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Golf Ball Technology: Something New Under the Sun?

Golf Ball Technology: Something New Under the Sun?
(Marcos Domínguez Gutiérrez/Dreamstime)

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Thursday, 28 December 2017 09:00 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Several years ago I wrote — under the pseudonym “Troon McAllister” — a series of golf novels about a legendary hustler named Eddie Caminetti. One of those books, "Scratch," concerned a near-mythical golf ball (called “Scratch”) that, while legal for play under USGA rules, nevertheless possessed some eerie properties that had golfers everywhere going crazy trying to get their hands on some.

"Scratch" was actually an excuse for me to vent from my system boatloads of cynicism over an industry that each year manufactures hundreds of “innovations” that make not one whit of difference in anybody’s golf game. Despite annual expenditures of billions of dollars in pursuit of equipment absolutely guaranteed to slice strokes off your game!, the average national handicap hasn’t changed significantly in decades. With the exception of a couple of notable advances, such as oversized heads and perimeter-weighted putters, both of which are now very old news, it’s all a lot of marketing bushwah and empty hype.

Pointing all of this out in "Scratch" earned me an equal balance of hate mail from manufacturers and love notes from duffers thanking me for saving them from fruitless further outlays of cash. (Point of curiosity: Why did they need me to tell them that their games weren’t improving?) So imagine my world-weary yawn upon receiving a letter from one Keith Blakely, CEO of OnCore Technology, claiming that he’d invented the real “Scratch.”

Just as I was getting ready to hit DELETE, one sentence caught my eye. Blakely described his new ball, the ELIXR, as having a hollow metal core, with most of the weight of the ball moved from the center to the periphery. Owing to a property called conservation of angular momentum (think “flywheel effect”), this implied that the ball’s initial spin rate would be lower, but the spin would hold for a longer portion of the ball’s flight. The net result for the golfer would be a reduction in the severity of a hook or slice while retaining the ability to work the ball left or right in the air.

He also described a new type of cover material and … yada yada yada, whatever. I’d heard that a hundred times and ignored it.

Okay, true confession time: The sentence that really caught my eye was, “Let me send you a dozen and you can try it for yourself.” Never one to turn down free golf balls, I agreed.

My first time playing the ELIXR, I noticed two things. The first is that it had a very different feel when struck. Rather than a sharp click on impact, it sounded — and felt — like a pool cue hitting a billiard ball, and the impression was more of the ball being gripped than slapped. (Gee, I don’t know…something about new cover material?)

The second thing I noticed was far less initial curvature when hitting a shot that normally would have been a hook or slice. That was just as Blakely claimed, but whether the ball held its shape throughout the flight was harder for me to tell, because I’m not a long ball hitter.

This is a good time to tell you that I’m also no Eddie Caminetti on the golf course. I’m a 22 handicap, which translates to “lousy golfer.” When I break 90, I buy steak dinners for the rest of the foursome, and the last time I did that I still owned a VCR. This so-called loft problem (“lack of freakin’ talent”) also made it difficult for me to assess the ELIXR’s claimed durability; every water hole I play lessens the odds that durability is going to be an issue.

So I decided to share the balls (Blakely kindly sent some more) with some friends who actually know how to play the game.

Those who were prone to hooking and slicing saw lessened severity there. Two long ball hitters thought they were getting better distance. They couldn’t swear to it, but they liked the overall feel of the ball and wanted to keep playing it. One middling handicappers thought they weren’t much different in terms of performance from his regular balls.

But there was universal agreement that the ball had “a great feel coming off the club face.”

I’m not entirely sure what to conclude from all of this. I think that OnCore may really be on to something here, and that the ball truly is different. But as one of my low-handicap friends put it, whether and how it’s going to matter is probably dependent on the particulars of your game. For me, it seems to perform better than my regular ball when I hit a really good shot, but those are so rare I can’t claim sufficient data points. Golfers who consistently hit decent shots are likely to see some real benefit.

I’m interested to know what readers think. Why don’t you try some ELIXRs out for a few rounds and then let me know how it went? You can email me via http://cg-advisory.com/contact/ using the subject “ELIXR,” and I’ll report the results in a future column.

Full disclosure: Other than accepting a few complimentary balls from the manufacturer, I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in OnCore Technology.

Lee Gruenfeld is a managing partner of Cholawsky and Gruenfeld Advisory, as well as a principal with the TechPar Group in New York, a boutique consulting firm consisting exclusively of former C-level executives and "Big Four" partners. He was vice president of strategic initiatives for Support.com, senior vice president and general manager of a SaaS division he created for a technology company in Las Vegas, national head of professional services for computing pioneer Tymshare, and a partner in the management consulting practice of Deloitte in New York and Los Angeles. Lee is also the award-winning author of fourteen critically-acclaimed, best-selling works of fiction and non-fiction. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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LeeGruenfeld
Despite annual expenditures of billions of dollars in pursuit of equipment absolutely guaranteed to slice strokes off your game!, the average national handicap hasn’t changed significantly in decades.
golf, ball, oncore, technology
976
2017-00-28
Thursday, 28 December 2017 09:00 AM
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