Before I go into the Ely Callaway Performance Center - and the fitting day that I attended last week. I would like to set the tone with the great admiration and respect I have for Callaway Golf.
It dates back to 1992; I was a sophomore in High school when I purchased my first Big Bertha driver. The purchase is a memorable one, as it was bought with money I saved over the summer, while working at the local golf course as a bag boy and cart barn assistant. Growing up in a rural community in central Ohio - having the Big Bertha driver in my bag at the start of that '92 season was very special... Literally, I felt like a celebrity as the rest of the golf team was talking about the driver, which at the time, was the hottest driver on the market... And every one of my teammates, and opponents wanted to hit it as I was one of the first players on the team to have the Big Bertha.
Ultimately, the Big Bertha gave me the confidence I needed when hitting drives in competition; and believe it was a key proponent to me making the leap from the Jr Varsity to Varsity team that fall. The funny thing about the wild success of the Big Bertha - is that by the end of the golf season, our entire varsity team had purchased their own! Anyone who played golf in the early to mid 90's are aware of the wild success Callaway Golf had with the introduction of the Big Bertha driver - and it's successor the Great Big Bertha driver. Literally, it transformed the golf industry as a whole.
Ely Callaway Performance Center
A few weeks back, Erik and Mike reached out to me via PM and informed me that I was selected to visit Callaway to experience a driver club fitting at the Performance Center in Carlsbad. And that I'd have a chance to get a driver for attending. So I knew it was going to be a fantastic day... But I really didn't expect it to be as awesome as it was. First, as I pulled into the facility in Carlsbad, the VIP treatment started. They had reserved parking for us.
As I walked in for the 1:00 appointment, I was the first to arrive.
Katie greeted me at the reception area, and got me signed in. As I was checking in, an older gentleman walked up and was waiting on me to finish chatting with Katie. I reached out to him with my right hand - and introduced myself. We shook hands and he introduced himself as Roger Cleveland. I was in awe, it was the legendary Roger Cleveland - standing there shaking my hand. I was kind of star struck, and asked him if he minded me taking a photo for the website here at TST. He was so kind and said 'Sure!' with a smile...
We chatted for a few minutes as I waited for the other TST team to arrive - and he pointed out Annika's US Open trophy - and Phil's Masters flag and various clubs they had on display. It was really cool to see these items - and it showcased the caliber of success that Callaway Golf has on their resume when talking about tour players using their equipment, and the achievements they have made.
Roger went on his way once Scott - another Callaway staffer arrived - who was actually the TST host for the day. As Scott and I waited for the other TSTers to arrive, I took in the rest of the lobby - where the founder of Callaway Golf - Ely Callaway was showcased. Paying homage to Mr. Ely Callaway.
The Club Making Room / The Callaway Development Process - Concept to Delivery
Soon the rest of the TST team arrived, and a few other Callaway staff members were introduced (Nick and Garrett) and we were off on our tour of the facility. The first stop was the club making room - where you will find pretty much any tool required to build a golf club you'd ever need. This room was introduced as Phil's room where he likes to build and tinker with his own clubs. A room where Roger can come in and grind a wedge to his liking. It was really the workshop where a lot of great innovations come to life.
This is when, what I thought was going to be a simple club fitting day - turned into a genuine history lesson and informative review on how Callaway Golf operates. Nick, the Callaway staff member shown in the picture above became the faceman for the balance of the day, and did an amazing job of giving us a behind the scenes look of the Ely Callaway Performance Center (ECPC). He literally went from soup to nuts - what Callaway Golf does within the halls of ECPC.
** I interrupt this review to add a quick comment**
The video that I created - along with the video that Mike (mvmac) posted above found within the first post in this thread, gives some of the behind the scenes access from this day. My video linked here is a little long (24 mins). But I really encourage the hardcore users here to check it out as there are some nuggets of information that can be taken from these videos. Not only on how Callaway operates - but also items that Callaway measures during a fitting process like 'Closure Rate'. I thought some of this information Nick shared was fascinating, and I hope you enjoy the videos as much as I do.
Also - I'd like to state that I'm not a professional videographer/editor/director/ect... I'm a total amateur here folks. So I apologize in advance if my video isn't up to snuff.
