Written by: Tony Covey (@GolfSpyT) - Some of you are probably finding yourselves a bit befuddled. Adams…releasing new product? And what interesting new product at that. That can’t be. I thought TaylorMade was going to destroy them.
I know. (not really…but I’m playing along)
Many were absolutely certain that TaylorMade would make quick work of the Adams brand. Either shut it down, or turn Adams into a boxed-set, game-improvement factory. All products suitable for sale at Wal-Mart. Roll back those prices. Either way, Adams’s days as a ‘ real’ golf company were over.
No doubt TaylorMade has, and is facing a series of challenges trying to integrate the Adams brand into the TMaG (or is it TMaGAG now) family. Certainly there are obstacles to sustaining two successful brands without having one crush the other’s toenails. Thing is - all roadblocks are obstacles, but not all obstacles are roadblocks. One way or another they’re going to figure this out.
We’ve heard just about every cynical explanation for why TaylorMade decided to purchase Adams Golf. We’re probably responsible for one or two of them. Maybe they thought they could kill their biggest threat. Maybe, as I heard recently, they bought Adams to make a lawsuit over that SpeedSlot in the RocketBallz go away. Both are plausible.
It’s also completely plausible that TaylorMade looked at the numbers and realized that there’s a metric boatload of money to be made in owning Adams Golf.
$70 million…that’s petty cash.
When you can expand your empire for pennies on the dollar, you do it.
While Adams was always talked about in the context of how big they could be IF they had the money to spend on marketing, it turns out that even without a TaylorMade-sized marketing budget, Adams wasn't just getting by. As a brand, they were Movin’ on Up. I’m talkin’ George Jefferson style.
Momentum: Adams Golf By the Numbers
The team at Adams shared some pretty interesting data with us, and the numbers suggest TaylorMade would do well to put on some steel-toed boots, or at least let Adams be Adams.
- New, All-Time High on Brand Purchase Intent Measure: More golfers are considering Adams products now than ever before.
- Interest in Adams has grown more than any other brand: Up 12% since 2010 – Up 48% since 2006.
- Purchase consideration for Fairway Woods, Iron Sets and Wedges are at all-time highs: Iron set consideration has passed Nike, Cleveland, and Cobra
- Adams remains the clear leader in hybrid iron sets: More that 3-1 advantage over 2nd place. That 2nd place company, it’s TaylorMade. So you know...win-win right there.
Out of all the data we were shown, the numbers that really jumped out at me are the market share statistics for off-course sales of irons.
With a 12.1% cut of the iron market (Golf Datatech) Adams trails only TaylorMade (23.2%), Callaway (17.9%), and PING (15.2%). They’re positioned well ahead of Mizuno (7.8%), Titleist (6.4%), Cobra (4.5%), Nike (3.2%), and Cleveland (2.8%).
And then of course there’s the hybrid thing. Adams is the #1 Hybrid on the PGA Tour. Adams have more hybrids in play than Callaway, Cleveland, Cobra, Nike, and PING…COMBINED.
We all know the PGA Tour is still what sells clubs. Adams sells a lot of hybrids.
Killing off Adams would be, in the words of my 2 year old, silly business. TaylorMade doesn't do silly.
An Intro to Adams Golf 2013
Early this week we received a quartet-sized sampling of new 2013 products from Adams. While I haven’t hit them yet…and while we’re at it…THIS ISN'T A REVIEW, what I can say is this:
They’re Just Super
Thus far all indications are that, moving forward, Adams will be consolidating their lineup under two names. While there are clear similarities between the new Super S and Super LS woods lineup; including velocity slot technology in the drivers (consistency), Cut-Thru sole technology in the fairway woods and hybrids (ball speed), and of course, white crowns across the board (visual acuity/enhancement), looking at the clubs side by side, it’s clear that Adams has two distinct audiences in mind.
The Super S Series
The Super S series is positioned more towards the game-improvement market. Products in the Super S lineup are designed with forgiveness in mind. They feature longer, lighter-weight shafts, larger (or larger-looking) heads, and just so you know what’s what, red Speedine or Super graphics on the crown.
Like similar upcoming drivers from Cobra, Nike, and yes, TaylorMade, the Super S features what Adams calls FastFit technology. It’s an all-lofts-in-a-single-head design that allows for 1° adjustments from 9.5 to 11.5 degrees.
If we’re drawing comparisons to other brands (and we always do), the Adams offering is the most restricted of the multi-loft heads, but that’s probably not a negative. When you consider the target market for the driver, an 8.5° setting is unnecessary; although one could argue that bumping up the maximum loft to something in 13° range might offer some benefit.
