My Trip to the Nike Oven

At the end of May I had the opportunity to tour a very unique golf research and development facility in Fort Worth , Texas. I have seen a few R&D departments during my tenure here at THP but nothing could prepare me for the volume of what I was about to encounter. State of the art technology, advanced designs, and brilliant minds all filled this building. My journey took me to Nike Golf’s ‘Oven’.

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The outside of the building is very inconspicuous and to the regular person driving by they would never be the wiser to what was happening behind those walls. Once in the parking lot a small sign says ‘Nike Golf’ and then you know you are about to have the experience of a lifetime. The Oven is made up of two buildings and continues to expand.

Upon entering the main building of the oven I was awe struck by the hallway filled with Nike history. Along one wall they have the heads of every driver, iron, putter, wood, and hybrid they have ever created. It’s truly a site to behold. It is also so amazing to see the evolution of clubs over the years. Seeing the driver heads get bigger and bigger and changing shapes is really quite remarkable. For true equipment junkies and collectors this would be your paradise. Some said it was like being in a museum and I would have to agree.

In the middle of that room are more displays in glass enclosures that show the evolution of Nike shoes, apparel, golf balls, and players. It’s so neat to see how things are today and what they were in the past. The Nike golf employees said many times that much of their knowledge and rapid advancement in the golf industry comes from the tour players and their feedback. They explained that it’s very similar to other sports where the star athletes let them know what works, what doesn’t, and what they would like to see. The R&D team then take that information and create the products we see today. What they do is take what is working for the tour players and make it accessible, functional, and beneficial to the everyday consumer. They know we aren’t touring pros so they make sure to alter the products to best suit our skill levels. So the next time you pick up a Nike golf club or ball you can thank Tiger Woods, Steward Cink, Lucas Glover, Anthony Kim, Michelle Wie, Suzann Petterson, and many more fine Nike athletes for that exceptional piece of equipment in your hands.

After spending quite a bit of time in the main lobby area we moved on to the different labs to learn more about the club building and testing process. We went into one room where they had a massive machine that fires golf balls as driver heads to measure how hot the face is. The USGA has strict rules on how hot a face can be so they use this machine to make sure all their equipment meets that criteria and at the same time gives the club the best performance it can have. The machines that are used to test and create the equipment is just amazing and so high tech. We moved from room to room and it seemed that each room was more interesting and exciting then the next. We got to see how the Method Putter is made and learn how it was created. That was a very long process that took years to develop but all that research paid off because that putter has two majors under it’s belt already in it’s first year, not too shabby.

After completing our tour of the main building we moved onto the smaller building. I wasn’t sure anything could possibly top everything I saw during the first part once again Nike continued to amaze me. This is where putters/putting are analyzed. While we were there a Nike employee, and putter extraordinaire, demonstrated how the new Nike Method putter helps reduce skid creating a more accurate putt. I shot a video while I was there and it shows how they learn this information with the help of camera and computer technology.

As expected there is a complete practice facility so the players can putt, chip, and practice their irons and woods to be sure they have the right equipment for their game. If you have ever seen the Nike Golf commercials then you are familiar with a portion of their practice area. When you are looking straight at The Oven there is the main building directly in front of you and then a smaller building to the right. This building to the right is where the commercials take place. This is also the second building we went into where we were fortunate enough to practice putting with the Method Putter and where I shot the video mentioned above.

I could have personally spent hours in this room because I have always found putting to be a lot of fun to practice. Nike had every version of the Method Putter available for us to try and then they were beyond gracious to award each person in attendance with the Method Putter of their choice at whatever length was best suited for them. When Nike throws an event it is nothing but first class. It was also really neat to have renowned club designer Tom Stites in the room with us and being the relaxed laid back guy that he is he was hanging out working on his game. Those are the moments you want to pinch yourself to make sure you aren’t dreaming.

That ‘pinch me’ feeling was there from the minute we arrived at the Oven all the way trough to the end when we said our goodbyes. This was a truly memorable experience and something I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to do. I simply cannot thank Nike Golf enough for putting this together and treating everyone to a phenomenal trip. There is so much love and passion that goes into each and every Nike product. It is so refreshing to talk to the Nike Golf employees and hear how much they love what they do, how much they love coming to work, and how much they truly love and respect the game of golf. I truly hope that I have the chance to make this trip again.

To see all the pictures I took from The Oven click here. There are over 200 pictures!

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Morgan Babbitt
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