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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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GolfWRX Classifieds (10/28/20): Olson putter, Titleist TS4, PXG 0811X Proto

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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 Luke1333 – Olson 303 Stainless

There are putters—and then there are putters! This Olson 303 is made from stainless steel and features a simple site dot, along with a sound slot for improved feel. This is by far not the least expensive putter you’re going to find, but it could be the nicest!

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

Member Footjoy16 – Titleist TS4 driver

Have some shafts with Titleist tips already kicking around and looking to build a low spin monster? The Titleist TS4 is one of the lowest spinning heads on the market and this is your opportunity to flatten that trajectory.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Titleist TS4

Member staust5 – PXG Proto 0811X driver head

PXG is known for doing things a little different, and the 0811X Proto drivers were released under the radar—almost stealthy—and have slowly made their way into the hands of the public. Now is your chance to get a used one for a really nice deal!

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: PXG Proto

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

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Morning 9: Topgolf, Callaway merge | Tiger won’t tee it up in Houston | The lost major of 2020

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By Ben Alberstadt
October 28, 2020 
 
Good Wednesday morning, golf fans.
1. Merger alert: Callaway, Topgolf 
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard with the details of the chevron’s now-controlling interest in the golf-entertainment chain it previously owned 14 percent of…”Callaway and Topgolf announced on Tuesday an all-stock merger with an implied equity value of Topgolf of approximately $2 billion.”
  • “Together, Callaway and Topgolf create an unrivaled golf and entertainment business,” said Chip Brewer, Callaway’s president and CEO. “We’ve long seen the value in Topgolf and we are confident that together, we can create a larger, higher growth, technology-enabled global golf and entertainment leader.”
  • “Callaway invested in Topgolf in 2006 and the equipment manufacturer already owned 14 percent of the open-air entertainment company. That agreement included an integrated partnership at all Topgolf venues.”
2. The lost major of 2020
Excellent stuff from John Huggan at Golf Digest on the decision to cancel the 2020 Open Championship…“On March 23, as soon as the United Kingdom officially joined multiple nations around the globe in COVID-19 “lockdown,” Slumbers began talks with the game’s other power brokers. Alongside the R&A chief executive, representatives of the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the LPGA Tour, the USGA, Augusta National and the PGA of America sat down in an attempt to assemble and salvage a viable tournament schedule for the remainder of the year.”
  • “All to no avail as far as the 14th Open at Royal St. George’s, on England’s southeast coast, was concerned. By April 6, Slumbers had released a statement saying that the “champion golfer” of 2019, Irishman Shane Lowry, would have to wait at least another 15 months to defend his title over the Kent links.”
  • “In those 13 to 14 days, we covered ground that in normal times would have taken a year’s worth of thinking,” Slumbers said. “We all worked together, which is a very powerful point to make. That doesn’t happen often. But you build friendships in good times, and all of us knowing each other as well as we do really paid off. It was like putting together a jigsaw without a starting point. It really was extraordinary.”
3. Tiger won’t tee it up in Houston
Golf Digest’s Ryan Herrington…“Steinberg told Golf Digest’s Daniel Rapaport via phone on Tuesday: “There was some speculation whether Tiger would play Houston based on what he said at Sherwood, but he has decided to prepare for the Masters at home.”
4. Masters taketh away Par 3 Contest, giveth ESPN’s College GameDay
Adam Schupak for Golfweek…”Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, announced the Masters, scheduled for November 9-15, will provide an expansive slate of content across multiple platforms, including ESPN’s College GameDay airing live from Augusta National on Saturday, November 14.
  • “Given the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, the delivery of quality content is as important as ever to the storytelling of the Masters Tournament,” said Ridley. “While we will dearly miss our patrons at Augusta National this fall, we are excited to showcase what promises to be a truly memorable Masters in a variety of ways for viewers around the world.””
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. Zalatoris speaks (writes)
The rapidly rising Mr. Zalatoris for Golf Digest…”and I don’t know how much ghostwriting was done, but “Willy” is proficient with the pen…He begins “It’s summer 2007. “Ticks” by Brad Paisley has just come out and, yes-it’s a jam. Every prepubescent Dallas boy has these lyrics on LOCK … including me. Little Willy Zalatoris, all 11 years of age, daydreaming about singing it to his fifth-grade crush. Anyway, I’m sitting in the car with my friends, Cade Storey and Jordan Spieth. Cade’s mom had just picked us up from a junior event that, shocker, Jordan dominated and won by eight strokes.
  • …”We’re chatting away as we pull up to a stoplight when, bam, “Ticks” hits the airwaves and … I’m not sure whether it was the high from winning, but Jordan goes full Paisley and starts belting it out like there’s no tomorrow. Eyes closed, shoulder shimmies, singing into his water bottle-the whole nine yards. The kid almost cracked the windshield with his voice. Man, to this day, I haven’t laughed so hard in my life.”
6. Time to pay up, son…
Golf Digest Alex Myers… “George Kittle claimed Koepka owes him a set of golf clubs during an interview with Candlestick Chronicles. Apparently, Koepka enlisted the San Francisco 49ers superstar in a push-up challenge back in March and Kittle says the new sticks were part of the deal.” “Im a man of my word, I got him”
7. A Canadian on the rise
Scott MacLeod for Flagstick.com…“Conners’ play at Sherwood Country Club boosted him to 68th in the rankings, putting him two spots ahead of Hadwin. He still trails good friend Mackenzie Hughes in the battle for top Canadian, Hughes is in the #53 spot after a flurry of fine play at the end of the 2020 schedule.  The top two spots are key as they represent the team positions for the 2021 Olympics in Japan. Qualifying runs until June 21, 2021.”
8. Why did this take so long?
CBC report…”A review is underway in P.E.I. after two teen girls questioned why boys get to play twice as many holes in school golf tournaments.
  • When sisters Brayah and Lexie MacDonald joined Montague Intermediate’s school golf team last year, they discovered that girls play nine holes instead of 18.
  • The two sisters said that ability, not gender, should determine how many holes a student plays.
  • “Why is it not fair and equal for everyone?” Brayah said.
  • On Oct. 22, the province responded to the girls’ concerns, announcing it would review school sports to ensure gender equity.”

