Interview: Mike Fox Talks TaylorMade's New Golf Ball Range
The introduction of the TP5 and TP5x golf balls from TaylorMade has helped move the company from just a metal wood company to a full bag company.
These balls take advantage of a proprietary 5-layer ball construction, which maximises driver and iron distance while also delivering best in class wedge performance and greenside spin.
“The biggest changes you see as of the last two years are because of David Abeles our CEO,” said Mike Fox, Senior Director of Product Creating, Golf Ball and Accessories, “That was his big corporate strategy.
“Previously at a metal wood company, all the resources, all the budgets, all the time, all the focus was just metal woods. David Abeles came in with this mission of having the best bag in golf and really being the most innovative company in the world. Then using that strength to make great products across the board.
“He made sure that everyone was creating focus on the right products at the right time. I’d say structurally that was biggest.
“The R&D resources are getting more time on all products and also the budgeting process and the marketing and making sure that everything we do is going through that filter, having everything work top to bottom. Some of our most recent tour contracts show that because we know our stuff.”
But with Titleist well regarded as the number one golf ball in golf, how do TaylorMade go about catching up with their rival.
Well, Fox explained to Golfshake how important seeding is when showing off their new product.
“With the exception of Titleist, we believe that seeding is the second most globally important thing,” added Fox. “Primarily because we know no one can compare to our product and we want to show it off.
“With Titleist it’s more consistency and awareness. We see for pure trial and exposure and story and getting people excited on the performance of this product, as very important.
“Competing against what Titleist is doing, we need to just seed as much as we possibly can, in significant numbers. 450,000golfers they do, maybe they do 700,000. At that point we’re still well on golfers radars.
“As far as targeting seeding, we have well over 50 different groups that we identified just domestically in the US and probably just as many globally. I’m in charge of the US Seeding plan. So we have a few key ones throughout that.
“The first one is our fittings. As a company we do over 7,000 fittings a year for our metal woods an irons. They now provide a four-ball pack with that fitting and a ball demonstration with that fitting. So 7,000 golfers that are buying products are having a conversation with a TM rep.
“Another big thing is the way we sell product. Instead of offering discounts to our retailers we offer seeding prime. A lot of companies say if you buy 50 dozen, we’ll give you 5% off your product. We say if you buy 50 dozen, we’re going to give you 30 dozen seeding packs for you to be able to give your members the experience to try.
“With that we have dozens and dozens of groups that we work with that have databases that can target the type of golfer we’re looking for and make more of a bold statement. Targeted seeding is the most important.
“You make sure you’re reaching better players who reach premium type golf balls. We’ve targeted 50 groups domestically and dozens globally. It’s the most important part reaching the right golfer.
“You don’t want to target a 30 handicapper who buys £20 golf balls. You want a better player who can really experience that golf ball. We spend a lot of time identifying with all of our global products.”
The popularity of the ball on the tour was a great success for TaylorMade, but it was its popularity with amateurs that really surprised those at TaylorMade.
Fox said: “When we test a tour product it’s a tier process the development is much longer than that. We can work on five products a decade, with the 5-layer technology and really getting the gradient we’re looking for from the difference of compressions.
“It’s a 10 year process. We’d really been testing the product for two years before we launched it. There was probably more tour testing on this product than anything we’ve ever come up with before. So we knew from particularly the reaction from guys like Jaosn Day and Justin Rose that we had something a little different.
“We probably weren’t as surprised with the adoption on tour because we had such good initial feedback in the testing and you can make a claim that the very first test with Jason day, we were really surprised with how much he was excited by the product.
“Everything kind of came from that. It didn’t matter who we showed the product to. It’s a long two years. You test for so many different groups between your tour players, your amateur players and your internal testing group, through marketing teams and sales teams. By the time that thing came to market we had thousands of people that were just so blown away with it.
“If we do everything else right, which is the marketing part and the seeding part and the sales part and really align this company around this product, we knew we’d have something special. My job was making sure that the entire company was involved. Once they saw that initial testing feedback, it was easy for everyone to align.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled with the success. We knew we had something special, and as a company when we align top to bottom we know we’ve done good.”
However, although the TP5 and TP5x are the premium ball offering from TaylorMade, the company are well aware that the ball may not work for everyone, nor will they be willing to pay that much for a golf ball.
This is why they have introduced the Project (s) and Project (a), which feature some premium technology at a cheaper price, but perform better than other balls in the same target group.
“TP5 and 5X as you said is the most complete golf ball in the world,” Fox said. “That’s how we tag it and anyone who plays that product will get better performance. However, not everyone is going to pay that much for a dozen balls. Not everyone pays that to play a round of golf.
“You’re paying £40/50 on dozen, you wont sped it on a round of golf. So for us we know we need to create a better performing ball for better prices. So specifically Project (a) is the lowest cost ball. The reason that product is really designed is to take tour technology, so things that we put in our TP5, and put it in a golf ball really designed for amateurs.
“I want to be clear it is designed for amateur golfers. It takes tour technology and puts it in the compression that golfer typically prefers. We’re still providing better performance for the price than any one else.
“You look at TP5/5x, everyone else is three or four piece layer with thermoplastic urethane. We’re using five piece golf balls with cast urethane cover. Better material, better layers.
“Project (s) is the same thing, a three-piece golf ball up against a two-piece product. We put the technology from the more expensive ball, in the cheaper product to make it better performing than the others.”
To find out more about TaylorMade’s golf ball range, visit the TaylorMade website here.
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