Earlier this week, PutterZone.com editor Sean Weir took a tour of the Ely Callaway Performance Center, tucked into the serene foothills of Carlsbad, California, approximately 30 miles north of downtown San Diego.
When Callaway staff professionals want to dial in their new equipment, this is their destination. Here, they fine-tune the drivers, wedges, irons and Odyssey putters they will use in competition.
The facility includes a high-tech swing capture lab, a wide-open driving range and putting room equipped with Science and Motion (SAM) technology, as well as a “build room.” In the words of Odyssey Brand Manager Nathan Strange, “Anything a tour professional wants to get built or tweaked, this is where it happens. This is heaven for them.”
Following is the first part of Sean’s report from inside the Ely Callaway Performance Center, where he met with Odyssey’s Principal Designer, Austie Rollinson, inside the putting lab:
Austie Rollinson has been with Callaway Golf since 1991, and is now known around the hallways as “the designer of all things Odyssey.”
When Phil Mickelson wanted the loft on his putter tweaked earlier this year, he brought the club to Austie. When a new putter design is in the works, Austie is the one who directs its development from the sketch pad to the retail market. His name may not be on the putters, but his hands guide each and every one.
In the Odyssey putting lab, Austie sits down in a sofa chair, sips on a soda and shares insights into the putter design process. He is quick to give credit to others, talking about the team of people who contribute to the creative process and technological development behind Odyssey putters. This discussion naturally leads us to Odyssey’s famed 2-Ball putter, the iconic model that remains a centerpiece of the Odyssey portfolio.
Callaway bought the Odyssey putter brand in 1997, and in 2001 it launched the 2-Ball putter. The 2-Ball, as we now know, wasn’t just another putter. It represented a revolution in putter design and a paradigm shift in the putter market.
“Our forecast was for 30,000 units in the first year,” Austie says. “We ended up selling around 300,000 that year.”
But while the 2-Ball putter may sound like an overnight success, there’s much more to the story. Dave Pelz first patented the concept, and Odyssey acquired the patent. At that point, industrial designer Larry Tang had already been working on the 2-Ball design, and he ultimately tweaked and refined it for six years before the finished product was approved and produced.
“The 2-Ball is really a testament to Larry’s perseverance,” Austie says as he shares copies of some of the early sketches, as well as a framed picture that depicts the six-year design evolution of the original 2-Ball putter. It’s a remarkable visual map of a masterwork in progress.
Whenever his colleagues get impatient about designing the next big thing, Austie says he points to that picture on the wall. “That’s what it takes,” he says.
At one point, I ask if anyone ever asked Larry to “give it up”—after all, six years is a long time for a pet project to endure at any company.
Austie is quick with his reply. “Oh, no!” he says, arching his eyebrows. “You never want to do that.”
By sticking my foot in my mouth, I’ve discovered a truth about Odyssey that is clear in Austie’s visceral reaction to my question. Here, they don’t just talk about the creative process. They live it.
Stay tuned for part two of our insider tour of the Ely Callaway Performance Center, which will delve into some of the latest Odyssey putter designs and technologies.