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Dan Sollom | Callaway research and development: up close

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I love road trips. So when cabin fever set in for me just after the first of the year, I threw the clubs in the car and set out for sunny southern California to visit our friends Ruth and Randy Lowe in Encinitas.

It just so happened that the Farmers Insurance PGA golf tournament was happening that week, right down the road at Torrey Pines. What a coincidence, right? (More on that later.)

Ruth and Randy were very gracious hosts, opening their home to me and introducing me to their daughter Emily and son-in-law Peter and their three beautiful granddaughters. Peter works for the Callaway golf company in their research and development center in Carlsbad.

I asked Peter what exactly he does for Callaway, and he said something to the effect of ,“Rather than explain it, would you like to come and see it?” (Does a duffer shank one into the woods?) “Yes, absolutely.” I quickly replied.

So the next day Randy and I took the short 20-minute drive to Carlsbad, where Peter was waiting to sign us in and escort us to the second floor to visit his work space. If you have ever been to one of those major golf shops like a Golf Galaxy or the like, then you have undoubtedly seen or even experienced the golf simulator they use to fit customers for the perfect set of clubs. Some of these megastores even have dedicated simulators for specific brands like Callaway.

Peter’s work space is one of those three-sided simulators where he develops software and some hardware that ‘lays over’ the software and hardware of the standard simulator. In his ‘office,’ it just happened to be the simulator brand aboutGolf.

Peter’s job is to create a club fitting experience by enhancing the software and hardware that will not just provide the data points but will give the customer an overwhelming amount of information about his or her swing while continuously showing Callaway graphics and cool photos of their latest designs. For me, it was an overload. But I was loving it.

The point to it all was simply this: Any club manufacturer can claim they are the best, but the Callaway people go to these lengths with all this data to prove the value of their designs and are able to measure the results. It was an impressive demonstration to say the least.

Once Peter is satisfied that his enhancements are ready, he then invites those major golf store decision-makers to experience the now customized demonstration. The end goal is getting the enhanced Callaway club fitting experience into each of these megastores so that the customer can experience the full meal deal while being fitted for their new Callaway clubs.

It’s not just about selling more product (although that is a goal) — it’s more about creating a buying experience unlike any other club maker in the world and leaving the buyer with the feeling that Callaway does the very best job to ensure that they have made the right purchase — complete customer satisfaction. My thanks to Peter, who spent 90 minutes of his valuable time on this demo. I was blown away.

Oh yes, we did make the tournament at Torrey Pines the next day. Watching these guys on television is one thing, but seeing them hit, chip and putt up close is certainly something different all together. I have to admit that I took some pleasure when I witnessed first hand an out-of-bounds tee shot or a flubbed chip. These guys are human after all, and I quickly realized that they put their $450 pants on one leg at a time. They just do it more often and much better than we do.

See you on the first tee.

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