Carlsbad Golf Companies – Drivers of Innovation

August 16, 2022

Just as Detroit is the heart of the American automotive industry and Hollywood is the capital of the entertainment industry, Carlsbad has become the golf manufacturing capital of the world.

Carlsbad is home to the biggest names in the golf industry, including Callaway Golf Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of golf clubs. Other world-renowned golf equipment manufacturers in Carlsbad include Aldila, Cobra Puma Golf, Honma Golf, TaylorMade Golf Company and Titleist, among other popular golf brands. These companies have led the world in golf innovation and technology.

“There’s a real hotbed of golf technology and companies here,” said Bob Rief, executive director of San Diego Sport Innovators, a business development organization that serves the sports and active lifestyle industry. “It’s been fantastic for Carlsbad.”

Carlsbad is home to the biggest names in the golf industry, including TaylorMade Golf Company. (Credit: TaylorMade Golf Company)

 How Carlsbad Became a Hub of the Golf Industry

Carlsbad has been a magnet for golf equipment manufacturers since the early 1980s, when Callaway Golf Company moved its headquarters to the city and unintentionally steered other manufacturers in the same direction.

Carlsbad became a hub of the golf industry for several reasons. The city is located along the coast, which makes shipments easier. It is also close to component suppliers in Southern California and Mexico.

“This partially stemmed from the boom of the aerospace industry in the ‘70s and ‘80s in the area,” explained Bret Wahl, vice president of product development for TaylorMade Golf Company. “Believe it or not, there are a lot of similarities in design and development processes, materials, and manufacturing processes between the two industries.”

Carlsbad and the greater San Diego region also have talent. Wahl said the aerospace industry attracted the talent base with necessary skills in acoustics, aerodynamics, computer-aided design, materials testing, stress analysis and vibrational analysis.

 The golf OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) could leverage these human resources and their expertise to establish and grow their businesses,” he added.

Finally, the weather is nearly perfect all year-round, which makes the city an ideal place for outdoor player testing and on-course evaluation. 

“This is critical for a golf company to succeed, due to their continuous R&D (research and development), product development, engineering, and concept exploration activity, sometimes many years out from product launch,” Wahl said.

These components, plus the growth of leading manufacturers like Callaway Golf Company, led to technological advances that fueled competition in the industry, according to Rief, a longtime businessman in the golf, ski and surf world.

“The rapid growth of Callaway in that timeframe just created an amazing spinoff of technology, executives and employees,” said Rief, who once served as vice president and assistant to Ely Callaway, the founder of Callaway Golf Company. “It ignited a demand curve that made it possible for companies to be more competitive.”

Rief pointed to Callaway’s original Big Bertha driver as one of the earliest innovations that spurred the boom in golf technology. The driver, which launched in 1991, was considered revolutionary because it was made entirely of stainless steel during a time when many golfers still used traditional wooden drivers.

“That first step into brand-new technology definitely ignited a market, and it also brought out the best in the competitors at the time,” he said. “If you fast-forward to today, you would be hard-pressed to say who has the most innovative product because it is evolving amazingly.”

 Thriving Carlsbad Companies and Exciting Innovations

 Cobra Puma Golf is among the leading golf equipment manufacturers that is headquartered in Carlsbad. Cobra, which was founded in 1973, is owned by Germany-based Puma, a global sports apparel and shoe manufacturer.

“We have the best team in golf —​ passionate employees, talented athletes and incredible ambassadors that move the needle and really make a difference for our business,” said Dan Ladd, president and general manager of Cobra Puma Golf. “Our primary focus is and always will be to help golfers, of all skill levels, enjoy the game and everything about it. We deliver excitement, energy, and a way for consumers to immerse themselves in the sport we all love.”

The team at Cobra Puma Golf has explored and commercialized new processes and materials to “make a better golf club,” said Mike Yagley, the company’s vice president of innovation and AI. That includes metal injection molding, additive manufacturing or 3D printing, and exotic forging processes. 

“Additive manufacturing of putters and prototype irons for some of our Tour Players has been very successful,” Yagley said. “We can make structures with mass and resilience properties that were previously unobtainable with conventional casting, forging or machining manufacturing processes.”

Cobra Puma Golf is located on Aston Avenue in Carlsbad. (Credit: Cobra Puma Golf)

The company’s headquarters on Aston Avenue is currently being renovated as Cobra Puma Golf continues to grow and thrive in Carlsbad.  

