Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable. These are words that renowned Scottish golf champion, course designer and club maker Old Tom Morris most likely would have uttered if he had accompanied me on a recent tour of TaylorMade Golf in Carlsbad. I’m sure of this because these are the words that I, and others on our behind the scenes tour uttered after viewing the advances in golf club technology that is now an every day occurrence at TaylorMade.
In Morris’ day, in the mid 1800’s, golf clubs were almost that, clubs, and balls were made of pressed tar and feathers. Today, thanks to R & D teams at TaylorMade, their golf clubs and balls are made using the latest in highly sophisticated laser and computer technology, technology that can dramatically help the average golfer improve his or her game.
As a left-handed golfer who could barely find a golf course or golf shop with left handed clubs when I was beginning to play, I was blown away at what I saw on the tour given by TaylorMade’s San Diego Sales Representative Tom Kroll. A two-time US Amateur and three-time Mid-Amateur and U.S. Publinx competitor, and a former Nike and Canadian tour player, Kroll is a 20-year employee of TaylorMade. His experience at TaylorMade, including nine years in R & D, marketing, and sales, made him an ideal guide.
Tom took our group through every step of golf club production and introduced us to technology that is absolutely state of the art. From the detailed fitting of shafts, grips and club heads, to MATT, the Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade, to The Kingdom, where tour professionals’ swings are analyzed and clubs are tailored to their swing patterns, to the private driving range where clubs are tested, the technology was overwhelming.
In 1979 when TaylorMade founder Gary Adams started TaylorMade by taking a $24,000 loan on his McHenry, Illinois home, he wanted to tailor make golf products for better players, thus the name TaylorMade. He believed the two-piece balls of the day were more than a passing fad and that two-piece balls performed better off irons than off woods. Because of this, he was inspired to created a wood made out of metal. He leased a 6,000 square foot building, and with two other employees, began production of TaylorMade’s first product, a 12-degree driver with a revolutionary head cast of stainless steel.
Adams’ vision was also to make a complete line of superior golf clubs that outperformed all others. Based upon the fact that TaylorMade Drivers, Fairway Woods, and Hybrids have been #1 on the PGA Tour since 2001, and TaylorMade irons have been #2 on the tour during this period, it is safe to say that Adams’ vision has become a reality.
TaylorMade has geared its sales around the philosophy known as “The Pyramid of Influence”. Their belief, which seems to have proved quite successful, is that there is a natural tendency to think that if the world’s best golfers play TaylorMade, amateurs will follow suit. This certainly has been the case. Since pro Ron Streck won the Houston Open in 1981 using a TaylorMade driver, giving TaylorMade its first PGA Tour event victory, sales have risen from $1.2 million to more than $1 Billion in 2006.
Reviewing TaylorMade’s achievements is like reading from a history book about the advancement in golf technology. From the introduction of the first metal wood in 1979, to the introduction of the moveable weighted driver heads in 2005, TaylorMade has been a leader in innovative golf technology.
According to Kroll, “much of the success at TaylorMade is because key management personnel are all golfers. We play golf, we are passionate about golf, we live golf”. Kroll also states TaylorMade is successful because “although we are huge, we are nimble. We listen to our customers, and use our technological skills to react to their needs. We are the technology leader. Our competitors react to us in all areas…clubs, apparel, bags and shoes.”
Technological skills have helped TaylorMade make quite a name in the golf industry since moving to Carlsbad in 1983. In 1985 an average of 44% of the field at PGA Tour events played a TaylorMade metalwood. In 1986 their metalwoods ranked No. 1 on the PGA Tour and their drivers ranked No. 1 in usage among U.S. consumers. In 1988 the winner of the U.S. Open used a Burner driver, the first time a TaylorMade metalwood was used to win a Major Championship. Also in 1988 TaylorMade metalwoods were played by more pros on the PGA Tour than any other brand. In 1989 sales reached $150 million and their consumer market share jumped to nearly 34%.
In 1993 PGA Tour players won five tournaments using TaylorMade drivers, finished second 12 times and third 17 times. In 1994 the winner of the Masters used a TaylorMade driver equipped with a prototype shaft and head, the first time a metalwood driver was used to win at Augusta; the shaft was later introduced as the Bubble Shaft. In 1996 TaylorMade Tour Staff Professional Tom Lehman used the Ti Bubble to win the British Open and the TOUR Championship, and finished the year as the PGA Tour’s leading money winner, and the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
In 1998, the year TaylorMade became a wholly owned subsidiary of adidas Salomon AG, it introduced TaylorMade Kids Clubs, making TaylorMade the first major golf equipment manufacturer to offer clubs engineered specifically for kids. In 2000 the TaylorMade 300 Series of drivers became the No. 1 driver on the PGA Tour, while still a prototype. In 2002 the new R500 Series of drivers introduced Inverted Cone Technology, a TaylorMade innovation that expanded the size of the COR zone, delivering consistently longer tee shots.
In 2004, the R500 Series was named Driver of the Year in Golf Digest’s 2004 Equipment review, and TaylorMade drivers ranked No. 1 at every PGA Tour Event during the year. In 2006 the r7425 made its debut on tour and was the No. 1 Driver Model the same week at the seasons opening event, a feat never before seen on tour.
As to the future, Kroll sees the American golfing public, regardless of age or skill level, becoming more technology savvy which will mean more knowledgeable consumers, consumers that will be cognizant of TaylorMade’s leadership in technology.
Gary Adams, created a WOW when he developed the first metal wood. If he were alive today he would be pleased that his courage to do something so radically different in golf technology has not only continued but has encouraged TaylorMade to continue to bring products to the market place that are new and innovative. If Old Tom Morris were with us today, I’m he would be looking at TaylorMade’s technology, inspired and encouraged by Adams, and would be saying Incredible, Amazing, Unbelievable.