Callaway Golf Ball R&D Visits PGCCIf golf equipment manufacturers did not have Research and Development departments, it’s very likely that after all the time that has passed since 15th century Scotland introduced us to golf, we would still be playing with hickory-shafted clubs and balls stuffed with feathers. Lucky for us, just as times change, so does technology. To that end, the Callaway Golf Company has been a pioneer in new technology and innovative design since its inception; and through endorsement deals with Arnold Palmer, Phil Mickelson, Annika Sorenstan, among others, they have steadily kept golf a high-profile sport.
Dave Ruth and Paul Guy, two members of Callaway’s 18-person Golf Ball R&D team, swung by PGCC Temecula to show our students a little bit of what they’re working on, and to demonstrate that a thriving career in golf is more than just a dream, it is a reality. The duo, equipped with a PowerPoint presentation and display materials, gave a bit of background on Callaway’s 18-person R&D teams, namely, there’s four of them: Materials, Engineering, Testing and Aerodynamics. Many of us take it for granted but the next time you tear open that sleeve of Callaway golf balls, take a moment to consider that at the very minimum, 18 people slaved for countless hours to ensure that you are going to get the best-possible-performance from out of that little orb.
Ruth joined Callaway equipped with a vast arsenal of knowledge from his years working with plastics and manufacturing, shared “The most important part of my job is always moving Callaway forward,” he continued, “We are never good enough, in the sense that we are always pushing to the next level, trying to develop the next golf ball that has the ‘WOW’ factor, not something that’s just a little bit better.” So what is R&D’s bottom line? Ruth states simply, “We want to make something that nobody has ever seen, the absolute greatest golf ball we can produce.” Ruth feels strongly that this drive is what keeps Callaway ahead of the game. Ruth continued, “In terms of golf balls, what sets us apart is our team. 18 people doesn't sound like a lot but we are a team through-and-through. We work as a unit, and develop as a unit.”
Having industry professionals share their knowledge and passion is a critical part of educating the future leaders in the world of golf, because without it, students may never realize just how close they are to having the career of their dreams. Ruth says, “The best part of my job is that I get to work in the golf industry, which is very cool. I absolutely love playing golf so that’s a big drive for me.” A love of golf seems a rather crucial element to success in this industry, but then again, so is the right education.Speaking to the importance of experience, education and a strong network Ruth concluded that, “Having the foothold with the golf college is going to help you get in the door. To get into my field you would want this degree and an engineering degree, and I think to find someone who has a golf college degree would be high on Callaway’s list of potential hires. This is important, it’s what golf companies look for, and it would benefit you very much.”
Student-Instructors Offer Free Golf LessonsAccording to a Buddhist proverb, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Well, if you’re ready to elevate your golf game and you live anywhere near Temecula, you will find your teacher conveniently appearing every Thursday at The Legends Golf Club.
The Legends Golf Club is the sister site of the Professional Golfers Career College, the nation’s leading two-year accredited golf college. In fact, in order to earn a specialized Associate’s degree in Professional Golf Management, students must complete four courses dedicated solely to the instruction of golf. Every Thursday seniors gather at the Legends Golf Club to put their skills and study into practice, shaping and refining golf swings for their Techniques of Golf Teaching IV class. They, not to mention their students, could not be happier.
Take Glynn Rodgers, for example. A December 2012 golf college graduate, Rodgers taught a diverse group of 4 or 5 students, all of whom had different needs and areas of focus. Rodgers reveals, “My approach to training a new student is to find out where they are and where they want to be. Then I concentrate on the fundamentals. Most importantly, I try to make it fun!”
Rodgers, a recent retiree from the U.S. Navy, got into golf with the help of his dad when he was only four years old. Not long after that he began playing in junior tournaments and eventually his high school golf team. Rodgers shares, “I came to PGCC after retiring from the U.S. Navy...22 years of service. I've been a club-level golfer most of my life. I even worked as an Assistant Golf Professional for a year after graduating from high school... that was a long time ago!!!” Through all the years that have passed since then Glynn maintained a love for the game, and for teaching. Rodgers continues, “I really get a thrill out of seeing someone make a connection with what I'm trying to get them to do. I love the challenge, and I take seriously the trust a person places in me to help them improve.”
The golf swing is a notoriously challenging skill to master, and no two people go about it exactly the same way. Versatility and clear communication are key ingredients to successful progress. To Rodgers, a great instructor is somebody who can see their student’s vision, and be very forthcoming about what kind of work the student will need to put in. According to Rodgers, “A great instructor will really take time to ask questions, find out what the student wants to accomplish, and be honest about what it will take in terms of commitment to practice and instruction.” So what is Rodgers’ number one instruction no-no? “Don't just sell lessons; develop a program that will help your student reach their goals.” This is a lesson he learned from his Techniques of Golf Teaching course at the golf college. Techniques instructor Nick Bland shared some sage advice that really stuck with Rodgers, “Tailor your lessons to the student; there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in golf.”
According to Rodgers, Bland, who is also the Head Golf Professional at The Legends Golf Club, is big on the basics. “Basically, Nick stresses developing rapport with students, managing their expectations, and not using too much technical jargon... just keep it simple.” While keeping it simple can be a tall order in this game, there are definitely students who defy their instructor’s beliefs about how to hit a golf ball. “I currently have a ten year old student who can hit the ball like Happy Gilmore, with great hand-eye coordination. It cracks me and others up to watch!”
