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May 07, 2022
David Abeles, the CEO of TaylorMade, gave the HBS (Harvard Business School) Alumni Club of San Diego a visit on Tuesday morning to talk about leadership, transformation, and what it takes to transform a company. An avid golfer myself, I immediately rose to the occasion when a close friend & affiliate HBS Alumni Club member shot me an invite. Long story short: I truly believe Taylormade is the #1 brand in the industry after hearing David speak. Oh, and for Harvard Business School events it’s apparently a tradition to wear a jacket (I was the only one without one).
For over ten years I can safely say I did not own a club that wasn’t a Titleist; I strictly played Titleist clubs, wore Titleist apparel, played only ProV1’s and loved every second of it. I was the typical Adam Scott fan who loved the traditional black driver head introduced by the 905R. However, amidst a very competitive race between Titleist and Taylormade, it was easy to identify the official crowning of the victor: When Tiger Woods decided to sign with Taylormade in January of 2018. If you know golf, you know the power of the Big Cat.
In the last year TaylorMade signed Rory (high draw) McIlroy, previous world #1 Dustin Johnson, #3 Jon Rahm, #5 Justin Rose, and #7 Jason Day. In January 2018 David signed Tiger Woods to be apart of the team. His quote on it all? “Tiger and Rory came to us.”
Here are my key takeways:
1. Start with the team, then identify the mission.
2. Form vs. Function
3. Creativity is more important than resources.
Start with the team, then identify the mission.
David began the meeting by explaining how he currently leads the orientation for new Taylormade employees, no matter which position. Furthermore, he introduced his sincere love for the game and explained to us all that his passion lies in golf. It was very easy to see that he meant every word he said.
David went on to explain that he had been hired three different times by Taylormade- telling stories of adversity including: handling “difficult” employees, taking critical risks, and, of course (pun intended), the housing crisis of 2008. **This was also the last year Tiger won a major.
Transform Your Strategy
2. Form vs. Function
This seems to be a commonly used phrase in the golf industry, but David reallly emphasized the concept of “numbers don’t lie”. He painted a very clear picture of the golf industry in that traditionally consumers decisions were influenced based on which professionals played what. David explained that a critical shift in Taylormade’s thinking- moving from following the crowd to listening to the numbers. A combination of both
-A more functional and high performance Thermal Compression Technology
-Numbers don’t lie
“tiger and Rory came to us”
3. Creativity > Resources
Technology within the golf industry is difficult, being that we must respect tradition while trying to grow the game. Some things in golf will never change- but, when do hear about the any of the successful technology some may consider disruptful. Twist Face? Adjustable Club heads?Aeroburner? The Spider Putter?
I’ve always been a fan of innovation- however, I related to David’s mindset of taking calculated risks and the difficulty that comes in convincing those who are afraid of change. In my twenty plus years of golfing, I’ve found that the longer and more that I’m around the game the more I value the concept of tradition- I used to hate tucking in my shirt and taking my hat off inside the clubhouse.
Customizable face, the new “twist Face”, and who can forget the “rocketballz” line. Paired with the timing of things looking down within the industry, it’s remarkable that David decided to push forward amidst the 2008 housing crisis and overall downturn of the golf industry.
May 10, 2022
Learn more about the new executive team at Golf Upgrades and their backgrounds in golf, technology, and marketing.
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