Unlike the driver Speedline Super S Fairways and Idea Super S hybrids are not adjustable, though slot technology persists through the entire lineup.
The Super S certainly looks to be one of the larger hybrids on the market today. For guys who like a big-headed hybrid in the mold of the Idea A12 OS, the Super S should fit the bill just fine. To me, it looks as much a small fairway wood as it does hybrid. Honestly, I don’t love it, but I’m the record as being a small hybrid guy, so who cares what I think.
The driver and fairway woods come stock with a Made For Matrix Radix S shaft (50g in the driver, 60g in the fairway). The hybrids come stock with a lightweight-by-hybrid-standards Matrix Kujoh (75g) shafts.
MSRP for the Super S lineup is 349.99 for the driver, $249.99 for the fairway and $199.99 for the hybrids.
Super LS Series
I suspect the majority of equipment snobs (like you…yes you…the guy in the green hat with the soul patch) will be more interested in the Super LS series. The LS Series is clearly designed with better players in mind. The head designs are more compact. They’re engineered to deliver less spin, and just in case there could be any confusion, Adams used a muted gray (not red) as the accent color on all the crowns in the LS series.
It goes without saying that the Speedline LS is the product that’s going to generate the most interest among our readers, so that’s what I’m going to focus on for a couple of minutes. Indulge me, friends. You know I love a good Adams LS story.
While many (including Adams) might argue that last year’s Fast12 LS was the follow-up to the legendary 9064LS, I didn't see it. To my eyes anyway, the Super LS is finally what a true nextgen 9064 is supposed to look like.
While both new drivers are 460ccs, at address they are anything but similar. The Speedline Super LS is being billed as very low spin (compared to the Super S), and it definitely looks the part. When sitting side by side, it appears much smaller, and more compact than the Super S. It’s a deep face lover’s dream…and a very happy dream at that.
While 3 distinct heads (8.5°, 9.5°, and 10.5°) are available, the LS is loft adjustable (1° in either direction in 1/2 degree increments), lie adjustable (upright), and even length adjustable (45” or 45.5”). We heard plenty of complaints about the adjustable 9064LS compared to the glued version. For better or worse, glue is so yesterday at Adams. I say leave it at 45” and just go with it, man.
Super LS Fairways
Unlike the Super S Series, LS model fairways are adjustable (loft/face angle, length, and swing weight…just like the driver). The decision to go adjustable in the LS Fairway is perhaps the most interesting discussion point in the entire Adams 2013 product line.
In speaking with various OEMs, we've been told that, due to the compact head size (compared to a driver), there is a performance cost inherent to using adjustable technology in a fairway wood. It’s the reason why Callaway’s upcoming XHot isn't adjustable, and I suspect it’s also the reason why TaylorMade’s RBZ series fairways aren't adjustable either.
Whether Adams found a way to overcome previous limitations (Cut-Thru Technology or a Titanium face), or from the conspiracy theorists viewpoint; this is TaylorMade’s way of ensuring that an Adams FW won’t outperform the one with their name on it, I can’t say. I’m sure people will be happy to speculate.
Speedline LS Hybrids
Like the traditional woods, visually speaking, the Super LS and Super S Hybrids are worlds apart. While neither is what I’d call compact (think Adams Idea Pro a12), the Super LS is a mid-sized hybrid very much in the footprint of the TaylorMade RocketBallz. By comparison, the Super S is much larger, both from heel to toe and front to back.
Adams is billing the Super LS as their best hybrid to date (I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much).
According to Tim Reed, VP of R&D for Adams Golf, “This hybrid will more than replace the hybrids current in the bag; it will have golfers questioning if they need a fairway wood”.
Clearly I’m ahead of the curve as I've been questioning the need for a fairway wood for years now. I feel like I should have been consulted sooner on this.
I’m being honest, while I don’t notice the crown graphics; I do find the velocity slot in the crown a bit distracting. Of course, should the LS hybrid prove to be all that Adams says it is, I’m sure I’ll grow to love it.
Like what I’m starting to think is nearly every other new wood on the market today, the Speedline LS and Super LS series (including the fairway wood and hybrid) come stock with Mitsubishi Rayon’s Kuro Kage (60g Driver, 70g Fairway, 80g Hybrid) shaft. That thing is seriously in everything this year.
MSRP is $449.99 for the Speedline LS Driver (Ouch) and $349.99 for the Fairway Woods and Hybrids (Ouch again).
