Golf Forum - Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com) http://www.mygolfspy.com MyGolfSpy - "the top-secret golf site!" Thu, 24 Jul 2014 19:09:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6 Dick's Fires 500 PGA Professionals and it's going to get worse http://www.mygolfspy.com/dicks-sporting-goods-fires-500-pga-pros/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/dicks-sporting-goods-fires-500-pga-pros/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:34:07 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42325 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for Dick's Fires 500 PGA Professionals and it's going to get worse

Written By: Tony Covey

The golf equipment industry’s retail model is broken.

That’s an opinion, but it’s an opinion shared by every last person I know in this industry.

As if we needed more evidence that the system is in need of recalibration, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the #1 sporting goods retailer in the USA, very recently fired 100% of  the PGA Professionals on staff.

That is, unfortunately, an undisputed fact.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported the number of people who lost their job at over 500. My sources put the number at roughly 550. Either way, it’s a bad situation.

As is usually the case when bad things happen, there is plenty of finger pointing right now. The fingers that aren’t being pointed at Dick’s are trained squarely on TaylorMade, and to a lesser extent, Callaway. Those who are being kind simply blame the equipment companies.

We have reached a tipping point.

Years of accelerated product cycles and equally accelerated consumer discounts have finally caught up with golf’s biggest retailer (Dick’s + the Dick’s-owned Golf Galaxy), and just as quickly it’s catching up with the industry’s two largest manufacturers…and everyone else too.

The Channel is Flooded

Selling off a little bit of inventory at a discount price isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not killing anybody to slash prices and clear out a literal handful of PING and Titleist drivers after a one-and-a-half to two-year lifecycle.

When lifecycles drop to six months and the discounting starts after only 3 or 4 months, it’s a huge problem. It’s half the reason golfers have stopped buying equipment. We have no faith that what we can buy today won’t be cheaper tomorrow.

As one industry contact recently said to me, “golf equipment isn’t like toilet paper. People don’t need to buy it.”

Nailed it. Golfers don’t need to buy new equipment, and so for now, they’re not.

In fairness, nobody…not TaylorMade, not Callaway or anybody else plans on a six-month-release cycle. In golf, just like everything else, sometimes shit just happens. Nobody consciously set out to destroy the golf equipment industry.

The decision to drop the next big thing ahead of schedule is made for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the need to make the balance sheet look palatable for investors. You can absorb a bad quarter or two, but you can really only blame the weather for so long.

Eventually heads roll.

All In

The thing is, a business like Dick’s doesn’t buy as they go. They commit early, and they buy big. For a company the size of Dick’s Sporting Goods TaylorMade is their Costco, they save when they buy in bulk.

They did, and they got stuck holding the bag for a metric shit-ton of TaylorMade gear.

How bad is it?

I spoke with two senior level industry experts yesterday who estimate that a full 60% of Dick’s golf inventory is tied up in TaylorMade. Couple that surplus with another estimate that puts Dick’s TaylorMade sales down by upwards of 40% from last year, and well, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint the source of the congestion.

Net Down to Zero Profits

At any given Dick’s you’re likely to find upwards of 10 different TaylorMade drivers still on shelves. That number includes an assortment of standard models (R1, RBZ, RBZ 2, SLDR, SLDR S, JetSpeed), Pro & TP, black and white, and for good measure, a few Dick’s exclusive’s like the Gloire and RBZ SL.

Having a huge selection of gear, particularly at discount prices isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the consumer, but it’s a huge problem for Dick’s right now.

Because of the way most major manufacturers handle price cuts (a process known as Net Down), Dick’s (and everyone else) only makes much in the way of an actual profit when it sells the very latest and greatest.

For the rest of it (the 6+ month old stuff)…the cost of those discounts was already applied to the purchase of the new gear. So while selling a few R1s might clear some shelf space, it doesn’t actually make Dick’s any real money.

Good news…all those near-zero profit drivers, they still count in the market share reports (Dick’s doesn’t provide info to Golf Datatech, but most other retail outlets do).

Once upon a time retailers could Net Down and still turn a profit. Not anymore, not with this much surplus. With the retail market and the industry as a whole in decline, the accelerated release model has very quickly been proven unsustainable.

Enough Blame to Go Around

While TaylorMade faces the brunt of the criticism, the reality is that this mess isn’t totally on them. Callaway followed the TaylorMade model, and as recently as last year was still talking about being extremely aggressive with their releases.

I’m guessing plans have changed.

Over the last few seasons, Cleveland, Cobra, Adams…actually let’s call it what it is – EVERYBODY not named Titleist, PING, or Nike has aggressively discounted gear early in the season, and they too have contributed to the equipment clog.

Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate those few companies who refused to contribute to what is now, inarguably, a total clusterfuck.

If you’re going to blame TaylorMade for being the leader, shake an angry fist at all of the followers too.

Dick’s shouldn’t get a pass in this either. It’s not a victim by any stretch. Absolutely TaylorMade has been known to do some arm twisting. You want the biggest wholesale discount, you’ll need to buy more inventory than anyone can reasonably expect to sell in this market.

Not only did Dick’s load up with the standard stuff, they partnered with TaylorMade on those exclusives I talked about too. Dick’s went all in with TaylorMade and they got busted.

Dick’s twisted its own arm.

Sadly…that’s only half the story.

The Other Half of the Story

There’s more to this than just a flooded retail channel. It would be easy to view those 500+ golf professionals who lost their jobs this week as collateral damage in TaylorMade’s war on the rest of the golf industry, but the reality is they’re victims of a badly miscalculated power play on the part of Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Have you ever stopped to think why Dick’s even staffed PGA Professionals in the first place? I mean, when you really think about it, it’s ludicrous.

You think the average big box customer cares about custom fitting, or having access to a credentialed PGA Professional? C’mon.

Would Best Buy hire sound engineers to sell stereos?

It’s just bad business to pay someone 40-50K per year to do the same job that somebody else will do for $10 an hour.

That’s not a knock on the PGA Pros who lost their jobs. It’s a safe assumption that the vast majority are more skilled and much more knowledgeable than the average Dick’s associate. They don’t deserve to be out of work right now. They’re talented guys who were in the wrong place.

What I’m suggesting is that Dick’s had a plan…and it wasn’t a particularly good one. The Big box business doesn’t need much in the way of professional anything, at least not at the ground level.

It’s reasonable to assume that the idea to staff PGA Professionals was conceived with the belief that by offering custom fitting (your actual mileage with that will vary) and other services (club repair, regripping) more commonly associated with Green Grass and mom and pop golf businesses, Dick’s could take an even bigger chunk out of the ass of the little guy…and the club pro too.

Credentialed PGA Professionals would add authenticity to Dick’s golf business. They would legitimize the money grab.

Dick’s misread the market and its own customer base.

Big Box is All About Price and Instant Gratification

While there will always be exceptions, the average big box customer doesn’t much care who’s behind the counter. He doesn’t care about custom fitting either.

