How does an off-centre core impact a golf ball’s performance?

Off-center cores blight the golf ball industry, but what impact could they be having on your performance and scores?

With 79 percent of the mass of a three-piece golf ball taken up by the core, it’s really important the first layer sits dead in the center. Over the last few years, Callaway have spent more than $50 million updating their machinery and processes to ensure no off-center core balls ever leave their Chicopee factory.

But what’s the impact of playing golf with an off-center core golf ball?

It’s an issue that Callaway say raises questions about the quality of some of the best golf balls, so we sat down with Eric Loper (Sr Director of Golf Ball R&D) and Jason Finley (Global Director Brand & Product Management) to find out how much club golfer’s balls could be holding them.

The Callaway Chrome Soft golf ball types

How much research have you done into the effects of off-center golf balls?

EL: Quite a bit. We started about four years ago. We were interested in taking our quality to the next level and in providing the highest quality product to all players.

At the start, it wasn’t clear how off-center cores would impact the golfer with dispersion, so it’s taken time to get there. We’ve had to develop X-ray capabilities so we can view what’s going on inside the golf ball without having to destroy them by cutting them in half.

We launched three-dimensional X-ray technology and then with the new Chrome Soft line, we developed technology which enables us to see inside a ball in multiple dimensions while also seeing each individual layer. That’s been the big win for us.

X-Ray of golf ball layers

JF: You can cut golf balls in half, but there are lots of ways you can be misled. If you can’t see the problem, you can’t measure the problem. And if you can’t measure the problem, you can’t fix the problem. Not only are we able to ensure all our balls are centered or have what we call a ‘low concentricity offset’, we can also identify and solve any problems we come across.

We believe we are the only company in the industry with that capability.

What happens when there’s shifting in the core of the golf ball?

EL: When there’s shifting of the core, during impact you get a different rate of compression between the left and right side of the golf ball. Keep in mind from a design perspective, we didn’t intend for there to be any shift.

So, what happens is you have a greater rate of compression on the left side of the golf ball, it launches left (side-angle left) with side spin to the right and it will give you a ball flight that’s going to look more like a cut shot, even though you may have made a perfect swing.

What measures have Callaway put in place to stop off-center core balls from finding their way into the market?

JF: We take 200,000 images a day. Every ball that goes through production goes through the X-ray. We do 100 percent sampling of every ball we make.

The construction of Callaway Chrome Soft golf balls

If you find a ball with an off-center core, what happens?

JF: They’re done. It’s important we don’t let those golf balls out into the marketplace. In a high-production manufacturing environment, you will have a tolerance, but because of what we’ve done, we’re significantly better than we ever have been and we believe we’re probably better than any other golf ball brand.

EL: Our approach is aggressive and we say nothing outside of this spec leaves the company. We accept
the yield decrease because we want to do what’s right for golfers.

Can you put a percentage on how many balls are likely to have off-center cores?

EL: We’ve done a significant amount of research on competitors and within a 10-dozen sample, we’ve seen multiple examples of shifting. Most players aren’t thinking about this, but at some point, they will be affected by it… unless they buy a Callaway.

Callaway’s Precision Technology offers the reassurance of using a ball that’s going to go where you intended it to go… assuming you strike the ball well!

The dispersion of off centre core golf balls graphic

How much of an impact does an off-center core golf ball have on the course?

EL: We did a robot test and in terms of left-to-right dispersion, there’s a significant range, about 16.8 yards, depending on the orientation of the golf ball.

Essentially an off-center core means golfers are hitting a different golf ball for every shot they hit, which obviously isn’t good. The player is being penalized, and that’s what has driven us to improve the concentricity in our golf ball so it performs the way the player expects.

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