What's the deal with X-out golf balls?

I was always told that X-out balls were found to be defective in some way by the manufacturer, and thus sold at a lower price. But if you’ve ever gone to a golf or sporting goods store, you know that they’re sold in large amounts. In fact, if you took a total inventory of all golf balls in a particular shop, you’d probably find that at least 25% are X-outs.

That got me thinking (not always a good thing). It sure seems that the quality ball manufacturers should have their shit together by now. How the heck does Titleist produce so many defective balls? They’ve been making them for ages, and I’m sure the process isn’t all that complicated. Haven’t they ever heard of Six Sigma?

Could this be a price discrimination scam? I’m sure that the quality ball manufacturers make huge margins on their balls. But the average player probably doesn’t want to pay that much for balls. And cutting prices on the product would take away the lofty margins that the wealthy players are willing to pay. So why not take perfectly good balls, call them X-outs, and then sell them cheaper? The casual player will be happy to play “defective” Titleists, while the wealthy player will pay up for the perceived quality of the non-defective ball.

I think it is virtually certain that manufacturers don’t inspect every ball but rather divide the balls into lots of some size and check a sample of each lot for quality assurance. If the sample is bad the whole lot is rejected and are sold as X-OUTS.

After all, once the process is set up manufacturing the balls is cheap. What costs is the marketing and distribution plus profit for Acushnet and all the distributers. So before those costs are accrued, it is cheaper to throw away a lot of 1000 balls than it is to establish an inspection system for every ball.

I buy X-OUT Tileists as WAL-MART for $10/dozen and have found only a couple that had a little paint problem. Most of them are perfect.

I’ll say it one more time. For 99% of the golfers in the world - Guys, it ain’t the ball.

Please note: This entire post is a WAG, a slightly educated WAG, but a WAG nonetheless - you have been warned :slight_smile:

Golf ball manufacturers are perfectionists. I would think that if the ball is even microns out of spec in any way, it goes in the X pile. I would imagine that this perfectionism makes a difference on the pro level - if a golf ball is out of round, imbalanced properly, etc its flight would be hard to predict, especially at the velocities that pro golfers impart to the ball. However, to the rest of us Joe Duffers, such slight imperfections wouldn’t really make much of a difference - I don’t think 100 vs a 101 would win any tourneys :), so the X balls is still a source of income for product that would otherwise be garbage.


To add-on to what David says, the high quality standards are partly to blame as well. Tight specs mean you have to reject lots that have almost unnoticable imperfections. Add in his statement about inspecting only a representative number and throwing the whole lot out and you get perfectly good balls sold as x-outs.

I’d also amend his statement to “For 99.9% of golfers in the world-Guys, it ain’t the ball”

-patiently waiting for Spring up here

Why is that a “scam”? I’ve never understood this. It’s entirely in a company’s best interest to charge a customer the most they’re willing to pay, and if they’re giving you something better for the lower price than you expect and you complain, then you need a bitch-slap. Look at it this way- the list price for Titleist balls is the basis for comparison. Any potentially flawed balls they choose to underprice are a bargain to you, not ripping you off on the normal ones because they’re charging more for ones warranted to be defect-free.

Nobody’s forcing you to buy the more expensive ones, and golf balls are priced where they are because that’s what people are willing to pay for that type. Free market at work.

This is really not much different in concept than having Tide detergent, Cheer detergent and Gain detergent all being made by Procter & Gamble. Hell, the surfactants and builders probably come out of the same tank cars for all three. People will still buy one of the three for some perceived reason, be it price, quality or something else.

I think David Simmons is probably mostly right from a production standpoint, although I’ll say that if they’re not meeting their targets for X-outs, they’ll probably condemn a couple of lots just to fill it.

I’ve asked a couple of the guys working at the local Golf Discount about this, and they told me the great, great majority of the x-outs have defects that are appearance related, not performance related.

(caveat: I completely agree w those who say that for 99.9% of us, it ain’t the ball’s fault). I’ll play x-outs on occasion, but I can usually get the balls I like to hit (Precept Ladys, Dunlop Locos or MaxFli Noodles) on sale prices the same as x-outs.

