Anyone who played golf before the year 2000 no doubt remembers golf balls with rubber bands inside. Cut the soft outer layer with a not-so-sweet iron or wedge shot and the resulting gash opened up the cover, revealing the magical mystery ball of rubber bands inside. The materials and construction of golf balls have advanced tremendously since then which begs the question - how much farther can it go?
John Calabria, the senior technical adviser at OnCore Golf, has a few thoughts on the subject. Calabria's storied history in the industry includes stints with Titleist, Maxfli, and TaylorMade. He knows his way around a golf ball, having worked on some of the highest-profile, BOC (before OnCore) projects in the trade. Here are a few of Calabria’s insights on where golf balls have come in the past 20 years and where they’re going!
On the matter of the cover and core: "Cast urethane covers revolutionized golf ball construction over the last 20 years and became the de facto gold standard. They allowed a combination of feel, spin control, and durability that was not achievable with previous cover formulations and today's covers are vastly improved over earlier generations. On the inside, the golf ball design will continue with unique core constructions, multiple layers, and other enhancements. However, there is a limit to how many layers can really impact overall performance and, optimally, three to five layers are sufficient.
On the scrutiny of golf ball development: "The golf ball has been the most heavily regulated piece of golf equipment since 1976 and that is not likely to change. The movement to roll back the golf ball will not, in my opinion, be successful due to this fact."
On the other factors that impact distance: "There are really so many other factors (besides the ball itself) that affect distance on the course such as golf club heads and shaft design, course maintenance practices, as well as the way professional golfers are using analytics, training, and related technology to get more out of every shot."
On the one critical aspect of golf ball construction: "The interesting thing about golf balls is all the technology is not visible (other than the dimple pattern). There are exotic materials in the covers, mantles, and cores and some or all of it is patented. Also, you have to remember that a golf ball is subject to 50,000 g's when hit with a driver at a swing speed of 115 mph and the ball deforms to almost half its size. The amazing thing is the ball stays in one piece when hit over and over again at this high speed and it does it hole after hole. There isn't much in the way of technology that can be utilized to change the fact that current designs handle this load very well. Nonetheless, developing unique material sets that offer incremental improvements in overall ball performance will continue to occur. Advancements in spin characteristics, accurate and best-in-class distance, aerodynamic stability in all conditions and still providing great feel over a wide range of club types and swing speeds is our focus and we're excited about what we have coming out this year."
Calabria and his engineering team at OnCore Golf have something special in the works for 2020: Without giving too many secrets away, you'll love the extra distance (promise!) and great control off the tee as well as into, around and on the greens with the next OnCore arrival.