Everyone would love to find the perfect stock. But will you ever really find a stock that gives you everything you could possibly want?

One thing's for sure: If you don't look, you'll never find truly great investments. So let's first take a look at what you'd want to see from a perfect stock, and then decide if Callaway Golf (NYSE: ELY) fits the bill.

The quest for perfection
When you're looking for great stocks, you have to do your due diligence. It's not enough to rely on a single measure, because a stock that looks great based on one factor may turn out to be horrible in other ways. The best stocks, however, excel in many different areas, which all come together to make up a very attractive picture.

Some of the most basic yet important things to look for in a stock are:

  • Growth. Expanding businesses show healthy revenue growth. While past growth is no guarantee that revenue will keep rising, it's certainly a better sign than a stagnant top line.
  • Margins. Higher sales don't mean anything if a company can't turn them into profits. Strong margins ensure a company is able to turn revenue into profit.
  • Balance sheet. Debt-laden companies have banks and bondholders competing with shareholders for management's attention. Companies with strong balance sheets don't have to worry about the distraction of debt.
  • Money-making opportunities. Companies need to be able to turn their resources into profitable business opportunities. Return on equity helps measure how well a company is finding those opportunities.
  • Valuation. You can't afford to pay too much for even the best companies. Earnings multiples are simple, but using normalized figures gives you a sense of how valuation fits into a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Investors are demanding tangible proof of profits, and there's nothing more tangible than getting a check every three months. Companies with solid dividends and strong commitments to increasing payouts treat shareholders well.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at Callaway Golf.

Factor What We Want to See Actual Pass or Fail?
Growth 5-year annual revenue growth > 15% (0.4%) Fail
  1-year revenue growth > 12% 3.4% Fail
Margins Gross margin > 35% 39.4% Pass
  Net margin > 15% (0.2%) Fail
Balance sheet Debt to equity < 50% 0% Pass
  Current ratio > 1.3 3.37 Pass
Opportunities Return on equity > 15% (0.3%) Fail
Valuation Normalized P/E < 20 NM NM
Dividends Current yield > 2% 0.5% Fail
  5-year dividend growth > 10% (32.2%) Fail
       
  Total Score   3 out of 9

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's. NM = not meaningful; Callaway has negative earnings over the past 12 months. Total score = number of passes.

On the links, a score of three is usually pretty good, but here Callaway Golf finds itself in a sand trap. The golf specialist is struggling through a tough environment for the sport.

Overall, several athletics-related companies have been doing extremely well lately. Under Armour (NYSE: UA) has enjoyed 30% revenue growth annually for the past five years and has produced strong profits along the way, while yoga specialist lululemon athletica (Nasdaq: LULU) has burst onto the scene with surprisingly huge sales of its pricey apparel. Even stalwart Nike (NYSE: NKE) has seen its stock rise almost 30% over the past year, as it demonstrated its dominance by wresting a new NFL apparel contract from competitor Reebok.

But Callaway hasn't benefited from the trend, as it has seen recent losses wipe out earlier gains from the company's strong summer season. Golf has been a rough business. Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS) closed some of its specialty golf stores, and that rough patch may be part of the decision from Fortune Brands (NYSE: FO) to spin off its golf business, which includes the Titleist line of golf balls.

The sport has definitely taken a hit in popularity from the incidents involving Tiger Woods, especially since he hasn't returned to his former dominance. Until golf regains its lost luster, Callaway will face a long uphill walk on a lonely fairway.

Keep searching
No stock is a sure thing, but some stocks are a lot closer to perfect than others. By looking for the perfect stock, you'll go a long way toward improving your investing prowess and learning how to separate out the best investments from the rest.

Click here to add Callaway Golf to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Fortune Brands and Nike are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Under Armour is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. The Fool owns shares of lululemon athletica and Under Armour, which are both Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.