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GolfWRX takes a behind-the-scenes look at the Callaway ball plant

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In Chicopee, Massachusetts, there is an unassuming red brick building that predates the existence of every modern golf OEM. From the outside, it could be confused for any other American manufacturing facility if not for the proudly displayed Callaway sign. Inside, there are over 400 hard-working people producing the highest quality golf balls using state-of-the art manufacturing techniques and tools — this red brick building is the Callaway golf ball plant.

To understand what you see when you first enter the ball plant, it’s best to first understand why it is here in the first place. When I initially asked this question to one of my tour guides, Vincent Simonds, the Senior Director of Global Golf Ball Operations, his answer started with a story that predated cars…it was at this point I knew that these guys mean business.

The modern history, however, starts in 2003 when Callaway purchased Top-Flite brand and subsidiaries, and with it purchased the entire Top-Flite manufacturing facility. In its it heyday, Top-Flite/Spaulding was producing its full line of clubs and balls out of this building, and that included equipment made for Bobby Jones. Chicopee, Massachusetts, was essentially the center of the golf club technology universe.

Part of the original Spaulding golf club factory

Letter from Bobby Jones discussing the advantage of the newly designed ball

Page 2 of the Letter from Bobby Jones

When its comes to balls, most modern golfers don’t equate Top-Flite with premium equipment or breakthroughs, but during this time period the ball plant in Chicopee was responsible for just as many technology and scientific breakthroughs as its modern Callaway self.

One Example is Bob Molitor. In 1972, Molitor developed the first two-piece golf ball with a Surlyn cover by combining the right amounts of various ionomers. This allowed golf balls to have much greater durability and along with it improved distance. This development is part of the reason the USGA had to establish the “One Ball Rule” because players would switch out depending on the hole since there was a huge distance advantage to this Solid Core Surlyn Cover design. Imagine that – the USGA having to change rules to accommodate a new technology, seems to me our current daily discussions about bifurcation aren’t something so new after all.

There were a lot of other great innovations over the years that lead to new technology making its way into the bags of players all over the world, one of which caused a revolution that we still benefit from today. In the 90s Top-Flite, under the Strata brand, cracked the code of merging the soft, high-spin “tour ball” performance with the lower-spinning, longer-flying, and more durable “distance ball”, this three-piece ball was like two balls in one. Strata’s design team accomplished this feat by placing a soft polyurethane cover on a Top-Flite distance ball, and then added a thin layer between the cover and the core that encased the ball’s already large and solid rubber core. In short, the modern golf ball was born. 

This brings us back to the modern day Callaway ball plant, a facility where the average employee tenure exceeds 20 years, and where every single premium Callaway Ball on the planet is made. The thing I quickly realized upon entering the plant for the first time is the pride every person has for their role in making world class golf balls. This sense of pride, and a friendly, yet hard-working environment is something I witnessed before at Callaway’s Carlsbad facility too — a testament to the company’s corporate leadership and the culture that they promote everyday. The “Victory Flag,” as they call it, was flying high thanks to Xander Schauffele’s win just a few days before my visit. 

The start of production begins with materials formulation

I was able to observe a pre-shift meeting, and you would think that based on the discussion of machine tolerances, quality control, & equipment inspections this plant is making parts for a yet-to-be-seen shuttle being sent into space, but they’re talking golf balls. Speaking to the tolerances the plant works within, the in-house machine shop had some amazing equipment, including some things I unfortunately could not share through pictures. This equipment works with the tolerances of less than the 1/30th the thickness of a Post-It Note. For example, each single side to a cover mold for the Chrome Soft line takes more than 30 hours of machine time to complete — an amount of time which might seem excessive, but when you think of the speed and forces impacting a golf ball from first driver strike and along its parabolic trajectory, we really are talking space shuttle physics.

Some of the most impressive equipment has nothing to do with the performance of the balls but rather how they look. I’m talking here about the Truvis patterned balls. What was perceived by many golfers at first as a gimmick (and something than even some Callaway management believed would be a fad) has proven to be an absolute slam dunk. The pentagon pattern provides a tangible benefit by creating an optical illusion that makes the ball look bigger (and easier to hit) especially out of the rough, and also gives visual feedback for short game shots and putting.

