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January 1, 2017

Where Tour Professionals Go to Test Equipment

The Ely Callaway Performance Center is a premier location for tour professionals to practice and dial in their clubs

BY: SCOTT KRAMER

By direct line, the Ely Callaway Performance Center is roughly threequarters of a mile from the company’s Carlsbad, California headquarters. But in terms of atmosphere, it’s a world away. The facility that spans 15 acres and includes a 75,000-square-foot research and development facility, is home to a very exclusive practice range that serves three purposes:

  1. To test new products and competitor clubs;
  2. To host various VIP fitting sessions for celebrities and friends of senior management;
  3. To accommodate PGA Tour professionals wanting to play Callaway equipment. For that latter group, Randy Peterson – the company’s director of golf product performance and unofficially the facility’s manager – and his staff go out of their way to ensure the frequent visits from the world’s top golfers go smoothly. “Some of them come in just to work on their game,” says Peterson. “And whenever we have a change of product, we get them in. At the end of the year, when players are possibly leaving other companies and investigating new club sponsors, they’ll come in to look at alternatives. The majority of our Callaway staff players come in at the beginning of the year, as they’re gearing up for the coming season and want to test out all the new equipment.” In the following, Peterson describes some nuggets about the tour professional visits.

Guys changing equipment will spend most of the day at our range. Usually, they’ll set it up to visit all of the club manufacturers around Carlsbad in a week. They’ll spend one day here, another at a competitor, and so on.

We have a set template for fitting each club in the bag, but we tailor it if someone asks us. Usually they come in with an agenda. They’ll say, “This is the driver I’m playing. Here’s what I like about it and here’s what I don’t.” Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of guys who want to test golf balls, too. So we might go through five models of balls per session. And that’s the kind of thing they’d be reticent to do at a tour event, so they do it more here where they’re isolated, and we can get them immediate feedback, and they don’t have all the other distractions of their agent, caddie, guys selling them the copper bracelet and tees, and all that other stuff that’s out there on a PGA Tour practice range. With a driver, we always start with a clubhead model and then figure out loft and CG location. And then we tweak the shaft for feel and possibly some delivery of the head.

We admit that we suggestively sell our other products.We expose them to everything. If someone’s coming in with a driver in mind, we’ll have other club options out on the tee, based on what we know and what we believe their specs to be if we don’t already know them. But yes, we would have irons and wedges in the near vicinity that might catch their eye, too.

Tour professionals don’t necessarily like working with a specific Callaway staffer, while here. Everyone who works here is qualified to work with elite golfers. It depends on their schedule and who else is here. It’s common that we have tour professionals here all the time, but we don’t necessarily isolate the range just for them. We may have other things going on. We have testing and maybe two tour professionals here in a day. So we hope they’re comfortable working with different people and their PGA Tour rep.

They prefer the privacy of our range compared to being at a PGA Tour event. During tournament week, they’re largely focused on the event and how they’re going to play. So we don’t have their full attention. Here we do, and we have all the products available in various iterations, and the ability to tweak and adjust in a moment’s notice. With the capabilities of our club-building room, we can do anything we need to measurements- and specs-wise that we wouldn’t be able to at a country club. Plus, professionals really like the privacy here – no one’s interrupting their session and asking them for anything. They can ask all the questions they want, they can take all the time they want, and they’re not going to be disturbed. It’s very efficient – that’s a big part of it. They have the ability to hit and judge for themselves along with our assistants. But there’s nobody else in their ear. There are no agents or anyone telling them they need to do this or that.