The TaylorMade Influence
I’d be completely full of something other than Holiday Cheer if I told you that I didn’t see a clear aesthetic overlap with TaylorMade’s lineup. Straight from the mothership is that matte white crown that’s become part of the TaylorMade identity. Toss in a black PVD face…man, something’s really familiar about all of this.
Even the new Speedline Super crown graphics are more similar than they are distinct from the upcoming R1 and RBZ Stage 2 drivers. Everything about the crown aesthetic feels like a collaborative effort. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Some of the marketing around the Speedline Super lineup…white making the head look larger and thus inspiring confidence, contrasting against the black PVD face to aid alignment…yada, yada, yada…is basically right out of the R11 sales manual.
We've heard it before, and I’m sure the consumer feedback will be the same. If you like the white, or let actual performance dictate your purchases, you’ll probably try the Super Series for yourself and determine whether or not one or the other fits you equipment needs (or wants).
If you don’t like the white, you’ll rant about how no ‘real’ golfer would ever play a white club, and how TaylorMade has completely ruined golf. You might even comment in this thread under a few different names and have a full-on conversation with yourself (yeah…we know about that). And the rest of us will be bored listening to you because we've heard it all before.
What Does it All Mean
It’s fair to say we’re scrutinizing the 2013 Lineup from Adams a bit more than we would if TaylorMade wasn’t involved. For those who wish to speculate further on the future of Adams Golf, I would politely suggest that while we can make inferences based on the Super Series, we don’t have the complete picture…yet.
So far, when looking side by side at what we know about 2013 from TaylorMade and Adams, what I see are two lineups that are, to borrow TaylorMade Golf CEO, Mark King’s word, “complementary”.
With the Super S and LS lineups, Adams appears to have the edges (game-improvement and low handicap or at least low spin) covered. For its part, TaylorMade, despite some assertions to the contrary, in my opinion has succeeded by riding the middle. They haven’t explicitly targeted the best amateur players, nor have they aggressively attacked the Super Game-Improvement Market. They own the middle ground, and that’s where most of us pay our rent.
We've heard that TaylorMade wants to better position itself with the 0-4 handicap market; what I suppose you might call the Titleist Crowd. It’s an interesting play, and one we’ll be in a better position to evaluate once we’ve seen the marketing literature for TaylorMade’s 2013 lineup (and beyond).
Some of what we've heard suggests that TaylorMade and Adams could eventually develop a relationship similar to that of Cobra and Titleist prior to PUMA’s acquisition of the former. Essentially Adams could become the innovation arm, and ultimately the feeding ground for TaylorMade.
I think we’ll see a little of that (Adams Mission Statement bills the company as “the industry leader of innovative, easy-to-hit products for all golfers”), but I also can’t imagine a plausible scenario in which TaylorMade focuses on that 0-4 market to the exclusion of the middle. It’s not going to happen.
It’s About What Happens Next
Thus far it looks like the two brands are playing nice, but what Adams has announced so far is admittedly safe. I've told you about the woods. There’s also a new set of Super S hybrid irons, which are right out of the Adams wheelhouse (and about as far away from TaylorMade’s traditional strengths as it gets).
Nothing we've seen so far comes close to stepping on TMaG toes, but because they’re predictable...and safe, the new products don’t give us any real indication of how this TMaG-Adams thing will ultimately play out.
Known product cycles suggest 2013 should be the year that Adams releases a new set of blades (or blade-like irons). The Idea Pro a12 irons and hybrids are also due for a refresh. These are precisely the products that could not only cause market friction with TaylorMade’s #1 demographic, they’re also products which better service that 0-4 crowd than most anything in the current TaylorMade lineup.
For its part, will TaylorMade finally release a true low-spin driver head? Will they release their own set of true blades to compliment the upcoming RocketBladez Tour irons? Will a compact, peanut-style hybrid find its way into their lineup?
The point is, despite any talk about targeting the very best players, there are still holes in the TaylorMade lineup, particularly where those low handicap players are concerned. They are holes which Adams could naturally fill through the evolution of existing product lines. That is, of course, if TaylorMade allows them to do so.
Whether Adams is left free to evolve those types of products, or instead, we see similar products emerge with the TaylorMade logo, will provide the clearest answer to date as to how exactly this relationship is going to work.
It’s not about this set of releases – even if it looks really, really good (which it does). It’s all about the next one.
Tech Overview and Full Performance Specifications for the new Super Series (including the Super S Irons I barely mentioned) are available at the Adams Golf Website.