How Taylormade Became The No. 1 Equipment Brand in Golf
Qantas Golf Club speaks with TaylorMade’s Senior Director of Product Creation about working with the world’s best golfers and how the company continues to dominate the equipment market through constant innovation.
Like a kid in a lolly shop, Brian Bazzel, Senior Director of Product Creation at TaylorMade, has lived out every golf nerd’s fantasy in 2017. Normally Bazzel spends time with the likes of World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Masters champion Sergio Garcia. But earlier this year, TaylorMade signed Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to their ever-growing stable of golfing greats. “This year for me in particular is a monumental year,” Bazzel said in a recent interview. “I had time to work with Tiger Woods and time to work with Rory McIlroy. I get to work with Jason (Day) and Dustin and all these other guys who are incredible but this year, in particular, was unique. “I had time with Tiger who was sort of on a pitch count – he doesn’t have a lot of swings, he can’t just be beating balls on the range and after one or two swings he knows exactly if something’s right or wrong. “And then you have Rory who can spend five hours on the range like the Energizer bunny and have no problem getting into every little detail and testing each product thoroughly. “Two polar opposites in terms of fitting experiences but what was not opposite was that both are amazing players.”
The addition of Woods and McIlroy to the TaylorMade staff in 2017 has been history-making as the California-based company becomes the first to lay claim to having the world’s top three ranked players simultaneously using their equipment. And Johnson, McIlroy and Day don’t just use a selection of the company’s clubs. All three play 14 TaylorMade clubs, as well as the TaylorMade ball. So what makes their products so appealing to top players? “I quote Keith Sbarbaro (TaylorMade’s club fitting guru and Tour Operations Manager) on this,” says Bazzel. “He’s the one who’s with them the most and undoubtedly says that if there was no money and no contracts, they’d all [the world’s best players] be playing TaylorMade.”
The most dominant manufacturer in the metal wood category, TaylorMade have built their leading position through constant innovation but even Bazzel admits he sometimes wonders how much more performance can possibly be squeezed out of golf clubs. “I would be lying to say I don’t think about those things,” he says. “But I would say when one door seems to be shut or a rule starts to be put in place or we’re up against a limit in some way, I’m always amazed, and yet not surprised, that we find ways to get more and better performance. “Whether that’s through the construction, the materials or custom fitting. There are so many more avenues and, in some ways, I think we haven’t even tapped into them yet. “Sometimes, you need to go through one door before those other doors open up. I think there’s still performance to be had.”
Not that it gets any easier in an environment where consumers demand constant innovation while rulemakers try to maintain some control over the game. “It’s not becoming easier, I think for several reasons,” says Bazzel. “Because golfers and the industry have pushed each other to the limits of what you can do, grinding away and having breakthroughs is increasingly challenging. “The mechanics, the engineering, the structure… it’s incredibly complex and every year it gets more difficult. “Having said that, there are more tools to use that allow you to kind of get prototypes a little bit quicker and or test those a little bit quicker but the complexity of the products has gone up dramatically.”
Despite the challenges, Bazzel says he sees the industry continuing to innovate in ways that can’t yet even be imagined. “Will we hit limits? Of course but I think other avenues will open up and so I think that’s the exciting part of what we do,” he says. “The challenge is if you’re going to explore and find some other way, like the ‘D’ type driver where we found a way to use the cosmetic to help somebody draw the ball better – who would have even thought that was possible five years ago? “So again, you go through one door where you have something and a couple of years later all of a sudden there’s a new opportunity.” One of which seems likely to be seen in 2018, Bazzel hinting the company is working on a new driver to be released in the new year. “You have no idea,” he says. “I’m incredibly fired up for what’s to come. What we’re going to see next year is going to be simply revolutionary.” That’s a big call to live up to in a market which is constantly bombarded with talk of the ‘next big thing’.
But if history is anything to go by, it would seem foolish to doubt that Bazzel and his team will produce something special.