By Kathleen Berger
Ray Barrett is among the St. Louis stars of golf these days, but it has nothing to do with his swing, putting or anything else when he plays golf.
“My experience with golf is zero. I’m the worst golfer in the world,” Barrett admitted.
Barrett’s big-time break, that’s now part of PGA action, has more to do with his eyesight. Barrett explained that being older is a challenge concerning vision.
“At this age, we don’t see that well,” he said. “We swing as hard as we can. It doesn’t go very far. And the first thing we say is, ‘Where did it go? Where did it go?’”
So Barrett had an idea to add segments of color to golf balls in hopes of not losing sight of them. He used a sharpie to draw three parallel lines the colors of red, blue and green. The contrasting colors were drawn on the same ball.
However, Barrett said his idea of tracking the ball in flight did not work. Rather than toss the balls in the trash, he made another discovery. The painted lines on the balls were having an appreciably positive effect on his putting.
“I was making putts I never dreamed of making. And even when I was missing, I wasn’t missing by much,” he said.
Barrett’s noticeable putting improvement meant that his friends wanted to modify their golf balls. They asked Barrett to draw the colored lines on their golf balls. And before long, he said his friends were putting better too!
“Because now you take the lines and you line it up,” he explained. “Something was making me putt better and it had to do with my vision.”
As an established entrepreneur in St. Louis, Barrett realized he was onto something, and he knew there was science behind it that would need to be proven. Barrett called University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Optometry Professor and Director of Research Carl Bassi, PhD. Bassi said he knewBarrett was onto something as well. It’s called vernier acuity. It’s aperson’s ability to see discrepancies in alignment among line segments. It’s why landing strips on aircraft carriers are lined for pilots. With a set of three lines for reference points, the brain perceives the straightness of aim better.
Bassi joined Barrett in the early stages of his business venture to conduct the research into what Barrett called, Triple Track technology for golf balls. For the experiment Bassi embedded lasers in two groups of golf balls- balls with the three parallel lines, and balls without. For vernier acuity to work effectively, the spacing, thickness and colors of the lines needed to be scientifically proven.
Bassi explained the study included54 golfers. The participants would only aim. No contact with the ball was made. The laser determined the golfers’ aim. WithTriple Track, the accuracy of putting improved by nearly 12% from 10 feet away and 11% from 5 feet away.
“Eleven or 12%, that’s a large number if you’re thinking about trying to get a better score and trying to aim the ball better,” explained Bassi.
Once Barrett’s painted golf balls were scientifically proven, he took a swing at the big time. But it wasn’t a hole in one. Not even close. It took a lot of work and years of beating down doors to get a company to take on his Triple Track technology.
“I never, ever stopped driving that ball, no pun intended here, but I didn’t want to drop the ball. I knew I had science, I knew everything was there. It wasn’t because it felt good as that didn’t really motivate me,” Barrett explained. “I wanted to stay with the science. It is a scientifically proven concept. Not Ray Barrett’s concept. It’s a scientifically proven concept and so that’s what drove me to continue and I did so for seven years before finally Callaway decided to take a look at it.”
Triple Track technology is now a feature on the Callaway ERC Soft balls, ranked among the best golf balls in 2019. Triple Track is USGA approved.
Phil Mickelson, a five-time major champion, used the ball for the first time in a PGA Tour event at the Desert Classic from Jan. 17-20 in La Quinta, California, and finished in a tie for second at 25 under par. That included a first-round 60 that held up as the low round for the tournament.
“It’s being used around the world by professionals as well as recreational golfers,” said Barrett. “It helps the game of golf. It speeds up play because you’re playing better. And when you play better, people are more interested in the game. So it really benefits the game as a whole and it certainly benefits the individual golfer.”