This an edited version of Gary D'Amato's recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinal article "Polara Products Enhance Fun for Golfers"
Would you buy a self-correcting golf ball that greatly reduced or even eliminated your wicked slice or your uncontrollable hook? Of course you would. But would you buy the same ball if it did not conform to the Rules of Golf?
Things get a bit trickier here. The golfer who uses a "foot wedge," gives himself a 3-foot putt, takes a mulligan (or two) and ignores the stroke-and-distance penalty when his tee shot sails out of bounds has been conditioned to turn up his nose at nonconforming equipment.
"That stuff is illegal," the golfer will say as he improves his lie in the rough.
Sure, it's illegal. But only if you play in tournaments governed by United States Golf Association rules. If you're a typical recreational hacker, for whom golf is an exercise in futility and frustration, what's wrong with playing a ball that you can actually keep in the fairway?
Absolutely nothing, says Polara Golf, which manufactures and sells anti-slice golf balls and nonconforming drivers proven conclusively to work.
"We help golfers have more fun," says Polara, whose products are geared to the 78% of golfers who indicated in a December 2012 Google Consumer Survey that they played for fun; only 22% played according to the Rules of Golf.
Polara believes that there is a double standard that's perpetuated by the golf companies. It goes back to the way they spend their marketing dollars. They can't have Phil Mickelson say, "We'd like you to cheat today." Those golf companies sell only conforming equipment.
They also think that in reality probably the worst thing the average golfer can do is play the same driver Tiger or Phil plays. The equipment does not benefit the average golfer the way it does the pro golfer.
Polara had entered the golf ball market in the 1970s and the ball worked as advertised because of its asymmetrical dimple configuration. In 1981, the USGA ruled that balls must have a symmetrical dimple pattern in order to conform to the rules.
Polara relates that they were originally conforming, but the golf companies wanted them out - it's a fascinating story about the politics and the crap that goes on behind closed doors at the USGA.
Polara sued the USGA, which eventually agreed to pay a settlement of $1.4 million.
The Polara disappeared, however, but was resurrected it three years ago. Their Ultimate Straight ball was a huge improvement on the original and corrected hooks and slices by 95%.
Polara indicates that It took a 100-foot slice and brought it back to 5 feet of center; It was a little shorter than they wanted it to be so they compromised with a product that was 75% correcting.
In May 2011, The New York Times ran a front-page story on the rebirth of the Polara, sparking a media blitz and creating demand that crashed Polara Golf's computer server for hours.
In January 2012, Polara introduced its new XD and XDS models, which produced a higher ball flight and increased distance.
Most golfers were skeptical of Polara's claims until they actually tried the ball - Almost 45% of the people who try it buy it on the spot.
Polara also makes nonconforming drivers with thin titanium faces that exceed the USGA's limit for coefficient of restitution, or the so-called "trampoline effect."
"With the Polara golf ball and the Polara driver, I can hit almost every fairway," said Felker, who plays to a 28 handicap. "I've been hugged and kissed by a lot of golfers who are so happy that we cured their slice."
Polara predicted it wouldn't be long before traditional equipment companies started making and marketing nonconforming equipment. They said TaylorMade plans to sell such equipment, geared toward recreational golfers, in the near future.
They believe that everybody recognizes recreational golf is where everything is moving- it's the big growth area in golf. There is no other growth area; and the recreational market is under-served. There are 17 million recreational golfers and if you offer them a product that will help their game, 63% say they don't care if it conforms or not. They will buy it if it helps them.
Polara is confident that it has barely scratched the surface," Felker said. "As far as recognition, a small fraction of golfers know who we are. But 63% of golfers will play nonconforming equipment if it helps their game. It's a huge market. And once the other golf companies start doing this and give permission, so to speak, it's going to go to 85%."
None of them will be a U.S. Open champion. But who cares?