Mr. Cooper was hitting his driver toward the Manhattan skyline, the balls tailing off in the familiar arc of the classic golf slice. Then he was handed the new Polara golf ball and took a healthy swat.
“Straight as an arrow,” he yelped with a mix of awe and surprise. For the next five minutes, he rarely hit a ball crooked.
A golf ball that won’t slice? It sounds like an old joke: guy invents a ball that won’t sink in water hazards, then loses it in the woods. It sounds too good to be true, sacrilege to the golf ethos of eternal struggle.
Or, as Mr. Cooper asked, “Is this magic?”
It is physics, not magic, but there is, of course, a catch. The Polara ball has an irregular dimple pattern that means it does not conform to golf’s official rules. The ball, which is designed to reduce slices and hooks by 75 percent or more, would be illegal to use in the Masters, for example, or any other competition, local or otherwise, sanctioned by the United States Golf Association.
But as golf works to appeal to a younger generation that hits the links in cargo shorts and sandals and without a rulebook, does a nonconforming label still matter?
“It wouldn’t matter one bit to me,” said Fredric Martenson, 36, of Jersey City, who was also pounding balls into the night. Mr. Martenson, a beginning golfer with a wicked slice, also found the Polara ball went considerably straighter.
“I just want to go out and not spend the whole day looking for my ball,” he said.
But many at the driving range here last week wanted nothing to do with the Polara ball.
“Part of the game is the challenge of hitting it straight,” said Charles Yoo, 33, of Edgewater.
The dialogue at the range mirrors a debate in the greater golf community. With the number of golf rounds declining in recent years, especially among beginners, what is the best way to draw new players to a difficult, intimidating, tradition-bound game? Can new technologies enhance the recruitment of players, even if some advances are outside rules in place for centuries?
Dave Felker, the former Callaway golf ball engineer and executive behind the Polara, said his product was meant to grow the game because it is not for the elite golfer.