I learned from Nick - at Callaway Golf - within the ECPC, the club making process is quite intensive. How Callaway takes a club from concept to delivery, plain and simple it is a lot of testing. They really run the club through the various phases of testing before it ever becomes a product that you will find in big box retailers, pro shops or even on tour. The development process begins on the 2nd floor (we didn't get to see the 2nd floor) - where R&D engineers are working on 3D CAD/CAM models - interfacing with mechanical and material engineers. The clubs that are taken from an ID concept - can be built under the 3D CAD/CAM environment and various simulations can be ran before they ever build a physical prototype.
When the R&D team comes to a consensus that the club is worthy of being physically built (after a number of successful 3D simulations), Callaway will first build the club and test its performance within a controlled environment using a robot. The robot enables Callaway to test the prototype club using ideal launch conditions, and obtain performance numbers without bias as the robot eliminates variables found in human testing.
An interesting note, is that within the robot room, you will not only find Callaway golf clubs being tested, but also competitors clubs. As Callaway stated, it is common practice to understand where their competition is at with their current generation of product (clubs found within the retail marketplace). It's always good to have a pulse on the competition.
The Robot Room
As the R&D team achieves optimal performance numbers off the robot - Callaway will then place the prototype club into the hands of their own staff. Folks like Nick and Garrett will actually get to test the clubs at the ECPC, using both their indoor and outdoor launch monitors and test equipment. The things that the Callaway staff members are looking for are launch angle, trajectory, ball flight, feel and sound. Many of these items are preferential items that can vary from golfer to golfer, so the staffers are an important phase of testing as they can provide the R&D team the first constructive criticisms based on the design, and they can make mods as necessary.
Finally, after the prototype club passes the staffers performance testing and feedback, and those mods or tweaks are made, Callaway will invite their tour players - and the lucky Joe Schmo golfer (who signs a confidentiality agreement) to visit the ECPC to demo these next generation prototype clubs. These proto demos give Callaway additional user data and information to digest - prior to the club going to market. The club may go through dozens of changes and revisions before it ever reaches the general public. As Nick mentioned things like the sound the driver emits is heavily scrutinized. While the club may perform beautifully - if it doesn't pass the sound check, then it likely won't be introduced to the market place. I found it interesting that Callaway actually has sound engineers on staff who will study the number of decibels the impact of a driver creates with a golf ball - and monitor that sound through the engineering development process as they make tweaks and changes to the club head. Talk about being precise!
Ely Callaway Performance Center - Club Fitting
After Nick gave us a sound understanding of Callaway's development process, he brought us into the club fitting areas found within the ECPC facility - there are really three.
(1.) Callaway Golf Indoor Fitting Studio - Used for full swing analysis and club fitting
(2.) Odyssey Putter Fitting Studio - Used for putter fitting
(3.) Outdoor Range and Practice facility - Used for outdoor demos and fittings
Indoor Club Fitting Studio
The Indoor Fitting Studio looked like a command and control center for some government agency. It was setup with monitors and camera systems - all integrated to support the Callaway Performance Analysis System (CPAS), a proprietary state of the art shot analysis system. The system consist of several high speed camera systems which monitor the club in microseconds - it can capture up to 10,000 images a second of the clubhead.
For those that are familiar with Trackman - many of you are - the primary difference that you will find with Callaway's proprietary CPAS versus Trackman... Is that Callaway's system monitors the club through the entire swing. There is no back calculations found within Callaway's setup, whereas you will find back calculations on the Trackman, being the Doppler radar doesn't see the club head at ~P3/P4/P5. Therefore, Callaway believes they have the most accurate fitting systems in the world. The accuracy found within the CPAS didn't come at a small price either...
The system that Callaway created is homegrown and contains a total of four cameras - which run forty thousand dollars each ($160K just in cameras). The following two photos show the high end cameras which are mounted into the ceiling of the fitting studio... It may not look like much - but those four cameras are equivalent to the the price tag of the BMW i8 Hybrid that Tom Cruise was tooling around in during Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol movie which was out in theaters earlier this year! Sick!!
