Callaway Golf History

By Brendan O'Brien

Ely Callaway, the founder of the Callaway Golf Company, was born in 1919. When he was a teenager, he took up the game of golf, winning four championships at a local country club. Callaway graduated from Emory University and joined the Army, where he became the procurement officer for cotton clothing. After the Army, Callaway became a pioneer in the textile industry before entering the wine industry in the 1970s, starting Callaway Vineyard and Winery in Temecula, Calif.

Wine to Golf

Between 1981 and 1982, Callaway made the transition from the wine making business and into the golf club making industry. Callaway sold his winery to Hiram Walker & Sons for over $14 million, making $9 million in profit. He then became fascinated with hickory shaft clubs in an Indian Wells, Calif., golf store. As a result, the businessman bought a part of the company that made these unusual clubs, Hickory Stick USA, for $400,000.

The Early Days

Callaway changed the name of the company to Callaway Hickory Stick USA, becoming president of the company in 1983. That same year, he relocated company operations to Cathedral City, Calif., where he personally delivered clubs to pro shops in his Cadillac. Two years later, he invited Richard Helmstetter, who runs a billiard cue company, to be a consultant and moved the company to Carlsbad, Calif. By the end of the decade, the company changed its name to Callaway Golf Company and began developing and selling stainless steel woods and putters made with a computer-controlled mill, the first of their kind.


1990 and 1991 were big years for the company. In 1990, Callaway's S2H2 drivers became the No. 1 drivers on the Senior PGA Tour, with Don Bies becoming the first senior player to win with the club. That year marked the first time the company sold women's clubs. A year later, Mark Brooks won twice on the PGA Tour with the newly introduced Big Bertha Driver. For that two-year period, sales went from $21.5 million to $54.8 million.


In 1996, sales climbed to $683.5 million for Callaway, as the company became the biggest golf club manufacturer in the world as it launched the Callaway Golf Ball Company. On the club front, the company began to sell Big Bertha irons, Great Big Bertha Titanium Fairway Woods and Bobby Jones putters. Callaway also enjoyed success on the endorsement front as Annika Sorenstam, a staff professional with the company, won her second consecutive U.S. Women's Open.

Ely Callaway passes away

Ely Callaway retired from his duties as president and CEO at Callaway Golf Company in 2001. Later that year, Callaway passed away from pancreatic cancer. The company's foundation passed $4.8 million in grants made to charitable organizations.

Callaway Continues

Though now without its influential founder, Callaway Golf continues to be a leading golf club manufacturer. The company still provides state of the art clubs in addition to sponsorship deals with LPGA and PGA Tour golfers and events. 

About The Author

Brendan O'Brien is a professional journalist in Milwaukee, Wis. He has worked for several news organizations, newspapers such as the "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" and trade magazines during his 15-year career. He is currently a freelance writer who works for several publications.


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