Jump to content

A Visit To Wilson Golf HQ & Innovation Center


Recommended Posts

Sometimes the Day Job and the Side Job happily co-exist. 

 

The Day Job landed me in Chicago for a massive trade show early this week, allowing me the opportunity to follow up on a Side Job invitation to visit the Wilson Golf Headquarters and Innovation Center. 

 

IMG_7533.JPG

 

All I can say is there's an awful lot going on there!

 

Alessandra Bollero, the Marketing Specialist for Golf, gave me the grand tour – showing everything from golf equipment to baseball uniforms to high tech tennis racquets to some of the coolest baseball gloves ever. Wilson's focus in the coming years is on customization – for baseball gloves, uniforms for teams and leagues, and even golf bags. Check some of these out:
 

IMG_7535.JPG  IMG_7542.JPG

 

IMG_7552.JPGIMG_7553.JPG

 

IMG_7557.JPG

 

At its core, Wilson makes balls and equipment to hit balls with, but I had a chance to see some interesting innovations. There's a basketball (Wilson is the official ball of the NCAA) with a microchip that learns what a made shot feels like and saves info to a smart phone or computer. Then there's the little device that slips into a tennis racquet handle to capture data such as where you hit the ball on the racquet face. It's currently in use at the Australian Open, so they can monitor how Venus, Serena and Roger are doing on the other side of the world. 

 

And then there's the golf operation. The office was a beehive of activity following the PGA show but I could see engineers and graphic designers already working on the next generation of Wilson equipment.

 

Michael Vrska, head of R&D for Wilson Golf, drove me over to the Wilson Innovation Center – basically the “skunk works” for golf and tennis research and development. Wilson has roughly half of the top 100 tennis players in the world on staff, and there's a room where their racquets are kept, ready for stringing and shipment when needed. 

IMG_7566.JPG

 

All of the top players have their customized grip molds, as seen here. They can custom-form grips for each of their pros in a matter of minutes.

 

IMG_7567.JPG IMG_7568.JPG

IMG_7570.JPG IMG_7571.JPG

 

The golf area of the R&D center is where the fun begins.

 

I used to work for a pipe manufacturer, and there was a special room where the product managers worked to develop accessories, valves and fittings for our radiant floor heating systems. It was a BUSY room, and was fondly referred to as “Little Beirut,” since it looked like a bomb went off there. 

 

If “Little Beirut” was ever neat, it was a sign the product managers didn't have enough to do. The Golf R&D area reminded me of “Little Beirut” at its busiest, which to me means the R&D team was totally engaged. 

 

Vrska walked me through the timeline from bright idea to hittable prototype.

 

“45 to 60 days is a best case scenario, unless we mill the head,” said Vrska. “We can fully mill irons, wedges and putters here in about 2 to 3 weeks from concept, but we usually take 90 days for most first prototypes.”

 

There's a 3-D printer at the innovation center. I did ask Michael how much iteration an idea may go through until they settle on the final design. Rather than tell me, he brought me over to one of the engineer's desks, opened a drawer, and showed me!

 

IMG_7598.JPG

 

Wilson does its ball R&D at the Innovation Center, as well. They mold the cores separately – the different color globs you see here are cores for different types of balls:

 

IMG_7593.JPGIMG_7596.JPGIMG_7587.JPGIMG_7591.JPGIMG_7594.JPG

 

They can then mold the layers and can have hittable/playable prototypes within 2 days.

 

IMG_7592.JPGIMG_7595.JPG

 

Want to test a ball for compression? There's a machine for that, too.

 

IMG_7599.JPGIMG_7604.JPG 

 

FG Tour ball, coming in at 71 compression!