The majority Dick’s golf customer doesn’t know the store has a PGA Professional on staff. If he does, it doesn’t much matter, because he’s not at Dick’s for the service anyway. He’s there for the inventory. He’s there for instant gratification. Dick’s has what he wants and he doesn’t have to pay for shipping.

Golf consumers aren’t much different than any other consumer. They want what they want for as little as they can possibly spend, and because of MAP Pricing, Dick’s can’t sell him a driver for any less than anybody else.

You know who can? eBay. It’s the only place where anyone has a competitive advantage at retail.

Those who are actually interested in fitting and a full-service experience, they were never going to come to Dick’s in any meaningful numbers. The Big Box stigma is too strong. Those guys…probably guys like most of you; you’re going to a custom fitter, or a golf specialty shop.

Dick’s believed that it could make golfers see them as something more than a big box sporting goods store. They were wrong and 500+ PGA Pros are out of work today because of it.

What Happens Next

This unfortunate Dick’s situation isn’t the story. It’s barely the start of a much larger one.

Big, big (and much needed) changes are coming to the golf equipment industry. Participation in the sport is dropping, and while I’m not one who believes it’s time to start the countdown to the total demise of the game just yet, the current retail sales model is broken. It’s clearly not sustainable in this declining market.

I don’t have any details solid enough to print just yet, but the firings are just the beginning of major changes to Dick’s golf business. The forecasters at Dick’s don’t believe the golf equipment industry has hit bottom yet. They’re cutting back…on inventory, and on floor space.

Make room for Yoga. That’s where the money is. And I’m not kidding.

That alone will impact the industry in a big way. Inside their biggest revenue source, golf companies will have less square footage peddle their wares. It’s a potentially massive shift.

We believe we’re going to see a much more restrained industry. Expectations will be reset. Product cycles will rationalize, and the rapid discount game is going to come to a very sudden halt.

Direct to consumer sales will be a larger part of the strategy for most golf companies, and that’s going to take yet another chunk out of what’s left of the retail guy’s ass. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.

My guess is that all of this trickles down to my side of the industry as well. There will likely be fewer and smaller media events. The free equipment frenzy that keeps the average golf blogger banging away at his keyboard is going to end. There’s going to be much less to go around.

Existing advertising models? We’ll see.

The entire golf industry is going to contract and consolidate.

Some will no doubt accuse us of being overly dramatic (we respect your opinion), but the industry has been tumbling towards this inevitability for a while now, and the firings at Dick’s are only a harbinger (what an ominous word, right) of even bigger changes to come.

At the risk of overstating it, we believe this is nothing less than chapter one of the biggest equipment story in the history of MyGolfSpy.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

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The Shoe Philes – adidas gripmore http://www.mygolfspy.com/adidas-gripmore-review/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/adidas-gripmore-review/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:00:44 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42291 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for The Shoe Philes – adidas gripmore

Written By: Tony Covey

If you’re a golf shoe manufacturer there are plenty of niche markets you need to flood fill with product. Premium tour, lightweight, classic, spikeless, mesh, and dirt cheap with our logo (just to name a few); most manufacuters feel compelled to offer something for everyone.

For golfers like us it’s almost too much, but within what is arguably an over-abundance of product, every manufacturer has its signature piece of footwear. It’s the one shoe from every lineup that you need to pay attention to.

For 2014, FootJoy has its DNA, PUMA has its Biofusion, Nike has…it’s probably the Lunar Control, but you could make a case for Clayton or Tiger Woods, and adidas has the gripmore.

It may seem strange that in a year when adidas has arguably the best tour shoe they’ve ever created (pure 360), a casual styled shoe with an unusual sole design would take top billing. That’s exactly what’s happening with gripmore, and that should tell you exactly how excited the guys at adidas golf are about the gripmore’s new spikes.

Key Features

adidas gripmore-7

The major talking point for the adidas gripmore are its non-traditional…maybe even innovative, PU spikes. Instead of relying on a housing structure – like that found in traditional designs – to secure the spike to the shoe, the gripmore’s spikes are injection molded. The literally squirt the spike directly onto the sole.

They’re spikes, except they’re not.

The gripmore is designed to perform like a traditional golf shoe, while still offering the casual styling and comfort of a modern spikeless design.

Call it a hybrid, call it a new category…adidas is calling it groundbreaking.

Tour Validation

Chances are most of you are less concerned with what footwear is being worn on tour than you are what drivers guys have in their bags, but it’s worth mentioning that gripmore is having a solid year on the PGA Tour.

Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose have each won twice (including Kaymer’s US Open) while wearing gripmore. Mike Weir, Matt Kuchar, and Jim Furyk have also worn gripmore at one time or another this season.

But enough about those guys…how will the gripmore perform for the average golfer? Let’s get to it.

Comfort

adidas gripmore-11

Once upon a time I believed that adidas golf’s prevailing philosophy was that a shoe can never be too narrow. It’s the primary reason why I avoided the brand. Within the last couple of years, however, the golf line has steadily widened to the point that in most cases my slightly chubby foot doesn’t warrant stepping out to a wide.

Such is the case with the gripmore, which despite its clear Samba-inspired styling, doesn’t share the original boot’s penchant for binding the forefight. gripmore is built on a wider last, and that along with some well-placed cushioning, has led to an insanely comfortable shoe that requires zero break-in time.

Straight out of the box over hilly terrain I had absolutely no issues walking my first 18 holes, and haven’t had the slightest comfort issue in the 150 or so holes I’ve walked since. 100% blister free, as it should be.

For comfort alone, the gripmore is the shoe I find myself pulling off the rack most often this season.

Durability

adidas gripmore-10

I think each of us has our own expectations when it comes to golf shoe durability. Conservatively, $100 ought to buy you at least one season. At $130 the gripmore should get you through two seasons with reasonable use.

Admittedly it’s too early to say that the gripmore will last that long, but after half a season of use, the gripmore is showing only minimal signs of wear.

Seams are intact, and despite ocassional use over blacktop and concrete, the spikes show only the slightest amount of wear with no shearing.

The liner looks new, but I have lost part of the adidas logo on the insole to heel rub. That’s not so bad. It might actually be good.

I am aware that some of you are obsessive about creases in the toebox. It’s seriously nothing I ever concern myself with, but for those of you who do, yes…I’m afraid the gripmores do show pronounced wrinkling and creasing in the toebox area.

That might be a deal-breaker for some.

gripmore-2

Performance

Realistically, golf shoe performance is probably 50% comfort. It’s hard enough to play good golf. It’s next to impossible in uncofortable shoes. Curt Schilling couldn’t break par with a bloody sock. Curt Schilling probably can’t break par anyway, but you get the point.

The rest…it’s mostly traction and stability, and that’s where, under the wrong conditions, gripmore can fall short.

Let’s start with the good.

The adidas gripmore is an outstanding performer in dry conditions. While I won’t mislead and suggest that we have some sophisticated traction measuring system, I don’t notice any less traction or more slipping than I do with the more-traditional spiked designs that I wear.

