Sean Toulon of Toulon Design


Retiring last July after 16 years with TaylorMade Golf, his most recent position being Executive Vice President of Product Creation, Sean Toulon says he gave retirement six whole days and then knew it wasn’t for him. Discussions with his sons resulted in the formation of Toulon Design a company that will make premium-priced milled putters.
Priced starting at $400 they may not be for everybody but Toulon’s designs each have a pleasing esthetic feel and undeniable craftsmanship.
We had the opportunity to ask Toulon some questions to find out his thoughts and philosophy about the hypercompetitive business he has entered.

ET: Toulon Design putters are at the premium end of the putter market. Why did you choose this as an entry point?
Toulon: When we decided to start a putter company we studied the market very hard. Like many other industries, this market has a lot of competitors. Most are very good. We want to be extraordinary. We obsess over creating the best performance putters in the world. We obsess over creating the most beautiful putters in the world. We decided that to create something special we had to obsess about using the best materials, the best construction techniques and create the greatest experience for the golfer. As you might imagine, that creates a higher price point. But that has never been our concern. Bar raising performance is. We practice what we call Performance Driven Design in everything we do.

ET: Did your experience with Zevo putters effect the decision? (Toulon began putter-maker Zevo in 1992 and sold it in 1996)
Toulon: Yes, in many ways it has. Maybe not as directly as one might expect, but past experience is always something you can draw upon. Zevo was a company involved in creating better performance for the golfer through a set of perfectly fitted clubs. Really about elevating personal performance through a great experience. Those are things that are important today at Toulon Design.

ET: Your sons are working with you in Toulon Design. Was the opportunity to work with them a big reason to start the company?
Toulon: Yes, a huge part of it – actually it was really their idea. Now all three of the boys are involved – Tony and Joe run the Marketing of the brand and are here full time. My youngest son Preston, works in the Arizona Diamondback organization but will be writing for us and managing our Toulon Design Digest newsletter. And BJ Taylor is running the operations of the company is like a fourth son – he’s been a friend of the boys and our family since grade school. It’s awesome to see them work and hear their thoughts. They have very different perspectives than I do and I think it’s fascinating to hear and implement things that I wouldn’t have seen or thought of.Toulon_500x250

ET: One readily apparent feature separating Toulon Design putters is the milled pattern on the face. Why was that design was settled on?
Toulon: To re-invent the performance of the putter we wanted to change the relationship of the way a putter sounds and feels in conjunction with how it rolls the ball. We wanted to make sure that what the golfer felt and heard at impact better matched up with the actual speed and the roll of the ball. Most putters in the marketplace don’t do this very well.
We wanted our putter to feel a little softer and roll the ball better – settling into a nice controlled over spin and a tighter roll quicker. So we started looking at the face of the putter because that is where the collision of impact and ball occurs. We tested over 25 various mill patterns. About halfway through the process we became inspired by car tires and how the tread pattern channels water to create better traction. That changed the world to us. We knew that in order to make the putter feel softer to the golfer we had to make it sound more quiet. So we had to figure out a way to reduce the contact patch of the ball to the club face in a way to channel sound and improve the grip so we could improve the roll. Sound reacts the same way as water. So we started designing patterns that were heavily inspired by tire design. The one we ended with produces everything we wanted – and golfers absolutely love it.

ET: The model lineup includes four blade-style heads and one face-balanced mallet, the Memphis, but all have the option of changing the sole plate to make the head heavier and adding a counterbalanced shaft. Have you made this an option because you see it as a way to help players effected by the USGA banning anchored putting stroke?
Toulon: Yes that’s part of it – we believe that counterbalancing is an excellent alternative to anchoring as it helps a golfer release the putter head more aggressively. The more you add weight to the head and to the grip end of the club the more aggressively the putter wants to pass your hands. Also, having the ability to readily change the weight as dramatically as you can with a Toulon Design putter allows the golfer the ability to change the feel of his putter very easily.

ET: You are using the expensive vacuum brazing technique to join the hosel and head, in effect making two pieces of metal into one. How does this help in creating the performance you want from your putters?
Toulon: Customization is a big part of our Tour strategy. Vacuum Brazing allows us to build a wide variety of designs very quickly for tour players. As you might imagine, when a tour player is looking for a new putter they are like most golfers – they don’t want to wait! It also allows us two additional advantages. First we can build a lot of different designs to test – so it’s a great R&D enabler and finally when we launch our custom program in May, we will be able to offer the ability for any golfer to design and build their own design from our library of offerings – something that is very unique in the industry.

ET: Does it help or hinder customization of putters for special orders?
Toulon: It dramatically helps the ability to customize at a level not really readily available to the golfer today.

ET: Speaking of special, the names of the models, Madison, Rochester, San Diego, San Francisco and Memphis are not the usual names for putters but what is the significance of using city names?
Toulon: We wanted the names to mean something special – and these do – either to us specifically or to golfers around the world as places like Rochester and Memphis have unique (if somewhat less heralded) places in the game.

ET: Toulon putters have burst onto the scene gathering lots of interest. Can you give us an idea of what the future holds?
Toulon: We have been able to gain momentum quickly – and that’s been so much fun to see. The energy around Toulon Design is fantastic. I think it’s a tribute first to our product – we have created a special product that golfers just love. Secondly, the world today moves so fast – social and digital media allows a relevant message to erg tin front of a lot of people very quickly.
We are going to launch on Tour next month, so we are looking to have our first opportunity to have a player win on the PGA Tour soon. Then in April we ship our first products into the Asian market where the anticipation for Toulon Design is also high. We look forward to a great golf season in 2016 and hope that everyone has a chance to play a lot of golf!