As well the CPAS consist of proprietary software and hardware to make the solution all come together (you really can't put a price tag on the cost to develop a home grown system like CPAS). It took Callaway several years of development, just to create the CPAS fitting solution. So Callaway's setup is indeed legit - but even they admit that using third party fitting tools like Trackman (which is very accurate) is used for their outdoor fittings as it can be setup and tore down within minutes. That isn't feasible with Callaway's proprietary CPAS.
Following is a snap-shot of a swing within the bay with the output of the CPAS.
The key shot analysis items output on the CPAS were as follows:
- Angle of Attack
- Club Speed
- Ball Speed
- Club Path
- Swing Direction
- Face Angle
- Impact Position of the ball in relation to club face (Monitor Center vs Off Center Hits)
- Ball Speed
- Launch Angle
- Back Spin
- Side Spin (I'm curious as to why they have Back Spin and Side Spin - as there is only one Spin Axis - but I didn't notice this until after we left Callaway)
- Carry Distance
- Total Distance
- Apex (Maximum Height)
- Closure Rate *I thought this was an interesting data point that Callaway collects.
*I hadn't heard anyone really discuss 'Closure Rate' before - the rate at which the clubface rotates throughout the swing. Especially from any of the guys I know that are using Trackman. So I was intrigued that Callaway's CPAS tracked this. My understanding is that for Closure Rate - maintaining a square clubface at impact is key - but maintaining consistency in your Closure Rate is really what determines a consistent Pro level ball striker versus the average amateur golfer. Also, the faster your club speed, the higher your closure rate will be.
Overall - I was impressed with the technology that Callaway uses in their fitting - and believe they should be proud in the IP they have created as it is their own. They had an impressive setup for an indoor studio for sure... One that I could only dream of having in my own home. And it didn't hurt the eyes that we were teeing off on the 18th tee at Pebble Beach! Above is Mike (mvmac) getting ready to Hulk smash a drive with the Callaway RAZR Fit driver!
Putter Fitting Studio
The ECPC putting studio was in the room next door to the fitting studio. The first thing that Nick pointed out was that rather than Callaway creating a home grown putting fitting solution, and developing it from the ground to conduct detailed putting stroke analysis... This was an area Callaway utilized a 3rd party commercial off the shelf solution - also known as the SAM PuttLab
. It makes sense, the SAM is highly recognized as one of the most comprehensive putting fitting solutions in the world, and rather than try and recreate something on your own - why not leverage a system which is commercially viable and affordable?
Below is a photo of the SAM fitting solution which Callaway/Odyssey uses within the ECPC studio.
Here they will calibrate the SAM analysis system to monitor a players putting stroke. One of the key metrics taken from the fitting is a users Impact Alignment Angle. The following photo shows how Impact Alignment Angle - when putting from distances ranging from 3ft out to 20ft - varying your impact alignment can greatly influence making or missing a putt.
GREEN = Make
YELLOW = Potential Miss
RED = Miss
I was intrigued to see this table as I had never seen it published. It makes sense and proves how important alignment aids - and then finding a putter that is properly weighted is as if your impact alignment shifts by as much as 1-deg - you're chances of making anything longer than a 3ft putt is greatly impacted. Great data points - and one of the most influential pieces of information I walked away with during my tour of the ECPC.
Outdoor Range and Practice Facility
As a golf enthusiast - who doesn't like to go out and hit golf balls? I know I do! This was the exciting part of the day - getting to go outside in the beautiful Southern California ocean air - with the sun beating down... With the entire armada of Callaway golf clubs at my finger tips; drivers, fairways, hybrids, irons, wedges - they were all there to hit, in a plethora of head and shaft combinations. I was in heaven! And the best part, I had the Callaway staff right there, one-on-one to answer any and all questions I had. Sweet!
TheSandTrappers Getting Ready to Grip it and Rip it
350+ Yds of Fairway
Unlimited premium golf balls to hit
I'll never forget - I was grabbing the clubs off the rack and hitting them - half a dozen shots at a time. One particular moment - I was working with Nick and Garrett and while I was waiting for the RAZR Fit driver with the 10.5* head, I was hitting a RAZR Fit 3W 15* Fairway wood. I was hitting some low penetrating balls off the turf. Laser beams and really was hitting it straight and long. Then Nick hands me the new X Prototype Utility - 21-deg - again hitting some laser beams with low trajectory. I just was smiling ear to ear on and then he says... "Lets get that ball flight up a little." And hands me a RAZR X Hybrid 21* - and bam! The ball goes soaring in the air with a nice high ball flight that seemed to fly off the face. It is amazing how a club with the same static loft can cause such a different ball flight by simply changing the shaft, and altering the club heads weighting. Really - if you didn't tell me the X Hybrid was 21* and the X Prototype Utility was 21-deg - I would have said the X Prototype was 18* and the X Hybrid was 24*. Makes me want to go buy some new clubs for those days when you have windy/dry conditions!