The gripmore performs exactly as it should…when it’s dry. Toss in the unquestionable comfort, and well, gripmore is one hell of a good golf shoe. Again…when it’s dry.

adidas gripmore-12

gripless in Seattle

When conditions are damp…even slightly so, traction becomes an issue. It’s not that the PU spikes themselves can’t handle wet ground. The issue is that as dirt becomes mud, the sole of the gripmore becomes caked to the point that all but the tiniest bit of the gripmore spike’s tip is submurged.

The spikes almost literally disappear. You can imagine how that works out on the golf course.

I’m not a shoe designer, but I believe the issue results from the combination of the gripmore spikes being placed too close together, along with the additional little microspikes that line the sole. The appear to help bind debris to the shoe, which isn’t a good thing.

It’s a design flaw.

In even slightly damp conditions, the mud collects in the narrow gaps between spikes, and because of that narrow spacing and additional texture that helps the mud bind to the sole, conventional on-course cleaning methods (tees, and the occasional ball washer-mounted brush) aren’t effective in degunking the spikes.

gripmore-1

The above photo shows the gripmore after 9 holes played several hours after a thunderstorm…and believe me, it’s worse when the shoe is still wet. These have had 2 days for the gunk to dry and fall off.

The end result is an outstanding dry weather golf shoe that quite simply isn’t suitable for play in damp conditions.

gripmore is the low bounce wedge of golf shoes.

Final Thoughts

I love the gripmore. It’s comfortable, reasonably stylish (some would say cool), and it performs admirably in dry conditions. I’ve got a solid handful of 2014 shoes here and the gripmore has logged nearly twice the rounds of anything else.

It’s my favorite shoe of 2014 thus far, but I’d never wear it in the rain.

If you’ve got wet weather shoes already, and are willing to drop $130 on a shoe with the knowledge that you’ll probably only wear them when it’s dry, you could do plenty worse than gripmore.

It’s a great shoe, but it’s limited.

If you’re only going to purchase one pair of golf shoes this season, and that pair needs to be versatile enough to perform under both dry and wet conditions, as much as I love the gripmore, my honest recommendation is that you look elswhere.

adidas gripmore-13

Colorways and Pricing

The adidas gripmore currently retails for aound $130. It’s available in 3 colorways; Aluminum/White/Scarlet (shown), Black/White/Scarlet, and White/White/Scarlet.

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First Look – Fugazi Floyd the Driver from Geek Golf http://www.mygolfspy.com/geek-fugazi-floyd-the-driver/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/geek-fugazi-floyd-the-driver/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:00:51 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42274 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for First Look – Fugazi Floyd the Driver from Geek Golf

Written By: Tony Covey

Not Your Average Geek

Geek Golf’s Steve Almo isn’t like most guys in component industry. That’s putting it mildly.

You won’t hear Almo trash talking any of the big golf companies. He’d be the first to tell you that TaylorMade, Callaway, and PING make a really good product. They’re not bamboozling anybody.

Almo isn’t delusional either. He knows (and accepts) that the tremendous majority of golfers want to play product from the big OEMs, and he knows that smaller component companies can’t compete with that.

“Why is someone going to pay $250 for a Geek driver when they can get a brand new TaylorMade for $150″? – Steve Almo, President, Geek Golf

Steve Almo might be the most pragmatic man in golf.

So rather than play follow the leader, Steve Almo and Geek Golf do their own thing. Almo designs for guys looking for more than just another head….guys outside the mainstream.

Almo designs for the rest of the world…and you know who you are.

From muscle cars (Geek No Brainer) to music (the nearly available Pink “Floyd the Driver” under the Fugazi brand), Steve Almo finds inspiration in places far outside the golf industry.

Every Geek Driver has a theme; a union of an idea, with paint, and an often-unorthodox name.

It all comes together in a kind of harmonious inside joke… and Almo wants his customers to be in on the joke and to have fun tying it all together.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Geek products perform. The company’s Long Drive success is well documented.

unnamed (1)

The Technical Side of Geek

For those who are just as interested in the technical side of Geek Golf, Almo, who learned the art of golf club design from Stan Thompson (inventor of “The Ginty”), does all of his own design work, and instead of relying on open molds from the foundries – as many component companies do, he has custom tooling created for all of his Geek designs.

It adds to the expense, but it’s the price one has to pay to offer a truly unique product.

Once Almo has his prototypes he canon tests them for durability, tests them on a launch monitor, and then puts them in the hands of real golfers to get their feedback.

“Golfers are kind”, says Almo. “Most people will say nice things, so if the response is only lukewarm, I know I need to redo the club.”

“If a club doesn’t feel right, it’s not going to sell” – Steve Almo

Introducing Floyd The Driver

The latest of Almo’s creations is the pink-accented, Fugazi Floyd the Driver.  Notice the triangle in the sole graphics? If you’re not already in on the theme, you want to do some quick googling.

The black and pink Floyd reiterates Geek Golf’s willingness to go bold.

“I like my clubs to be silent salesmen. If a guy walks into a shop and the sales guy is busy, I want him to pick up my head and say what’s this?” – Steve Almo

The “Floyd” design features a recessed sole plate, which Almo says pushes the CG forward to promote lower launch and spin, while at the same time shifting weight to the perimeter which boosts the MOI of the clubhead.

floyd-spec

Pricing, Specs, and Availability

While Floyd will be available through Geek’s network of fitters, heads will be available directly from Geek (available for pre-order now). Retail price for a head is $129, while fully assembled clubs will start at $199.

The 200g, 460cc Floyd the Driver is available in lofts of 7.5°, 9°, 10.5° and 12°. Geek is accepting orders now and expects to start shipping to customers around August 1st.

To order, or for more information, visit GeekGolf.com.

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Is Big Bertha V Series the Next Optiforce? http://www.mygolfspy.com/callaway-big-bertha-v-series-driver/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/callaway-big-bertha-v-series-driver/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:17:55 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42265 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for Is Big Bertha V Series the Next Optiforce?

Written By: Tony Covey

Freshly added to the USGA’s Conforming Clubs list this morning is what we’re reasonably certain is the follow-up to Callaway’s surprisingly likable FT Optiforce. Seriously. Lay out 2 season’s worth of Callaway drivers…X Hot, RAZR Fit Xtreme, X2 Hot, Big Bertha, Big Bertha Alpha…FT Optiforce is my favorite. It’s not even close.

Unfortunately for those of us who appreciate the radically different, this Optiforce Big Bertha doesn’t appear to have the spoiler described in the patent application we covered a few weeks ago. Bummer, right?

What We Can Tell from Grainy USGA Photographs

With respect to their photos, it’s the USGA’s job to document, not to win a Pulitzer, so as is usually the case, the photos don’t come close to telling the story. We’re going to have to do some well-educated speculating about this upcoming release.

Before we dig in any further, from a performance perspective, it’s important to remember that while aerodynamics are a legitimate way to increase head speed, the guys who already swing fast reap the greatest rewards. Simply put, if you swing 85 MPH, you’re not going to see nearly the same benefit as they guys who swings 115.  I know…it isn’t fair.

