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The Carlsbad Project - Callaway, Cobra, & TaylorMade


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Earlier this month, I traveled to Carlsbad, California, with my regular golf partner and fellow golf journalist, Ryan Heiman. We left the cold of Minneapolis behind to visit a friend of our's as well as the golf equipment manufacturers that saturate Southern California.  When we reached out to the OEM's, we didn't have an agenda or “story” to tell.  It was pretty basic, we wanted to see where they lived, and how they did business.  Each of them told their story in a different way.

 

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Each of them handled our presence in a unique way, and almost mirrored how you think about each respective company.  TaylorMade focused on performance, and drove that home, showing us how they are marketshare-IER.  Cobra-Puma lacks the marketing resources of the golf superpowers, so they focused on providing visual demonstrations about how their product performs so we can better educate our readers.  Finally, Callaway was social about their visit, with many of their personalities from Twitter stopping in to say, “Hello.”  They are transforming into a golf media brand, something no other company in golf is doing.

 

As you have already seen here on MyGolfSpy, equipment companies are launching some product from their respective 2014 lines. The timing of this visit was perfect, because all of the companies were excited to present their product and technology behind it.  Although I will discuss some of the new product, this article isn't about equipment. Rather, it's designed to provide some perspective about that the top three equipment makers in Carlsbad are all about. An inside look, if you will.

 

COBRA PUMA

 

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On Wednesday, I met with Ian Barrett, Global Marketing Manager for Cobra Golf. When you walk into Cobra Puma, you get an immediate sense of the brand with a monster, off-road golf cart inside the front entrance. There is a sense of energy that is conveyed, much like the Cobra Puma products themselves.

 

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Barrett prepared a product presentation for their new BIO CELL line that was launched today. Cobra is excited to have two flagship drivers in their stable this year in the CIO CELL and BIO CELL+. Barrett explained that a lot of attention is being given to the new hotness on tour, low and forward center of gravity. He explained that while this driver may have benefit to the player it fits, it's primarily designed for players that consistently strike the ball pure. The benefit is diminished for the player that needs some added forgiveness across the face.

 

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Barrett explained it was important to continue to offer a variety of color selections so consumers can further personalize the driver. The data on driver sales for 2013 indicated consumers gravitated to all of their color offerings equally. This suggests that a varied color scheme is important Cobra players. The “new color” this year? Black. Who would have thought…

 

I've been told by another company that 2014 is, The Year of the Loft. I disagree, and believe 2014 to be The Year of the Hybrid. All of the companies are offering remarkably better hybrids this year. This is true for BIO CELL hybrid. Cosmetically, from what I have seen so far this year, it is the most appealing to the eye at address. For me, the BIO CELL appeared to combine the perfect shape, size, and face depth to inspire confidence at address. I'll be looking forward to testing this out on course to see if the performance matches its cosmetics.

 

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Jose Miraflor, Director of Product Marketing, heard, SPY ZINGER was in the house and had to check out the man himself. Miraflor has been around the golf industry for some time. He's also been a member, and influence in the online golf equipment forums. Like many of us, he's been around since the beginning. He has played a major role in wedge design and shaping with little to no public notoriety. It was nice to finally meet someone I have respected so long in the industry and hear his perspective on equipment. It seems like the Cobra team is excited to have “T.O.” onboard too.

 

TAYLORMADE GOLF

 

On Thursday morning, I visited TaylorMade headquarters and toured their facility with Matthew Greensmith from their R&D group. Greensmith, took us through all aspects of the TaylorMade operation. I was happy to see this included product assembly that was still being accomplished in the United States. Although he purposely did not draw attention too, or mention it, we did see some TP branded products that have since been leaked as part of their 2014 line.

 

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Greensmith showed us the Tour Preferred department. This is a subsection of the assembly floor where all of the product is assembled for the PGA Tour, and included The Kingdom as well as the Performance Lab builds for consumers. The department is made up of their most senior builders. Interestingly, Greensmith explained that while most OEM equipment comes from the same factory in Asia, TaylorMade has their own floors segregated to their product only. The equipment that makes its way to the Tour Preferred department is double checked for spec and Characteristic Time tolerance.

