Manufacturer tour vans are golf's answer to a Formula 1 pit crew: on hand at events to quickly fix, correct, tweak or construct the latest equipment for their representative Tour players.
European and PGA Tour players demand a lot from their equipment, and they are constantly shriving for perfection. Whether they require new clubs, shafts or grips, or perhaps an loft, lie or bounce adjustment on their wedges, they will seek help from the staff within a tour van. Our friends at Nike Golf have a new tour van on the road this season, and they gave us an exclusive look inside.
The 16.5 metre long, 28 ton van is Nike's mobile "testing facility, equipment stock room, meeting space, workshop on wheels and billboard." Every inch of the vehicle is designed to maximise what Nike's Tour technicians and staff can do whilst travelling the European Tour.
Robin Murray, Nike Golf's EMEA sports marketing director told us "Over the past decade we have grown tremendously as a brand and added more athletes to our team. We have extended the workshop area to accommodate two technicians and now have the space and storage on the new truck to carry more stock. We are set up to address the needs of every player on-site whether it is building a whole new set of irons, a general service issue or an emergency."
So whether Rory or Tiger loses his clubs in transit, cracks the face of a driver, needs a new putter or wants more loft on a wedge, Nike's tour technicians, specifically Peter Powell, will sort them out thanks to the new tour van.
So what are the different areas and machines in the tour van and how do they work?
The first and perhaps most crucial piece of equipment that travels on the van is a TrackMan. The ball-tracking, radar system is used on the range and instantly computes dozens of pieces of data for each shot (club speed, attack angle, spin rate, launch angle, carry, dynamic lofts and so on) helping players and technicians understand what tweaks or changes need to be made to a club.
If a player's clubs need tweaking, or have altered over time, Nike's staff will plug them into the Mitchell Loft & Lie Gauge and carefully bend the club to the correct specs. The tour van has two of these machines: one for irons, one for putters.
One of the overlooked, but essential, jobs of the tour van is to create back-ups or replicas of player's equipment in case they need a replacement. The Fujikura Frequency Machine helps in doing exact that. It reads the exact flex and specs of a shaft already installed in a club, allowing the technicians to produce as accurate a back-up as possible.
Perhaps the most used machine in the van is nicknamed the Green Machine. Used since the beginning of Nike's club building days, this machine reads the loft, lie, length, face angle and offset of any club.
Professional golfers swing their clubs at around 120mph and hit a lot of shots in a season, and often their clubs specs can change. The Green Machine will check the specs of their clubs and make sure they are accurate and consistent throughout the set.
The HP Shaft Puller does precisely what it says, pulls the shaft off the club. It is important however that the machine does not break or melt the shaft during separation, in case that shaft needs to be re-used or kept.
The best named machine on board is undoubtedly the Hot Melt Machine. It may sound suited to an ice-cream parlour, but it is in fact the machine that applies 'hot melt' to the inside of Nike's drivers and fairway woods.
Why do they do this? A couple of reason actually. Adding the substance alters the club's swing weight (i.e. how the weight of the club feels during a swing). Secondly, the substance impacts the sound or acoustics of the club. If a player doesn't like the sound or feel of their Nike VRS Covert driver is making at impact, Nike's technicians can reduce or enhance it.
The sink, pump and tank in the van combine to make up the Grip Station. Players may change the grips on their clubs four or five times in a season, and this machine can knock out a full set of irons in 10 minutes, allowing a player to be hitting clubs with their grips 20 minutes after dropping them off in the tour van.
Easily the noisiest area of the van is the Grinder. Used in many variations, the grinder is largely used to prepare the tips of shafts and also grind the heads of players clubs, specifically wedges such as Nike's VR Forged wedge.
Various other machines and tools on board help measure, install, cut, finish and clean equipment. Each machine is strictly calibrated to ensure they are identical in Europe, America and Japan.
Beyond the workshop, the Nike tour van stores hundreds of shafts, grips, headcovers, caps, towels, balls, gloves and other equipment and accessories players may require whilst on Tour.
And in case that wasn't enough, the van has a meeting room/lounge area for players to meet, relax or escape the weather. The van is fully Wi-Fi enabled and features satellite TV, food and drink and even a games console to distract players and staff from the stresses of life on Tour.