Still, something is always better nothing.

Because somebody else is surely going to point it out, the images suggest design elements that aren’t wholly visually dissimilar those found previously on Adams Speedline Tech driver. What I describe as channels can be found on both the toe side (similar to Adams) and the heel side (not similar). Those channels along with the phrase SPEED OPTIMIZED TECHNOLOGY, and Callaway’s inclusion of the scientific formula for Kinetic Energy into the graphics scheme, suggest a club designed to increase head speed through aerodynamics, and well, that fits very nicely into the Optiforce line.

If all of that wasn’t enough, I’m going to go out a limb and suggest that V is for Velocity. Hooray…more physics-y words.

And you know…it’s been about a year since the launch of Optiforce, so it fits from a timing perspective as well.

The USGA doesn’t do crown photographs, so we can’t tell if Callaway’s got anything akin to PING’s Turbulators in play, but my guess the crown is clean. The channels will account for the bulk of the story.

As far as lofts are concerned, the USGA has approved 9.5°, 10.5°, and a 13.5° HT model. With Callaway’s Optifit Hosel, that should cover just about all of us. Thus far no “Pro” models have been approved by the USGA.

v-series135

But It’s Not an Optiforce

Not surprisingly, it appears Callaway will position the new V series as part of the Bertha family. The company is clearly committed to the reinvigorated franchise, and so it’s just good branding to stamp Bertha on as many drivers as reasonably possible.

You love Bertha right? Well, here’s another one.

The new Callaway Golf (let’s call it the Chip Brewer era) has shown a willingness to play it a little campy at times. The marketing team refers to itself as the Zoo Crew (it’s cheesy right?…not that a little cheese is a bad thing), they sometimes tweet silly little graphics and assorted inside jokes along with their persistent message about physics. Now they’re stamping cartoons on the bottom of their drivers.

The fun stuff draws you in. You become an insider. You get the joke, and when they’ve really got your attention…#BOOM. Physics. Physics. Physics. Branding is serious business.

Let’s be real for a second. That Sir Isaac Newton logo on the bottom of the new driver…it’s pure cheese. It’s campy. It’s almost certainly going to get a rise out of the “No Real Golfer would…” crowd.

Could TaylorMade pull that off right now? Would Titleist ever try? That’s the beauty of being Callaway right now…they have a growing audience of golfers who aren’t categorically opposed to the notion that golf should be fun. That’s an audience I’m guessing some others would love to cultivate. Others have certainly tried.

v-series-9-10

Re-Building an Identity

Every brand has an identity…or at least every brand wants an identity (and the one they get isn’t always the one it wants). Titleist has Performance (and Quality). PING has Engineering. TaylorMade has … hmm…I don’t know…and that’s a problem. And while it’s almost certainly been calculated every step of the way, Callaway appears on the verge of cementing its place (real or contrived…doesn’t matter) as the most physics-inclined company in golf.

Physics is Callaway.

Have Your Say

Were you an Optiforce Guy? Are you a Bertha Guy…or just a Callaway Guy in a more general sort of way?

What do you think of the next Bertha and/or the idea that Physics is Callaway.

 

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First Look – Mizuno 2015 MP-Series Lineup http://www.mygolfspy.com/mizuno-mp-15-h5-irons-t5-wedge-and-jpx850-driver/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/mizuno-mp-15-h5-irons-t5-wedge-and-jpx850-driver/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:03:18 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42205 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for First Look – Mizuno 2015 MP-Series Lineup

It’s Open Championship week and for most of that means getting up stupid early, or waiting for the replay while hoping that nobody spoils the suspense.

The Open Championship also means it’s time for Mizuno to start releasing pics of their fall lineup. As has been the case the last couple of years, Mizuno has quiet about the tech and other actual information, but they’re more than willing to show off the product.

And why shouldn’t they be? It’s all just so damn pretty.

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the Mizuno Forum this week, clean that goop out of the corners of your eyes, sit down, and take a quick look a that what is to come from Mizuno.

JPX-850 Driver

2 drivers small

Pics of the upcoming driver have been floating around since Luke Donald was seen testing it at The Player’s Championship. The tech story here could be compelling.

Clearly weight can be shifted along the sole, and one would assume that moves the center of gravity forward to back. Weight ports on both sides of the perimeter should, as the text clearly indicates, allow the driver to be configured with a fade or draw bias.

weight port small

The hosel is loft/face angle adjustable, and at the risk of stating the incredibly obvious, the damn head is blue.

Mizuno is going bold and I like it.

Mizuno generally releases metalwoods in the spring, but with the economics of the equipment industry being what they are right now, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Mizuno release the JPX 850 this fall.

Driver smallDriver facecrown small

MP-15 Irons

MP15

Mizuno started messing with their numbering system last season (probably because the 50 series was getting ready to cross into the 60s), so what-follows-what isn’t as clear as it used to be. Still it’s barely a Phil Mickelson-sized leap to suggest that the MP-15 is the much anticipated follow-up to the MP-59. That TI Muscle Cavity sure does look familiar.

Has it really been 3 years already?

Bag Below

In my opinion, the MP-59s are an absolutely perfect blend of modern technology and traditional styling. It’s hard to image that Mizuno could have made them any better, but much like PING, Mizuno has a habit of making small performance gains with each and every release.

Who else is excited?

Bag TopMP MuscleMP-15 b

MP-H5

bag full

The H4s are a bit of an anomaly in Mizuno’s MP lineup. They’re broad-soled, they have thicker toplines, and if not for the clean and classic cavity styling, they’d look more the part of a JPX iron. They’re basically an entire set of utility irons.

Mizuno staffers will likely have a go with the H5 1 and 2 irons during The Open Championship.

Line up

 

MP-T5 Wedges

LDM6228

Mizuno generally offers up new wedges each season; alternative between T (tear drop) and R (round) series wedges. The T-series is up next, and while we’re certain there will eventually be a groove story, and hopefully a grind (as in multiple available) story as well, for now all we’ve got is a finish story (satin chrome and black carbon).

Mizuno_MP-T5_Still_1.1

Coming Soon?

Our expectation is that new MP Irons and MP Wedges along with something new in the JPX iron lineup, will be available sometime in the September time frame. The JPX850 Driver, could go either way.

What do you think of what you’ve seen so far? Does a new Mizuno iron release excite you? And what about that driver…how do you feel about Mizuno’s bold choice to go blue?

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Buying Into the System – How Golf Companies Will Use Technology to Compel Your Loyalty http://www.mygolfspy.com/buying-into-the-system-how-golf-companies-will-use-technology-to-compel-your-loyalty/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/buying-into-the-system-how-golf-companies-will-use-technology-to-compel-your-loyalty/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 12:00:36 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=41985 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for Buying Into the System – How Golf Companies Will Use Technology to Compel Your Loyalty

Written By: Tony Covey

We’ll save the discussion about the largely abysmal state of the golf industry for another day. For the sake of this discussion, all you need to understand is that things ain’t what they used to be. More than perhaps ever before, success, maybe even survival, may depend on a company’s ability to cultivate loyal, maybe even devoted, repeat customers.

