A brief history of Callaway Golf

A brand made famous and popularised by their “Big Bertha” irons, Callaway Golf boasts Annika Sorenstam, Mark Brooks and Phil Mickelson amongst some of its past and present stable of top golfers.

The brand is now recognised as one of the top makers of golf clubs (like the new Callaway Razr Driver shown below) but it all started very differently as this brief history of the company explains.




Callaway Golf came into being in 1983, but its story begins two years before that when an American vineyard owner, Ely Callaway, sold his successful operation for a $9m profit. The American had a keen eye for business opportunities and in 1982, his eye was caught by a set of hickory-shafted golf clubs at a pro shop in Indian Wells, California.


They were made by Hickory Stick USA and for a relatively small sum of $400,000,  Ely Callaway became a partner in the business, alongside three others, though Callaway now owned half the company.

The company wasn’t a huge overnight success, in 1983, Callaway renamed the company to Callaway Hickory Stick USA and moved its base of operations to California. Orders initially remained low enough for Callaway to deliver the clubs in person using his own Cadillac.



The company underwent another move in 1985, relocating to Carlsbad in California, and the company was the first to use emerging computer technology to ensure the flattest surface of a putter. The company by now had a range of equipment for sale including Callaway Edge Irons, Bobby Jones Hickory Stick Woods and Irons, Callaway Persimmon Woods and Billet Putters and Wedges.


In 1988, the company became the Callaway Golf Company and business began to take off, sales totalled $4.8m and a year later came the crucial moment for the company, now wholly owned by Ely Calloway (below).



The S2H2 Stainless Steel Woods were the first “metal woods” the company developed and at a stroke, Callaway’s revenue jumped by over 100% in a single year. At first the drivers gained popularity on the senior tour (where by 1990, they were the most popular driver in use). A women’s set of the S2H2 clubs soon followed and in 1991 the company made arguably its most important move to date.


The development of the Big Bertha Driver (below) was a watershed moment both in the history of the company and in golf. This oversized steel driver was hugely popular both with professionals and amateurs, especially after Mark Brooks won the Greater Greensborough Open using the Big Bertha from the tee. The extra distance and accuracy afforded by the metal club saw golfers switching to the new technology in their droves and slowly woods were disappearing from golfing bags across the world.



The popularity of the Big Bertha saw the company’s sales hit $54.8m by 1991 and more than doubling a year later to $133m. Annika Sorenstam joined the company as a staff professional in 1993 and by 1994, the Big Bertha was the number 1 driver on the USPGA Tour. The company was also launching its first new range of clubs, the Big Bertha Warlord Stainless Steel Woods and Big Bertha Irons which again proved hugely popular. Johnny Miller won the AT&T at Pebble Beach that year using Callaway Clubs.


By 1995, Callaway had a range of drives and clubs available and the company were the number 1 drive on the PGA, Senior PGA, LPGA, Nike and European PGA tours.

In 1996, the company again diversified, setting up the Callaway Golf Ball Company and the company were also now the largest golf company in the world, with worldwide sales of $683.5 million. The company were now starting to release new clubs and irons each year, including the Great Big Bertha Titanium Fairway Woods, as well as Bobby Jones Putters.


In 1997, Callaway acquired Odyssey Sports and began developing a line of Odyssey Putters (one shown below), a range which is still one of the most popular putters used on tour and by amateurs to this day. In 1997, the company also released the Biggest Big Bertha Titanium Driver (290 cc)



Over the next few years, the company continued to release clubs in the Big Bertha Range as well as introducing other clubs including the ERC Forged Titanium Driver in Europe and Asia, as well as the White Hot Putter. In 2001, with his company now the largest golf company in the world, Ely Callaway retired as President and CEO of the company.


Callaway continued to release innovative products after their driving force retired and in 2004, the Big Bertha Titanian 454 Driver became the World’s Longest Driver at the 2004 RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship.

Since then, the company has released a long list of some of the best golf products in the world, including the RAZR line of drivers, fairway woods, irons and hybrids, the Diablo Edge range of clubs, the Legacy series of clubs, X Hot Irons and Callaway Forged Wedges (below).



Callaway are a modern day golfing success story, a company that has helped develop the golf technology of today that allows professionals and amateurs to enjoy the game at a level that was hitherto unavailable.


All Images Courtesy of Callaway Golf

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