Among all sports, golf has the most consistently evolving technology. Every year there are lighter irons; softer, more forgiving putters; futuristic hybrid clubs; and the "softest wedges you'll ever hit" until newer, softer ones pop hit the market in six months. As as product industry, golf is all about re-designing the future to convince the amateur golfer that they need that a new club in their hands right now.
Few companies have done this better in the past 10 years than Nike, which has used their all-encompassing endorsement with Tiger Woods to push a golf product that, before him, barely existed. Tiger wears Nike Dri-Fit shirts, hits Nike balls, and, like one of those mythological heroes who has custom-made swords sent to him by the gods, he swings a club made just for him.
But where does all the stuff come from? As the NBC DFW video at left shows, the answers are in a small, unassuming little factory in Ft. Worth, Texas. The designers are less the intense Swedish alchemists you might assume (or maybe we've seen too many IBM commercials during the U.S. Open this weekend) and more like the neighbors in your home town.
Their finished products are a result of computer design, machine tool work, and three-ring binders full of analysis. The result? Irons that look like Transformers and putters have obscure patterns across their faces. Asked to explain details of the technology, the designers just laugh.
And why shouldn't they? Jobs are all about sense of accomplishment, and being able to go home and say "I built a new iron for Tiger Woods today," has to feel pretty good.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.