Kids Go Golphin


Kids Go Golphin


“Growing the Game.” A fine slogan and more players are needed to keep golf healthy as both a sport and a business but at times even the best slogan can get in the way of what really should be done.

It was natural for Calum McPherson, formerly a scratch handicap himself, to want his own children to play and be able to find the same passion and rewards as he had in golf. However McPherson soon found the clubs available for young beginners had a huge problem. Because they were too heavy children lost their balance especially on the downswing so learning rather than fun became a struggle and frustrating.

Put another way, would you keep playing much less spending time hitting balls on the range if you fell down or almost fell down every swing? Of course not. You would either find another way to swing or another sport. Not only were the current clubs for beginners ages 3 to 12 too heavy but teaching them the proper way to swing was out of the question due to the lack of balance. What was needed were clubs weighting less that children could swing, be in control, get results and have fun.

Enter McPheGolgphin_GrBag_300x385rson and his Scottish brand of entrepreneurship two years ago. Experiments were set up with Strathclyde University to analyze the relationship of the weight of children’s clubs to the biomechanics of the swing and the results gave McPherson what the best club weight should be in relation to the strength of the children.

McPherson designed ultra-lightweight prototypes and kid-testing showed 94 percent of the testers benefited compared to the usual junior clubs so Golphin for kids was born.

Golphin clubs have several important concepts built into them. Clubheads are larger than the usual juniors’ so making contact is less of an issue and the heads have an immense sweet spot with most of the head weight in the sole. Combined with larger than normal grooves and a flexible shaft a young beginner can get the ball in the air and enjoy some success from the start.

After the initial positive reception in the UK and Europe Golphin has come to this country and reception at January’s PGA Merchandise Show was enthusiastic.

Four different size sets are offered on with clubs 22 percent less weight than comparable junior models and a sweet spot that’s 35 percent larger.

For 39 to 43 inch high swingers there’s a kid-sized stand bag with 16 degree driver, 34 degree 7-iron, a “swedger” of 62 degrees and putter priced at $150. Other size sets for players 43 to 47 inches ($160), 47 to 51 ($170) and 51 to 55 inches tall ($180) complete

DV8 “Deviates” From Tradition

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The reaction upon first seeing the DV8 golf clubs was, “Right…a set of clubs in a backpack.”
But it’s true and according to the company the goal is to “Deviate” from traditional thinking about golf clubs to encourage more golf and particularly more travel golf without having to lug around a bag of clubs.
The question everyone asks is how do they do it and that’s simple. First of all there’s a backpack and the standard set includes 10 club heads: a driver, 3-wood, 5-hybrid, 5-iron through sand wedge and putter with a three piece graphite shaft. The key is the shaft which uses stainless steel couplers, one lower to change clubheads and one upper to change shaft length should a second shaft be purchased.DV8_PLAY-250x250
A Play Set is $900 with a shaft and 10 clubheads in the backpack bag and reports are playing with them though different is certainly OK for many circumstances.
There’s also a starter set with a driver and four irons (5, 7 and 9-irons) with the backpack and one shaft for $500 and the Full Monty with 14 clubheads for $1,200.
The DV8 bag also has a compartment for a tablet on the inside of the front flap so users can take a video of their swing or watch instructional videos and even snap the ubiquitous selfie. Plus there’s an added bonus—and this is really an example of inspired thinking—the loaded backpack fits in the airplane overhead bin so your golf clubs become a carryon rather than a hassle.
Finally, according to the company’s testing, clubs with the couplers in the shaft hit the ball essentially the same distance as their shafts without couplers.

PGA Show Attendance Up – Positive Industry Signs

The PGA of America is 100 this year and the recently completed 63rd PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla. at the Orange County Convention Center was the beginning of a centennial celebration by the organization which represents the 28,000 men and women who run golf facilities across the country.
As an industry, golf has been going through some trying times with more people leaving the game than taking it up but the declining numbers participating have not been the only challenge. Compounding the slide in participation has been the 2008 housing crisis-triggered recession. Golf travel, equipment, apparel and indeed every segment of the industry has struggled with the closing of hundreds of golf facilities well-documented in addition to an industry-wide consolidation via bankruptcies, sell outs and mergers.
However, if indications from the PGA Show can be believed, things may be getting better. This is no way an absolute and maybe only a faint glimmer but paraphrasing Winston Churchill, it may not be the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning of the industry’s recovery.
Many exhibitors, in an admittedly nonscientific survey, told this writer they were writing orders at a good rate especially in the accessory and apparel categories and more importantly, the mood on the floor was positive, a marked contrast to recent years when anything but optimism was the norm.
Attendance overall saw an increase of 3 percent from 2015 to over 42,000 industry professionals traveling from 91 countries to Orlando. The number of exhibitors was approximately the same but critically there were 284 new companies, an increase of 40 percent from the number of newbies last year. Show organizers also report more than 7,000 PGA Professionals came to see the latest in golf items and services while earning continuing education credits by attending the many seminars and presentations.
PGA Worldwide Golf Exhibitions Senior Vice President and General Manager Ed Several was quoted, “This was truly a special PGA Merchandise Show, where the golf community was able to mark the Centennial of the PGA of America and celebrate the impact PGA Professionals have had on the game. As is the tradition of the PGA Merchandise Show, the world of golf came together here in Orlando to drive forward the business of the game in a face-to-face environment. In addition to sourcing from a wide spectrum of the newest merchandise, attending PGA Professionals and golf buyers were able to personally experience the most advanced technologies in demo events, personal interaction with the game’s leaders and product designers, a sharing of best practices among colleagues and a full calendar of professional resources to impact their businesses and careers.”
Time will tell whether the golf industry is really experiencing in a turnaround or merely an upward pointing blip in a continuing downward trend.
Images courtesy of the PGA of America