How much input do tour players really have on club design?

Flip the television to golf coverage on any given week and you’re bound to see at least one commercial with an elite player pushing new equipment. There’s DJ, Rory and Tiger endorsing TaylorMade’s SIM line, and one with Phil Mickelson dropping bombs with Callaway’s Mavrik.

As the pitchmen for some of the biggest equipment brands in the industry, the goal is simple: Get recreational golfers excited about the new technology. And maybe help sell some clubs along the way via on-course success.

But how much design input do Tiger, Phil or Bryson really have on the clubs they’re backing? It’s a question that’s asked regularly when a player tees it up with something new. According to Tom Olsavsky, Cobra’s vice president of research and design, it depends greatly on the player and their interest in the tools they use to ply their trade.

“A third of guys are really into it, and I’d put Bryson [DeChambeau] up at the top of the list,” Olsavsky said on GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast. “He’s really into every little detail and exploring what others take for granted. He’s been that way his whole life.

“Some guys want to help you design clubs. That’s part of who we work with. Our team is pretty small, so we have to get people who are helping us along the way, as well as being really good at giving us feedback, whether it’s immediately to our tour rep or to us from the design side.”

After spending years working with robust tour staffs at Titleist and TaylorMade, Olsavsky now counts on a small group of Cobra staffers, including Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner and Lexi Thompson, to provide invaluable feedback during the creation and design process.

The trick is finding a way to blend Bryson’s technical needs with Fowler’s visual asks — something Olsavsky and his team have continued to perfect over the years.

“Even at the other brands I worked at, there was a lot of input from tour players,” he said. “They’re really good at ball-striking and the visual side of the game. Bryson is one of them who will say, ‘I don’t care what it looks like.’ He’s not as much a visual player. Whereas [Rickie Fowler], it’s got to look good before he’s going to feel comfortable hitting it. We work a lot with Rick on some of those things  — how does the driver setup, look, what about the colors, lines on the crown, face milling, score lines. Bryson is really interested in other things — where is the [center of gravity], face texture, score lines. They have different things they like to look at.

“As you know from Rick’s career, he’s been a leader in terms of design in clothing and footwear, helping us with golf clubs. He’s really into that. The feedback is really helpful. We often work with these guys throughout the year, showing them prototypes, sketches, working with them.”

So there you have it: professional golfers (at least a portion of them) are firmly entrenched in the club design process. So the next time you see Rickie or Bryson in a Cobra commercial, you can be sure their fingerprints are all over the driver they’re pitching to the golf masses.

To hear more gear insights from Jonathan Wall and True Spec’s Tim Briand, subscribe and listen each week to GOLF’s Fully Equipped podcast: iTunes | SoundCloud | Spotify | Stitcher
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