Let’s just say that what started as a toe dip with one machine has turned into an area of the plant with more than a dozen machines,  and Callaway is also producing Truvis balls with custom colors and logos — they’re not just printing pentagons anymore.

GolfWRX Truvis

For actual production, every ball starts as raw materials, and compounds are precisely mixed in house, allowing Callaway to control the entire production process. The amount of materials engineering and chemistry I witnessed was way beyond what I was expecting, and to be frank, I went in with already high expectations. After initial mixing each batch is tested and sent to the next step.

Mixing Station

Pre cut core “slugs” ready for baking

Ever wonder why the cores of various golf balls from a single OEM are so bright and differently colored? It’s actually done to make each material identifiable in the process and give production staff another way to make sure materials get to the right manufacturing line. Of all the questions I asked, this one had the most simple answer.

Callaway ERC ( Left ) vs. Chrome Soft ( Right )

The next step is the “cooking” process of the inner core. Each oven press is precisely controlled for pressure and temperature along multiple areas of each unit, this ensures a core that comes from the outer part of the press is formed and “cooked” to the exact same spec as one from the middle. The same process is used for both parts of the dual core.  

Hydraulic press “oven” for producing cores

 

Cores post-pressing and still hot

Callaway utilized a proprietary manufacturing and molding technique to ensure exact specifications are met for centering the core and achieving correct cover thickness. Once the covers are in place, we officially have a golf ball, but we’re not done yet. There are still more quality control checks done by machine as well and humans to once again ensure each ball that leaves the plant is built to the highest quality standards and will perform just like the one before it.

Chrome Softs just after the cover process – Still very warm to the touch as the urethane cools

Even the final paint and clear coat are highly engineered to resist staining, sheering, and stay on during deformation. To quote of one my tour guides, “The force applied to the cover and paint on the ball by a wedge would be like taking a hatchet to the paint on the side of your house.” It might seem like a simple process, but to ensure full coverage of sphere requires some pretty unique tools to get the job done.

This brings us to the new Triple Track Alignment system and how it was developed to help golfers play better. The new system helps improve alignment on putts from all lengths and it also happens to be on Callaway’s longest ball to date: the ERC Soft.

The alignment aid wraps 160 degrees around the ball and offers three parallel lines with high contrast (no more need to try and draw that long Sharpie line around your ball).  For those who choose to putt without the Triple Track alignment, Callaway considered you too, since the other 200 degrees around the ball unsure that you won’t see those lines from address.

Triple Track Alignment visible vs hidden

Every shot taken means something to someone, whether it be a golfer trying to break 100 for the first time, or a tour professional lining up a putt on Sunday afternoon of a major championship. The golf ball is the one piece of equipment a golfer will use on every shot, and each person at the Callaway ball plant in Chicopee, Massachusetts, is proud to put their name behind it, even if you don’t see those names on the box.

 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. DanT

    Mar 14, 2019 at 7:52 pm

    PROBLEM – NOT ALL CALLAWAY BALLS ARE PRODUCED IN THE US!!

    The SuperSoft is made in Taiwan!!

    In my opinion – this story makes you think – all Callaway balls are made in the US –WRONG!!

  2. Perplexed

    Jan 20, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Did the USGA come up with the one ball rule? I don’t recall having ever seen it in the USGA rules. It seemed like a PGA Tour rule to me.

  3. Mark

    Jan 19, 2019 at 11:26 am

    I’m curious if you asked if they run special batches for their tour players and what % play one of the standard production balls?

  4. Willie Carmichael

    Jan 19, 2019 at 11:01 am

    It’s spelled Spalding.

  5. Bill C

    Jan 19, 2019 at 8:58 am

    Golf balls are very fascinating. They seem so simple, yet the amount of engineering which goes into their design and manufacture always amazes me.

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Morning 9: Goodbye GolfChannel.com? | Terrible start for Tiger | Munoz in front at Zozo

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]
October 23, 2020 
 
Good Friday morning, golf fans.

