There are 60 million golfers around the world, and whether they are weekend enthusiasts, skilled amateurs or highly-compensated professionals, they are all looking for ways to improve their game. And, until recently, the only way to improve was to take a lesson.
Callaway Golf came up with a second way: Improve the clubs. Until about 20 years ago, Callaway had mostly operated by designing clubs by trial-and-error. They had plenty of good designers who had insight into what would be a desirable club, but little understanding of how to realize their insights without making prototypes.
So, Callaway became the first in the industry to heavily invest in the engineering side of the business. The company used technology developed in aerospace programs to engineer enhanced quality into its golf clubs. This change not only disrupted the industry, it made the future more predictable for Callaway.
“We started to be able to simulate the performance of the golf club before we built prototypes,” says Alan Hocknell, senior Vice President of research and development. “And we upgraded our design capability with NX CAD. All these things came together to give us a toolbox that we never had before.”
The move to an engineering-centric approach has accelerated the rate of new product introduction and challenged the company to speed up the design process. In the last few years, the lifecycle of a golf club at Callaway has gone from two-to-three years to 10-to-16 months.
To accommodate the need to design, prototype and test products quickly and precisely, Callaway turned to Siemens PLM Software. Designers use NX software for computer-aided design (CAD) to dream up more complex clubs; engineers use NX computer-aided engineering (CAE) to analyze club face thickness; machinists use NX computer-aided machining (CAM) to make push-button prototypes; and they all use Teamcenter to manage the entire process.
“Siemens PLM Software lets us design at a much more precise level, which helps us communicate that precision with our suppliers more accurately,” says Hocknell. “It also allows us to relate our simulation data to the CAD models, our prototyping data and even our test data. And for that, we get a much more accurate and faster process.”
Callaway dedicates a large budget to R&D, so it is no surprise the company has introduced clubs that are lighter to swing, faster on arrival at the ball and make it easier to hit the sweet spot. This engineering-focused approach has sparked an innovation race in the industry.
Callaway has significantly upgraded its clubs by using multiple materials to get an advantage in where the weight is placed in the head of the club. The newest frontier is to allow that weight placement to be adjusted to suit the swing type of any golfer.
To accomplish this, the engineers start with a master model of a golf club and then add features. This allows the designers to enable to load in the industrial design relatively late in the process so they don’t have too many relationships fighting with each other at the same time.
Despite growing complexity, Callaway Golf is prospering as an industry pioneer. Callaway pushes hard in design, prototyping and testing to design right up to the limits of the rules, trying to stretch and optimize what’s allowable in the form of a golf club head.
Callaway golf clubs are known for being easy to hit. Most golfers see that as an advantage: to create distance with straightness and control so you can score better.