 

All of the custom club-building takes place at the Innovation Center. The clubs you see at the golf retailers are assembled overseas, but any custom order through a pro or Wilson fitter will be assembled here:

 

IMG_7572.JPGIMG_7573.JPGIMG_7574.JPGIMG_7576.JPG

 

A new feature this year is the ability to custom-stamp their wedges. Nothing fancy, but just enough to personalize your scoring clubs:

 

IMG_7577.JPGIMG_7578.JPG

 

Wilson is a company that's very proud of its history, and it's everywhere you look in both the main offices and the Innovation Center, with two huge highlights for history geeks like me. Alessandra showed me the library of Wilson Sports product catalogs dating back to the 20's:

 

IMG_7559.JPGIMG_7561.JPGIMG_7562.JPGIMG_7563.JPG

 

Meanwhile, at the Innovation Center, Wilson has an entire collection of boxed, brand new, unhit clubs also dating back to the 20's:

 

IMG_7585.JPGIMG_7586.JPG

 

There are also plenty of relics on display:

 

IMG_7638.JPGIMG_7639.JPGIMG_7640.JPGIMG_7648.JPGIMG_7666.JPG

 

And then there are the filing cabinets, with drawer after drawer of club specs for everyone Wilson has fit at the Innovation Center, dating from around 1970 right up until the time they started storing info on computer; everyone from Hall of Fame Tour Pros to Hall of Fame baseball players to Hall of Fame crooners:

 

IMG_7620.JPGIMG_7622.JPGIMG_7623.JPGIMG_7624.JPGIMG_7628.JPGIMG_7630.JPGIMG_7631.JPGIMG_7632.JPGIMG_7633.JPGIMG_7634.JPG

 

And it wouldn't be a trip to Wilson without discussing the latest kerfuffle regarding “The Duke,” Wilson's official game ball of the NFL. No truth to the rumor that this is one of the balls confiscated from my beloved Patriots after the AFC Championship game:

 

IMG_7597.JPG

 

Also no truth to the rumor that this will be the new, undeflatable game ball used in the Super Bowl:

 

IMG_7583.JPG

 

There's a Custom Fitting Station at the Innovation Center, manned by a master fitter affectionately known as “Junk.” I'll post that experience in a separate thread.

  • Like 1
 

What's in the bag:
 
Driver:  Sub 70 639D - 9.5; :cleveland-small: Launcher HB Turbo; :mizuno-small: ST 190 
FW Wood: :tour-edge: Tour Edge EXS 220 - 15*; :mizuno-small: ST 180 14*
Hybrids:  PXG 0311 22
Utility Irons: :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model Utilities 18, 21, 24*;  Lynx VT Stinger - 16*
Irons::wilson_staff_small: D7 Forged; :benhogan-small:PTx Pro, :macgregor-small: VIP 1025 V-Foil MB/CB; :wilson_staff_small: Progressives (circa 1993)

Wedges:  :cleveland-small: CBX -2, :benhogan-small:Riviera 52-56-60; :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model
Putter:   :edel-golf-1:  Willamette,  :bettinardi-small: BB8,  :benhogan-small:Baby Ben

Ball: :bridgestone-small: Tour B X (2020); :srixon-small: Z-STAR XV

Stat Tracker/GPS Watch: :ShotScope:


 
Follow @golfspybarbajo

Link to post
Share on other sites

Slick write up! Loved the ball section. hehe Cool to see the prototypes.

<p><strong>D:</strong>    :ping-small:   9* G400 Max w/Xcalibur TSL</p><p> </p><p><strong>F: </strong>  :callaway-small: 14* XR Pro 16 w/Hzrdous Red</p><p><strong>I:</strong>   :edel-golf-1: SLS-01 4-SW w/Paderson SL</p><p><strong>W:</strong>   :edel-golf-1: DGR 59 w/Dynamic Gold SL</p><p><strong>P:</strong> Artisan 0318 or Edel TB</p><p> 

Link to post
Share on other sites

post-2876-0-45303900-1422638031.jpg

 

Is that my bag I see?

 

I do believe it is....

 

What's in the bag:
 
Driver:  Sub 70 639D - 9.5; :cleveland-small: Launcher HB Turbo; :mizuno-small: ST 190 
FW Wood: :tour-edge: Tour Edge EXS 220 - 15*; :mizuno-small: ST 180 14*
Hybrids:  PXG 0311 22
Utility Irons: :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model Utilities 18, 21, 24*;  Lynx VT Stinger - 16*
Irons::wilson_staff_small: D7 Forged; :benhogan-small:PTx Pro, :macgregor-small: VIP 1025 V-Foil MB/CB; :wilson_staff_small: Progressives (circa 1993)

Wedges:  :cleveland-small: CBX -2, :benhogan-small:Riviera 52-56-60; :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model
Putter:   :edel-golf-1:  Willamette,  :bettinardi-small: BB8,  :benhogan-small:Baby Ben

Ball: :bridgestone-small: Tour B X (2020); :srixon-small: Z-STAR XV

Stat Tracker/GPS Watch: :ShotScope:


 
Follow @golfspybarbajo

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm seriously in love with the blue wedges.

