By Ryan Asselta
On a recent trip to San Diego I was able to take in some of the SoCal golf sights. Tiger at Torrey Pines, Aviara Golf Club (home of the LPGA’s Kia Classic), and the TaylorMade Kingdom where PGA Tour pros were visiting to get properly fitted for TaylorMade’s new SIM metal woods.
The name itself is almost mystical—the Kingdom comprises a 22-acre plot of land that the company calls “an immersive true golf sanctuary” set on TaylorMade’s Carlsbad campus.
The moment you walk into the Kingdom’s clubhouse, you realize this is not your average club fitting experience. On the left is the locker room complete with nameplates like Woods, McIlroy, Day, and Johnson, among others. Staff bags from that quartet also sit atop the row of lockers—another tour pro once asked, “How do I get my bag up there?” The answer: Win a major.
Upon leaving the locker room we’re greeted by Tom Kroll, Director of the Kingdom. When it comes to helping tour pros with their tinkering, this is THE guy.
Tom first takes us through the Kingdom’s state-of-the-art putting lab where he and his team generate as real world of a putting experience as they possibly can. That includes manipulating the lighting to create or remove shadows over a player’s putt, as well as using 3-D motion capture sensors and a high-speed launch monitor. Kroll can also create slope and generate putts that are uphill or downhill and breaking either direction.
“Our putting green is a pool table on actuators,” describes Kroll.
The putting lab spills out to a turf-lined hitting bay outfitted with every current TaylorMade club imaginable. Tom has the garage door lifted revealing a sea of green—the Kingdom’s driving range. We’re greeted with the sound of a perfectly struck golf ball produced by visiting PGA Tour pro Hudson Swafford, who happens to be an equipment “free agent” and has come to see if TaylorMade would be the right fit—currently four of the top six players in the world play TaylorMade metal woods.
While Swafford resembles a robot hammering golf balls perfectly down the range, TaylorMade actually has their very own swing robot on staff. The robot resides in the Benoit Vincent Performance Testing Laboratory where an array of clubs and balls are put through the ringer to ensure optimum performance when they’re in the hands of real-life golfers.
Strolling across the range, Kroll points out a secluded tee box on the south side of the property. The area is called “The Flick Tee” in honor of legendary instructor Jim Flick, who taught more than 200 professionals before passing away in 2012 at the age of 82.
Story has it, the year of Flick’s passing a storm knocked down a portion of a giant eucalyptus tree near the tee box. Kroll had the piece of wood trimmed up, sealed, and carved to memorialize the man he calls the greatest golf teacher that’s ever lived.
The Kingdom is even complete with its own 19th hole of sorts—a deck occupied by chairs and umbrellas overlooking the range, creating the perfect spot to wrap up your visit.
Sitting in one of the lounge chairs, an enchanting feeling took over my thoughts. To be able to test out innovative golf equipment, watch tour pros hit balls, and grab a coffee in Tiger and Rory’s locker room, all while in the teaching home of a legendary instructor, only one word can be used to describe the Kingdom…Magical.