By Tony Covey
After a one-day news cycle, the most compelling product, or perhaps the most compelling non-product of the 2014 PGA show was relegated to little more than a footnote in the larger story of Hack Golf, and the TaylorMade 3.0 (extra-super innovation) initiative.
I’m talking about the TaylorMade MOAD (Mother of all drivers).
Within the narrow scope of the PGA Show what made the MOAD so exciting wasn’t its potential to change the game of golf, but rather what it represented for the industry as a whole. For the first time in memory a major player in the golf equipment industry chose to include a Concept Club among its displays.
Concept products aren’t exactly new. They’ve been a part of the automotive industry for years. What makes automotive shows so compelling for the general public isn’t necessarily the cars you’ll buy this year, it’s the cars you could buy 5, or 10, or even 20 years from now.
Given the golf industry’s penchant for borrowing ideas from basically anywhere they can, it’s almost unimaginable that it has taken anyone this long to get onboard with the idea of showing off futuristic concept clubs like the MOAD and MOAI (mother of all irons).
Why not feature what could be instead of what already is; especially when what is looks a hell of a lot like what already was?
MOAD Collects Dust
There is no best demonstrated practice when it comes to innovation. Sometimes it happens in an instant – one singularly brilliant idea. Sometimes innovation comes from iteration; a series of baby steps leading to something previously unimagined. And sometimes when someone simply asks “what if”, the innovative answer is so far ahead of its time that it must be put in a box, shoved aside, and left to collect dust until a particular market is ready…or almost ready for it.
Sometimes innovation must wait.
Such is the case of the TaylorMade MOAD.
What if I told you that TaylorMade’s almost impossible dream for a futuristic concept driver was likely significantly older than the driver that’s in your bag right now?
What if I told you that the MOAD prototype displayed at the PGA Show has been sitting in a box somewhere at TaylorMade HQ for upwards of 5 years?
Could the MOAD concept prototype driver really be older than SLDR, and R1, and R11, and R9 too?
There’s no could about it.
While that may sound shocking, within the golf industry new technologies are invented, shelved, and revisited years later all the time. It’s anything but a rare occurrence. The technology that powers the newest club in your bag today was likely dreamed up 5 or 10 years ago. It’s just as possible that nobody thought much of it at the time.
Nearly everything gets at least a 2nd look.
The Priority Designs Era
To understand the origins of MOAD we need to go back more than a decade.
As some of you may already know, from 2001-2009, Priority Designs, a small industrial design consultancy based in Columbus Ohio, played a significant role in the creation of many signature TaylorMade Products.
Priority Designs helped develop TaylorMade’s 300 Series, the R7 (TaylorMade’s first moveable weight design), the indelible R7 SuperQuad, and the less beloved R7 CGB Max.
One could make a compelling argument that TaylorMade would not be where they are today if not for their partnership with Priority Designs.
That relationship ended in 2009, and while Priority Designs wouldn’t tell me precisely when they worked on the MOAD, company Founder, Paul Kolada indicated that it was one of the last projects they worked on for TaylorMade.
I don’t exactly have a beautiful mind, but 2014 minus 2009 is the kind of math I can handle. Allowing for 6 months on either side, we can safely say that TaylorMade’s MOAD has been collecting dust for the last 4-5 years.
Shock and Awe
The original plan for MOAD is exactly what it has proven to be so far. It was imagined as a concept; something to introduce a bit of much needed shock and awe to the golf industry. Mission accomplished, right?
As many innovative ideas do, the inspiration for MOAD began with “What if”.
What if a driver could have moving parts?
What if a driver could have openings and holes?
What if there were no rules?
And, I suppose, What if we totally pretend the USGA doesn’t exist?
From Outlier to Prototype
For the team at Priority Designs, the MOAD Project proved to be what Kolada called a “fun outlier”. He described TaylorMade’s vision for MOAD as forward-thinking, which provided his team a rare opportunity to step well outside of the proverbial box.
A sketch of a self-adjusting driver with moveable wings became a series of fabrications, and ultimately the CNC-milled prototype (consisting of roughly 3 dozen individual pieces) that TaylorMade displayed at the 2014 PGA Show.
Given the almost absurdity of the MOAD design (by conventional standards, I mean), it seems impossible that it could actually work.
When I spoke to a member of team TaylorMade at the PGA show, he indicated that the club was a long way off from being functional, and that the model wasn’t anything you could actually hit a golf ball with.
I asked Priority Designs the same question, and while they weren’t at liberty to provide a direct answer (contractual entanglements and what not), they would tell me that they were tasked with the specific objective of creating a golf club, and that “the raw physics [of MOAD] were demonstrable”.
I can’t be the only one who wants to see that.
A PGA Show Surprise
Members of Priority Design’s team attended the 2014 PGA Show (largely in support of their current work with Nike Golf on the VRS Covert 2.0 line), and while they had no idea the MOAD prototype they created was going to be displayed, they certainly weren’t disappointed when they discovered it had been.
Part of a design consultant’s job is to push boundaries and defy convention. It’s the nature of the business that much of what Priority Designs consider their very best and most innovative work will never to make it to market, which means nobody will ever see it. The MOAD has become one of the happy exceptions.
While TaylorMade is likely handling the evolution of the MOAD project in house, Priority Designs has spent the last few years working with Nike Golf.
They helped bring to life Nike’s Covert, and Covert 2.0 product lines, and while the team members I spoke with were cagey out of necessity (contractual entanglements and whatnot…again), the reasonable inference (based on the continuing relationship) is that Priority Designs will be a substantial contributor to the development of Nike Golf products for 2015 and beyond.
If you believe, as I do, that Priority Design played a significant role in TaylorMade’s rise to the top of the golf industry, it’s worth taking a moment to think about what that could mean for Nike Golf in the coming years.