Full piece.

9. Woods: ‘I rolled it great’ – Why Tiger’s assessment of his putting at the Zozo is at odds with reality
Our Gianni Magliocco…“on his website in a piece by journalist Daniel Rapaport, Woods gave this head scratching assessment of the positive he’ll be taking from the Zozo.”
“The only thing I can take out of this week that I did positively is I putted well. I feel like I rolled it great. Unfortunately, they were all-most of them were for pars and a couple for bogeys here and there, but not enough for birdies.”
  • “Unfortunately for Tiger, that’s just not true.”
  • “For his four days at the Zozo, Woods lost over 3 strokes to the field on the greens. Of the 77 players in the field last week, Woods was 65th in putting. In what parallel universe, especially for arguably the greatest player ever, could that be considering ‘putting well’?”
  • “It was Woods’ second-worst performance on the greens since the Tour’s restart, and it’s worth a reminder that even before last week Tiger was in the midst of his worst form with the putter of his career.”
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Morning 9: Masters Champions Dinner is on | Can TW find his 2019 Masters form? | Other side of the golf gambling coin

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By Ben Alberstadt
Email me at [email protected]
October 27, 2020 
 
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. The putt that kept DJ at No. 1
Golf Channel’s Mercer Baggs…“Thomas birdied the 72nd hole Sunday at the Zozo Championship, joining Rahm in a share of second place for the tournament. That was just enough to keep Rahm from regaining the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.”
  • “Johnson, who did not play the Zozo as he continued to recover from a bout with COVID-19, leads Rahm by just over .08 points. Rahm, in turn, is .11 points ahead of Thomas, who stands third in the OWGR.”
2. Masters Champions Dinner is still on
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard…“Tiger Woods confirmed Saturday at the Zozo Championship that the annual Champions Dinner is still a go.  Woods, who won his fifth green jacket two Aprils ago, said the plan is to hold the dinner on Nov. 10, in its usual Tuesday night slot during Masters week. The dinner, though, will be relocated to downstairs in the iconic clubhouse, so they have more room to socially distance.”
  • “I think we’re not going to get a lot of the past champions coming because obviously they’re at the at-risk age,” Woods said. “It’s going to be a shame, but this is unlike any times we’ve ever had in the past, so we’ve got to do what we can do to obviously have the traditions that we’d like to have but also maintain safety guidelines.”
3. Can Tiger rediscover his 2019 Masters form?
He’s not exactly on pace to, writes ESPN’s Bob Harig…“The lead-up to the Masters in 2019 saw Woods play five times in the three months prior to the tournament, with his best result a tie for fifth at the WGC-Match Play. He was not a back-nine contender at the Farmers Insurance Open (20th), the Genesis Invitational (15th) or the WGC-Mexico Championship (10th)”
  • “But those results were far better than what we’ve seen since in the post-shutdown events. Woods’ best tournament was a tie for 37th at the PGA Championship. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open. In each of the six tournaments he played, Woods was never closer than 8 shots through 36 holes.”
  • “At least he showed some flashes at the first five events, where he gained strokes on the field in approach to the green. But even that aspect of his game was off at Sherwood, where he was near the bottom of the field.”
  • “And not much else was very good. Woods was 70th in the 77-player field in strokes gained off the tee; 71st in stroke gained tee to green; 55th in proximity to the hole; 21st in strokes gained around the green; and 65th in strokes gained putting.”
4. Shackelford’s ZOZO observations
An interesting point among many other of note…including the “funerary” milieu at Sherwood…The Sunday range scene was…intense. If you ignored the lack of fans and just watched players warm up, you sensed big money, a nice title and pre-Masters momentum was on the line. Matthew Wolff and instructor George Gankas engaged in a spirited putting lesson up to his tee time. And I mean, right up to his tee time. Eventual winner Patrick Cantlay’s instructor Jamie Mulligan was shuttling from his Virginia Country Club member-guest duties to keep a watchful eye on his student. The overall intensity seemed like the old days, minus too many range volunteers and agents blocking your view.”
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. 
 
