Perfectly Balanced Ball
What You Should Know - What You Can Do
By Leonard Finkel
The biggest controversy in golf today is the "perfectly balanced" golf ball. Wilson, with its " Staff True" ball, makes just that claim, its box bearing the words, "Perfectly Balanced". Golf manufacturing hasn't the precision of rocket science and tolerances involved (allowable margin of error), are looser. For instance, Tour players may request as many as twenty drivers with the exact same specifications, only keeping the few that perform best for them. Even though they were made exactly the same, none are exactly the same. Is it realistically possible to consistently make a perfectly balanced golf ball? I didn't think so and decided to do a little research.
I made two important discoveries. First, there is no such thing as a consistently perfect balanced ball. Wilson vice president Luke Reese admitted he would be foolish to make that claim. "I'm not by any stretch saying that every single ball is 100 percent perfectly balanced. The problem with golf balls is, with any product, you have manufacturing variances and that means you can't make all products exactly the same each time. There is no such thing as perfection." He did maintain that perfection to Wilson was that the ball is going to "putt where you put it." The second thing I learned is that there is something you can do to better balance the golf balls you play with, no matter the brand or model. A little known device called the Check-Go is the answer.
I came across the Check-Go sometime ago, but didn't give it much consideration. Though it has been around for almost fifteen years, Check-Go has not drawn much attention. The "Ball Wars" brought it into focus. An amazing tool, it spins a golf ball at approximately 10,000 revolutions per minute. As the ball rotates, it spins all directions to find its optimal balance point. After twenty seconds or so, weight deviations cause the ball to settle into a position it will return to time and again. While the ball rotates, a line is drawn to indicate its balance point, a marker positioned to precisely denote the ball's equator (optimal point of balance). A perfectly balanced ball will not come to rest at the same point consistently. Every test would result with a new equator being marked and these lines would eventually cover the ball. I tested more then 100 balls, from every major manufacturer, and each ball returned to its initial equator, every single time!
Experts agree that golf balls today are far superior and better balanced then balls from ten or twenty years ago. As good as they are today, allowable tolerances make it impossible to consistently manufacture a perfectly balanced ball. The bad news is, while most of the balls are well balanced, you don't know which ones they are. The good news is, using the Check-Go, you can determine for yourself the best point of balance for every ball you put into play.
Golf balls were spun for at least 20 seconds for the Check-Go to determine its optimal balance point; enough time to ensure balancing was complete. As the ball continued to spin, a line is drawn along the equator. No matter the brand, no two balls had the same balance point. The balance points were so diverse, as if totally random; meaning where the logo is placed had nothing to do with the balance point of the ball. The common custom of lining up the logo towards the target is therefore irrelevant. Each ball was tested multiple times, confirming that balance points remained in the exact same place, on each test, for every ball. During retesting, it was easy to recognize when the balancing process was completed. Balls were balls randomly positioned before retesting and as they rotated, the previous equator line almost magically appears, the Check-Go once again finding the identical point of balance. This study was not scientific in nature and I draw no conclusions as to which golf balls are better. I only sought to determine if there is such a thing as a golf ball that is consistently, perfectly balanced.
I spoke with putting guru Dave Pelz, who states there are numerous reasons why putts are missed, one of which is an unbalanced ball. When he first began his research, Pelz, a former NASA scientist, found most balls to be poorly balanced. When he asked major manufacturers why they had not strived to achieve a balanced ball, he was told that aerodynamics, not balance, governs distance. Distance is what almost every golfer is seeking, so that is where research dollars went. Today Pelz adds that most of the major brand balls are much better balanced than their predecessors, but consistent perfection is still not a reality.
Pelz pointed out that an unbalanced ball could certainly be the determining factor in a missed putt for Touring pros or better putters, those that hit the ball where they aim. A few days after our conversation I was watching the final round of the PGA Memorial Tournament. Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh were coming down the stretch, both with similar putts. Vijay outside, Furyk had to mark his ball. Singh's putt rolled dead straight, missing the hole. Furyk putted on the same line yet his ball broke left, also missing the hole. I remember wondering at the time if one or both balls not being optimally balanced caused either of those misses. Using the Check-Go will not give you a perfectly balanced ball. What it will do is let you know where the equator, the optimal balance point of that specific ball you are using is. Pelz says he doesn't know how balance affects the flight of the ball. What he does know is it most definitely affects the ball as it rolls on the green. Not finding the balance point surely puts any golfer at a distinct disadvantage!
