At every tournament except the Masters, a Darrell representative has access to the 1st tee during the first round. As each player gets ready to start, a surveyor looks into his or her bag and quickly writes down the brands of the various pieces of equipment. Crucial to the entire deal is the confidentiality agreement all Darrell Survey customers must sign. Manufacturers can use Darrell's numbers (for example, 18 players used a particular driver) but are strictly forbidden from releasing the names of players and the equipment they use (i.e., Paul Azinger used a certain driver).
On that same day an early, unofficial draft of the report is faxed to clients. The loose-leaf pages are then sent back to Los Angeles, where the data are tabulated. Over the weekend the totals are confirmed and put into official report form. "We're almost archaic in our method, but it is simplicity in motion," Minkley says. At the Masters, where no one, not even the Darrell Survey, is allowed inside the ropes, Naylor and Minkley use a calorie-burning system of relays between the practice range, putting green and 1st hole, as well as powerful binoculars, to complete the survey. The goal is to be as unobtrusive as possible.
Virginia Darrell handled the books for her husband until his death in 1972, then took his place on the road. In 1974 Naylor, freshly armed with a degree in philosophy, art and religion from San Diego State, joined the traveling circus, which by then included three dogs. " Virginia was the Tour grandmother," recalls Naylor. "Starling with the California swing in January, we stayed on the road for nine months straight. Virginia didn't drink much, but she kept this little bar in the backseat for consoling rabbits who had missed another cut." Naylor says that Virginia was privy to every secret on Tour but went to her grave in 1989 without ever talking out of school.
Virginia sold the company only when she grew tired of the travel. Naylor and Minkley have kept alive the spirit of what was and still is a mom-and-pop operation, and they have prospered as golf has blossomed.
Adams has used Naylor's numbers to build both of his companies. In 1978 he had a good idea, the metal wood, but no cash. A year later, with $30,000 in seed money, he formed Taylor Made and produced a few hundred clubs. What he needed was representation on Tour. In the early '80s more professionals began using individual woods instead of sets, and Adams started to get his clubs into the hands of Tour players. Copies of the weekly Darrell Survey, which identified this trend, were the basis of Taylor Made's first national advertising campaigns.
By the time Adams sold his company to ski conglomerate Salomon in 1984, Taylor Made had established a toehold with the players, and by 1987 it could cite survey numbers to prove that 37% of Tour pros were using Taylor Made drivers.
But perhaps the most far-reaching—and most subtle—influence of the survey is felt at the end of each season. The Tour is understandably picky about which equipment companies are allowed to freely roam the practice ranges, putting greens and locker rooms at tournament sites. Only manufacturers that are mentioned at least once in a particular season's Darrell Survey are given access to the players the following year.
You can't win if you aren't in the game.