 

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After touring their facility, we walked across the street to The Kingdom, TaylorMade's tour fitting facility and test center. The Kingdom structure had the feel of private country club clubhouse including a well-manicured range. Four around $5,000, members of the public can experience this tour quality fitting while having their clubs build in the Tour Preferred department during lunch.  At present, I believe their M.A.T.T. system to be the best fitting experience in golf.

 

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CALLAWAY

 

If it's not already apparent to you by now, Callaway Golf is a company that has the most intimate relationship with their customer base.  Since late 2012, Harry Arnett, Senior Vice President for Marketing, has waged a five year marketshare war against the monster-IER down the road.  The first step in this process was restructuring their marketing around the customer, making YOU their number one priority in their journey back to the top.  This was most apparent about a year ago when their flagship staffer, Phil Mickelson, used a RBZ fairway wood during an off-season event in Asia.  Arnett didn't shy away from the issue and took the criticism head on.  Oh, and he did so with class.

 

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From that point on, Callaway has proven that they really are about the customer, and it's not just legally approved media speak.  Arnett, and his cadre of marketing personalities have emerged and interact daily with their consumer base in golf equipment forums, and social media outlets such as Twitter, and YouTube.  In fact, they have taken this a step further and have designed their website and social media platforms to be a full scale, newsroom style media production.  At the center of this is their, “Callaway Talks” program.  No company in golf fosters a closer relationship with their customers.  They're the best in the business at this, and continue to evolve rapidly in the media scene.

 

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Chad Coleman, and Scott Goryl from their marketing team provided us with a tour of Callaway HQ, and the Ely Callaway Performance Center.  We also visited the tour department and saw Anthony Taranto stamping out a wedge for a tour player, as well as Roger Cleveland's “lab.”  We also took a tour of the Custom Fitting area where the average customer can participate in a complete bag fitting for $150.  This fee can be applied to the purchase of Callaway clubs.  One of the lesser known benefits customers can take advantage of for a relatively low out of pocket expense.

 

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Next, I visited the set of Callaway Talks, and sat as a guest on Arnett's couch.  Arnett is every much the larger than life character he is in person, as he is in social media.  He really knows a great deal about the golf industry and is articulate when engaged in golf conversation.  His only rule for Callaway Talks guests?  “No scripts, and only one take.”  I enjoyed our conversation on the couch, and it was great to finally see their operation first hand.  All of their marketing personnel where fantastic, and went out of their way to stop in and introduce themselves. They are a group of passionate individuals that seem to enjoy brining Callaway, its people, and equipment, to life.

 

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Our final stop was the Ely Callaway Performance Center, which is a detached component of their HQ.  The ECPC is a site for their R&D staff to utilize for testing, as well as specialized fittings for their touring professionals and VIP's such as MyGolfSpy staffers.  They also have the equipment to build equipment so they do not have to travel back and forth to their main facility.  We were introduced to their X-2HOT lineup, and got to see the product in hand.  As I mentioned earlier, I believe 2014 is The Year of the Hybrid.  The X-2HOT Pro is probably among the best looking hybrids I have laid eyes on for 2014. 

 

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JP

 

The original purpose of our trip.  Visiting our friend, and wedge designer, James Patrick.  I am happy to report, he's alive, doing very well, and more focused and determined than ever, while realizing his dream.  It was great to see and fun to catch up.  Stay tuned, I belive this is the calm before the JP storm.

 

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THE SPY ZINGER ANALYSIS

 

If I had to summarize these visits in a sentence, I would tell you Cobra is about being fun, Callaway is about getting to know their customer, and Taylormade is about being #1.

 

At TaylorMade, their focus remains on product performance, and living up to their byline, The Number One Performance Brand in golf. It was evident at every level, that performance and innovation is the only thing that matters to them. They are committed to maintaining market share, and will do whatever it takes to stay there, no matter the cost.  They remain calculated and methodical in their delivery of information to the consumer, but that conversations remains one-way. 

 

Callaway has set out to make their customer base the most educated in golf.  They are making every effort to bring Callaway to you, rather than making you find them.  It seems as though, they are breaking down the clinical media speak and having a real-life conversation with people about their product.  They're bending over backwards to make customers part of the Callaway Golf team.  It's a social experience.

