We recently caught up with David Abeles, TaylorMade CEO, at the opening of their new Custom Build Lab at their Basingstoke HQ. Here he explains why the Carbonwood is a game-changer for the manufacturer.
Why are you convinced Carbonwood is here to stay?
It’s the single greatest driver breakthrough in the history of the company. And that’s bold, because we’re the ones that brought the metal wood to market. TaylorMade has a history of advanced innovation and breakthroughs in technology and performance, all the way back to our metalwoods that changed the golf market as far back as 1979. Over the past eight years since I’ve been in my role, we have lived by a single ethos that unless our products aren’t measurably better than prior generation products, we will not launch them.
For over 20 years we’ve been working on the future of face technology in drivers. Despite our innovative products, we’ve always known a lot of weight is locked up in the face. We have always been working to find a lighter solution that will enable us to enhance ball speed and move mass property around the golf club.
Over that 20-year period, we have learned an awful lot as it relates to how to apply carbon fibre into a clubface. A golf ball goes from zero to upwards of 200MPH in a microsecond with 30,000 G’s of force. You have to make sure that that collision is as efficient and as durable as it possibly can be. And with our 60-ply, thermally, compressed carbon fibre technology we’ve been able to do that.
It enables faster ball speeds and offers more consistent spin rates across the face because of the higher inertia properties that optimise forgiveness. we do not plan to ever make a flagship driver with a titanium face again, because it’s inferior to carbon.
When Rory McIlroy or Tiger Woods hit this driver it’s the most beautiful driver sound we’ve ever made in our 40 years of history. And that’s surprising to a lot of people because of the carbon fibre face.
You’ve been CEO of TaylorMade for three different owners. What have you learned from each one and how has that helped the business?
We were owned by adidas. For 20 years they provided us with a broader understanding of global brands and how global brands can operate and scale. They helped build out a multinational platform for golf. We partnered with adidas in many secondary and tertiary markets around the world where TaylorMade wasn’t present, to be able to service golfers in every corner of the world. adidas were a wonderful owner for 20 years and helped us invest in building our brand and building our global distribution.
In 2017 we transitioned to KPS Capital Partners, which is a New York-based private equity firm. We chose KPS because they have real industrial manufacturing and operational capabilities. At TaylorMade we develop ever more technical high-performance products every year. It’s one thing to have those products in concept form. It’s another thing to be able to manufacture those products to scale and service the millions of golfers around the world that demand quality and performance. KPS has a history and experience in manufacturing technical products in the aerospace and automotive sectors. The fantastic synergy helped build our supply chains and our internal processes to the point where they became a competitive advantage for the company.
They brought capital resources to accelerate our growth. And over the course of the past four years, we’ve been not only the largest golf equipment manufacturer in the world but the fastest-growing golf equipment manufacturer in the world. We’re the fastest-growing golf ball OEM globally. To grow the business takes capital and resources and KPS supplied that.
Our management team led the sale of the company each time and was directly involved in identifying who the next owner would be to optimise the business at that time. Centroid, our latest owner provides us with real expertise in the Korean market. Korea is the third-largest market in the world. In Korea, with Centroid’s help, we have the potential to become number one over the course of the next 24 months like we are
in every other major market globally.
TaylorMade excel at launching and marketing new product. How have you made it such a strength?
We have built a global culture, both from a product standpoint, a commercial standpoint for our customers and an operational standpoint to explore new ideas and new beginnings that could lead to greater long-term outcomes.
We hire innovative thinkers that think over the course of the next five to ten years, not over the next five to ten days. We bring new talent in from our industry and from other industries that have had different experiences that can add value to the innovative thinking of the company.
Vitally, we are golfers. We pull all the ideas together through the gaze of the golfers wants and needs. It’s this combination of ideas and creativity alongside a golf authenticity. When these come together, we tend to produce our best products such as Stealth, TP5x and P.790, products that take the world by storm. They are exciting and they help golfers play better.
Your tour staff is arguably the best in the world. How does that help sell golf equipment?
We believe at TaylorMade that if the world of endorsement with professional athletes didn’t exist, and players would choose to play whatever they want, they would choose TaylorMade. It’s hard to test that theory. However, in 2016, when Nike exited the golf equipment and golf ball business, they had roughly 25 staff players that now had the right to play whatever they chose. 19 of those 25 chose TaylorMade because they believed in our products and how they would perform to enhance their game.
We have a commitment to ensure that our tour players have the very best equipment and golf ball to help them win major championships. We built the reputation on tour not only through our products but in our ability to service the best players in the world through our tour teams. Previously we had the largest tour staff but we pivoted to having the world’s best players. We’ve added Tiger, Rory, Collin Morikawa and World #1 Scottie Scheffler to the team, who went straight out and won The Masters using Stealth Plus. This has quantifiably proven to be a better way for us to engage with golfers and get more people playing our products.
How important is the European market to TaylorMade? And how does it differ from the US?
We’re a global brand. And if you want to succeed globally, it’s critical to do well in Europe. And you’ve got to do a great job here in the UK, not only because of the size of the market, but the avid nature of the golfers.
We’ve got great infrastructure and team here in Basingstoke. These are our regional headquarters and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the work we’re doing here. And we’ll continue to invest in the region to ensure we grow and support the needs of our customer base.
The UK market in particular, is more advanced in custom equipment than the North American marketplace right now. There is a more avid golfer in the UK. Golfers that are focused on the improvement of the game through custom hardware. The Custom Build Lab at Basingstoke is an incubator cell, and what we learn here we will roll out worldwide. We are doing things first here that are influencing other markets around the world because the UK has led customization for the past decade.
If a retailer doesn’t stock TaylorMade why should they?
There’s a high likelihood that their customers want to buy TaylorMade. Our goal is to do the best we can for you by bringing you exciting new products that your customers want to buy. Given the prominence of our brand and the significance of our product market share. If you’re not carrying TaylorMade, there’s a likelihood you’re missing out on some business.
We work with our customers in ways that are really customised for their requirements, not every customer has the same set of requirements relative to their customer base. And so we bend over backwards to provide not only world-class service, but also do business in a way specific to their requirements. We work hard on aligning merchandise plans, marketing plans, and giving our retail partners all the assets they need to help sell more product.
What’s next for TaylorMade?
I can’t tell you all that just yet! What I can say is we relentlessly pursue new ideas. We have a blue sky research team that comes up with incredible ideas. It can just take a while for some of those to be manufacturable at a mass market level.
TaylorMade will continue to invest in research and development of new technologies. We will continue investing in our customer relationships to ensure that we can support the service requirements of every customer, at every level, in every market around the world. GR