Q&A with Steve Ogg

Steve Ogg, Callaway Golf’s vice president of golf ball research and development, sat down with Golfweek to discuss the new two-piece Diablo ball and other Callaway golf balls for 2009.

GOLFWEEK: What makes the Big Bertha Diablo distinctive?

OGG: The Diablo provides exceptionally low spin with high ball speed off of the tee. We have not tested any competitive product that has lower ball compression or produces lower driver spin. These attributes combine for great distance, low dispersion, and outstanding feel. The cover is soft enough to generate very good spin into the greens with full short irons. Diablo has very good durability.

GOLFWEEK: What advances in materials or technology made this possible?

OGG: There are several aspects. One is the thorough investigation of the design space of two-piece golf balls through the use of DOEs (Design of Experiments). We did not assume that we knew which combination of core compression, cover hardness and cover thickness provided the best performance. The surprising result was that a thin cover combined with an extremely low core compression produced exceptionally low driver spin. We’re talking about a cover that isn’t as soft as most urethanes, but is softer than many distance balls. This low spin provides significant benefits in distance and dispersion for shots with long irons, hybrids, fairway woods and drivers.

GOLFWEEK: What about the core?

OGG: The other aspect of this design is the core formulation required to achieve high ball speed. A very low compression core, a thin cover, and a medium-soft cover are not exactly the ideal starting point for high ball speed. We were able to achieve our target ball speed (USGA IV limited) by using a very high technology core formulation. Many core recipes use something called regrind, which is ground up flash that is left over from the core molding process. This makes for a cheaper core, but limits the performance. The Diablo golf ball does not use regrind. The Diablo core technology includes careful selection of the polybutadiene (synthetic rubber) used, but is also affected by the specific choices of initiators, accelerators, crosslinker, and weight adjusters.

The rubber manufacturing process also has an impact on core resiliency. Mixing, milling, extruding, grinding and molding a high-technology core formulation is more difficult than for a low-technology formulation. Our operations team in Chicopee, Mass., has done a great job of supporting the more challenging manufacturing process that comes with this high-technology Diablo core.

GOLFWEEK: Who should be using this ball?

OGG: Golfers who are looking for high spin on short shots near the green should consider our Tour i, Tour ix, our HX Hot Bite golf balls. For all other golfers, Big Bertha Diablo should be a consideration. The very soft feel characteristics will appeal to a broad segment of the golfing population. The low spin will provide significant distance benefits for golfers with high driver spin launch conditions. Most golfers will see benefits with higher-spinning clubs like long irons, hybrids and fairways.

GOLFWEEK: Can you outline all the Callaway golf balls and the ideal audience for each?

OGG: Tour i and Tour ix are our four-piece, tour-level golf balls. The dual-core construction provides superior “spin separation.” This is the term we use to describe high spin around the green and low spin off the tee. The Tour i has higher greenside spin than the Tour ix. The Tour ix has lower driver spin than the Tour i.

The HX Hot Bite is a multilayer cover three-piece golf ball that takes the distance legacy of HX Hot and adds greenside control through the use of a soft outer cover. This is the “value” option for those golfers seeking both distance and control.

HX Hot Plus is a completely redesigned version of HX Hot. The HX Hot Plus retains the high speed characteristic of HX Hot, but is improved with lower driver spin and soft feel through the use of a softer core and cover. This is a great all-around distance ball. While this product seems to have similar attributes to Diablo, they are actually complementary. If you are relatively straight off the tee, but need more distance, than HX Hot Plus is your best choice. If you struggle with keeping the ball in the fairway and also want really good distance, then Diablo is the best choice. Both balls are low compression and feel great.

HX Pearl is a balanced design created specifically for women. This ball is a blend of the benefits of HX Hot Plus and HX Hot Bite.

Warbird Plus is a major overhaul of our Warbird two-piece golf ball. It is significantly softer than Warbird and now has our Hex aerodynamics.

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