 

At Cobra, they know they know their competitors are behemoths.  So in addition to performance, they are going to give you some fun with it.  Their products are probably just as good as the other manufacturers, but it seems as though they lack the budget to plaster you with that message.  But if you want to have fun, and look good doing so, their customers know right where to find them.

 

I enjoyed this trip a great deal, and give special thanks to Ryan & JP for making this trip one of the best experiences I've had in golf to date.  I plan to make this an annual pilgrimage, and look forward to bringing Carlsbad to you, the MyGolfSpy reader.  Thanks for reading, and look out 2014.

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RP/BLADE:  Thanks, it was enjoyable.  It should also be noted, that this trip, nor the content was sponsored or influenced by the OEM's in any way.  We called, asked for a visit, and that was about it.  But, that's the same from every other article on the site.  Unless, I am talking about myself.  But, I digress again.

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Nice writeup Zinger, great read and thanks for sharing!

Driver: :callaway-logo-1: Epic SZ w/ VA Composites Raijin 65 04

3w: :taylormade-small:'16 M2 hl w/ Diamana D+ 82

5w: :cleveland-small: Launcher HB w/ HZRDUS Yellow

Hybrid: :cleveland-small: 22 deg. Launcher HB w/ HZRDUS Black

Irons: :ping-small: 5i-UW G700 w/ X100 soft stepped once

Wedges: :cleveland-small: 54 & 58 CBX w/ Nippon Modus 3 125

Putter: :odyssey-small: Red 7s

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Thanks Whiskey!

 

RP:  This is going to get romantic, so I am not sure you can handle the truth.  More of a BroMance.  Ryan, JP, and I were walking along the beach in Coronado after dinner.  JP just took his finger, and made a J, then the P.  I took a pic of it with my iPhone.  Afterward, we went back to my hotel, freshened up, then met some of his friends.  And, that's about that.  I am not much of a drinker, so I had a beer, and 7 waters.

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Another aspect I found interesting was pretty subtle in the Callaway Talks eipsode.  It was when I asked Harry to compare traditional print media Vs. online equipment sites like ours.  He basically validates what we are trying to do here, and it seems the OEM's know the details are here Vs. the publications of yesterday.

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great read, i really enjoyed it! very cool to go behind the scenes and see everything that goes on with these golf companies - thanks for sharing!!

Driver: Looking for a new one for 2014! Covert? SLDR? Big Bertha? Any suggestions?!

3 wood: Taylormade RBZ 3-wood, stock

Hybrid: Adams A4OS 3 hybrid (19 degree) and 4 hybrid (22 degree)

Irons: Callaway X18 irons, 3-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588DSG 54*, Titleist Vokey SM2 60*

Putter: Nike Unitized Leo

Shoes: Adidas TOUR360

 


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Great job Stephen. I always knew you'd be a great fit here. What a difference in how things are in just a few short years. hope you had  a great time  and some day we'll tee it up. Great write up and I look forward to more of your writing and interviewing here@ MGS!

The Bag:

Right handed

Cobra King FLYZ+ 10.5* w/ Aldila Rogue 125 R 44.5"

Tour Issued TM M2 10.5 w/ Mitsubishi Tensi CK Pro Blue 60S

Tour Issued TM M2 15* w/ GD Tour AD 7S 43"

TM R7 17.5 HFS w/ Tour AD 7S Stiff 42"

Cobra S3 Pro's 4-pw w/ Aldila RIP Tours SLT 115 Reg. 5i 38.5"

Titleist Vokey Proto's

52*,54*,58* all TTDG S-400

TM TP5 X

Scotty Cameron SSS Tiffany 009 350 34.5" or Bettinardi BB1 DASS Proto

GHIN # 5144472

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Wow. That sounds like a great trip! 

 

Quick question... after touring these three major oems whose equipment are you the most excited about/what would go in your bag? (if anything) 

I'll answer for Mr. Calla  Zinger....... Callaway! Stephen has been a Callaway man for years at least as long as i've known him. 

