Dave Felker of Polara Golf has strong feelings about golf, both as a game and as a business. But then again, he has a vested interest since his company makes balls and drivers and Felker’s company is different. Rather than living within the regulations laid down by the USGA his products do not conform to the Rules of Golf…on purpose.
In a wide ranging discussion Felker shared his thinking with me of not only why Polara plays outside the Rules but why he encourages others to do the same.
There’s no doubt, golf is in a curious situation; either the industry is faced with a wonderful opportunity to craft its future or it’s on the precipice, confronted with decisions that could cause immense damage.
We are talking of course about the United States Golf Associations decision to ban anchored putting-not long putters contrary to what many people say-but to ban any stroke that uses a part of the body other than the hands as a pivot point. The outcry that has developed in the recent months could have a serious impact on efforts to attract new golfers not because they all are giddy with the prospect of using a belly or broomstick putter but because golfers who play regularly are the way to bring new people into the game. If current golfers aren’t enthusiastically supporting golf because of restrictions (some might say artificial restrictions) placed on their equipment then it’s unlikely they will be enthusiastic in encouraging others to start
Felker points out not only is the game where it is because of technology but that the USGA does not control how golfers golf, just what the rules are for “sanctioned events.” In everyday play golfers bend, ignore and even make a mockery of the Rules of Golf. Things such as carrying more clubs than the 14 club limit or the “I’ll just drop one here” method for an out of bounds or conceding putts in medal play or – well, you get the idea.
More tragically the majority don’t know what the rules are or don’t care they aren’t following them.
Felker said, “If you kicked everyone off the course who didn’t play by the USGA Rules you’d be losing 90% of the players.” A cynic might say that was an optimistic number but in any event the other huge problem no one talks about is the official USGA handicaps are calculated from the scores of rounds most likely played not strictly following the Rules.
“Golf is supposed to be fun,” Felker said and when the ruling body, “does things to make it less fun everybody loses.”
Specifically talking about the two types of Polara golf balls his company makes, “They help fix the hooks and slices the average golfer has because he doesn’t practice enough or take lessons to correct them. If he has the chance to hit the ball straighter in the fairway and knock it on the green more often he’s going to have more fun.”
The USGA doesn’t agree. It ruled the Polara balls are nonconforming to the Rules of Golf which to no one’s surprise put a real damper on sales. That however is changing as more golfers seem to be less concerned with the USGA rulings either through ignorance or a lack of respect for them based on the USGA’s history of being late in almost every instance of addressing the changes caused by better design, materials, engineering and manufacturing. Regulations restricting ball speed, clubhead size, shaft length, grooves, coefficient of restitution, the modulus of inertia, etc., have many wondering if the USGA hasn’t gone too far towards preserving traditions “For the good of the game,” at the expensive of “Golf is supposed to be fun.”
Felker concluded by asking, “What’s the difference if you have a driver that can be adjusted to cure hooks and slices and a ball that does the same thing?”
Polara Golf makes four models of the Polara Golf Ball each with a dimple pattern that is capable of reducing hooks and slices up to 75%. This is done by the dimples being shallower around the equator and deeper on each pole. By pointing the ball’s alignment arrow at the target, which positions the ball’s poles parallel to the ground, there is less lift and drag compared to a ball with a traditional dimple pattern. Lower lift and the preferred spin axis means there is less of a tendency for the ball to curve and that means less hooking or slicing.
Their Advantage Driver is just coming to market and purposely was designed to be nonconforming to the Rules of Golf. The clubhead is 15cc larger than the 460cc USGA allowed maximum and the Advantage exceeds the face velocity limit as well. It has a very large sweet spot and the driver’s coefficient of restitution is higher than allowed. Each factor in the design contributes to produce added distance.