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It’s a question that most golfers will have thought about in their time. How is a golf ball made? To find out, I paid the TaylorMade golf ball factory in Liberty, South Carolina a visit. It’s fair to say my eyes were opened.

I had never been to a ball plant before, but my visit to the facility in Liberty was incredibly eye opening. I’d often wondered how the ball I was teeing up had actually been made and now I have the answers.

What really stood out to me about the facility was not only the size of it, but the attention to detail and procedures that are in place to ensure the quality is the best it can be.

In this plant, the finishing touches to TaylorMade’s flagship models, the TP5, TP5x and Tour Response are made. That includes applying the cover and all the small paint and print details you’ll see on your box-fresh ball.

TaylorMade ball is printed with a pizza logo.
Golf ball art comes in all shapes and sizes. (Credit: TaylorMade)

This ball plant does roughly 10,000 boxes of balls a day. That translates to around 120,000 TaylorMade golf balls. As you can imagine, that requires a lot of work.

To see how it all comes together, we started at the beginning of the process in the Liberty Mantle Cool Room, also known as the ‘Nursery.’

I was lucky enough to get a tour from Kenny Rhinehart, the Director of Operations at TaylorMade. Here is what he had to say.

What is the first thing that happens to a golf ball at Liberty? 

“The mantle production is done in Asia, and we then receive it here in Liberty and we go through an inspection process. The biggest thing is where we are now, which is the Nursery, which is where we control the humidity and temperature. That’s one of the quality assurances we have at the very start. It’s all about delivering the right temperature and right humidity, which is exactly where we want it to move it into the moulding line.”

How long do the golf balls stay in the Nursery for? 

“We have two perimeters that we go by. One is time and the other is temperature. Typically, a golf ball stays in here for eight-ten hours, to get the temperature where we want it. If you had less balls in there, you can get it to the right temperature quicker, but that depends on the volume of golf balls you have.”

There are three different colours of ball core here, in the time before the cover gets put on. Why? 

“There’s three different products, we have the TP5, TP5x and the Tour Response, and all of those balls have different technologies. So, we don’t want to mess that up as we are moulding, as this is the time in the process where balls could get mixed up and we don’t want that. So, it’s designed in a way that it’s virtually impossible to get wrong.”

We left the Nursery and headed to the urethane moulding line which was incredibly impressive.

TaylorMade Liberty ball plant
TaylorMade balls ready to be painted. (Credit: TaylorMade)

How many balls will this process get through?

“This is the most advanced urethane moulding line in existence in the world. This machine alone can produce 90,000 boxes of balls, all containing a dozen, in a month. That’s just one line!”

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So, how long does it take to create one golf ball? 

“It take about 15 minutes to make a golf ball but that’s not including the time it takes for them to be transported and for the temperature to be just right. But, there’s also a big difference in cast urethane and TPU urethane. Cast urethane is harder to make and it costs more but, it’s worthwhile.”

Why use cast urethane if it’s harder to use? 

“It makes the best ball. But, also with cast urethane, I can get that cover to a point where I can get different spin in a driver, a long iron and a wedge. It provides the best versatility in a golf ball.” 

TaylorMade Liberty ball plant
TaylorMade balls ready for stamping. (Credit: TaylorMade)

What’s happens after these balls are prepped for painting? 

“We’ve done the preparation, readied the surface of the ball and we are now at one of the most critical stages, which is the paint department. This is where we apply the paint to the ball and the finishing touches are put to it. We’ve done everything right up until this point, so it’s now time to finish the ball off and make it ready for the shelves.”

After that, it’s time for stamping, something which TaylorMade takes very seriously, especially when it comes to their Pix range. There’s a machine that grasps the ball and leaves its mark on it and I’ll let Kenny explain how it works.

TaylorMade Liberty ball plant
This is where TaylorMade balls receive branding and their number. (Credit: TaylorMade)

What’s going on here?

“What we are looking at is a highly efficient paint printing machine. This ball is being turned multiple times and stamped, a process which we call clocking. If you look at a Pix ball, all those Pix’s are in the exact same place every single time. That’s where that technology comes into play, as it can turn the ball an exact amount of degrees and stamp it in a way that provides perfect consistency with every ball.”

I can see there is ink plates in there. How does that work when stamping? 

“If I take that Pix diagram and break it down, there’s several different intricate parts that mark it, with several different colours. So, with that print technology, the ball has to go over and pick up the orange ink, before then going to the next station to pick up the black ink. That’s a process that is repeated a lot to give the final result. The ball isn’t getting stamped all at once to produce the Pix pattern, instead it’s getting 16 small stamps, all of which form to create the pattern you eventually see.”

Let’s say you want to change the printing requirements on this machine. How long would that take?

“When we started on the innovation of this equipment seven or eight years ago, it could take up to 18 hours to change that. But now, it’s closer being between an hour and an hour and a half.”

TaylorMade Liberty ball plant
TaylorMade Tour Response balls ready to be boxed up. (Credit: TaylorMade)

And there you have it! Once the golf ball is stamped, it’s ready to go to retail. This is just the final stage of finishing the ball, but it’s crucial that TaylorMade do a good job of it after the long journey the ball has been on, before it even reaches South Carolina.

Once the ball has arrived from Asia the process and quality assurance that goes into the golf ball at TaylorMade is eye opening. The attention to detail is mind blowing, from the stamping, to the temperature and humidity control, all the way through to the print work, this is an incredible operation. 

I can safely say that both the TaylorMade TP5 and TP5x are excellent balls, and there’s no stone left unturned to produce them. You can learn more about them here.

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author headshot

James Tait is bunkered’s Gear Editor. Want to know how the latest Callaway driver, Vokey wedge or Scotty Cameron putter performs? He’s the guy to ask. Better yet, just watch his videos on the bunkered YouTube channel. One of the biggest hitters in the UK, James also competes on the World Long Drive circuit and is a descendent of former Amateur champion Freddie Tait.

Gear Editor

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