Nike Golf Master Craftsman Mike Taylor / photo DGK
For most, the club maker for Tiger Woods is known as Nike Golf.
And while that is true, of course, after spending a day at The Oven, I now recognize Tiger's club maker by individual names—like Master Craftsman Mike Taylor, Master Grinder Jay Denn, Putting Designer/Model Maker David Franklin, Tour Club Specialist David Ritchey, Field Manager Rick Nichols and Director of Product Creation Tom Stites.
These talented and dedicated individuals are just some of the people that create and develop the technology and/or build the tools that allow Tiger and many other pros—as well as amateurs like myself—to succeed on the golf course.
Taylor, Denn, Franklin, Ritchey, Nichols, Stites—they all work very closely with Nike Golf's athletes to stay on the cutting edge of product development, using their state of the art research and development facility to host and test some of the best golfers in the world.
The result? Better products for the professional player—and better products for the rest of us.
That's right. If you think what you're getting off the shelf from Nike, as a consumer, is different from what the tour pros are using, you would be wrong.
Mike Taylor, who might be the only person on the planet who has built clubs for Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, said that outside of some minor customizations, the average consumer gets to play what the pros play:
"If a person buys a Nike wedge, for example, you're most likely going to be looking at something very, very close, if not exact, to what our professional players prefer," Taylor said. "We've used Tiger's profile a great deal. Our blade irons have his club design shape on them."
On that subject, Taylor added:
"I've worked with a lot of golf club companies and a lot of players in my career. This company is more committed to their brand athletes than any company I've ever been around."
No joke. As one example, when the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club rolls into Ft. Worth in late May, Nike Golf uses the opportunity to get their athletes—eight-to-10 of which are usually playing in the tournament anyway—into the facility for some valuable feedback.
"Getting input from our athletes is where all our products start," said Nike Golf Sports Marketing Specialist Matt Plumb. "We get them in here to test prototypes. This year we had them trying 2012-2016 year products. Every year they're going to continue to test those products. They will have hit a club between eight and 15 times before we ever talk about putting it in their bag. So, we get their input multiple times throughout the product creation process."
Self-proclaimed "club geek" Tom Stites is always looking forward, working on golf clubs that won't see the light of day for years. Like a movie star who is working on a new film, however, Stites has to step back to talk about what the consumer is just now discovering.
Enter VR_S. Available to the public Feb. 1, 2012, Nike Golf takes the current and popular VR series to the next level. I'm sorry I can’t share the details of my conversation with Tom about the product line at this time, but let me tell you for certain—these clubs will greatly benefit a wide range of players, no matter what the handicap number is.
My goal is to get my handicap from nine down to five in 2012. With Nike's new VR_S technology all over my equipment, I'm looking forward to having that edge to help me get there.
Rob Arluna, Nike Golf's Global Category Business Director, said they have increased their spending on R&D 65 percent over the past four years. He added that as a percentage of revenue, Nike is currently investing at a rate more than double that of the competitive standard. So continue to expect big things from Nike Golf in the future.
OK, let's see what technology Tiger's got in his bag.