Golf club designer Sean Toulon grew up the son of an amateur race car driver, so he’s always been intrigued about how he could incorporate racing theories on weight balance into his innovations.
That’s how his latest Toulon Design putter named “Indianapolis,” which utilizes racing technology, ended up in the hands of PGA Tour golfer Patrick Rodgers, 24, of Avon, Indiana. Rodgers, whose family has a deep racing connection to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, used the high-MOI mallet for the first time in January and pocketed $252,590 after tying for fourth in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course South in San Diego.
Toulon, 57, met Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull at a U.S. Open party that Chip Ganassi hosted in 2008. That led to Toulon meeting with CGR engineers to discuss how they distribute weight and maximize efficiency with downforce materials in race cars.
“In the design of clubs, there’s a key word they use in motorsports a lot, it’s all about balance,” Toulon said. “I just started thinking of the conversations I had with Mike over the years, to try to change the balance of a putter.
“Racing teams go to the ‘nth’ degree to find a gram. I had a desire to get to the edge of where these people are at. How can we get closer to the edge? When you’re at the highest level of sports, whether it’s motor racing or golf, you can’t leave anything out.”
Hull was happy to help out his friend in the search for knowledge.
“Sean is a huge INDYCAR race fan and he was in our building a couple of years ago and spent a lot of time talking to our engineers about composite material, how it’s used, the form and function of it, how it bonds with other materials, which they use in the golf industry,” Hull said. “Sean has been such a leader in the innovation of the golf industry. It’s a lot like we do. We have a lot in common. We hit it off.
“Patrick’s aligned with someone who is a difference maker, who separates himself in the golf industry. In sports, you have to create separation from the pack. We work real hard on that in motor racing. Sean Toulon is a separator and, with the talent Patrick Rodgers has, that’s a great combination.”
Last year, Callaway Golf bought Toulon Design, the company Toulon founded with his two sons, Tony and Joe. Toulon is now a senior vice president at Callaway Golf and general manager at Odyssey Golf.
“If we were going to continue to improve and push the envelope, we had to improve materials,” Toulon said. “Typically in putter design, specifically on our Indianapolis putter, there’s usually just one material or two. We wanted to create a putter that had a very high moment of inertia that’s resistant to twisting.”
Because of this design, Toulon says the ball speed doesn’t degrade as much if the putt isn’t struck true. The center of gravity is moved back, just like on a race car, then as wide as possible on the flange. He uses 6160 aluminum on the face, a light material. The milled 303 stainless steel sole weighs just 190 grams. On top, there’s a bolt on a carbon fiber crown that creates shape and alignment.
“You have to create shape so it’s pleasing to the golfer’s eye,” Toulon said. “You can have the world’s greatest putter, but if you don’t line it up right, it doesn’t do you any good.”
Rodgers, whose late grandfather Jack was a Bettenhausen Motorsports partner with Tony Bettenhausen Jr. through 1999, was introduced to the “Indianapolis” putter during a driver fitting at Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida.
“It’s really cool-looking,” Rodgers said of the putter, which bears the name “Indianapolis” and has an art deco 1920s race car logo. “The back edge is kind of like either a front wing or back wing on a race car. It’s made out of carbon fiber, the same stuff they use on the cars.
“It’s a process of improvement, but having a club make an immediate impact the first week in the bag, it was awesome. How could I not be proud to have a putter with my hometown on it and a race car and something I feel like I can make putts with.”
The Indianapolis putter, which retails for about $400, can be purchased in April at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Club, the course inside and next to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Rodgers’ debut with the Indianapolis produced his fourth top-four finish since becoming a tour regular in 2015.
“Oh my God, my two boys and I were so proud, and then it was about Patrick, he’s such a cool, young guy,” Toulon said. “He’s a wonderful human being. He’s going to do great.”
After the tournament ended, Toulon texted Rodgers, “We’re just happy to be along for the ride and honored to be in your bag.”