Way back, when I lived in Western Mass, I heard that some guys who worked at the Spalding plant in Chicopee, would hit brand new golf balls over the fence during lunch hour, and pick 'em after work. I think this went on for years until Management brought it to a hault.

These guys were very good golfers, many of whom played in The Ball Busters League (honest).

I doubt they’d have bothered with X-outs. :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Years ago, my parents owned a small factory, which sold its wares all over the country. However, they also had a factory store, where you could buy “factory seconds” at a reduced price. Perfectly good ware was frequently marked, priced, and sold as seconds, and the store was one of the most profitable aspects of the business.

It would not surprise me if the X-ed out balls were surplus from their major runs.

I think anyone with a handicap of 10 or less can tell the difference between a Pro V1 and a generic ball, and that’s about 20% of golfers with a handicap. A lot of people who play golf never bother to get a handicap, and the probably fall into the higher handicap group generally, but I still think an accurate figure would be closer to 5-10%.

You never see Pro V1 X-outs. Do they just destroy the bad batches?

Couple of observations:

  1. I’m nowhere near that good and I can tell the difference between a ProV1 and a generic. What I can’t do is play well with either. grin
  2. We have ProV1 X-Outs available at the local Edwin Watts all the time.

I guess I’ll have to ask what makes you think this. I’m sure there is a difference in sound but I really doubt that there is a difference in performance for the 10 handicapper. I don’t think players of that skill level hit the ball hard enough to compress it enough to get the benefit of a superior ball.

Way back when I had a 10 handicap and never hit the ball more than about 210 yards or so. I really couldn’t tell the difference between the Spalding Dot, their top ball, and their second line ball, the Top Flite. That was when the PGA pros drove the ball around 250-270 yards.

I am a 9.5 and the first time I hit one (It was hard to pay as much for a sleeve of balls than I was used to paying for a dozen) I couldn’t believe the difference. My distance improved by 15 yards, the ball flew straighter and landed softer than any ball I’d played before. Everyone I play with who uses them (as well as some of the other top line balls like Nike One Black) raves about them. It is unanimous among my group. I went from averaging 260 to 275 on drives, so I do hit it pretty long, but even the shorter hitters see greater distance and accuracy. I have never had anyone say that don’t see a noticible difference.

For the vast majority of players, I will agree that they won’t see a difference just by playing a better ball, but there is a signifigant minority who do. I think it is true in most sports where equipment is crucial, from billiards to skiing to cycling, at the higher skill levels even a small improvement in gear can yeild big performance results. If I tried to ride a bike with that huge helmet Lance Armstrong uses in time trials, I’d probably lose my balance and fall over, but to those who ride all the time, it makes a significant difference.

A clarification regarding my driving distance - I only count the good ones. The occasional worm-burner or popup or snap hook (one or two a round) don’t get factored in.

The exact same thing happens in all sorts of industries.

A few samples of a lot are tested to destruction and the entire lot is processed based on the quality of the sample. Your quality assurance folks work out how often and how large a sampling process you need to… er… assure quality.

X-outs, as a concept, are hardly unique to golf balls. BMW used to route their various parts to different model lines based on the results of various destructive and nondestructive tests. The cheaper lines and models would have parts manufactured to wider tolerances and/or with poorer material qualities… they’re still good parts, mind you, they’re just not as good as the parts in the pricier models.

CPUs are another good example. There’s often no design difference between the X and the X+1 GHz versions of a given processor. It’s just the sample population of one lot burnt out at X+y and the sample population of the second lot burnt out at X+1+y… leading the whole lot to be labled (and priced) based on the performance of the sample lot. Go to an overclocking website sometime, they’ll occassionally have blurbs about a given lot being underpriced because of sampling error.

From a manufacturing standpoint, though, you know something hinkie was occurring in your process during the manufacture of that lot. You will test the lots on either side to confirm they meet standards, but you don’t really know how much or how badly the damaged is in the failing lot. You can throw it away and take a total loss, you can sell it at reduced price with no guarantee of quality. People know they’re buying from a bum lot, so if they whack a ball and it wobbles, they just throw it out, they don’t write you a nasty letter demanding a refund.