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USUAL TECHNOLOGY QUESTIONS NOT NECESSARY THIS YEAR

April 3, 2009

As the march to the Masters gets closer, the drumbeat of anti-technology activists will inevitably get louder over the next week.  For the past decade, it has been the practice of select media at this time of year to question technological advancements in golf equipment, and more specifically, the golf ball.  This year, however, it should not be necessary.

For the past five years there has been no material increase in driving distance on the PGA Tour as a result of three major factors: 1) the impact of the revised golf ball Overall Distance Standard (ODS) that has been in force since June 2004; 2) the further control and regulation of golf clubs, including limits on CT ("COR"), MOI, head size & volume and golf club length; and 3) the arrival of the S-Curve of invention maturity phase where past exponential improvements give way to small, if any, incremental advances.

The fact is, we are coming off the most activist 10-year period in the history of golf ball and golf club regulation, and a bold and rigid line in the sand has been effectively drawn by the game's regulatory bodies.  The statistics speak for themselves.  Driving distance has flatlined, and actually has decreased in each of the past two years. The USGA and R&A have effectively fenced in the driver and golf ball, so that there is little or no more distance to be had from equipment under the current rules and regulations.

The size, weight, initial velocity and overall distance of the golf ball are controlled.  Optimization of the aerodynamics package of a golf ball is near complete.  Higher compression golf balls might provide more ball speed, but will also have more spin, which will reduce distance.  Spin and launch angle are coupled, so if you change one, the other will change as well.  The bottom line is that when you attempt to tweak a golf ball parameter for more distance, other parameters are affected that limit the distance opportunity.  

Based on our internal testing against the golf ball ODS limit under the current specified launch conditions, we are already 98 percent downfield towards reaching that absolute ODS limit (including the tolerance), and that is with our longest tour-played product.  That translates into a maximum additional distance availability of approximately 5-7 yards.  

Potential advancements in driver technology provide even less opportunity for increased distance.  The driver's COR, MOI, head size and volume, and shaft length, are already capped and cannot be increased.  Incremental changes in head geometry, weight distribution and loft, lie and face angle adjustability, all go to optimization for a given players launch condition, and do not represent opportunities for distance increases generally.  This is particularly true for Tour players who are already optimally launch monitor fitted for both clubs and ball.

The facts are the facts, and any suggestion of dramatic yardage spikes going forward is either disingenuous or propagandist.  Take your pick.

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