What do Hermes and Nike have in common? When it comes to Nike’s golf division, a great deal. Last month I was Nike Golf’s guest at their remarkable R&D facility in Fort Worth, Texas. Not only were my eyes opened as far as golf technology is concerned, I have a whole new appreciation for Nike as a quality-focused brand.
When I arrived in Fort Worth I was generally interested in Nike’s golf operation, the general brand and its business model. I was not, however, expecting the total obsession with excellence demonstrated by everyone I met there.
The craftsmen, and they are craftsman in every sense of the word, are literally some of the best golf club makers in the world. And the Oven, the facility’s nickname, is to me the golf equivalent of a Hermes atelier. There is a total fixation, exhibited by all the staff, akin to a spiritual goal of ideal perfection.
In reality, that makes pretty good sense. On any given day Tiger Woods could stroll in and ask to test the latest putter or driver. In at least one case a PGA pro walked out with a prototype club that had so impressed him that he planned to use it that very week in competition. The Nike staff had to scramble to make sure the club was PGA approved by the time the event began!
I and about 12 other bloggers and journalists, were invited to attend the Crowne Plaza Invitational to see Nike’s athletes in action and then headed off to The Oven to learn about all the work that goes into those pros’ clubs. It was eye opening to say the least and I have a new level of respect for the folks who research, design, test, and hand craft the tools that allow the likes of Tiger Woods, Michelle Wei and the legendary Tom Watson, achieve such amazing feats of sport.
In fact, during the tour, while everyone else was moving on to another area, I was still chatting with the head club maker and actually got to hold Watson’s 8 iron – the set was in a locked display case. That very club had helped him win 5 majors. A special moment to say the least.
The tour itself was a rare opportunity. Typically, the only people allowed inside the Oven are Nike staff and the tour professionals themselves. From testing and design to fabrication and final product, I had an up close and personal view of what actually goes into Nike’s golf clubs. I was a great experience.
If you don’t love golf, this kind of visit will likely make you a convert and if you do, it’s on par, so to speak, with your wedding day.
At least that’s what one guy told me.
Here are some more pictures from OTC’s visit to Nike’s Oven: