Callaway Golf started selling golf clubs, especially drivers, 30 years ago, and in 2000, launched its first line of golf balls. When Callaway launched its latest design, the HEX Black Tour ball, last month, we caught up with Vivek Mehta, the Gurgaon-based country head for Callaway Golf India, and Steve Ogg, the vice-president of Global Golf Ball, to find out about the technology used. Before Callaway, Ogg worked at Boeing, and it’s very common to see people from the aerospace industry in golf design, as a lot of the technology used is similar.
Golf balls are made with cutting-edge material, and Callaway in particular has partnered with Lamborghini to create a new type of carbon-fibre-based material called forged composite. Callaway uses it to make more durable balls, while Lamborghini uses it to make car bodies, such as the Sesto Elemento concept car.
Mehta tells us: “For us, it was always a focus area. We end up spending as much on R&D as our top three competitors combined. We worked incredibly hard on aerodynamics and materials, and we spend three-five years developing balls.”
Why Callaway used aerospace techniques to create the HEX Black Tour ball
Callaway does its R&D work in San Diego, US, to take advantage of the proximity to the US aerospace industry. Mehta says: “You know how the big IT companies are in Silicon Valley? The big aerospace companies, like Boeing, were all in San Diego. And so were we. We take aerodynamics as seriously as they do, and if you look at most golf companies, you will see a lot of people who used to work in the aerospace industry.”
Testing balls requires the same kind of programmes that were originally designed to develop planes. Simulations are run to evaluate the pattern of dimples on a golf ball, to measure the different kinds of cover materials and ball cores that go into a simple golf ball.
Interestingly, according to Ogg, golf balls are more challenging to model. “Golf ball aerodynamic characteristics are more difficult to simulate than aircraft due to their ‘bluff body’ shape, and the fact that they are spinning. The good news is that we can test full-scale prototypes, which are prohibitively expensive in most cases for aircraft,” he explains.