 

1. Sebastian Munoz leads Zozo
AP report…”Munoz twice holed out for eagle from a combined distance of 219 yards. He also had eight birdies. Throw in a wild tee shot for double bogey, three bogeys and only five pars and it added to an 8-under 64 and a one-shot lead.”
  • “That especially was the case for Woods. For the first time in his 1,277 rounds on the PGA TOUR as a pro, he made bogey or worse on three par 5s in a single round. That led to a 4-over 76 – by two shots his worst score in 49 rounds at Sherwood – that left him 12 shots out of the lead.”
  • “Munoz, the Colombian who played his college golf at North Texas, finished off his bizarre round by saving par from a narrow section of the front bunker with a 15-foot putt on the 18th hole.”
  • “He was one shot ahead of Tyrrell Hatton, the hottest golfer this month, and Justin Thomas, who had a hot finish…”
2. Kang in front
AP report…”Danielle Kang leads the Race to CME Globe and, at No. 5 in the world, is the top-ranked player in the LPGA Drive On Championship-Lake Reynolds Oconee. She showed why Thursday.”
  • “Kang shot a 7-under 65 for a share of the first-round lead with Jennifer Song.”
  • “I think I know the golf course a little bit better,” Kang said. “I’ve only played it once technically so it’s still very new, but I just tried to work on some pace drills on the greens and figure out the type of grass around here. I feel good about today.”
3. Tiger cards worst round at Sherwood ever
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…”Tiger Woods’ first title defense since 2014 didn’t start well.”
  • “Playing for the first time since last month’s U.S. Open, Woods was tied for 74th out of 77 players following a sloppy 4-over 76 at the Zozo Championship, which he won last fall in Japan. Although Woods declined to speak with the media following his round it wasn’t difficult to pin down his issues on Day 1.”
  • “Woods ranked 77th in the field in strokes gained: off the tee, 64th in fairways hit and 72nd in driving distance. He also made a mess of all but one of Sherwood Country Club’s par 5s.”
4. Goodbye, Golf Channel.com?
John Hawkins for the Morning Read with this heretofore unknown (to me at least) element of Golf Channel move to Connecticut…
  • “The most noticeable change in Golf Channel’s identity is likely to come from the dissolution of its website, GolfChannel.com, which will be integrated into NBCSports.com by the end of 2020 and become accessible only by the scroll-down menu so prevalent on other general-sports sites.”
  • “How big is the loss? We’ll have to see for ourselves. In terms of comprehensive golf coverage from horn to hoof, no journalistically based Internet domain can match GolfChannel.com’s consistency, timeliness and nose for news. The website has played a huge role in the network’s reputation for one-stop shopping. There might be a half-dozen or so other websites with similarly strong credentials, but none of them had a television network behind it, leaving us to wonder whether the NBCSports version will pack as much punch and volume as the original.”
GolfWRX Recommends 
 
We think a quarterly journal is the best complement to a website that publishes dozens of articles daily. And while that might not make sense to you now, it certainly will once you subscribe to The Golfer’s Journal and dive into some of the best golf writing and photography around. 
 