-Justin-

@jdiddyesquire

 

 

Driver -    :adams-small: Speedline Super LS 9.5*, Matrix Red Tie 6Q3 X stiff
3 Wood - Tour Edge Exotics CB4 Tou
r 13*, Aldila NV Protopype 80X

Irons -   :taylormade-small:  3-PW rac LT, KBS Tour X
Wedges -   :mizuno-small:
 MP-T4, 50.6, 56.14, 60.5
Putter - Odyssey White Hot Pro Rossie

Bag: Daltrek Carry-Lite Stand Bag

Shoes:   :nike-small: Lunar Swingtip Suede

Ball: Wilson Staff Duo

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like an awesome experience John!  Seems like you are getting to have all the golf related fun this winter. 

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

Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like an awesome experience John!  Seems like you are getting to have all the golf related fun this winter. 

 

Well, not ALL the fun. Blair O'Neill did get me thrown out of the Cobra booth... :blink:

  • Like 1
 

What's in the bag:
 
Driver:  Sub 70 639D - 9.5; :cleveland-small: Launcher HB Turbo; :mizuno-small: ST 190 
FW Wood: :tour-edge: Tour Edge EXS 220 - 15*; :mizuno-small: ST 180 14*
Hybrids:  PXG 0311 22
Utility Irons: :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model Utilities 18, 21, 24*;  Lynx VT Stinger - 16*
Irons::wilson_staff_small: D7 Forged; :benhogan-small:PTx Pro, :macgregor-small: VIP 1025 V-Foil MB/CB; :wilson_staff_small: Progressives (circa 1993)

Wedges:  :cleveland-small: CBX -2, :benhogan-small:Riviera 52-56-60; :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model
Putter:   :edel-golf-1:  Willamette,  :bettinardi-small: BB8,  :benhogan-small:Baby Ben

Ball: :bridgestone-small: Tour B X (2020); :srixon-small: Z-STAR XV

Stat Tracker/GPS Watch: :ShotScope:


 
Follow @golfspybarbajo

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice writeup!  Wonderful experience!  I enjoy all of your trips, but a little envious!

We don’t stop playing the game because we get old; we get old because we stop playing the game.”

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice writeup!  Wonderful experience!  I enjoy all of your trips, but a little envious!

 

Thanks Kenny -- I'm guessing you won't like the next one at all  :rolleyes:

 

What's in the bag:
 
Driver:  Sub 70 639D - 9.5; :cleveland-small: Launcher HB Turbo; :mizuno-small: ST 190 
FW Wood: :tour-edge: Tour Edge EXS 220 - 15*; :mizuno-small: ST 180 14*
Hybrids:  PXG 0311 22
Utility Irons: :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model Utilities 18, 21, 24*;  Lynx VT Stinger - 16*
Irons::wilson_staff_small: D7 Forged; :benhogan-small:PTx Pro, :macgregor-small: VIP 1025 V-Foil MB/CB; :wilson_staff_small: Progressives (circa 1993)

Wedges:  :cleveland-small: CBX -2, :benhogan-small:Riviera 52-56-60; :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model
Putter:   :edel-golf-1:  Willamette,  :bettinardi-small: BB8,  :benhogan-small:Baby Ben

Ball: :bridgestone-small: Tour B X (2020); :srixon-small: Z-STAR XV

Stat Tracker/GPS Watch: :ShotScope:


 
Follow @golfspybarbajo

Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent write up and presentation! I was actually interested in the classic stuff and glad to see they have well preserved unhit versions of their offerings over the years. Their player files were also very interesting. I believe that Wilson may very well be making a comeback

Driver --- Honma G1-X Stock R Flex----  3W Callaway Steelhead UST Pro Force Gold 65 stiff--- 2 iron 1980 Macgregor VIP Nike R flex-------- Irons 3 thru PW 1980 Macgregor VIP Hogan Apex shafts--- SW Cleveland 588 Sensicore S-400-- Putter Rusty Santa Fe Bulls Eye Fluted shaft-- Bag Old School Hoofer I had in the stash--- Goes along with my raggety persona

 

 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

That was really fun to see. Thank you. I'd love to look through all those old files and golf product cataglogs.