5. Pagdanganan just missed averaging 300 yards off the tee at the LPGA Drive On Championship
Golf Digest’s Keely Levins…“She’s averaging 288.8 yards for the season, besting fellow bombers Maria Fassi (282.2 yards) and Anne van Dam (281.8 yards) to lead the tour. But at the LPGA Drive On Championship at Reynolds Lake Oconee, Pagdanganan was hitting it far-even for her.  According to the tour, Pagdanganan’s longest drive of the week came during Saturday’s third round, when she hit her tee shot on the 18th hole 317 yards. She had an iron into the green with her second shot, while others had to lay up on the closing par 5.”
6. I’d be honored….
Golf.com’s Nick Piastowski on a truly bizarre/spectacular moment in the history of golf on television.
  • “As Thomas got ready to swing during Saturday’s third round of the Zozo Championship, Dion began to sing. A home near the 18th turned the speaker dial as far right as it would go. Then it dialed up the last stanza of the song.”
  • “You’re here, there’s nothing I fear”
  • “And anybody that can hit a shot through Celine Dion music coming from one of the nearby houses, it’s big,” announcer Dan Hicks said on the Golf Channel broadcast.
  • “And I know that my heart will go on”
7. Vandals hit Ontario course
If you live North of the border and have any information, help the folks at Lake St. George Golf Club out…
  • CTV Kim Phillips…”Provincial police in Orillia are asking for the public’s help to find the culprit who caused thousands of dollars in damage to a Severn Township golf course.  Police say someone drove a vehicle onto the Lake St. George Golf Club on South Sparrow Lake Road in Washago, ripping through the fairways and greens over the weekend.  According to its Facebook page, this is the first time in the club’s 40 years that anything like this has happened.”
8. The possible other side of the golf gambling coin
George Peper for Links with a cautionary scenario…Consider two big differences between golf and arena sports such as football and baseball. Number one is the proximity of the gallery to the players, and number two is the absence of loud “white” noise. We’ve all watched telecasts punctuated by yahoos yelling “Baba Booey.” Consider what might happen if one of those liquored-up clowns has a big bet on the line.”
  • “The Tour currently deals with such incidents by escorting the offender off the course, but there’s no way to prevent such an incident from occurring-especially if the disturbance is caused not by a stumbling drunk with a $100 bet but a deadly serious shark with a lot to gain.”
  • “Let’s say there’s a professional gambler, a shady character, who has placed a big bet on a player to win The Players Championship and stands to reap a seven-figure payout if it happens. And let’s say his horse is now in the clubhouse with the winning score and just one player has a chance to tie him, if he can sink a three-foot putt on the final green. Shady, in order to protect his bet, has hired a stooge who is standing beside the green. As the player takes his putter back, Stooge fires a blast from an air horn.”
  • “The ball never hits the hole. Stooge goes to jail for a week and pays a $50,000 fine, a pittance compared to the fee he receives from Shady, who is the big winner. The big loser is golf.”
9. Sawgrass turns 40: Some or the real beneficiaries are tour pros…
Cameron Morfit for PGATour.com…“TPC courses have hosted more than 400 professional tournaments, with the rent-free venues allowing for bigger purses and charitable donations…”
  • “It’s those world-class players, though, who may have the most to celebrate. For them, the TPCs are a lot more than a bucket-list destination. They’re a lifeblood; a top-quality driving range, an impeccably groomed course (or two), a place to find a game or just a putting contest. For them, it’s hard to overstate the importance of former TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman’s totally revolutionary “Stadium Golf” invention those many moons ago.”
  • “It’s home,” said 2014 FedExCup champion Billy Horschel, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and practices at TPC Sawgrass, where his coach, Todd Anderson, is Director of Instruction at the PGA TOUR Performance Center. “It’s been a great place to practice, to get better.”
  • “About 77 professionals from the six PGA TOUR-owned-and-operated tours play out of TPC Sawgrass…”
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