Sean Toulon has had a long and illustrious career in the golf industry, including a highly successful 20-year run with TaylorMade.
When he left TaylorMade, Toulon was planning to scale things back a notch and focus primarily on his new venture, a high-end putter company.
But in life, as everyone knows, things don’t always go as planned.
Not long after the well-received launch of Toulon Design, Callaway came calling, and Toulon felt he had no choice but to listen.
“Odyssey has been tremendously successful, the number one brand in putters, but (Callaway) was looking to re-energize the Odyssey brand,” Toulon said. “It all happened pretty fast and after about three months Callaway bought Toulon Design and brought me in to oversee Odyssey. We’re in the process of moving all of our employees over now, and I’m very excited about this opportunity.”
For Toulon, who in addition to being Odyssey’s General Manager is also a Senior Vice President for Callaway Golf, one of the biggest challenges he faces is how to position Odyssey and Toulon Design in the marketplace.
“Really, the biggest hurdle has been to figure out what a $400 putter looks like compared to a $200 putter,” he said.
As that quote might suggest, Toulon Design putters are on the higher end of the market when it comes to their pricetag. And among the reasons is that they are completely milled and use only premium materials, most notably 303 stainless steel.
“You’re going to get a couple of things when you go to that price point, including the 303 stainless steel, which is pretty close to flawless,” Toulon said. “It machines beautifully on the CNC machine and the quality you get is spectacular. It’s also maintenance free and provides great feel. What you also get with a milled putter is more feedback, and a lot of players, especially better players, want feedback.”
Of course, what’s most important at the end of the day is that a putter helps players get the ball in the hole more quickly, which Toulon understands as well as anyone.
“When it comes to putters, performance is number one and then it’s about look, sound, and feel,” he said. “We spend a lot of time on every model, and we really concentrate on performance and how we get a face pattern that gets the forward roll that all of the Tour guys want.”
For Toulon Design putters, the face pattern that’s being utilized to get more forward roll on the ball is a unique Deep Diamond Mill, which was specifically designed to produce friction at impact.
Why is that so important?
“If you take a putter face that doesn’t have any friction or resistance, the ball will ride up the face of the putter and backspin is created,” Toulon explained.“Backspin in putters is bad. Friction is your friend. The Diamond Mill pattern gives us that friction.”
In addition to promoting more forward roll, which will help players improve their speed and distance control, the Toulon Design face pattern has another function as well.
“We also wanted the putters to sound and feel good and the Diamond Mill face pattern takes sound at impact and dissipates it,” Toulon said.
Also consistent when it comes to Toulon Design putters is the crisp, organized look they have from any viewing angle, which is anything but an accident.
“I’m a stickler for having lots of lines on the putter, perpendicular and parallel,” Toulon said. ‘That gives them a clean look and makes it easy to line up. The word we get most often from players about our putters is that ‘they look so clean’ and that’s important to me.”
In terms of styles, Toulon Design putters offer a number of different head and neck designs, as well as varying amounts of toe hang, to meet the stroke type and visual preferences of any player.
Golfers will also notice that each model is named after a city or region, and there’s always a back story that accompanies the name choice.
In traditional blade designs, TGW offers the Austin, the Columbus, the Rochester, the Long Island, the San Diego, and two versions of the Madison, which feature different neck designs. In terms of traditional mallets, Toulon Design has the Memphis and the San Francisco models available.
And then there’s the Indianapolis, which is the first high-MOI, modern mallet that Toulon has ever created, a putter that earned its name based on a shape that was inspired by an Indy race car.
With all of the popular blades in the Toulon lineup it would be easy to believe that the Indianapolis, which has been played on Tour by Branden Grace, Patrick Rodgers, and Michelle Wie, among others, was something of an afterthought.
That, however, is not the case. But its more recent release had a strategic purpose.
“The Indianapolis was actually the first one that we started working on over two years ago,” Toulon said. “But we released some of the blade designs first because they are really hard to get right, and I wanted people to know that these guys are really world-class putter makers.”
Also of note when it comes to Toulon Design putters is that some models are available with a counterbalancing option for players who need help in smoothing out their stroke or more specifically slowing down their hands to allow the putter to release properly.
Those models feature 400-gram head weights as well as heavier grips, but the added weight is implemented in a unique manner.
“We use a changeable sole plate that has tungsten weight to increase the head weight,” Toulon said. “I think it’s a really elegant solution for those players who need (counterbalancing), and we didn’t want to golfer to have to send the putter in.”
As for Toulon personally at this point, 2017 has been a whirlwind, but he couldn’t be much happier about what’s transpired to date, as well as what’s to come.
“We’re getting there,” he said with a laugh, “and the product looks fantastic.”