At Topgolf Callaway Brands, digital transformation has been a key enabler of strategic growth and expansion, laying the foundation for the company’s future.
Ely Callaway Jr. founded the company in 1982, buying Hickory Stick USA golf clubs after that maker started running low on funds.
In 1986, the company released the Big Bertha driver using computer-controlled manufacturing machines. While golf clubs and golf balls remain the company’s beating heart, over the past 40 years its revenue mix has shifted to include apparel and gear. Its acquisition of Topgolf International, completed in March 2021, added technology and tech-enabled entertainment to the mix, pushing the company toward digital transformation.
“The acquisition of Topgolf, I would say, is the final move to get into the digital space as a brand,” says Fabio Casanova, IT global solution advisor and retail solution architect at Topgolf Callaway. “Topgolf is known for its venues, for the locations, but what many people don’t know is that Topgolf have the IP for the Toptracer technology.”
Toptracer is a ball-tracking technology that uses complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors to capture a golf ball in flight. It uses multiple video angles to extrapolate the flight of the ball. The PGA Tour uses the technology to help broadcasters present information to fans about a shot’s rise, speed, arc, and distance. Topgolf driving ranges provide golfers with data about their performance at the range via a mobile app.
“Topgolf is a tech company,” Casanova says. “It’s going to help Callaway transition from a manufacturer, wholesale business to digital.”
Driving digital transformation
Topgolf is just the latest in a string of acquisitions by Callaway, including fashion brand TravisMathew and OGIO International (a maker of golf bags, backpacks, and travel luggage) in 2017, and Jack Wolfskin (an outdoor apparel, footwear, and equipment company) in 2018.
Callaway inherited a lot of legacy systems as a result of the acquisitions, and its current digital transformation journey has been driven by a need to migrate those disparate legacy systems to a single system. Casanova notes that not only does the company want to unify the data across its various brands, his team of eight doesn’t have the various skillsets needed to maintain all those legacy systems.
In 2016, 84% of Callaway’s revenue mix was in golf equipment. By 2021, the mix had shifted to 38% in golf equipment, 38% from Topgolf, and 24% in apparel, gear, and other lines of business. By fiscal 2025, Callaway projects Topgolf will account for 46% of its revenue mix, with golf equipment at 27% and apparel, gear, and other lines of business providing 27% as well.
That ongoing shift is making direct customer engagement increasingly important, which means the company must leverage its organisational data to deliver intelligent, personalised customer experiences to remain competitive. To do that, Callaway is working closely with partners GK Software, a specialist in cloud services for retail, and SAP.
The current push started with a project to streamline point-of-sale (POS) processes for Callaway’s TravisMathew brand. It deployed the SAP Omnichannel Point-of-Sale application by GK, automating workflows and helping make finance and store staff more efficient by providing them with a unified, integrated solution.
“Now you start gathering all this information from a customer perspective,” Casanova says. “Replatforming, data mining, building our data lakes to just clean the data, because back in those days it was so many systems, the data was not consistent. Now we’re having one single point of entry. We migrated 200,000 retail customers from TravisMathew to us.”
Those customers, Casanova explains, were in a kind of “sleep” stage — in the database but not active. When Callaway launched the new PoS application, it also launched a new contact form that would allow it to relate new purchases to existing customers to generate a customer history, with extra loyalty points as an enticement.
“This was really successful,” Casanova says. “It’s been four years now since we launched the loyalty program from TravisMathew and we already have a million subscribers.”
For the IT team, the new PoS application meant they could monitor the system environment for all TravisMathew stores from a single location, enabling them to identify and address maintenance issues quickly. Data could also be shared automatically between the head office and individual stores, streamlining finance processes. Automation eliminated the need for manual data entry, reducing errors and saving time.
That project laid the groundwork for the international expansion of Callaway’s various brands.
“Now, when I have a new country, I have 80% of my process, my system, everything already configured,” Casanova says. “What I do is simply go to the country to see if there’s any digitalisation that I need to adapt, but it’s literally just switching on and off features.”
Since 2020, the company has done six big international rollouts — including replacing all the systems and installing all the stores in a new country — at an average of about three months for each rollout.
“What takes more time is literally the change management and training, rather than the system itself,” Casanova says. “I think the key is having this standardised solution using SAP in GK because it’s literally copy and paste. We add a new company code. The master data is the same. We have the image ready to deploy.”
For now, Callaway still runs everything on-premises on its own infrastructure because the company is not yet ready from a structural standpoint to make the transition to the public cloud.
“You have all these domains, network-wise it’s very difficult to get employees, payroll, everything else — it takes time,” Casanova says.
He and his team have focused on enabling the business from a front-end perspective, but the plan over the coming year is to migrate the back end from its on-prem infrastructure to the public cloud.