If you're interested in taking free golf lessons every Thursday, contact The Legends Golf Club at 951-694-9998 to reserve your spot today!
Faculty Spotlight on Clyde JohnstonClyde Johnston’s pedigree in golf is extensive; after all, not everybody can say that their father helped launch the career of one of the greatest golfers the game has ever seen. Before his father, C.B. “Johnny” Johnston, became a PGA professional, he was the first golf coach at Wake Forest College (WFC). Johnny left in the middle of his college career at WFC to serve his country in the Air Force during WWII. After he returned, he assumed the role of golf coach during his senior year, and when he graduated in 1947, he stayed on as coach and Assistant Athletic Director.
Perhaps the only person in history to successfully convince a football coach to give up one of his scholarships, Johnny began recruiting good golfers to WFC. His search led him to Buddy Worsham, whom he selected to receive the scholarship. Worsham accepted on the condition that WFC give his best friend a scholarship, too. If Worsham’s best friend was anybody else, this would be a rather pointless story, but, as luck would have it, Worsham’s best friend was Arnold Palmer.
Johnston recalls a spectacular childhood memory, “One evening when I was about 10 or 11 years old, my Dad told me I needed to be home the next day at a certain time. He was having a guest over and he wanted me to meet him. I arrived at the appointed time to find out the guest was Arnold Palmer, who by that time had already won 2 Masters Tournaments. I think that was the moment I began to love golf.”
Would it be fair to say that without that fateful one-for-one scholarship, the world may have never known Arnold Palmer? We’ll never know. But what we do know is this: Johnny was a PGA pro in the Carolinas Section for about 30 years, and he had a hand in shaping the last century of golf by helping two golf greats get their start: Arnold Palmer, and Johnny’s son, golf course designer Clyde Johnston.
As the Golf Course Design instructor at PGCC Hilton Head, Johnston, a Houston native, has carried on a tradition of golf in his family that started long, long ago. “I basically grew up in golf. My father was a PGA golf professional, so I started playing golf when I was very young.” While Johnston played competitively in junior golf, high school, and even his first year of college, playing golf professionally did not call to him, not the way design did. Johnston shares, “My father dabbled in golf course design. He designed about six courses in his ‘amateur’ design career, and it was through those efforts that I became interested in golf course design.”
The way many sons decide early on that they want to be “just like Dad,” Clyde observed his father at the drafting table and was fascinated. “He had a drafting table in the basement and I would go down and watch what he was doing. He taught me all about topography, reading maps, drawing, and golf course design strategy.” Johnston continues, “One night when I was about 13 years old, he was working on a layout and he looked up at me and said ‘You know, you can make a living designing golf courses.’ My jaw dropped – it had never occurred to me but I was immediately smitten with the idea and decided on the spot that was what I wanted to do in life.” And that was it; Johnny called around to some architects he knew and inquired about what a young person would need to do and study to get into golf course design. The results were basically unanimous: work on golf course maintenance crews, get some construction experience, and get a degree in Landscape Architecture.
Johnston began working in the golf design industry in 1973 as a summer intern for golf course architect Willard Byrd out of Atlanta, Georgia, and then returned as a full time employee the following year. Along the way, he spent time working with the likes of Gary Player and Ron Kirby, but eventually returned to Mr. Byrd’s office after a few years. “This is my 40th year in the golf course design business. I formed my own company in March of 1987 to provide golf course design services in the Southeastern United States. In total I’ve worked on over 120 golf course designs (new designs and renovations) with my own firm and working for other golf course architects.” He earned his Bachelor Degree in Environmental Design and Landscape Architecture and, in his words, “The rest of what I know about golf course design, I attribute to my father’s teaching, apprenticing for Willard Byrd for 13 years, and my own research and studies on golf course design.”
Still after so many years, he’s not tired of any of it. Johnston, who was President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA) from 2003-2004, is celebrating his 40th year in the design industry, and 4th year as a Golf Course Design instructor at PGCC. After joining PGCC in the spring of 2009, he’s had his share of gratifying moments. One stands out in particular: “My proudest moment as an instructor was when a student told me that after taking my class, he looks at golf holes when he’s playing golf in an entirely different manner in that he understands more about golf course design.”
After 40 years, he’s picked up a thing or two about the design business and, while he’s very proud of the work he’s done, Johnston is quick to share the accolades. “It takes more than one person to make a golf course successful,” he says. “You have to have good land, a great client, a good builder, a good budget and finally a good golf course superintendent with a good operations budget.” Johnston continues, “I’m proud of all of my projects and designs so it’s hard to pick one that I’m most proud of. It’s almost like they are my children and it would not be fair to favor one over another. Although I have designed a few difficult golf courses, I prefer to design courses that are fun to play and are visually attractive. It’s quite a challenge to design and build a new golf course, so it’s very rewarding to see the finished product turn out well. And of course, it takes a team of capable people to get it all done.”
Clearly he’s got a lot of work to be proud of, but what about his golf game? A scratch-player, Johnston still has his eye on the future. “I’ve won some local competitions in my life but my proudest moment will be in the future when I make my first hole-in-one.”
Photos courtesy of Warren Grant