Inside The Nike Laboratory Where It Creates New Golf Balls

We visited the high-tech lab where Nike is testing and creating its next generation of golf balls.

Next year, the company is going to release a new line of balls with the RZN brand name. It flew us, and others, to its headquarters in Oregon to talk about its golf equipment.

Right now, Titleist with its ProV1 line, is the biggest ball company in golf. Nike hopes that its new branding for RZN will eat into some of Titleist’s sales.

Nike say the key differentiator for its RZN line is that the core is made of resin, which is a lighter material than rubber. A golf ball has a small core, then other stuff around the core, and then the outer coating. By making the core lighter, Nike can make the stuff around the core heavier, which it says promotes stability and distance.

The RZN ball will come in Black, Platinum, Red, and White for different swings and skills. We got to hit the balls and they seemed pretty good. We’ll do more testing next year when it’s a bit warmer to get a truer sense of the ball’s performance.

For what it’s worth, Nike pro Rory McIlroy says he’s a half club longer with the new ball. Nike pro Paul Casey said he fell in love with the new ball the first time he hit it, and he’s pretty finicky about equipment.

Yes, these guys are paid to use Nike stuff, but they don’t have to switch to the new gear immediately. For instance, Tiger Woods is still using a golf ball that’s 4-5 years old. Nike says it’s going to try to get him to switch to the new stuff. The golf ball is the only piece of equipment a player uses on every hole, so it has to be pretty exact to meet the standards of a pro.

As part of the trip to Nike we got an inside look at the R&D facility Nike uses to work on its next-generation of golf balls.

Welcome to the Oven West! (Nike has another 'Oven' in Texas.)

We were invited to look around, but asked not to touch anything.

Stepping into the facility, it's loud and filled with all sorts of machines.

In here, we see golf balls getting made.

Here they go, whizzing around.

Two golf balls fresh out the oven. They were warm!

Here's some of the materials that go into a golf ball.

This is the resin that Nike uses in its balls.

Nike says resin is lighter than the rubber that is used in rivals' golf balls. It allows Nike to add a heavier substance around the resin, which it says adds distance and stability.

Here are some balls in development.

Here's another look at the materials used to make golf balls.

This is the twin-screw extruder, which (duh) compounds and blends thermoplastic materials.

Here's some of resin getting pumped out.

One of the mad scientists who works for Nike on building new golf balls.

Some golf balls that need finishing.

This is the robot that smacks golf balls for testing. Here it is in the back swing...

... and thawck! Here it is in the follow through.

Nike has just about every company's golf ball in the lab. Here's it compares its colour balls to others'.

This what the inside of the golf ball looks like. You can also see slivers of the outer part of the ball.

More of the competition's golf balls.

This is the automated golf ball machine, which measures the weight, size, and compression of a golf ball to make sure its conforming to USGA standards.

A whole bunch of cores to different golf balls.

Spy shot! Tiger Woods' 'gamer' golf balls.

This machine is awesome. It fires golf balls through a narrow set of frames ~70 feet to the other side of the building, then it comes back automatically on a little ramp.

And, finally, here's a look at the evolution of the golf ball.

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