The Bag:

Right handed

Cobra King FLYZ+ 10.5* w/ Aldila Rogue 125 R 44.5"

Tour Issued TM M2 10.5 w/ Mitsubishi Tensi CK Pro Blue 60S

Tour Issued TM M2 15* w/ GD Tour AD 7S 43"

TM R7 17.5 HFS w/ Tour AD 7S Stiff 42"

Cobra S3 Pro's 4-pw w/ Aldila RIP Tours SLT 115 Reg. 5i 38.5"

Titleist Vokey Proto's

52*,54*,58* all TTDG S-400

TM TP5 X

Scotty Cameron SSS Tiffany 009 350 34.5" or Bettinardi BB1 DASS Proto

GHIN # 5144472

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Share on other sites

Thanks guys, I appreciate it.

 

TW is right, I have an unusual fondness for Callaway that dates back to the original Big Bertha.

 

However, there were three clubs I came away impressed with that I did not expect to at all.  The Bio Cell + driver, the BioCell HB, and the Callaway X2HOT Pro HB.

 

I like the multi material design, the versa style alignment, and the deep face of the BioCell+ driver.  Everyone is going low and forward CG, but I need the forgiveness on off center hits.  According to PUMA, there is no difference in forgiveness between the BioCell + and BioCell driver.  Only difference is in spin and profile.  The HB I went over in the article above, it just sets up very nice at address.  So, to answer your question, Puma really was the surprise in BioCell for sure.

 

I mention the X2HOT Pro HB.  It was clear that Chip Brewer had influence in this design, as it will immediately remind you of an Adams HB.  Now, I am not sure if it will be the right HB for me, but there is now a significant difference in the Pro/Regular HB's in the Callaway line.  Also, the more traditional Adams, open face and less off set was also transferred to this line.  I have a feeling, in short order, Callaway will become known for their HB's and will probably have the most on tour used in the next few years.  They really are that good, and it will be an interesting year for them, if they got the spin down on them.

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I've been partial to Callaway too. Aside from drooling over the Amp Cell Pro irons since they were released, I never paid much attention to Cobra. They showed us some interesting data as well as independent player testing that made me pay more attention.

 

I don't intend to take over Zinger's thread, but here's a few examples while we're talking about it here. This is what they wanted us to see of course. So take it for what it's worth. Although they assured us the player testing was done by completely independent unbiased players, no one on their staff. The driver testing for this year will be VERY interesting to me after listening to their presentation of all of this.

 

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Here's a couple interesting ones on the Bio Cell irons if anyone is interested.

 

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See how the slot on RBladez doesn't go through into the cavity? I believe it does on the Speedblades now. It will be interesting to see comparisons this year.

 

We didn't get to see the Bio Cell+ irons yet, just a couple of slides. Anxious to see them when they come out. But if anything changes in my bag it will most likely be to get the Bio Cell hybrid and maybe the + driver although my Amp Cell Pro driver I have now beats everything I've touched so far.

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Zinger,

 

I agree on the hybrids, in fact prior to seeing the Bertha drivers and hitting the Apex Pro, the X2 Hot hybrid was the only definite change in my bag. It reminds me of the PNT2 that I had a few years ago. The Cobra hybrids look really solid as well, but the alignment mark bothers me, I prefer a clean crown.

Ping G410 Plus Oban Kiyoshi Tour Limited
Ping G410 LST 3 Wood Oban Tour Prototype V430
Titleist U500 3 & 4 Oban Kiyoshi Purple Tour Reserve
Titleist 620 MB 5-9 Oban CT 125
Titleist Vokey 47* Oban CT 125, 51*, 55*, and 59* Shimada Tour Wedge Black
Bettinardi Studio Stock SS28

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Thanks guys, I appreciate it.

 

TW is right, I have an unusual fondness for Callaway that dates back to the original Big Bertha.

 

However, there were three clubs I came away impressed with that I did not expect to at all.  The Bio Cell + driver, the BioCell HB, and the Callaway X2HOT Pro HB.

