Wilson Golf History

By Nick Heidelberger

Gary Woodland Wilson Golf Brand
Wilson develops, produces and distributes sporting good equipment worldwide. The company, which began in 1914, is based in Chicago and sells various products in more than 100 countries. It has three divisions: racquet sports, team sports and golf. The golf division has 560 employees and touts the likes of Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer and Padraig Harrington as professional golfers who have played with and endorsed Wilson golf equipment.

Gene Sarazen

In 1922, Gene Sarazen and Wilson Golf began a relationship that spanned seven decades. The seven-time major champion became the first member of the Wilson Advisory Staff. in 1933, Sarazen came up with a new club with a pronounced sole for use exclusively in sand. Wilson took the idea and created the first sand wedge, selling 50,000 units that year.

Woman's Golf

In 1940, before winning all the women's major tournaments, Patty Berg was invited to join the Wilson Advisory Staff. In 1948, Lawrence Icely, the president of the company, gave money to Berg and "Babe" Didrickson Zaharias so the two legendary women's players could start a professional ladies golf tour. It would become the LPGA.

In her career, Berg won 80 tournaments and was a leading ambassador for the game and the company.

1970 to 1990

Wilson Sporting Goods was purchased in 1970 by PepsiCo. Wilson Golf went on to build Staff Dyna-Power, Fluid Feel and FG Series irons. For the next 20 years, the company became a powerhouse golf supply manufacturer as Wilson Staff irons were used and endorsed on the PGA Tour. The company also introduced the Staff persimmon woods, a popular product. During this two-decade period, Wilson also developed and marketed the Ultra, a tremendously popular golf ball. The 80s ended with the company being sold to the Amer Group Ltd. of Helsinki, Finland.

Nanotechnology

During the next 20 years, the company introduced several lines of irons and woods to the international market, including the Staff RM midsize iron, Wilson Fat Shaft irons, Ci6 irons and the Gene Sarazen "R-90" wedge. In 2004, Wilson became the first golf club manufacturer to use nanotechnology, a technology based on the ability to measure to a nanometer, one billionth of a meter.

Rebranding

Wilson Staff has seen numerous changes since the 1990s. Wilson made the choice to appeal directly to department stores, notably Walmart, in an effort to make their products more widely available. Unfortunately, this led to a backlash from some parts of the golf world, sparking a low point for the company.

This decline saw a loss in the visibility of Wilson clubs and balls on the biggest golf tours. Subsequently, Wilson has sought to "prove" its credibility by getting back to its roots as a premier golf manufacturer. This has yielded results, with Wilson Staff adding talented young golfers and numerous titles, including a few majors, to its trophy case since the early 2000s.

Wilson D9 and Launch Pad Drivers

The current line of Wilson drivers includes the D9 and Launch Pad drivers, each with models for both men and women.

Wilson targeted maximum distance and forgiveness with the D9 driver. Using artificial intelligence, Wilson created a larger sweet spot that extends from the center of the clubface towards the heel and toe. Increased ball speed on strikes in those areas results in increased distance on more drives.

While the D9 driver aims to maximize distance, the Launch Pad is a draw-biased driver intended to address a different issue many golfers face: the slice. The Launch Pad driver is slightly offset, which assists with getting the clubface closer to square at impact. That results in shots that start on, or closer to, the intended line with reduced slice spin. The super-game-improvement Launch Pad driver features 13 grams of weight in the heel, which also helps eradicate that pesky slice. Finally, Wilson gave the Launch Pad a more upright lie angle to combat the slice.

Checking in at 272 grams, the Launch Pad driver is one of the lightest drivers available. The lightweight design translates to effortless clubbed speed and greater distance.

Players who battle a slice, desire more club-head speed, or both, should gravitate to the Launch Pad driver, which is specifically designed to address those issues. Golfers with a confident driver swing who are looking to maximize distance and swing hard without fear of missing the center of the clubface are best fit for the D9 driver.

Wilson Irons

From the super-game-improvement Launch Pad irons to the Staff Model Blades, Wilson’s irons run the gamut of iron categories, truly offering something for everybody.

Both the Staff Model Blades and Staff Model CB (cavity back) irons are designed by Wilson to suit the needs of Wilson’s Tour Staff players. The forged Staff Blades are a precision milled work of art, built to offer the control that separates top players from their competition.

The Staff Model CB irons offer control and an added emphasis on workability and forgiveness, still doing so in a visually appealing package. The CB irons include 20 grams of weight in the toe of the long and mid-irons to lower the center of gravity and proved added stability in the head. Both iron sets are appropriate for better, low-handicap players.

For those in search of a game-improvement iron, Wilson offers the D9 and Launch Pad irons. The D9 irons, like the D9 driver, include an enlarged sweet spot to provide greater ball speed on shots struck across the face. Typical of a game-improvement iron, the D9 also offers a low center of gravity — the lowest ever in a Wilson iron — for easy launch and steeper descent.

The Launch Pad irons, which fall into the super-game-improvement category, feature an enlarged sole, designed for smooth turf interaction. The sole is designed to glide through the turf with ease, as opposed to digging into it. This should help eliminate fat shots and transfer more energy into the ball, providing more distance. Established players may be turned off by the wide sole, but those in need of the performance benefits will appreciate the extra help.

Other Wilson Golf Clubs

While the Wilson Staff lineup competes with the other major Original Equipment Manufacturers, Wilson removes the “Staff” badge on complete sets for men, women, teens, and kids that range from under $200 to $700.

Wilson Golf Balls

In 1954, Wilson developed and sold the Wilson Staff golf ball, the first ball that emphasized power. The ball was touted as jumping off the face of the club at impact 40 percent quicker than the speed of the club. The ball became a favorite on the tour, with many players using it to win majors over the years.

The tour-caliber Staff Model and Staff Model R balls are both 4-piece balls providing benefits for top-level players. The Staff Model boasts high spin with irons and a soft feel, giving players the freedom to shape shots any way they can imagine. The Staff Model R, meanwhile, includes an unpainted cover. Wilson claims that leaving the ball unpainted results in a perfectly even surface, promoting the straightest possible flight.

For those who don’t need a premium, shapable ball, Wilson offers the two-piece Duo Soft+ and Duo Optix models. The Optix line comes in five bright colors, while the Soft+ is designed to feel great and fly straight. In Wilson’s testing performed in April of 2019, the Duo Soft+ had the lowest compression of all soft golf balls on the market.

For those on the value golf ball market, Wilson offers the Zip, 50 Elite, and Tour Velocity models, which each check in at $15 per dozen or less.

About the Author

Nick Heidelberger is the Editor of GolfLink. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been an avid golfer for more than 10 years. In the years prior to joining GolfLink, he worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America.