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SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY?: For better or worse, depending on your perspective, Titleists Pro V1 marketing juggernaut has set something of a benchmark in the golf ball industry. In this, the most important time of year for golf ball sales, major companies are mounting campaigns that are at least derivative of the Pro V1s stellar reputation.
 
Maxfli is putting its money where its urethane is with The Maxfli Challenge, in which consumers are encouraged to buy a dozen Revolution or Revolution Solid balls and compare them to the Pro V1. If theyre not convinced the Maxfli balls are better, consumers can send back at least six of them for a full refund. By doing this, Maxfli says, it is putting testing back into the hands of the consumers. (Interesting sidebar: The letter to the media announcing the program was signed by Maxfli research and development chief John Calabria, who used to work for Titleist.)
 
Even Callaway Golf is getting into the act. On its website and in advertising, Callaway is touting its thin-covered Rule 35 ball as the performance equal of the Pro V1. The association with Titleist is not an accident, Callaway officials have admitted. The idea is to position Callaway ' and by extension, Titleist ' as the two best ball manufacturers in the world.
 
Witness another approach: Nike unveiled its latest golf ball tag line in late May, when many golf writers were in Beaverton for the dedication of the Tiger Woods Center. The message: A caveman-like Ball Go Far.
 
Marketing gurus will debate forever whether ride-along tactics achieve the desired effect ' more sales ' or simply give free publicity to the competition. But whatever position prevails, one thing is clear this summer: The Pro V1 is playing the tune to which the market is dancing.

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