An NFL quarterback and running back. One of the world’s most respected financial advisors. A professional golfer who has endured two heart transplants. And perhaps the leading authority on golf ball design and engineering in the entire industry.
What do all these seemingly random dots have in common? OnCore Golf. The Buffalo, N.Y.-based golf ball maker founded in 2011 has emerged as one of the industry’s leading golf technology accelerators.
Along the way, OnCore assembled a team of investors and ambassadors ranging from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, legendary investor Charles Schwab and PGA / Korn Ferry TOUR golfer Erik Compton. The group has been affectionately dubbed “Team OnCore.”
“Team OnCore is an eclectic mix of golf professionals, professional athletes, investors, and influencers who understand and appreciate the way we’re disrupting the golf ball market through our proprietary designs and direct-to-consumer business model,” says OnCore Co-Founder Steve Coulton. “It’s all about coming together over a common cause and belief system.”
Coulton, along with long-time friend and business partner Bret Blakely founded OnCore during a period when investment dollars were running away from the golf industry, not toward it.
“This is what happens when two young entrepreneurs in New York City lose their jobs during the financial crisis of 2008,” says Bret Blakely. “My father likes to say OnCore is an overnight success story that’s been ten years in the making. But building something special takes time, and we like to think we’ve done it the right way.”
Blakely’s father and OnCore CEO, Keith Blakely, is a serial entrepreneur, investor and specialist in advanced materials and nanotechnology. He led the design of the company’s first ball featuring a perimeter-weighted, hollow metal core that eventually led the USGA to re-write its allowable golf ball technology rules for only the second time in 100 years.
“I’ve always viewed OnCore in three verticals,” Keith Blakely says. “The is first golf ball design, the second is golf-focused technology and the third is experiential golf facility development. These are not disparate things. They’re an interrelated solar system of tech and products to help propel the game forward exponentially.”
When it comes to golf ball design, OnCore doesn’t hesitate to leverage its inherent technological advantages. First and foremost, it utilizes proprietary perimeter weighting to create an increased moment of inertia and centrifugal forces.
This in turn results in lower driver spin rates, tighter dispersion, extended aerodynamic lift, and more consistent and stable flight. In other words, OnCore helps golfers hit it longer and straighter while providing more control around the greens.
Keith Blakely and senior technical advisor John Calabria are the driving force behind the development of the company’s current three-tier line: the two-piece, low-compression AVANT 55, the three-piece mid-compression ELIXR and the four-piece, Tour-caliber VERO X1, which has racked up numerous awards and accolades.
Calabria is the Roger Cleveland of the golf ball industry. His name is on no less than a dozen patents for golf balls and clubs including Titleist, TaylorMade and Maxfli. He and Keith Blakely are evangelical about leading-edge technology and new materials being the driving forces behind golf ball innovation.
Independent testing of OnCore’s suite of perimeter-weighted balls continues to validate the company’s modus operandi. The VERO X1 recently outdueled both the Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x in Golf EQ’s driver and iron testing and delivered 60% less sidespin off the driver.
Pushing the Envelope
Golf ball sales drive the majority of OnCore’s revenue and fuels the fire of invention. Case in point, the company is developing the “iRoll” ball aimed at mini-golf facilities and putting courses. iRoll is a “smart ball” that delivers unprecedented data about golfers’ putting strokes.
“We had a call with [golf instructors]Ron and Dave Stockton the other day, and they believe iRoll will be a paradigm-shifter when it comes to putter design and fitting,” says Keith Blakely. “Dave was one of the best putters on the PGA TOUR in his day, and he’s excited about the impact iRoll could have on the game.”
And innovation doesn’t stop on the putting green. The next iteration of the iRoll ball is a “GENiUS” ball golfers can take out on the course to measure ball speed, spin rate, distance and more. Think launch monitor, but infinitely more affordable and accurate in terms of actual playing conditions.
Earlier this year, OnCore acquired Golf Boost AI, an artificial intelligence-powered swing analysis app that generates personalized lessons and drills using a universal golf swing algorithm. The GENiUS ball and Golf Boost AI will integrate to create an affordable, accessible game improvement solution for all levels of players.
Helping golfers get better, fast, is part of OnCore’s recipe for growing the game. The other element is ensuring they enjoy the journey. In partnership with other real estate and technology development experts, OnCore is helping to pioneer the next generation of off-course golf entertainment centers.
“From day one we’ve been not only committed to growing OnCore, but to growing the game of golf as well,” Bret Blakely says. “For us, the key is helping golfers play better and lower their scores. If they’re loving the game, they’ll stick with it. That’s been our mission for the past ten years and we’re excited to have it continue for the next ten.”
For more information on OnCore’s entire golf ball and accessory collection, visit www.oncoregolf.com
*This article first appeared in Golfweek and is reprinted with permission.