I had the good fortune to be invited on a tour at one of the two Titleist golf ball manufacturing plants the company maintains in the Greater New Bedford, Ma. area recently.
This is where the company churns out over a million (that’s right, one million!) golf balls a day, from its acclaimed Pro V1 and Pro V1x lines to its entry level Pinnacle balls. I was given a fascinating trip around the massive facility by Pat Elliott, the ball plant’s director of quality control, and Rick Veitch, Titleist’s communications editor, who works out of the company’s headquarters in Fairhaven.
What I saw was a squeaky clean, state-of-the-art facility, highly computerized and automated, all fine tuned by hundreds of trained personnel laboring to make the finest golf balls on the market today. It was neat to see the 14-step process that takes slabs of rubber at the start of the line to shiny golf balls at the end, ready to be packaged and shipped to golfers around the world.
The ball plants run three shifts a day and even have employees running the lines some weekends to keep the supply of Titleists and Pinnacles flowing freely.
The company made a major reinvestment in its Massachusetts ball plants during the first decade of the 21st century, once again displaying its commitment to remain long term in the state where it all began back in the 1930’s.
“When we were looking to expand our golf ball operations, we looked around the country,” said Elliott. “But it just made sense for the company to reinvest and expand its operations here, given the physical plants and the talent pool we have and the commitment of our employees. We have a number of associates who have been with the company for two or three decades and one who has been with us 50 years.”
The company’s golf ball plants are a tribute to modern, clean and efficient manufacturing. The various rooms in the plants are well lit, open and highly organized. There is little if any waste in the ball making process and the attention to detail is amazing, with the company running the balls through a number of tests along the assembly line, right down to determining where the staggered wave parting line is on each ball so that the company’s famous Titleist script can be placed in the spot desired by discerning golfers.
“We probably don’t have to worry about where the logo is nowadays because the process is so exact,” said Elliott. “But our customers have come to expect the very best and that’s what we want to continue give them.”
The genesis of Titleist can be traced back to 1910 when Phil Young and a group of three other men formed the Acushnet Process Company in Acushnet, Ma. Over the next 20 years the company built its own custom molded rubber products, making such items as water bottles, bathing caps and other rubber sundries.
Young founded a new Golf Ball Division in 1932 after coming to the conclusion that golf balls of the time were inconsistent and frequently had off-center cores. The first Titleist golf ball was introduced in 1935 and he brand will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year.
American Brands acquired what was then Acushnet Company in 1976 and in 1985 Acushnet acquired shoemaker Foot Joy Inc. of Brockton, Ma. In 1990, the Titleist Golf Division and Foot-Joy were combined to form Titleist and Foot-Joy Worldwide. American Brands purchased Cobra Golf in 1996 and earlier this year sold that company to Puma AG.
Acushnet Company is the largest manufacturer of golf equipment in the world, with slightly more than $1.2 billion in revenue in 2009. The company is number one in market share in golf balls, golf shoes and golf gloves in the on- and off-course channels of distribution.
Titleist has approximately 4,500 associates worldwide, over 2,000 of which are based in the Greater New Bedford area. The company’s worldwide headquarters are located in Fairhaven, Ma., with its eastern U.S. manufacturing, sales and distribution center locations based in Dartmouth, Ma., Fairhaven and New Bedford.