Visit any golf store and you will see that some of the major golf ball brands offer what is called an x-out version of their high end golf balls. You can find x-out versions of the Titliest ProV1 and ProV1x, Srixon Z-star and Z-StarXV, as well as Callaway and others, that are significantly less expensive than their non-x-out counterparts.
But what is an x-out golf ball?
Identifying An X-Out Golf Ball
This one is pretty simple, both the box and the ball will have either “x-out” or one or more of the letter “x” printed on it. The major ball manufacturers also tend to use similar box printing on their x-outs as well…typically a white and black nondescript box. Makes you wonder if some box company is making a fortune on white and black boxes.
Other than the box and the markings, you probably will not be able to tell the difference between a full priced ball and an x-out.
How Is An X-Out Ball Different?
There is rarely any functional difference at all.
There is no official rule as to what constitutes an x-out ball but X-outs are generally those that the manufacturer finds to have some kind of cosmetic blemish, usually in the printing on the ball. Beyond the visual appearance, these balls are typically identical to the full priced versions.
What we really don’t know is how the ball manufacturer pulls these balls from normal distribution. They may pull an entire batch of 1000 balls (or more/less) if they find one that has a blemish on it. That means that one barely messed up ball could result in many x-outs that have no defects at all. In my experience using x-out balls, it is pretty difficult to find one that has any sort of blemish (cosmetic or otherwise) on it so I suspect that many of them are just pulled with the blemished ball, although I have no evidence to prove it other than my own experience.
So there is a very good chance that most of the x-outs in that box you bought are identical to the full priced versions in every way except for the “x-out” printed on it.
Can You Use X-Outs In A Tournament?
The short answer is that it depends on the tournament. The USGA has addressed this exact question in the Q&A section of their rules on their website.
Status of “X-Out” and “Practice” Balls
Q. May I use an “x-out” ball or a ball stamped with “Practice” to play a round of golf?
A. Our present policy provides that if the List of Conforming Golf Balls or the One Ball Condition is in effect, a practice or logo ball may be used provided the other markings on the ball (i.e., pole and seam) correspond exactly to a ball listing on the current List of Conforming Golf Balls. Balls labeled with “PRACTICE” or a circled “P”, are essentially treated as a logo ball (such as a Mickey Mouse emblem). A player’s name stamped on the ball is also acceptable. However, the original ball markings (i.e., pole and seam markings) must be readable in order for a Rules Official to determine whether that ball is on the List of Conforming Golf Balls. X-Out balls are not permitted to be used in any competition in which the List of Conforming Golf Balls or the One Ball Condition is in effect. However, if neither of these Conditions are in effect, X-Out balls may be used because all balls are presumed to conform unless they have been tested and found not to conform or are obviously non-conforming (e.g., too small or too heavy). (See Decisions 5-1/4).
So to simplify it, you can use x-outs in any round you want, except for a tournament where the “List of Conforming Golf Balls or the One Ball Condition is in effect.” If you regularly play in such a tournament, you probably already know this. X-out balls are not submitted by the manufacturer for inspection to be included on the list of conforming golf balls for the USGA or the R&A (its European counterpart). So even though they are just about identical to the full priced versions, they are not included on that list for tournaments. So you can’t use them for any tournament implementing that restriction.
X-outs are completely acceptable for any other rounds, even when you are scoring for handicap purposes. So if you are playing a nassau bet against your buddies or competing in your local work league (provided they don’t use the One Ball Condition), the x-outs are considered completely conforming, unless there is some indication that a specific ball is not conforming.
Even if you do play in tournaments regularly, I am guessing that not all your rounds are tournament rounds, right? So save a few bucks and get some x-outs.
Are X-Out Golf Balls Good?
Are ProV1s good? If you say yes to that then ProV1 x-outs are also good. They are the same exact ball off of the same exact assembly line made with the same exact materials as the expensive (overpriced?) versions. The same is true for any golf ball manufacturer that sells x-outs.
The only piece of caution I can give it so take a quick look at any x-out that you put into play. Occasionally, you might find one that has a tiny scuff or imperfection in the cover. Even when you do find a ball like this, it is hardly ever such a condition that will affect game play at all. But if you are a perfectionist, then you may want to relegate that specific ball to the practice bag.
Where Can I Get X-outs?
Just about every golf store sells x-outs from the major brands. Look for the distinct black and white box that says x-out on it.