PICKENS COUNTY — When TaylorMade Plant Manager Scott Austin was originally brought to South Carolina, he had one job: prepare the factory to be moved from Westminster to Taiwan.
Eight years later, TaylorMade’s facility did indeed relocate, but instead of Taiwan, Austin kept things a little closer to home: Pickens County.
“I come from an automotive background but it wasn’t as difficult of a transition as you might think,” said Austin. “It’s all just about doing good business.”
Although business has been good for the golf giant’s Liberty plant, company wide they’ve had their ups and downs. After posting record breaking earning in 2013, TaylorMade, who is owned by Adidas, had a 28 percent slide in the 2014 fiscal year.
As Austin would say: “Oh, balls.”
The 120,000-square-foot plant in Liberty is the company’s North American golf ball production headquarters, turning out as many as 5,000 dozen balls a day.
“And we’re not even running at max capacity,” said Austin. “But this is what we do. We make golf balls.”
And apparently, there’s a lot more into making a golf ball than one might expect.
“It’s a really technical process,” said Austin. “But an easy way to think about it is to picture a golf ball like the Earth.
“You’ve got your core, the mantle and finally a crust. When you strike that ‘crust’ with a club you don’t want it spinning independently from the other layers, it’s got to stay on there,” he explained.
Unlike other companies that attach the layers via a static charge, TaylorMade uses a special epoxy that, once hardened, “isn’t going anywhere.”
According to Austin, the key to any successful manufacturing venture is mixing new technology with established methods.
“Some of our machines are 100 years old,” said Austin. “But it works.”
Other pieces of equipment have been re-purposed from entirely different industries. A woman inspecting golf balls sat at a machine Austin identified as a 1960’s egg sorter.
The plant produces everything from amateur balls to specialty made ones for the pros.
“Right now, our product is being used at every level. We’re on the LPGA, PGA, collegiate and champions tour. The next time you see a top athlete like Jason Day or Sergio Garcia out there, just think, that ball came from Pickens County,” said Austin. “And that’s pretty cool.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.