GolfWRX may earn a commission on sales of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. Sergio prepping for Master by – Playing pro tennis?
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers…“Garcia has long been a huge fan of the sport and an accomplished player, but now he’ll be putting his racket skills on full display at the H-E-B Pro Tennis Open in Austin. The event, which is part of the Dropshot Tournament Series, is scheduled for Oct. 25-Nov. 1.”
6. I mean…yeah…
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“It would be nice to go out and have Tiger talk about how good you are and stuff, his opinion is definitely a higher value than others,” Wolff said, “”but at the end of the day, if you don’t have confidence in yourself and you’re just trying to impress him, I just feel that that’s not a really good way to go about it.”
  • “Wolff’s not the first player to try and downplay a pairing with Woods. It was at Sherwood during Woods’ own Hero World Challenge in 2010 when Rory McIlroy was first paired with Woods in a competitive round.”
7. Indigenous burial ground vs. luxury golf resort
CTV’s Jackie Downs: “Local advocates in St. Lucia are concerned about the preservation of an Indigenous burial site and the lands surrounding it due to the construction of a sprawling luxury golf resort by the team of developers behind two famed courses in Nova Scotia.  The Cabot Saint Lucia project consists of an 18-hole golf course, hotel, villas, and available residential lots covering 152 hectares of land in the Cap Estate neighbourhood on the Caribbean island’s northern tip.  Construction is already underway for the resort, which will be Cabot’s first golf course outside of Canada. Two of the development’s principal investors, Canadian Ben Cowan-Dewar and American Mike Keiser, were co-founders of the award-winning Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs courses in Cape Breton, N.S.”
8. Brooks Koepka owes George Kittle golf clubs
Golfweek’s Kyle Madison…“Kittle on Tuesday joined the Candlestick Chronicles podcast and explained why professional golfer Brooks Koepka is one set of clubs in debt to the 49ers tight end.  “I’m still upset. Brooks Koepka still owes me a set of golf clubs,” Kittle said. “He told me he was gonna send them to me in March and I think we’re a little bit past that. But I’m gonna still talk (expletive) to him.”  So how did the golfer currently ranked 11th in the world come to owe Kittle such a prize? An early shelter-in-place pushup contest.  “He challenged me to a pushup challenge back during quarantine,” Kittle said. “I said I’ll do it if you send me some clubs. He was like, ‘oh yeah, no worries.’ I was like, how many pushups you want, dog?”
9. Johnny’s loving and worrying about
I LOVE this “The Match” concept…I went to the first one, the second was a ball to watch, and the momentum into this third one is fantastic. Its become our new “Skins Game” and golf needed it. Truth be told, this is the Phil Mickelson show: He’s funny, engaging, an educator, and simply one of the most talented humans ever to grab a club. What’s not to love?
I’m WORRIED this Match 3 is being force-fed a bit. Phil I get. Charles I get. Steph I get. Peyton: I love yah, but why? Especially in the pitched format of 2 on 2. Why not go 3 vs Phil? Net Best Ball vs Phil Gross, white tees, stroke play and the net team gets to call out “no driver” 3 times, “no putter” 3 times, and “no wedge” 3 times…I’d watch that.

 

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GolfWRX Classifieds (10/22/20): Adams MB2, Olson putter, Titleist TS3 head

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member Bradh972 – Adams raw MB irons

A set of Adams MB2 in this condition doesn’t come up that often – these are highly sought after and considered the peak of Adams golf irons.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Adams MB 

Member ThatCAGolfer – Olson Legacy putter

Made in America, one at a time, Olson putters are some of the nicest around. Now here is your chance to snag one for an attractive price in brand new condition.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Olson Putter

Member Taylormadehunter1 – Titleist TS3 driver head

With the announcement of the new TSi Series from Titleist, you can expect to see more TS driver on the market and for a great price. This TS3 head comes with extra weights and is hot melted, and ready to go.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: TS3 driver head

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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Morning 9: What players really think about fan-less events | Adam Scott positive for COVID-19 | PGA Merch Show to be virtual

