Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a new series by NG Nation contributor Michael Wharton-Palmer, in which Michael will be interviewing several of the key staff members at Nike Golf’s R&D facility The Oven in Fort Worth, Texas. In this first piece, MWP interviews Mike Taylor, Master Model Maker at The Oven’s grind shop. If you have a question you would like to Ask The Oven, you can submit your questions here. BD
MWP: What drew to you Nike Golf?
MT: I was working for Impact Golf Technology in Fort Worth after the disbanding of Hogan Golf, and Nike came to us to start their journey into the world of Golf equipment.
The research and development staff at Impact golf was all based in Fort Worth, so when Nike Golf made the full commitment to producing quality golf equipment, it was a natural progression for Impact Golf to get involved and become Nike Golf.
Nike knew that providing a quality product for headliner Tiger Woods would require the employment of top notch individuals, so Tom Stites, myself and several others moved over to the world of Nike and based all operations in our backyard, so to speak.
The commitment Nike made early on to have a close working relationship with the athletes is what drew us to the project, a value that continues today.
MWP: What are some of your favorite things about working at Nike Golf?
MT: The above-mentioned opportunity to work alongside the athletes to produce a product that they trust and have comfort with.
The opportunity to work from ground level with one of the greatest players of all time — to provide him with the tools to prosper and dominate the world of golf was a dream.
From day one, using a “no corners to be cut” policy, we were entrusted with the job of producing a set of clubs and ball that the greatest player in the world could use.
It was pure customization, to produce the best possible product from the best possible materials for the best player.
The pressure that put upon us was tremendous, but also gave the people involved a buzz that one can only dream of.
The Tiger Blade process was incredible, creating a club from literally the nuts and bolts of development to the finished usable product, with the ultimate accountability to the world number one player…if the product wasn’t good enough it didn’t go in the bag.
We made those early clubs literally by hand, making adjustment to the upmost level of tolerance until it was something Tiger liked to look at and use.
It was a very demanding product for a demanding athlete, but it also served as a template for how we would continue to serve ALL of our athletes in the future.
Those early long days and nights laid the foundation for what Nike Golf has become — a company dedicated to serving the athlete, with hands-on input from the athlete, and craftsman to provide the best equipment possible.
It was the ultimate in teamwork throughout the company — to make Tiger successful, so that Nike product could gain visibility and in return everybody benefits.
It put Nike Golf on the map.
MWP: What do you see for the future of Nike Golf?
MT: Nike is embodied by the philosophy of innovation, and that will continue.
After some thirty years in the business, not all ideas make it to production — some are either financially not viable or not consumer viable, but research and development is never ending here at The Oven.
Working with new material to provide greater performance reliability for the athlete and consumer alike.
We have always believed that if we can innovate for the elite athlete, that innovation will trickle down to help the consumer as well, and so far that’s been true.
The blending of science, craftsmanship and athlete will always drive one to innovate. And that journey continues not only at The Oven, but also at Nike HQ in Portland, whether that is in shoe technology or clothing comfort and performance.
The last 25 years has seen an unprecedented advancement in golf club playability, I just hope to be around to see what comes along in the next 25 years.
The rope is certainly shorter than it used to be in terms of advancement with guidelines for COR, etc., and that just challenges everybody at The Oven to work harder and search deeper for answers.
A fine line to produce more products that draw people to the game and make it more playable, but not to ruin the traditions of the game…it is a delicate balance indeed.
But we are always a single idea away from the next advancement….so watch this space!!!