Nikes Oven

By February 6, 2010, 1:16 am
By Scott MacLeod
Flagstick Golf Magazine/GolfWRX.com

When I first laid eyes on Nike Golf's research and development facility (The Oven) in Ft. Worth, Texas, I could only call myself a skeptic. As a one-time retail golf store owner I witnessed Nike's early attempts to enter the golf industry in the late 1980's and early 90's. It amounted to very little product and product quality. Our customers were eager to involve the familiar swoosh logo into their games but the golf shoes did not meet the expectations people had for the corporate giant.

Welcome To
Welcome to The Oven - Photo: Scott MacLeod (Flagstick)
That experience resonated for quite some time, so even when Nike Golf took on the game with a new focus after signing Tiger Woods in 1996, I felt they had a lot to prove. In golf the true testament to the quality of products is in their performance, and no level of marketing can ever change that. Fortunately, Nike Golf realized that early on and made the acquisition of Impact Golf. The evolution of that procurement is what I found when I returned to The Oven last week. That visit, along with my previous foray, helped me vanquish those early Nike Golf experiences and gave me a new level of respect for its golf business.

That Nike, an Oregon-based company, has its golf brain-trust primarily centered in north Texas says a lot about its employees and Nike's appreciation for their experience.

To get into the golf club business Nike acquired Impact Golf Technologies. The core staff of Impact Golf, a free-agent business who came up with more than 120 club designs for a number of companies, had strong ties with the Ben Hogan Company. They, of course, were known for their craftsmanship and high standards as was the vision of Mr. Hogan himself.

Nike respected that pedigree and when the acquisition of Impact was completed they had no trouble giving in to the demand of Impact to stay close to its roots in Ft. Worth. Thus, a nondescript facility next to a public driving range was created off Interstate 30. And with it the true story of Nike Golf's equipment business began.

The Short Game Facility
The short game facility - Photo: Scott MacLeod (Flagstick)
The Oven has become the basis for Nike Golf's rise into the upper echelon of the golf industry. From there, director of product creation Tom Stites and his team have brought to life a myriad of product designs that have not only captured the public imagination, but more than a few major championship trophies along the way. Last year saw Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink use Nike equipment to win the U.S. Open and Open Championship, respectively.

Coincidentally, just three months prior to Glover's victory Nike Golf had made the biggest capital investment in its history with the expansion of The Oven. To the original 23,000 ft. building, driving range, and test facility, it added more than 26,000 ft. of working space and a 3 1/2 acre short game area.

'We added a lot of additional space to help us function here,' The Oven's host, Matt Plumb, told me while we stood in the test center adjacent to the range. 'We added a lot of additional lab space, a lot of new space in the back of the grind shop and in other areas. It's not only for the tour specific product but for developing the master moulds for products we are bringing to retail.'

The short game area is the most visible change at The Oven. In your immediate eye-line as you enter the parking lot is not only a place for fun but where genuine work can be done with athletes. Encompassing three synthetic greens, a natural grass green, three bunkers with varying style and sand content, and a large variety of tees, there are 318 hole combinations.

'Each of the greens have somewhere between 9 and 13 holes of them so there are infinite shots you can play,' Plumb said. The three-hole complex allows their visiting pro and collegiate athletes to test clubs in a real environment where they can hit shots of up to 135 yards. 'We can take a player out there and work on their wedge grind, loft combinations in terms of dialling in their distances, or specifically (the) golf ball as we start to dial that in. We have spent a lot time fitting golf balls there lately as a result of the new groove changes.'

 

The Nike Golf Oven Build Shop
The Nike Golf Oven build shop - Photo: Scott MacLeod (Flagstick)
Plumb says most of their staff athletes have been through the facility since the changes and they have enjoyed the updates. 'Anything that can help our athletes to perform better they really appreciate.' He adds, 'And for them to be able to come here and work with the guys like David Franklin (putters) and Mike Taylor (grinding - wedges, irons) - people who are passionate about golf equipment and how it performs, is just a special situation.'

 

Plumb makes a great point in that they have 22 engineers at Nike Golf's facility but they also have people with hundreds of years of experience in 'crafting' golf equipment - making sure that not only will the clubs work like they are supposed to, but that they also aesthetically pleasing.

Master putter maker David Franklin, the man behind the new Nike Method putters, put it best when he talked about the place where he creates his short game visions.

'The Oven is not a factory that produces golf clubs, it's a place where people who are passionate about golf are trying to create something better every day,' Franklin said. 'We take pride in everything we do. We want to make products that help the golfer but also inspire them to play. It's a fun place to work and we feed off each other. I think it shows in how far we have come.'

Franklin should know - he was part of the original five-man core of people that came to Nike via Impact.

And what effect does The Oven have on the professional and collegiate athletes who get to visit? Paul Casey has been known to hang out in Taylor's grind shop for hours, just to watch him work. And Tiger Woods, who has meticulous standards for his equipment, puts his faith in product created by this small group of craftspeople.

'When athletes visit here they can't be anything but impressed,' says Nike's college amateur golf manager Cricket Musch as he put me through the paces on the Nike range. 'It changes the way they look at Nike Golf and how we make golf equipment when they see the abilities of the people who work here and what they are capable of creating.'

To that list of athletes you can add at least one golf journalist. The sincerity in which Nike Golf is tackling the golf business has shown through in my two visits to The Oven. They've come a long way from leaky golf shoes.

Having the resources to develop product is one thing but outside of the tools and technology, it is clear that Nike Golf's real focus is on the people who make it golf equipment, and in the end, the people who use it.

The impact of The Oven is not lost on anyone familiar with it. Just ask anyone who's made a visit. The average golfer will likely never get that chance but even when they buy that Nike club off the rack, a little bit of the place, and the people within it, become their golfing allies.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.