NGF TOP 100 BUSINESSES IN GOLF
Chip (Oliver G.) Brewer, President & CEO
Dr. Alan Hocknell, SVP, Research & Development
Mark Leposky, EVP, Global Operations
Glenn Hickey, SVP, Americas Sales
Brian Lynch, EVP and Chief Financial Officer
Callaway Golf is a premium golf equipment and active lifestyle company with a portfolio of global brands and a highly visible presence both among the general golfing public and on the major professional tours. Callaway designs, manufactures and sells golf clubs, golf balls, golf bags and other golf-related accessories as well as active lifestyle apparel, footwear, and sport and travel bags.
Also under the Callaway umbrella are several companies that might be considered Top 100 golf businesses in their own right: OGIO International, TravisMathew and Odyssey. OGIO has been one of the golf industry’s top brand bags over the past 30 years, TravisMathew is a progressive men’s sportswear brand and Odyssey produces the best-selling putters in the game.
Callaway has grown beyond its roots as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), but its focus remains on the creation of innovative, high-performance golf equipment.
“We’re not trying to blur the message to the consumer,” Callaway Golf President Chip Brewer said. “That’s incredibly important because we are a premium golf equipment company. We’re innovative, we think we’re leading in those categories, and we’re committed to sustaining that.
“We’re not going to co-brand Callaway and OGIO and TravisMathew and Jack Wolfskin,” Brewer added. “Those are separate brands from a consumer perspective. But there will be some nice synergies from a business perspective. It certainly augments and adds to the overall scale of our business and its growth potential.”
Callaway’s golf clubs segment consists of its woods, hybrids, irons and wedges, as well as putters from Odyssey Golf. This segment also includes other golf-related accessories, royalties from licensing of its trademarks and service marks and sales of pre-owned golf clubs. The golf balls segment consists of Callaway Golf and Strata balls that are designed, manufactured and sold to retailers (directly and through subsidiaries), and to third-party distributors.
More than 50 pros on the PGA and European PGA tours have Callaway sponsorship deals, with Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Xander Schauffele, Francesco Molinari and Kevin Kisner being the most prominent among them. Michelle Wie, Jeong Eun Lee6, Sandra Gal, Morgan Pressel and Yani Tseng are among Callaway’s endorsers on the LPGA Tour.
The company was founded by former Burlington Industries President Ely Callaway Jr., an avid golfer who bought half of Hickory Sticks USA in 1982 and in the early days sold clubs out of the back of his Cadillac. Callaway said he wasn’t a good enough salesman to sell a mediocre product, so tasked his company with building clubs that are “pleasingly different and demonstrably superior.” That’s been the Callaway mantra for about three decades.
Callaway has actively embraced a modern approach in the industry, particularly as it pertains to marketing and research & development.
In creating its popular Epic Flash driver, Callaway turned to Artificial Intelligence to help design the club face.
“Engineers now have to integrate software and super computers and algorithms with their previous design skills,” said Brewer. “And you’re going to have integrate aerodynamicists and metallurgists and all of these other approaches with software that can therefore do calculations at a rate and then essentially learn from it themselves. We’re investing aggressively in it. Others I’m sure are going to have to follow in that if they’re going to keep pace, and I’m sure they desire to do that.”
From a communications and content generation standpoint, Callaway has been a forerunner in effectively connecting with consumers.
“Marketing now is content creation, it’s social media, it’s real time and constantly flowing,” said Brewer. “It’s engaging with the consumer and building a relationship directly, not always through different partners, whether that be trade or media.
“Different assets and jobs that used to exist in media companies now exist in marketing efforts at consumer products companies,” Brewer adds. “We have our own video creation capabilities and producers and editors and such. So, it all kind of merges. It’s all pretty exciting, but again if you’re not doing that type of thing, whether you’re an equipment company or a golf pro — in terms of creating content and engaging with your membership on a daily basis — you’re missing the boat and probably being left behind a little bit.”
Clubs and balls remain the meat and potatoes of Callaway’s business, but aggressive investment in the soft goods sector that have added to the company’s scale and growth beyond hard goods.
Callaway is also actively involved in the golf-entertainment venue Topgolf, has established a solid position as the #2 ball manufacturer, and continues to invest in new technologies such as the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence to help design a driver.
Through the years Callaway has been behind a number of notable advancements in the equipment sector, perhaps none bigger than the Big Bertha and Great Big Bertha drivers, which ushered in the era of “oversized” club heads. The company also introduced the first-of-its-kind hex dimple pattern that yielded 100 percent dimple coverage. Callaway’s S2H2 line (short, straight, hollow hosel) was one of the company’s early successes and led to the Big Bertha line.