A bold CEO: 'There's no other choice'
Since taking over at TaylorMade in 1999, King has insisted on innovation. When competitors were introducing drivers one at a time, King drove to launch in multiples of three or four, whether golfers, retailers or rivals were ready for it (more than 40 drivers in the past decade). And in doing so, he changed golfers expectations--like making one driver perform as if it had a dozen heads. "When we came out with movable-weight technology, people were telling us that nobody wanted it, that they'd be intimidated by it," he said, citing the game-changing r7 quad. "That wasn't the case. We absolutely want to be bold. Honestly, I think there's no other choice."
His latest decision might be his boldest. TaylorMade's new R11 and Burner SuperFast 2.0 drivers have white-matte heads with black clubfaces. The company's current driver lineup will be all-white, a technology where no one else is going but one he believes will improve a golfer's ability to aim. "Our goal is to obsolete black drivers," he says.
Despite the limitations of rulemakers and frankly even those of physics, King remains bullish on technology and says that innovation will accelerate over the next 10 years. "The USGA doesn't control society," he says. True, but it does control golf's society. And like everyone else, it will be watching where King is aiming next.
Discounting the risk
Trump's latest purchases are the former Lowes Island in Washington, D.C. (two courses), Branton Woods in New York's Hudson Valley, Pine Hill near Philadelphia and Shadow Isle in Colts Neck, N.J. He has rebranded them all with the Trump name. His portfolio now includes 13 courses, from Los Angeles to Canouan Island in the Caribbean. He declines to say what he paid, other than suggesting that Branton Woods and Pine Hill were so inexpensive it's "almost embarrassing." He adds that he did not pay bargain-basement prices for either the Lowes Island or Shadow Isle properties.
Trump loves golf--he has a 3.7 Handicap Index--but that's not his only motivation. Along with his regular media appearances, the courses are part of his marketing apparatus, raising his profile among wealthy people who might buy apartments or lease offices in his real-estate developments. "You have to remember these are all small deals compared with a billion-dollar office tower," he says. "They might seem like a big risk, but next to what I do in my main business, they're small."
His newest project is Trump International Golf Links-Scotland, a $1.6 billion effort along the coast of Aberdeen. His plans, which have met resistance from some locals, call for two 18-hole courses, a hotel and 950 "holiday homes" and villas. Even Trump concedes he's taking a risk, given the state of the economy. Yet when he saw the property, he says he couldn't resist. Proclaims the Donald: "I consider myself an artist, and this is the greatest canvas in the world."