At least nine people, including four firefighters, were killed in a fire that destroyed a factory that manufactured golf balls for Launch Technologies, Inc, a leading global supplier, in Taipei, Taiwan, last Friday.
The cause of the fire reportedly remains unknown.
It is expected to have an impact on several companies, among them Callaway, TaylorMade, Bridgestone, Mizuno and Wilson, all of whom were listed on Launch Technologies’ annual report from 2021, the Associated Press reported.
Callaway Golf issued this statement: “We are aware of the fire that occurred on Friday at the Pingtung City golf ball factory and are working directly with Launch Technologies and local authorities to gather more information. Our thoughts are with all the first responders, employees, and families of those who have been affected.”
Dean Klatt, CEO and founder of Seed Golf, a ball manufacturer, said in an email to Golf Digest that there would be “a complete shutdown, overnight, for at least 12 months.
“Whatever LT inventory we OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] have on hand or on the water [being shipped] is all we’ll have for quite a while,” Klatt said. “Moving manufacture is not easy in this case. Tooling (i.e. dimple patterns) will have most likely been destroyed, so it’s a complete rebuild at a new plant with many unknowns. Dimple tooling is expensive, and that set-up takes time, then there’s the quality control issues to consider once you get to production phase at a new plant. At best, I would say six months to re-establish supply elsewhere.”
According to Klatt, information from Launch Tech is “still sketchy as they don’t really know what exactly happened nor what is going to happen moving forward. Because it was a chemical fire, water couldn’t be used to put it out, which seems to be why it got out of hand so quickly (there’s already been an investigation announced into what happened). 600 jobs at stake, plus a lot of money/orders in the pipeline. I have no idea of the cost to rebuild, but tens of millions I would suspect.”
The Associated Press reported that Launch Technologies shipped 260 million golf balls last year, one-fifth of the global total, and that “80 per cent of its sales are in the US.”
CTV News, meanwhile, reported that Launch Technologies was fined $75,000 on Monday by Taiwan officials and possibly faces criminal charges “for storing 30 times the legal limit of hazardous material and other violations.” The mayor of Pingtung county said at a news conference that Launch Technologies had 3,000 tons of organic peroxides on site, far more than the 100 tons of hazardous material that is permitted.
Main image: Johnson Liu