Tom Olsavsky
Vice President of Research & Development
Interview with Matt Ward


Tom Olsavsky joined COBRA Golf in 2013 as Vice President of Research and Development for COBRA Golf. Olsavsky has more than 28 years of diverse R&D experience including serving as the the Senior Director of Product Creation at Taylormade, and as a senior golf club engineer at Titleist, where he was responsible for the research and development of new club programs. Since joining COBRA Golf he has been instrumental in the design, creation, distribution of a number of key product launches across multiple categories including the most recent KING SPEEDZONE family.



You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?

Make improved golf clubs and develop my team to be better every day. The great thing about the game of golf is that it is a constant challenge to get better. It is the same with designing and producing clubs.


You lead the R&D program at Cobra — what separates Cobra equipment from your main competitors?

We strive every day to increase game enjoyment with our products. Golf is an enjoyable sport, and most of us play in for the love of the game. At Cobra Golf, we are thinking and working every day to be more Innovative, to not rest on our laurels or be satisfied with the status quo. We have a long history of Innovation from our founder Tom Crow, to the present day and this continues to inspire us as we look to the future.


What’s the biggest misunderstanding regular golfers have with clubs and what central advice can you offer in assisting them?

Where do I start?  The biggest misconception is that higher handicap players can’t benefit from custom fitting and we often find that they get the most benefit! The second one is usually that everything is maxed out do to regulations. We make the product better every year and when people come to buy in the US, (typically every 5 years for replacement cycles), there are very good gains in performance.



You played the leading role with the most recent development of the KING SPEEDZONE family — what specifically does that clubline provide that was missing from the Cobra line previously?

The KING SPEEDZONE family continues to build on our recent success of the KING franchise. Golfers are usually desiring the same things, distance, accuracy, forgiveness and feel so we know the requirements. The KING SPEEDZONE continues to offer better performance due to improved structures and materials, better sound and feel, more precision for faster speeds and lower center of gravities for optimum trajectories. All these together provide the best performance that we have ever produced at Cobra Golf.


Set make-up has become a recent development with players — incorporating a range of options. What is your counsel to golfers thinking of doing such an approach and what cautions would you offer those doing so?

The players set makeup is critical for performance and tour players have paid attention to this for years. It’s become much more prevalent now due to increased use of fitting and launch monitors at every level of the consumer experience. There has never been more options, both in technologies and number of options, to provide all golfers with the best opportunities to play better and have more fun. 

So there aren’t many cautions, we recommend seeing your local fitter/retailer or demo opportunity. We provide a multitude of tools and training so that they are up to date on our latest products. Many offer some type of return/guarantee policies so there is not much to lose. They are in business to satisfy customer needs so you deserve to play the best you can and have the best gear for your game.


How important is validation of products with Rickie Fowler and Bryson DeChambeau on the PGA Tour and Lexi Thompson on the LPGA circuit?

The validation of products by tour players is well known, we have 3 of the best athletes on tour to help us design and promote Cobra Golf. So we work with them often and it’s a great partnership. We know when they do well, it helps us to have commercial success and we work together as a team on all our products. 



In the last few weeks the USGA and R&A jointly issues a report on the distance issues impacting golf. What was your reaction to their findings?

We work with the USGA & R&A continually on equipment decisions and are in constant communications with them. We have reviewed the distance information that they provided and are still discussing these with them. If there is a problem, we believe there are a number of solutions that don’t require equipment changes. But to be truthful, we are not sure where this will end up so we will keep in touch with them and offer suggestions in the appropriate times once we know more.


If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?

Lost ball and OB penalty should be same as other penalty areas. This simplification of rules was missed and begs for a cleaner solution that doesn’t create confusion and times delays.


What type of feedback loop does Cobra have and what role does it play in your future design efforts?

We use many sources for feedback in the marketplace.  Retailers, fitters, club professionals, tour pros, websites as well as consumers. We have sales reps in the market talking with these people every day so our flow of information is continual and we use this type of information to help us make better products.



The biggest challenges — short and long term — facing Cobra is what and the steps you are taking in dealing with them?

Short term is mostly about getting product for this year and next, to fulfill the continual sales needs for our business as well as some of the global issues affecting our supply of products. Long term is really more about developing people and technologies for the next 5-10 years. These require quite a bit of thought and continual efforts in everything that we do.



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