Somewhere a guy I know is nodding.

The thing about loyalty is that it isn’t always as pure as we’d like it to be. Sometimes (ideally) it’s earned, but sometimes it can be all but forced upon us.

Golf companies have made subtle loyalty plays before. Cleveland offered a killer trade-up program a few years ago that should have enticed more golfers than it did. It was a good idea…well worth a shot.

Incomptible-1

Proprietary shaft adapters are another great example. Add enough shafts with TaylorMade tips to your collection and Big Bertha is a whole lot less interesting.

Unfortunately for themselves and the consumer, golf companies have done an exceptionally poor job of managing and maintaining whatever loyalty just-the-tip buys them.

TaylorMade changed. Callaway, Nike, and Cobra too. And when they did, none of them had the good sense to offer something as obvious as a free tip swap with the purchase of a new club.

So much for building loyalty.

How about next time guys? If you like the idea, run with it. A six-pack and a thank you note is all I’m looking for.

Oh…and you should probably stop discounting clubs in April. That really pisses people off.

I’ve gone and digressed again. Anyway…

enso

Golf and. . . Everything Else

Depending on the narrative, one can easily draw parallels between the golf industry and countless others. You’ve heard the analogies before.

TaylorMade is Apple, and Callaway is Microsoft.

Titleist is IBM and Callaway is Apple.

Somebody is always Apple.

Coke vs. Pepsi, McDonald’s vs. Burger King. Cheeseburgers? Sure, why not? Parallels are everywhere (if you want them to be).

The who’s who really boils down to the point you’re trying to make, and so now is probably a good time to start making mine.

Nike vs. Nikon

I’ve always found similarity between golf and the camera industry. In both cases you’ll find an abhorrence for spy pics, an archaic approach to embargoes, mostly strict enforcement of MAP pricing, a dwindling number of consequential players, and if my read on the future is correct, we’ll one day add mostly proprietary device interconnectivity and intraoperability that more often than not will all but force today’s customers to be customers for life to the list.

I know…that’s a lot of words, so let’s just move on to the part about cameras.

When it comes to a DSLR setup, you don’t so much buy a camera as you buy into a camera system. Nikon lenses work with Nikon bodies. Canon bodies work with Canon lenses. Flashes too.

nikon-system

The same is true for Sony and Pentax. And while you do have Sigma, Tokina, and Tamron offering 3rd party compatibility, there’s no chance my Nikon lenses are ever going to functionally connect to a Canon body.

8 years ago I bought Nikon, and since I’ve got more than 3K invested in lenses, I’m Nikon for life. eBay is such a losing proposition that I might as well just get a Nikon tattoo.

I’m Nikon’s bitch.

It’s not far-fetched to think that as the digital technology of golf evolves (and it will…and rapidly) golfers too could find themselves not simply choosing between clubs, but choosing between interconnected golf systems.

Buying your next TaylorMade driver could make you TaylorMade for life.

The Dawning of the Digital Sensor Era

Please, before you dismiss me entirely, just take two more minutes out of your day to look at what digital technologies already exist in golf today.

The number of players in what we call the high-tech digital swing trainer market has nearly quadrupled in just 3 very short years.

nflight_motion_intro

Consider what PING has done with their iPING and nFlight Motion apps. The former uses an iPhone cradle, while the latter leverages one of those swing trainers we just talked about (Sky Pro). It doesn’t take much to power these ideas.

Trackman, FlightScope, and Foregsight. Ernest Sports ES14 and the Voice Caddie SC100. The launch monitor market is exploding too.

That’s barely the tip of the iceberg. In golf, sensors are already everywhere. Even if no one noticed, the fact is, golf went digital years ago.

Mizuno created their sensor-based shaft optimizer half a decade ago. Fujikura brought us the ENSO system. Cobra’s GEARS system is like ENSO with a Titleist K-Vest. Prazza and Top Golf have already put sensors into golf balls (if Prazza can, why can’t Titleist), and Game Golf can track every shot you hit during your round…all 106 of them.

gc2-1.original

It’s only a matter of time before the golf companies get in on the action and start bundling all this technology together into functional systems that could ultimately serve as near-mandatory loyalty programs.

It’s not a matter of if. A wealth of different technology-driven patents suggests it’s only a matter of when.

By the way, when is almost certainly very soon.

The Intellectual Property

Nike has been experimenting with sensors inside golf club heads for years, and it recently filed a patent for an Article of Apparel Providing Enhanced Body Position Feedback.

The patent drawing says it all.

nike-sensor-patent

Callaway has an application for a Method and System for Shot Tracking that would transmit data from a club to a receiver. Maybe that’s an iPhone or an Android device. Thinking big, it could also be a golf bag with a Bluetooth receiver and an LCD screen.

Cobra is working on putting sensors in the club head, and also has an application for a Golf Club Grip with Device Housing that would essentially allow another sensor to be placed under the grip of any (or all) of your golf clubs.

Lost in TaylorMade’s innovation video at this year’s PGA show was a shot tracking system that’s not unlike what golfers are doing with Game Golf. Safe bet the tech that eventually powers it will be built into the clubs themselves.

callaway-patent-drawing

Attachment-Free Living

No, I’m not talking about Tinder (if you just said “what’s a tinder“, you’ll likely be among the last to get on-board with all of this). Anyway…

Right now most of the consumer technology requires some sort of attachment, but much of what the golf companies are working on wouldn’t require any external device.

No snapping, no clipping…the same capabilities offered by 3rd party devices and countless other bits of functionality will be built directly into the clubs, the balls, the apparel, and even the shoes.

Holy shit, won’t that be something?

I guarantee at least one of you just mumbled jackass. It was probably the what’s a tinder guy.

tinder

A Real World Scenario

Admittedly, this is all one giant What If, but as I’ve said before, innovation always starts with a what if, and in this case the golf companies are already working on the answers.

So how’s about you just play along for a minute, mmkay?

What if your driver alone could provide you with head speed, path, face angle, face to path, dynamic loft, angle of attack, spin loft, shaft acceleration, release info and even the precise impact location on the face for any or all shots you hit?

On the range or on the course. It doesn’t matter.

What if the same were true for every club in your bag…fairway, hybrids, irons, wedges, and putter too?

Think of the fitting implications alone.

What if your golf ball could provide you with ball speed, launch angle, spin rate, axis tilt, apex, angle of descent, carry and roll?

What if while all of that ball and club data was being mined, your shirt, pants, glove and even your hat were all working in concert to gather info about the movement of your arms, hips, shoulders, legs, and head throughout your swing…throughout every swing.

Don’t forget about your shoes. Weight transfer, ground forces, all of that stuff could be captured too.

Go ahead…drop an f-bomb.

What if it all worked without you have to clip, attach or otherwise bond one thing with another? What if it all of the pieces just worked together out of the box?