One of the things that impressed me the most - and was pleasantly surprising about the Callaway club demo - was hitting the new RAZR X Muscleback Irons. I've been playing with the Mizuno MP-59's since the fall of 2011 when they were originally released to the public. And while I love my Mizzy's the RAZR X Musclebacks were every bit as solid during my time demoing them. The shafts assembled into the RAZR X Musclebacks were the Project X 6.5 Steel (125g). I'm telling you, these irons were sick. I loved them - and would highly recommend that if you are in the market for a new set of irons - to check these out.
According to the Callaway staff, the RAZR X Muscleback irons - the center of gravity for these players irons are found closer to the heel - or slightly off center. This may have been why I liked them so much as my typical impact position is in that area of the clubface. Speaking to the staff, they stated that just because an iron is slated as a Players Iron - the golfer should understand where the CG is located, and where they typically make impact with the club. And don't be afraid to try clubs out that you may believe you don't have the swing to game such a club. If I was in the market for a new set of irons, I would definitely give these a serious consideration. They were not only beautifully designed, but the performance was excellent.
RAZR X Muscleback Specs
I enjoyed checking out the Callaway offering as I had not hit any of the new RAZR line in 2012 until this ECPC visit.
The RAZR Fit Driver Fitting
Being that I have the R11 TP (2011 driver) - I've been using an adjustable driver for a while now. And while I play it at a neutral setting (the R11) - I have the peace of mind that if I wanted to tweak something I could. Being that Callaway has joined the party on adjustability in drivers, my interest was officially peaked when I first learned about the driver this past winter. And in January, I took a look at the RAZR Fit driver at address, and liked the look of it. But I had yet to actually hit it. Fast forward to the ECPC fitting, and I was finally able to give the RAZR Fit driver a go. And the peace of mind that I should I have any questions, I had the Callaway staff on hand to answer.
I started the RAZR fit driver demo with the 9.5* head, using the Fujikura Stiff Blur T65 (45.5", 65g, mid-low torque). My ball flight with this driver setup seemed lower than my R11 TP with the Fujikura T65, so the suggestion was that I go to the 10.5* head. I hit many drives with both setups, but to no avail - I still had a low ball flight. So we went back indoors into the ECPC studio -to the indoor fitting bay and checked my angle of attack on the launch monitor. According to the monitor, I was in the -1 to 0 to +1 range. After playing around with my placement of the ball (inside sole of my left foot - moving to toe of my left foot) and varying the tee height my numbers on attack angle would only slightly move.
The RAZR Fit driver in both the 9.5* and 10.5* head, with neutral settings, and weight ports set to normal - I was hitting it very straight. Unfortunately, I was hitting the driver lower than I'd like. It was also difficult for me to see the distance in rollout given there was no outdoor launch monitor (Trackman was not setup) and the indoor launch monitor - my numbers seemed to be lower than what I have found on other monitors. For instance, my swing seemed to be in the 96mph to 100mph range. Whereas on Trackman I'll range from 102 to 105mph on swing speed with my R11 TP driver. Therefore, I'm going to reserve my formal review of the RAZR Fit driver until I receive the driver from Callaway and can do additional testing.
My settings and preference for head, shaft and grip were provided to the ECPC staff - and I expect to receive the custom built driver from them within the near future. At that the time of receipt, I'll be able to hit it on Trackman - as well as play some rounds with it to get additional data, so that I can give a fair and honest review of the club to the TST community.
Overall my experience at Callaway was awesome - and I can't wait to get the RAZR Fit driver into my hands so I can do additional testing. I'd like to thank TheSandTrap (Erik, Mike and Steve) - and Callaway Golf for giving me the opportunity to participate in the event. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed every minute of it!