some tastes, especially among golfers who never played (or didn’t like) balata.

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    Off the tee: Sufficiently but not exceptionally long, the FG Tour displayed a nice mid-range launch and flight. Best of all, the soft feel instills confidence that you can work this ball in either direction—and the results back it up. And despite the ball’s high-spin underpinnings, we didn’t observe excessively “spinny” tee shots (a drive that rises sharply mid-flight and falls quickly).

    From the fairway / rough: The FG Tour performed very well with woods, hybrids and longer irons, producing plenty of length and controllability. We were a little concerned that short irons and wedges might spin too much and land short of targets, but that didn’t appear to be a problem.

    Around the green: Is there a better sensation in golf than a soft ball struck crisply on a chip? Or a more pleasing sight than that chip hitting, hopping and checking right on cue? If those moments speak to your soul, the Wilson FG Tour may be the ball for you. We loved the feel off the putter as well.

    Bottom line: We’ll admit it – we’ve got a soft spot for the Wilson FG Tour. Anyone who misses the feel of balata will appreciate this ball’s buttery texture and stopping power. And it comes in a far more durable package thanks to the marvels of modern urethane. Welcome back, Wilson. It’s been too long.

    *Category key

    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