Yeah man…maybe not tomorrow, but this is going to happen.

driverheadwithsensor

The Competing Dialects of Golf Technology

It’s not all rainbows, unicorns, and Labradoodles. What if to pull all of this data together your clubs, balls, apparel and shoes all need to speak exactly the same language?

Your Nike Covert 4.6 driver won’t be able to communicate with your Titleist ProV1.3 ball.

Nike likely wants it that way. Titleist too.

If you want to leverage all that technology will offer (and not everyone will), you’re going to have to choose.

It could be a Callaway system, a TaylorMade-adidas system, or a Nike system, but to leverage all of this technology to its fullest, you’re going to have to buy into somebody’s system.

And once you buy into that system…they’ve got you. They’ve got you good…and if you invest enough, in not much time at all, they’ll have you for life.

How often do you replace every single club in your bag (at once)? Looking for a new driver? You want one that will work with the same system as your irons, right?

Want to try a new golf ball? Only if it works with the driver you just dropped four bills on, that’s for damn sure.

nike-shoe-sensor

Will you buy shoes that can’t talk to your pants?

I know…it sounds totally bonkers. That last example is on the extreme end, and certainly the level of commitment is going to differ from golfer to golfer, but at a minimum, the communication between clubs and balls will eventually be enough to keep a segment of golfers from playing the field.

We’ll be loyal because the technology mandates it.

Golfers Don’t Care About Technology!

I’ll accept the argument that golf will be dead before any of this stuff catches on, but don’t try and tell me (as one reader recently did) that golfers don’t care about technology.

Really? We don’t care?

What about the guys using GPS (and Tinder) on their phones?

Try arguing “don’t care” to the guys at SwingByte, SwingSmart, SwingTip, and the growing number of other Swing-somethings making money with digital/high-tech swing trainers.

Digital lie/loft, and swingweight. Trackman, FlightScope and GC2. Technology is everywhere in golf. Not only do golfers care, many of us can’t get enough of it.

Sure, there will be holdouts. There are ALWAYS holdouts, but let me bring this all back to the camera industry one last time.

I’ll Never Shoot Digital

digital-never

When digital SLR bodies first hit the market, there was plenty of backlash from the hardcore film guys.

I’ll never shoot digital“. Thousands of devoted camera enthusiasts, professional and amateur, echoed the refrain. Hell, I said it.

You jackass, I’ll never shoot digital. -Me, before I bought a digital camera (which I now use exclusively)

Seriously…Google that nonsense. The internet never forgets.

Over time the technology evolved to the point of undeniability. A detail here or there could make an argument for the purity of film, but digital was…is…unquestionably better.

The I’ll never shoot digital crowd…most of them…most of us came around…and rest of them are dead.

You may not embrace the digital era of golf equipment…not day 1, but history has taught us time and time again that for all but the most fervent of detractors, never is just another increment of passing time.

How’s that persimmon working out?

Progress ALWAYS wins.

I’d never shoot digital. I’d never own a computer. And I’d certainly never need a cell phone…camera phone…or a smart phone.

Google Glass, my ass! Never.

I’m no stranger to never, so I understand what you’re saying. You’d never use Tinder to hook-up. You’ll never play a golf club, a golf ball, wear a golf shirt, or even a golf shoe with a digital sensor in it.

There’s no need for it. There never will be.

I’m sure you believe that. And so I’m sure you won’t…

But you will.

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SPY PICS! – 2015 Bridgestone J15 B3 and J15 B5 Drivers, J15 Fairways and Hybrids Too http://www.mygolfspy.com/2015-bridgestone-j15-b3-and-j15-b5-drivers-j15-fairways-and-hybrids/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/2015-bridgestone-j15-b3-and-j15-b5-drivers-j15-fairways-and-hybrids/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:10:30 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42033 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for SPY PICS! – 2015 Bridgestone J15 B3 and J15 B5 Drivers, J15 Fairways and Hybrids Too

A few weeks back I told you that Bridgestone is gearing up for a huge push for 2015. We didn’t have much in the way of details at the time; only that Bridgestone’s lineup would include new, and what they believe to be game-changing technologies.

Today we can bring you the first real look at the new product, along with a better idea of what Bridgestone’s technology stories will be.

2015 Bridgestone J15 Drivers

Capture

The indications are that Bridgestone will launch 2 men’s drivers in 2015. The 715 B3 will be a 460cc offering, while the B5 is 445cc. Bridgestone didn’t offer a 460cc model in the J40 series,so the suggestion is that Bridgestone will be putting more effort into connecting with the average golfer in 2015.

It’s reasonable to expect that the smaller B5 will be billed as offering enhanced workability, and a lower, more boring, trajectory. That’s almost always how this stuff goes with Pro/Tour style heads.

While the early spec sheets we’ve seen suggest that both models will be available in 8.5°, 9.5°, and 10.5°, the USGA’s Conforming List also includes a 12° option in the B3.

Indications are that the stock length will be 45.5″.

Rumors are proving to be reality as it appears the J15 Driver integrates 4 key technologies that Bridgestone will no doubt be discussing in greater detail as we move closer to the USA launch.

Power Slit Technology

pwerslit

It’s going to be interesting to hear what Bridgestone has to say about the Power Slit stuff. The drawings suggest a slit, or rather a series of slits (or channels) that extend from the top of the crown to the rear, and then back under along the sole. The safe assumption is that Power Slit is all about optimizing the transfer of energy and bracing the body to minimize the impact of vibrations.

Bridgestone’s take on slot technology does look to be something we haven’t actually seen before.

Power Milling

powermilling

This one could be big.

We’ve been told time and time again that score lines on the face of the driver are purely cosmetic. Lines, no lines…doesn’t impact performance. It sure looks like Bridgestone engineers don’t believe that. The J15 driver faces feature a pronounced milling pattern and the images suggest lead us to believe they have something to do with friction and spin control.

Again, we’ll have to wait for more information, or at least a translator,  before we can be certain what Power Milling is supposed to accomplish, but given that no one else in the industry is doing anything like this right now, it’s pretty damn intriguing.

Spin Control Technology

adjustable cartridge

At face value, there’s nothing revolutionary going on with Spin Control Technology. You’ve got two weight cartridges that can be mixed, matched, and otherwise swapped to alter the spin, and by extension, flight characteristics of the golf ball.

What is unique is the location of the weight themselves. The most common implementation of a 2-weight system involves placing towards the perimeter of the club. In the Bridgestone implementation, one weight in the front/center portion of the sole (some might call that low and forward). The 2nd weight is located in the rear off the club, and slightly off-center to the heel side. That suggests an ability to explicitly configure the club with a draw bias. Since the weight is redistributable from front to back (or back to front), in theory the club would also offer adjustable MOI.

The one concern I have with Spin Control Tech is that as companies have moved towards…or perhaps more accurately, back to sliding rail systems, the Bridgestone system could be viewed as antiquated.

cartridges
*Shiny Yellow refers to the Women’s version of the J15 series, which in Japan anyway, is being called the Shiny Yellow.