Lehman & Pate
Teaching pro extraordinaire Roger Gunn introduced me to the Check-Go. Roger, who has worked with among others, PGA Tour pros Tom Lehman and Steve Pate says, "I don't get excited about too many things at the PGA Show, but the Check-Go was definitely the product of the year. It's simply the world's greatest golf gizmo. I had to have one myself within 30 seconds of seeing it work. I spin every ball I use prior to putting it in play." Gunn asserts that it is difficult to quantify the results from using the Check-Go, but if even if it is only one shot per round, the accumulated strokes saved is enormous. Virtually every one of his students uses it. "Ask Stuart Cink at the U.S. Open last year if he thinks one stroke on the green makes a difference?" Gunn adds.
Gunn showed the unit to Ryder Cup veterans Tom Lehman and Steve Pate, who were impressed with it and each requested one. Roger related a Lehman story. Tom, who currently plays the Srixon ball, likes to line up the ball logo to the target when putting. "Srixon is a well-balanced ball, but you never know quite where the true equator is going to be," Gunn adds. Tom got in the habit of spinning every ball he used and he would only use the ones where the equator lined up with the logo. According to Check-Go president Kenneth Burnett, he received an urgent call from Gunn. Roger said Lehman needed a Check-Go immediately. Burnett was told to overnight a Check-Go to Lehman in time for the 2002 AT&T Pebble Beach PGA event.
Although not scientific, Gunn has conducted his own tests rolling balls across a hard, flat surface on the equator and also by placing them in a "lopsided" position. He definitely notices a difference. "It's similar to putting mud on the side of a ball. On a 10-footer, it can miss by two and a half feet. A lopsided ball can miss a ten-footer on a perfect surface. How many of us have seen a ball roll perfectly, dead center as it nears the hole, then bleed away at the last second? How many of those were the golf ball after all?"
Wilson's Reese talks about testing performance under "lab conditions" yet Callaway's Larry Dorman and others speak of performance in "real golf situations." They say that golf is not played in a laboratory. Dorman adds that Callaway is very careful to, "Avoid the use of the word perfect, because perfect implies exactly what it says. And there is no such thing in a manufactured consumer product." Srixon's Mike Pai adds, " You see the tests that they (Wilson) run in their commercials and at the PGA Show on something that basically resembles a pool table. I don't know any golfer that putts on a pool table. I think what they've created has come from things that happened a long time ago with golf balls, all the stories about Ben Hogan applying Epsom salt and picking out one or two balls out of a dozen. That was because manufacturing tolerances back in the 40's and 50's aren't anything close to what they are today." While all the other companies seem to focus on aerodynamics (distance), Wilson is hanging its hat on balance. Golfers will cast their votes with their pocketbooks.
Dean Snell of TaylorMade Golf states, "As far as the tolerances go in golf equipment, and it's not just golf balls, it's pretty much all the golf equipment, one of the things you'll find is there's always something wrong, an imperfection. If it's a shaft, if it's a club head, if it's a golf ball, there are a lot of different variables that affect overall distance, overall spin rates, compressions, and velocities. My opinion is that there are a ton of imperfections in golf balls, to have something that is perfect it is nowhere near perfect. When you make core batches, the core batches have a specific gravity formulation and there's no way that every formulation comes out the same. The compression ranges, when you measure balls that are finished are huge. Within a dozen, you can take golf balls and do core compressions or finished ball compressions and you can be ten to twenty compression units apart, in one dozen that are supposed to be made the same." Snell also confirmed what Pelz said about manufacturers seeking distance, in some cases, actually shifting weight to increase distance. He asserts from testing done at TaylorMade, that "perfect balance" is insignificant in adding distance.
Snell, one of the co-inventors of the Titleist Professional ball adds, "Everybody's launch conditions are not the same and one ball for one person may not be optimum for someone else. That's the benefit to the custom fit line that's going on now. The position that I take on distance is that you should go out and find the ball that you like from the fairway in, find that ball that you're comfortable with the spin, the feel, the overall performance, then go get custom fit for a driver, which will optimize launch conditions. I would add, once you've found a ball you are comfortable with, that performs the way you want getting to the green, use the Check-Go to find it's optimum balance. You will have the best of both worlds a ball that performs to your swing specifications and the truest roll possible on the greens. Golf balls are available everywhere. Information on the Check-Go is available at 1-800-787-7110 or on the web at www.clubmaker-online.com
Highlighted box Quotes:
don't get excited about too many things at the PGA Show, but the
Check-Go was definitely the product of the year. It's simply the
world's greatest golf gizmo. I had to have one myself within 30
seconds of seeing it work. I spin every ball I use prior to putting
it in play."
Teaching pro Roger Gunn, whose students have included Tom Lehman and Steve Pate.
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