Tom Crow, a pioneer in the equipment industry who founded Cobra Golf and its innovative Baffler utility club, has died. He was 88.
Crow, an Australian who was an accomplished amateur in the country, started Cobra Golf in 1973 and two years later introduced the Baffler.
“Tom Crow’s impact on the game will always be remembered, especially within the walls of our Cobra Golf headquarters,” Bob Philion, president of Puma North America and Cobra Puma Golf, said in a statement. “He was an incredible talent and innovator, founding Cobra and transforming it into one of the most recognizable equipment brands in golf.
“I remember sitting down with him after we purchased Cobra in 2010, and he was still so passionate about the brand, and always pushing innovation to make a better golf club. He was truly the original King Cobra. And his impact goes well beyond his creations, he was a great man, a family man and someone who will truly be missed.”
The idea for the Baffler ,featuring a sole plate with rails, came from his watching catamarans skim across waves in Sydney Harbor. He applied the concept to his golf club, allowing it to resist digging. It largely is still a fundamental part of Cobra’s fairway woods and hybrids today, as Mike Yagley, vice president of innovation at Cobra, noted.
“Mr. Crow was very passionate about Cobra and still involved by sharing his product insights as recently as 2016,” Yagley said in a statement. “His passion for Cobra and the people who worked here was evident in his regular calls to R and D engineers and sharing how and why he developed classic Cobra clubs such as the Long Tom Driver, King Cobra Oversized irons and one of his biggest innovations, the Baffler rail technology, which is still used on Cobra products today.
“I still have his voice mail cussing me out when we took the rails off of one of our hybrids. He wasn’t happy, and that is an understatement. He was right. We put them back on.”
The King Cobra Oversized irons transformed the industry with their stronger lofts that allowed amateur players to increase the distances they hit their irons.
Greg Norman, who invested $2 million to join Cobra Golf as a partner in 1991, paid homage to Crow on his Instagram account:
“Deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my old friend and @cobragolf founder Tom Crow. Tom was a true innovator and pioneer in golf club design and I am proud to be Cobra’s long-standing partner since 1991. He challenged me always to understand and build a better golf club. RIP my dear friend I will miss you and the golf industry now has a void.”
Norman's investment netted him $44 million, he once said.
Crow was a skilled enough player to test the equipment he would eventually design. He won the Australian Amateur Championship in 1981, the crowning achievement of an amateur career that included 20 club championships, including those at Royal Melbourne where he set the West Course record with a 63.
Crow had been in declining health in recent years, according to Australian Golf Digest.