In 2000, Nike Golf turned the golf ball manufacturing world upside down with its introduction of the first solid core golf ball, the Tour Accuracy. When Tiger Woods committed to play the Tour Accuracy in competition, other wound golf ball manufacturers realized the solid core ball was here to stay and began scrambling to catch up.
Since then, improvements to the solid core ball have been limited to the number of layers in combination with a rubber core, so four years ago Nike Golf began experimenting with different materials to use for the core. The result of those years of experimentation and development is a core made of a proprietary resin manufactured by DuPont. This new, smaller, lighter resin core has made its debut in Nike Golf’s much-anticipated new 20XI golf ball. You find out more about the technology behind the new 20XI in Nike Golf’s Press release, and in this post (which includes links to several videos) about the official launch of the 20XI at the Cadillac Championship. You can also hear what Nike Athletes think of the new 20XI ball in this video on Nike Golf’s YouTube channel.
The 20XI comes in two models, the 20XI-X which is the distance version, and the 20XI-S which is the “spin” version, featuring a slightly softer cover for more feel around the greens. Nike Golf sent me a sleeve of each to test and review, and I have since gone out and bought a dozen of each to continue my testing. I have tested both models in several live rounds on the course, making note of several attributes as they apply to both balls when used with various clubs in my bag, and I share the results of my tests with you here:
20XI-X: One of the most important aspects of the ball I play is how it feels off the putter face, and the 20XI-X shines here. It has a soft feel off both my Method 001 and 003 (and Method Core 001 and 003, review coming soon), and rolls true to the target, which may also be helped by the ball’s perimeter weighting. The feel off the putter is soft and true.
20XI-S: The feel of the 20XI-S is even more buttery soft off the putter face. It has a pillow-soft strike when the putter hits the ball, and rolls just as true as the 20XI-X.
20XI-X: The 20XI-X has terrific feel off my VR wedges. It has great feel off the face and exceptional spin when it hits the green, biting quickly and stopping on a dime when I want it to. The cover of the 20XI-X is slightly firmer than the 20XI-S, and is slightly more durable also.
20XI-S: The 20XI-S has an even softer feel and more spin with the wedges, and I feel really confident I can stop this ball where I want to on the green.
FEEL: IRONS & HYBRIDS
20XI-X: I had great control with the short irons with the 20XI-X, distance control was spot on and spin is great when the ball hits the green. The 20XI-X has a high ball flight with the short irons for me, and it landed soft and stopped where I wanted. Mid-irons produced a similar result – the 20XI-X had a mid to high, penetrating ball flight, held it’s line in the breeze, and I got an extra 5 yards of distance with each club. For hybrids, the distance gain was 5-10 yards, and again the ball really held its line. Overall, the shorter the club, the greater the gain in spin I got, and the longer the club, more noticeable was the distance gain.
20XI-S: The above was all true with the 20XI-S, but more noticeable was the gain in spin with the short irons, and slightly more spin offline with my mis-hit shots. However, I didn’t really notice a difference in distance, the gain was about the same.
FEEL: FAIRWAY WOODS & DRIVER
20XI-X: The most noticeable advantage I saw with my fairway woods was the increase in distance, where I gained between 5 to 10 yards. Ball flight was mid to high and penetrating—this ball really holds it’s line, especially in the breeze. It feels really solid at impact, not hard like a distance ball, just firm and solid. With the driver the distance gain again was 10 yards, and reduced spin was noticeable, especially on mis-hits. I’m prone to a hook and the ball seemed to curve less when I made a bad swing. Again, the 20XI-X produced a high ball flight that cut through the wind and seemed to go forever.
20XI-S: Again the above is true for the 20XI-S, with the exception that is has a very slightly softer “hit” at impact, barely discernable from the 20XI-X. I didn’t notice any drop off in distance and it had a very similar mid to high, penetrating ball flight.
20XI-X: The increase in distance is outstanding with the 20XI-X, for me it was 5-10 yards throughout the bag. The lighter, resin core creates faster ball speed that equals greater distance. The perimeter weighting of the heavier outer layers allows this ball to travel further in the air, reaching the apex of its flight further down range, and creating a noticeably longer ball flight.
20XI-S: The same is true for the 20XI-S, I saw the same gain in distance and same increase in flight characteristics as the 20XI-X.
20XI-X: On long shots, the perimeter weighting of the 20XI-X allows it to stay online more than other balls I’ve played. I noticed the mid to high ball flight and its staying in the air longer (longer flight time to the apex) allows better distance control and softer landing shots, and I felt I could be more accurate, especially on shorter shots.
20XI-S: The same holds true overall for the 20XI-S, but the slightly increased spin had my mis-hit shots traveling offline just a bit more than the 20XI-X. But the increased spin and control on short shots and around the greens, and the buttery-soft feel off the putter face got my attention, making my decision between the two balls more difficult (see Summary below).
20XI-X: The ball flight of the 20XI-X was overall a mid to high flight for me throughout the bag, with the shorter irons producing a higher ball flight, and longer irons, hybrids, fairway woods and driver producing a mid to high ball flight. The flight was long and true, with the ball staying in the air longer than other balls I’ve played. The ball stayed online more consistently also, presumably because of the perimeter weighting.
20XI-S: The 20XI-S produced a slightly higher ball flight overall throughout the bag, with the short irons producing a high flight, and mid-irons through driver producing mid to high, a bit higher than the 20XI-X overall. It also stayed in the air and online similarly to the 20XI-X.
20XI-X: The 20XI-X had less spin off the driver, fairway woods and hybrids (good shots went straighter, hooks and slices curved less), and increased spin on mid to short irons. Spin off wedges on approach shots and around the green was superb. With short irons and wedges I was able to get the ball to drop and stop on the green when I wanted it to.
20XI-S: The 20XI-S had similar reduced spin of the driver and longer clubs, and even more exceptional spin with the short irons and wedges. If you are looking to create that one-hop-and-stop shot on the green, or to spin it back and make your golf buddies jealous, this might be the ball for you.
Nike Golf’s Ball Recommender suggested the 20XI-X to me (with the ONE Vapor Speed and Crush as alternates, the other two balls I play along with the Power Distance Soft), and it seems to know what it’s talking about as the 20XI-X seems to be the ball for me. It’s long off the tee, giving me about 5-10 yards extra distance, holds its line well in the wind, spins less with the driver and more with the short irons, spins well on approach shots and around the green, and feels great off the putter face. I love the 20XI-S also—its soft cover really helps the ball spin around the green and it feels great off the putter face, but I’m choosing to go for the slightly less spin (and slightly more forgiveness on mis-hit shots) the 20XI-X gives me. If you’re a better player and you keep your shots online more consistently than I do, you may prefer the extra benefits of increased spin that the 20XI-S can give you.
I suggest trying both balls for yourself to see which you like better, and if you try the 20XI I’m confident the question you’ll have won’t be “Is the 20XI the right ball for me?” but “Which model is the right one for me?” Try the 20XI and see for yourself.
Have you tried the 20XI yet, or are you playing it regularly? Let us know how you like it with a comment below.
Editor’s note: The product reviewed above was supplied by the manufacturer to the reviewer/author free of charge for reviewing purposes only. The reviewer/author was not paid for this review, and the opinions expressed in the review are strictly those of the reviewer/author.