Over the weekend, while most of the golf world was returning home from the PGA Merchandise Show in Florida, PutterZone.com had the unique opportunity to roam the Carlsbad, California headquarters of TaylorMade Golf and visit the workshop of Kia Ma, the company’s lead putter designer.
The TaylorMade Golf facility is tucked into the rugged coastal foothills of northern San Diego County, a gleaming, glassy edifice flanked by stately palm trees. The lobby is capacious and impressive, with museum-like displays of the latest TaylorMade gear.
Once inside the heart of the building, you travel through several windowless corridors until you are unexpectedly spit into a cavernous warehouse that is literally jammed with equipment workstations, with row after row of golf shafts ascending into a visual infinity (sorry, no photos allowed).
Off to one side of the warehouse is Kia Ma’s lair, a glass-enclosed area about half the size of a standard residential home. The room is abuzz with activity, with Kia Ma leading the way in a dark blue shop coat. Every horizontal surface is seemingly covered in putter heads, some finished to perfection, others raw from the mill.
Kia Ma maintains a sunny demeanor amid the irritating glare of the flourescent lights (a necessity in the detail business) and white noise of the workshop. He grabs a raw head and ducks into another small glass-encased room, where he begins grinding it into its final shape amid a shower of sparks.
Nearby, dozens of raw putter heads are sprawled along a padded table, a motley crew of various shapes and materials. Some of the heads are new, some have been hanging around for years. They are ideas, concepts, inspirations, castoffs and everything in between. You never know when they might come in handy, which is why they still hang around.
The professional golf season is heating up, and you can sense it here in this workshop. The race is on to keep pace with the custom order requests. One of the finished products is a gorgeous custom putter for Mike Weir, crafted to his precise requests, from weight to loft, lie to hosel, material to balance, face to finish.
Most of us mortals are lucky enough to find someone who can competently adjust our lie angle. Not the professionals. This place is their dream factory. This is where the next PGA tournament’s putters are made, right down to the last detail. This is the belly of the beast.
P.S. See more photos of the TaylorMade tour on PutterZone.com’s Facebook page, and stay tuned for another story that delves into the company’s putter fitting experience.