 

I like the multi material design, the versa style alignment, and the deep face of the BioCell+ driver.  Everyone is going low and forward CG, but I need the forgiveness on off center hits.  According to PUMA, there is no difference in forgiveness between the BioCell + and BioCell driver.  Only difference is in spin and profile.  The HB I went over in the article above, it just sets up very nice at address.  So, to answer your question, Puma really was the surprise in BioCell for sure.

 

I mention the X2HOT Pro HB.  It was clear that Chip Brewer had influence in this design, as it will immediately remind you of an Adams HB.  Now, I am not sure if it will be the right HB for me, but there is now a significant difference in the Pro/Regular HB's in the Callaway line.  Also, the more traditional Adams, open face and less off set was also transferred to this line.  I have a feeling, in short order, Callaway will become known for their HB's and will probably have the most on tour used in the next few years.  They really are that good, and it will be an interesting year for them, if they got the spin down on them.

So Stephen, 

 

Maybe you'll come over and try some of those Cobra irons I've been touting since ......... well since they've been in my bag ( now I realize your not a blade player but if I were you i'd at least demo what PUMA/Cobra has to offer as they are only going to get better with all the money they can invest in R&D if they so desire). I've been playing the Cobra Pro Mb's for a few seasons and have loved them since first day  struck a ball. Now I've heard the Amp blades are pretty freaking good, probably underrated by lots of players who never tried them!  I've found many opinions are based on hearsay,being so BRAND loyal to ONE and only brand that quality equipment could stare them in the face and they won't even try it? Usually none of these opinionated people have even tried newer equipment and most still haven't even been properly fit!  Personally I also felt this way once upon a time feeling that Titleist and Mizuno were the only true players clubs with any real quality. Well over the last 10 years I've been educating myself via internet and personal tryouts of all OEM's and come to find out that most of the BIG Named OEM's make some decent product. Not saying Brand loyalty is bad if thats what give you the most pleasure or makes you the best you can be at this great game.  As always it comes down to personal preference, for me appearance is very important and  FEEL which is a very subjective matter when it comes to quantifying which OEM is better then the other when it comes to judging quality product. One guys soft feel may not be so soft to another player, as when the ball is struck well usually sound is the main ingredient as to feel. and we all hear things a bit differently just as seeing things differently. I like minimal offset, thin top line.... these things give me confidence when i address the ball, then it comes to how the ball feels at impact, but even more importantly for me is ball flight and yardage control. I was one of those players who though so and so forging was the best and the rest sucked. But I came to find out you can use same forging house and with different designs comes different feels. Bottom line is we all should be more open to not worrying what brand the other guy is playing but more on what fits us individually. too many players who get started in this game gravitate to their favorite players brand instead of gravitating to a club fitter and get fitted. So to wrap this up go out and try other companies as now we live in 2013/14 and all these OEM's make something that should make you a little better player. Might I suggest a real lesson from someone who is a good teacher that may help as well..... lol.  Bottom line brand loyalty will more then likely not make you a better player. Proper fitting will make the game much more enjoyable and if your getting serious about the game I suggest that big time! I hope I didn't  bore you all or get too far side tracked..... I have just known Stephen (Spy Zinger) for a good amount of years and the love of golf, equipment and apparel have brought us to these forums. I have always been impressed by Stephen's love of Callaway, but also his candid opinions on all of the different OEMs. You diid a great job in this write up Spy Zinger, well done!

 

 

PS: All I can say Stephen is, the next time your planing one of these excursions why not hit up ole' TW? LOL

The Bag:

Right handed

Cobra King FLYZ+ 10.5* w/ Aldila Rogue 125 R 44.5"

Tour Issued TM M2 10.5 w/ Mitsubishi Tensi CK Pro Blue 60S

Tour Issued TM M2 15* w/ GD Tour AD 7S 43"

TM R7 17.5 HFS w/ Tour AD 7S Stiff 42"

Cobra S3 Pro's 4-pw w/ Aldila RIP Tours SLT 115 Reg. 5i 38.5"

Titleist Vokey Proto's

52*,54*,58* all TTDG S-400

TM TP5 X

Scotty Cameron SSS Tiffany 009 350 34.5" or Bettinardi BB1 DASS Proto

GHIN # 5144472

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