Variable Adjust System

variable-adjust-system

As with Spin Control Technology, Bridgestone’s Variable Adjust System  doesn’t appear radically different than most anything else that’s on the market right now. Variable Adjust will feature 8 different settings (variations of left/right, plus upright). Bridgestone is billing things as a face angle adjustment as opposed to loft, and given that Variable Adjust appears to be a single cog mechanism, there doesn’t appear to be any conceivable way to make that face angle adjustment with out impacting loft.

Stock Shafts

stockshafts

While changes could conceivably (maybe even likely) be made for the US Market, in Japan anway, Bridgestone will be offering 3 different shafts with the J15 Driver. It appears the Graphite Design Tour AD J15-11W  is the true stock, while upcharges will apply for the Fubuki AT60 and Diamana R60. Again, all of this may well change by the time the driver launches in the USA.

J15 Fairway Woods and Hybrids

fw-hy-hero

Once again, Power Slit would appear to be the big story (currently unknown what if any role it plays in the hybrid design). Unlike the J15 Series Drivers, the fairway woods won’t be adjustable.

I suspect they’ll be some discussion around face material, construction, and technology. More than one golf company has admitted that when RocketBallz, and the X2 Hot hit the market, their designs didn’t measure up from a distance perspective. As much as we like the current generation (J40) fairways, it’s not totally unfair to suggest that Bridgestone fell behind as well.

Most everyone in the industry claims to have caught up, and I suspect the story with the J15F won’t be any different.

power-slit-fw

fwhy-face

Bridgestone J15 Fairway Wood Specs

fw-spec

Bridgestone J15 Hybrid Specs

hybrid-spec

Pricing and Availability

Bridgestone USA remains tight-lipped about product details, availability, and pricing. We think it’s unlikely these will hit shelves before 2015, and our assumption is that prices will be consistent with that of the previous generation (largely PING-like).

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SPY PICS! - 2015 Bridgestone J15CB, J15DF and J15DPF Irons + J15 Wedges http://www.mygolfspy.com/2015-bridgestone-j15cb-j15df-and-j15dpf-irons/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/2015-bridgestone-j15cb-j15df-and-j15dpf-irons/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 19:02:04 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42049 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for SPY PICS! - 2015 Bridgestone J15CB, J15DF and J15DPF Irons + J15 Wedges

As we reported a few weeks ago, Bridgestone Golf will be launching no less than 3 sets of new irons in 2015. We did some digging around and have come up with the most comprehensive look at the new clubs to date.

J15DPF

j15-dpf

The closest thing to a game-improvement iron (though I’d be hesitant to call it that) we’ve seen from the 2015 lineup is the J15DPF. As it did with previous generations of Bridgestone Irons, the DPF stands for Dual Pocket Forged (Bridgestone’s way of moving weight to the perimeter of a forged iron).

The DPF features what appears to be a dampening insert which is being called Dual Pocket Turbo Rubber. Here’s hoping that’s one of those things that gets completely lost in translation.

Bridgestone J15DPF Specifications

J15-DPF-spec

J15DF

j15-df

The J15DF (Driving Forged) has the looking of what I like to call a transitional iron. It’s likely designed for low to mid handicappers looking for a relatively traditional appearance and the feel many believe can only come from a forging.

While we have no idea what it means from a technology standpoint, the DF irons feature Ultimate Strong Metal, which no doubt offers some really awesome benefits.

J15CB

j15-cb

The most traditional of the new cavity back designs, the J15CB features a classic, understated cavity back appearance, that’s reminiscent of Titleist’s current 714CB or Mizuno’s  MP-64. It’s a simple-looking design for guys who like it that way.

The images suggest an iron with a thin topline, minimal offset, and a Sure Contact Sole design, which we assume has plenty to do with turf interaction.

Bridgestone J15DF and J15CB Sepcifications

J15-DF-CB-Spec

Forged and Forged M Wedges

wedge-group

For 2015 Bridgestone will be offering up two models of wedges. Both the standard model and the M-series will be available in both satin chrome and black finish.

Presumably the M references and alternative grind. Assuming that means an M-grind, the secondary option will offer additional heel and toe relief. As with their new metalwoods, Bridgestone has baked a few bits of technology into the new wedges.

Sure Contact Sole

wedge-sure-contact

With nearly any wedge, sole design is almost always about versatility and turf interaction. Expect Bridgestone to tell some version of that story.

Tour Design Groove & Face Milling

facemilling

Nearly everybody with a wedge on the market has a groove and face milling story. Why should Bridgstone be any different? You can bet this has something to do with spin, and probably spin from any lie.

Durable Groove Technology

durable-groove-tech

Now. This. Is. Interesting.

When you find the right wedge, you don’t want to let go. You want it to last forever, but invariably, grooves wear, and our old friends simply don’t spin the way they used to. It’s not uncommon to hear stories about guys who’d buy 2 or 3 of exactly the same wedge (especially back when you could still buy non-conforming wedges), so that when one (and the one after that) wore out, they’d have another ready to go.

With Durable Groove Technology, it appears Bridgestone has developed some sort of process that will keep your wedge grooves fresh (and producing spin) longer than you could have hoped for otherwise.

Forged-ForgedM-spec

J715 and J18?

As you may recall, Bridgestone applied for Trademarks for both J15 and J18. Are these irons? Metalwoods?

Stay tuned.

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TaylorMade Ultimate Driving Iron Gets Officially Official http://www.mygolfspy.com/taylormade-ultimate-driving-iron/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/taylormade-ultimate-driving-iron/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 07:00:27 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=41996 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for TaylorMade Ultimate Driving Iron Gets Officially Official

Written By: Tony Covey

Just a couple weeks ago, the latest ‘prototype‘ (wink, wink) in the TaylorMade arsenal, the Ultimate Driving Iron (so much for no nonsense names) found its way onto the tour van, and into the hands of TaylorMade’s PGA Staffers.

In just its first week on tour, Justin Rose won the Quicken Loans National with a UTI UDI (in the bag). And damn if he didn’t just win again in Scotland. Other TaylorMade staffers have been testing the UDI, and as you might also expect, TaylorMade reports that their guys love it.

Maybe you’ll love it too.

UDI-16

Given the timing, it was a reasonable assumption that the UDI was created with an eye towards this week’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. TaylorMade would offer it up to its staffers as an easier-to-shape alternative to fairway woods and hybrids; designed to better meet the demands of links golf.

Retail availability was less certain. UDI, as interesting as it may be to some of you, strikes me as a horse-for-the-course kind of club. The prevailing wisdom was that no matter how ULTIMATE the performance on tour, the club itself would likely never see the fluorescent lights of a retail shop near you. UDI isn’t designed with the average golfer in mind.

If the Mini Driver is niche, then UDI is ultra-niche.

UDI-13

Taking Niche Mainstream

The thing is, while this isn’t a wholly new TaylorMade, it is a slightly different TaylorMade, and part of the current strategy appears to involve taking these actually-tour-inspired niche products and making them available to the consumer.