“As we continue to grow our team, we are doing an exciting renovation project on our headquarters in Carlsbad, which will allow us to function better as a team locally and globally,” Ladd said. “We are excited about our future innovations on the club and apparel and footwear side —​ products that enhance and elevate the game.”

TaylorMade Golf Company is another top golf manufacturing company based in Carlsbad. The company was founded in 1979 in Illinois.

“The company moved to Carlsbad in the late 1980s to be closer to its then component suppliers, to take advantage of beautiful weather for year-round testing, and to leverage the talent pool of the booming aerospace industry in the area,” Wahl said. The company was originally located in Carlsbad on Yarrow Drive but moved to Fermi Court in the early 2000s.

TaylorMade Golf Company is located on Fermi Court in Carlsbad. (Credit: TaylorMade Golf Company)

TaylorMade’s first innovation was the first-ever metalwood made from stainless steel, rather than the persimmon wood construction at the time, Wahl explained. Over the years, the company has brought numerous product innovations and new technology to market, including in metalwoods, movable weight technology, flight control technology, twist face, and multi-material construction.  

TaylorMade has more than 500 employees in Carlsbad, including more than 80 engineers and technicians focused on product ideation, advanced design work, baseline research, product development, testing and evaluation, and product engineering to ensure what the company designs can be mass produced. Wahl said the team is responsible for a stream of products over the years, including the Stealth golf clubs.

This year TaylorMade launched a “revolutionary new face technology” for drivers with the red 60-layer Carbon Twist Face of Stealth. A result of more than 20 years of research and development, the drivers feature a carbon fiber composite face insert which provides increased ball speed across the face without sacrifice of launch conditions, sound and feel, superior aerodynamics, or playability. Carbon faces replace titanium material used in most drivers for more than 20 years, Wahl said.

“We strive to create technology and products that are measurably better than our previous generations, but also incorporate a design language that inspires and provides an emotional connection for the golfer,” Wahl said. “TaylorMade products are a combo of art and science, form and function, and style and performance, as I believe is always true of the best products.”

TaylorMade has more than 1,500 employees, with more than 500 employees in Carlsbad. (Credit: TaylorMade Golf Company)

Altogether, TaylorMade has more than 1,500 employees globally, with roughly half of its employees based in the U.S.

TaylorMade has had “tremendous growth” over the past few years, according to Jennie Jagoda, the company’s director of talent strategy and acquisition. Globally, TaylorMade has added hundreds of positions across every function to support business growth. In the U.S. alone, TaylorMade currently has open positions across engineering, finance, HR, IT, legal, marketing, operations, and sales.

“We have a highly collaborative environment where innovation is celebrated and where we solve challenges together,” Jagoda said. “I think this type of environment naturally draws people in, and along with our culture, amazing colleagues and leadership keeps people here.”

A Growing Industry and a Great Place for Business

The global golf equipment market generated $7.04 billion in 2020, and is estimated to generate $10.15 billion by 2030, according to a report published by research firm Allied Market Research.

According to the report, the growth of the middle-class population, increase in the number of professional and amateur female golfers, and rise in the trend of golf tourism have driven the growth of the global golf equipment market.

The golf industry is growing, with the sport attracting even more new players in recent years.

A total of 37.5 million Americans ages 6 and older played golf both on-course and off-course in 2021, according to data from the National Golf Foundation. That includes a record 3.2 million people who played on a golf course for the first time in 2021.

“The industry has had eight straight years with more than 2 million beginners, with the past two topping 3 million,” according to the National Golf Foundation. “Prior to the pandemic-boosted totals of 2020 and 2021, the previous recorded-high of 2.4 million was set in 2000, when Tiger Woods was at the height of his popularity.”

Innovative golf equipment designed and manufactured by leading companies have contributed to the sport’s growing popularity. Many of those companies are in Carlsbad.

“Carlsbad provides so many advantages for a business to hire and retain the best employees and create a work environment conducive to being successful and doing its best work,” Wahl said. “For TaylorMade, Carlsbad has served as a great location for our HQ functions for decades, and we are happy to be part of this thriving and connected community.”

From the local talent to the sunny weather, Carlsbad is the perfect place for golf equipment manufacturers and other companies in the sports innovation and design industry to grow and thrive.