They make a nice looking product, and my old Wilson and Spalding upbringing still has me rooting for them to get some market traction again. I miss the old brands.

"Glute Activator"

 

*Please accept my contributions of participation and intellectual property sharing as substitute for monetary renumeration.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Kenny -- I'm guessing you won't like the next one at all  :rolleyes:

Must be someplace very warm. C'mon suspense is killing!!

We don’t stop playing the game because we get old; we get old because we stop playing the game.”

Link to post
Share on other sites

Times are changing.

Titleist AP1 irons

Titleist 913D 7.5 Degree, Stiff Speeder Tour Spec 6.2 Shaft

Wedges: Taylormade 60 d Titleist Vokey 54,56,58

Seemore Mallet Putter

Right Handed

Apple Valley, MN

8 Handicap

10885218_10205856139265562_6140026354236

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

So the Wilson Innovation Center contains complete sets of irons going back to the 1920's. Doesn't that make it really more of a museum? Why does this not surprise me? Sorta like the Spanish Weapons Development Industry, mostly sailing ships and cannons and perhaps some Conquistador Armour..

 

Driver:      :mizuno-small:  ST190G on Fujikura ATMOS Black

Fairway:   :mizuno-small:  ST190TS 15° on Fujikura ATMOS Black

Hybrids     :mizuno-small:  CLK 22 & 25 (set to 20° & 23°) on Fujikura SPEEDER

Irons:     :mizuno-small:  MP5 5-P on True Temper Dynamic Gold

Wedges: :mizuno-small: MP-T5 52*, 56* & 60* on True Temper Dynamic Gold Wedge

Putter:    :cameron-small: 2018 Select Newport 2

Balls:      :titelist-small: Pro V1X

Shoes:     :footjoy-small:

Range Finder: Precision Pro  NX7 Pro

All grips are BestGrips Micro-Perforated

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

So the Wilson Innovation Center contains complete sets of irons going back to the 1920's. Doesn't that make it really more of a museum? Why does this not surprise me? Sorta like the Spanish Weapons Development Industry, mostly sailing ships and cannons and perhaps some Conquistador Armour..

 

Museum?  Maybe - except all those old sets are stashed away in a caged off area they call the Junk Room, 'cause they just don't know what else to do with all that stuff.  They had a rack filled with 1-irons through PW's dating back to the 60's -- you just had to crawl over some boxes to get there. There's a lot of activity at the Innovation Center -- they have a tennis court and basketball court there too -- for testing product and employee activities.  There was an intense 3 on 3 game going on as I was leaving...

 

What's in the bag:
 
Driver:  Sub 70 639D - 9.5; :cleveland-small: Launcher HB Turbo; :mizuno-small: ST 190 
FW Wood: :tour-edge: Tour Edge EXS 220 - 15*; :mizuno-small: ST 180 14*
Hybrids:  PXG 0311 22
Utility Irons: :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model Utilities 18, 21, 24*;  Lynx VT Stinger - 16*
Irons::wilson_staff_small: D7 Forged; :benhogan-small:PTx Pro, :macgregor-small: VIP 1025 V-Foil MB/CB; :wilson_staff_small: Progressives (circa 1993)

Wedges:  :cleveland-small: CBX -2, :benhogan-small:Riviera 52-56-60; :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model
Putter:   :edel-golf-1:  Willamette,  :bettinardi-small: BB8,  :benhogan-small:Baby Ben

Ball: :bridgestone-small: Tour B X (2020); :srixon-small: Z-STAR XV

Stat Tracker/GPS Watch: :ShotScope:


 
Follow @golfspybarbajo

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...