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]
October 22, 2020 
 
Good Thursday morning, golf fans. May you own the home stretch of your weeks the way Henrik Stenson’s did the “Dreams” Challenge.
1. What players really think about fan-less events
The Undercover Caddie (yes, I know some readers think UC is fake news, but I believe the source is a legitimate one)…
  • “What’s it like on tour without fans? You came to the right place. I’ve seen what the players have said, and though I’m not calling them liars, they aren’t being honest, either. In their defense, what are players supposed to say? We’re glad fans are at home. They’re pests. This makes our jobs so less demanding. Come on. No one is that boneheaded.”
  • “Listen, everyone misses fans. Most players are alphas; they enjoy entertaining you, and there’s no drug that feels as good as doing what you love and getting loved for it. On the caddie front, no one ever accused us of being introverted souls. But the fact is, life at the golf course is easier without spectators.”
2. Adam Scott positive for COVID-19
BBC report…”Former world number one Adam Scott has pulled out of this week’s Zozo Championship in California after testing positive for coronavirus.”
  • “The PGA Tour confirmed on Wednesday that the 40-year-old Australian will not play at the Sherwood Country Club.”
  • “Scott said his “focus now is on recovery” for the rest of the season.”
  • “In a statement, the PGA Tour said Scott “will have the PGA Tour’s full support throughout his self-isolation period under CDC guidelines”.
3. Mickelson nervous for fans in Houston
ESPN’s Bob Harig..”Mickelson said Wednesday he might skip the tournament, which announced last week it would be the first PGA Tour event in the United States to allow spectators, capped at 2,000 per day.”
  • “I think that they will do a very good, safe job in having 2,000 people at the Houston Open,” Mickelson said at Sherwood Country Club, where he is playing in this week’s Zozo Championship. “However, for me personally, I don’t like the risk that having that happen the week before the Masters. I just feel like the week before the Masters, like that’s a big tournament we have and I just don’t want to have any risk heading in there.”
  • “So it has made me question whether or not I’ll play there. But then I have to give the Tour a lot of credit and confidence in the way that they’ve handled the entire year and I’m sure they’re going to do a great job at keeping the players safe in that environment.”
  • “But because I haven’t seen it before, because it’s the first one out on the Tour with some people, I’m unsure and I don’t want to take any unnecessary risks. I don’t go out to dinner, I don’t go out and socialize, because I want to make sure that I have an opportunity to compete in the Masters.”
4. PGA Merchandise Show will be virtual
Golfweek’s David Dusek…“In an announcement that should come as a surprise to almost no one, PGA Golf Exhibitions and the PGA of America announced on Wednesday that the 2021 PGA Merchandise Show will be an all-virtual event.”
  • “The three-day event held annually at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, typically attracts more than 40,000 PGA of America professionals, manufacturers, media members and golf industry insiders. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing throughout the United States and the rest of the world, the safety of everyone involved took precedence.”
5. No fans for USWO
From the Golf Channel Digital team…“The U.S. Women’s Open will be conducted without fans because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, the USGA announced Wednesday.”
  • “The Women’s Open, originally slated for early June, was rescheduled for Dec. 10-13 at Champions Golf Club in Houston.”
  • “Following extensive consultation with health officials, we have decided that hosting the U.S. Women’s Open without spectators will provide the best opportunity to conduct the championship safely for all involved,” said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships. “While we are disappointed that we won’t be able to welcome fans and their unmatched energy at Champions Golf Club, we know this is the right decision for the community and players.”
6. Tiger talks distance debate in Zozo press conference
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard “…Whether the game’s rules makers should consider dialing back some of those gains, however, is a completely different question.  “[The rules makers] should have been worried a long time ago, but the genie’s out of the bag now,” Woods said. “It’s about what do we do going forward and how soon can they do it? You’re not going to stop the guys who are there right now. Guys are figuring out how to carry the ball 320-plus yards, and it’s not just a few of them.”
7. Record golf equipment sales 
Golf Digest’s Joel Beall…“Golf Datatech, an industry research firm, announced Wednesday that United States retail golf equipment sales surpassed the $1 billion mark for the third quarter. If that number sounds significant, it is, the first time sales in July, August and September have ever exceeded $1 billion in Q3, and serves as the second-highest quarter ($1.013 billion in Q2, 2008) of all-time.”
  • “For comparison, Q3 sales are up 42 percent over the same period last year, spurred by purchases of golf bags, wedges and irons.”
  • “The story keeps getting better as golf continues to surge coming out of the shutdown, and Q3 equipment sales suggests that 2020 will likely end up positive for the entire year,” said John Krzynowek of Golf Datatech. “While the US economy will not enjoy a ‘V Shaped Recovery’ in 2020, if golf continues on this trajectory we will be there soon.”
8. Tiger’s toughest test?
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“But the biggest challenge for Tiger may have nothing to do with the conditions or his uprooted schedule. Since the Tour’s restart in June, Woods, along with a few other players, have talked of how difficult it is to focus during rounds without fans at events and nowhere will that be more evident than at the Masters, a tournament defined by Sunday roars.”
  • “There’s no other place like it. It echos there, it travels,” he said. “When you know the pairings, you know where certain players would be at that particular time and you can figure out who’s doing what, and the roars for certain people are louder than others, and then you hear eagle roars and hole-outs on 16, or whatever it may be. It’s unlike any other place in the world.”
9. A thin slice of golf’s recent success pie
The Denver Post’s Kyle Frederickson…“Colorado’s golf renaissance is real.  Public golf courses operated by the City of Denver report a roughly 20-percent rise in rounds played this year and that’s despite being closed for several weeks due to the coronavirus. Ed Mate, executive director of the Colorado Golf Association, said: “I’ve heard from some private clubs, anecdotally, that they’ve increased their rounds by 100 percent in a given month.”  The CGA compiles an annual survey of public course operators, and prior to this year, the state averaged about 1.5 million-1.7 million rounds played. That number is about to rise, by a lot.”

 

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