It’s one of the things a segment of golfers has, for years, asked of TaylorMade to do. For now anyway, the company seems intent on obliging despite the undeniable fact that a Tour Preferred Ultimate Driving Iron won’t ring the register with nearly the same intensity as the next SLDR Driver.

How un-TaylorMade is that?

Rather than flood the market with yet another round of drivers (it has been a couple of months already, right?), the company has dedicated a portion of its summer efforts to a couple of limited run products with not a ton of profit potential (or fanfare). It’s a little strange, but then again, summer is slow. It is only July.

Let’s talk in September.

UDI-17

About the UDI

“We designed the Tour Preferred UDI for players seeking a versatile club that delivers incredible distance off the tee and a high-performance alternative from the fairway. The clean, traditional look at address inspires confidence and the Speed Pocket technology provides amazing distance and consistency.” – Tomo Bystedt, Director of Iron Creation, TaylorMade-adidas Golf
  • Distance – CHECK
  • High-Performance – CHECK
  • Traditional – CHECK (really?)
  • Speed Pocket – CHECK

My god, this Ultimate Driving Iron thing has EVERYTHING. Except, well, it’s a driving iron which most of us don’t need, and if we did, probably couldn’t hit well anyway.

Going back to that bit about this slightly different TaylorMade….many of you probably don’t need a UDI, but its availability supports the notion that if TaylorMade is going to put it in the van, it’s going to put it in the stores.

It’s hard to get too pissed off about that.

TM13IRN0021_TourPreferred_IronsCharts_SoundAndStructure
UDI-3

 *Pictured are the TaylorMade UDI 2-Iron (left) and the TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC 3-Iron (right)

From a design perspective, the idea behind UDI is to blend the distance and playability of a rescue club (dammit, TMaG, how’s about just calling it a hybrid like everybody else?), with the shot-shaping control of an iron. The point here is that UDI makes it easy for accomplished golfers to flight shots low and otherwise manipulate trajectory as needed.

Sounds like something that could be useful on an Open Championship course, doesn’t it?

UDI-8

The hollow cavity of the UDI allowed TMaG designers to position mass lower and farther forward, which, along with a thin, unsupported 455 Carpenter Steel face, promotes faster ball speed (forward) and higher launch (low). And yes…as Tomo mentioned, it’s got a Speed Pocket.

TM13IRN0021_TourPreferred_IronsCharts_SpeedPocketTechnology

TaylorMade claims that it’s the increase in launch angle that makes the UDI more playable than previous models. Apparently the catch-all playable, in this particular case, speaks to the ease with which you should be able to hit high shots, with low lofted clubs.

Also, there’s the obligatory stuff about crisp sound and great feel.

The Rebirth of the One Iron

For those of you who either can’t read a spec sheet or just happened to gloss over it, take note that TaylorMade is offering a 1-iron option in the UDI.

UDI-spec-chart

With the 12° Mini Driver, TaylorMade basically revived the 2-Wood. Now with a 16° UDI, TaylorMade has given the 1-iron new life. Astounding. Everything old really is new again.

That reminds me…did you guys see that story about the lab in Toledo that just found several vials of viable Smallpox?

For those who don’t want or need (basically for those of you who aren’t insane) a 1-iron, the UDI is also available in 18° and 20°; lofts which more directly compete with similar offerings from Titleist, Callaway, and Adams.

UDI-14

So. . .Whaddaya Think?

I’m actually quite curious to hear your thoughts on the UDI.

I enjoyed a bit of playful fun at the expense of the Mini Driver, but you guys were largely receptive to it. That surprised me.

Mocking aside, the Mini has proven to be the best addition to my bag since I started playing this ridiculous game. There were concerns that it wouldn’t be playable from the fairway, let alone the rough. They were unfounded. I hit it better than any fairway wood I’ve ever played, and I hit it confidently from EVERYWHERE (except side hill lies).

Could the UDI prove similarly versatile? If I can hit a Mini out of 3-foot heather, most of us should be able to hit a UDI off a fairway…and out of the rough.

UDI-11

That said, I really don’t know where the UDI make sense for most guys (I did say the same about the Mini). Is it something you’d put in your bag every day? Is it just for recreating the experience of The Open at home? Is it a club you buy because of some sense of nostalgia, but never use for anything more than banging balls at the range?

Is it anything you’d even consider spending your money on?

It’s not that I’m necessarily opposed to the UDI, but as a mostly average golfer, I’m just not sure where it fits. Of course, if TaylorMade is to be believed, the UDI was never intended for guys like me anyway. Neither was the Mini.

UDI-20

Pricing and Availability

The TaylorMade UDI is available starting July 14th (that’s today). Retail price for the UDI is $199. Custom shaft options are available, and you can bet upcharges will almost always apply.

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Nike Brand Survey – The Results http://www.mygolfspy.com/nike-brand-survey-results/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/nike-brand-survey-results/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:00:54 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=41880 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for Nike Brand Survey – The Results

Written By: Tony Covey

Quite frankly, I don’t get it.

While it’s not an absolutely universal sentiment, even among our readership there is a strong reverence for Titleist and PING. I get that part.

Time and time again you tell us how much you appreciate the fact that neither company floods the market with gear, instead they embrace steady, predictable release cycles. You applaud the fact that they keep the gimmicks to a minimum while focusing on actual product performance. And you laud them endlessly for maintaining retail prices for the duration of a release cycle while TaylorMade and Callaway habitually cut the market out from under themselves; often significantly discounting product that hasn’t been on the shelf long enough to collect even a speck of dust.

Ask your buddy who bought Big Bertha Alpha all the way back in May how he feels about the 20% Callaway just knocked off the sticker price. It’s the TaylorMade R1 redux; Callaway Edition.

Here’s the part I don’t get. You guys love Titleist (even if you don’t love the products, you appreciate the model). You guys love PING (same). And because the business model is very similar to both company’s, you guys love are largely indifferent to Nike Golf.

I mean seriously! (and I don’t use exclamation points often)… As far as full line, big-ass golf companies with reasonably (or insanely) deep pockets go, Nike’s approach to the golf business is as streamlined, arguably restrained, as it gets. Nike does golf the way you constantly tell us you want golf done.

If you count Covert 2 and Covert 2 Tour as separate clubs, Nike has two reasonably well differentiated models available. Callaway has four. Six if you count Optiforce (and you should, because a new one is likely coming). TaylorMade…between 460, 430, S, and white…hell, it’s a lot, and that’s before we start talking about the old stuff (RBZ, RBZ 2, and R1) that’s still readily available and selling well.

Titleist has 2. PING is off the charts now with 4.

Nike’s iron lineup:3. It wouldn’t kill them to offer more options in their wedges, and the putter lineup is robust, but not excessive.

And here’s the other thing…if you buy the archaic (it has been on shelves since FEBRUARY) Covert 2.0 Driver today, you won’t need to worry that Nike might knock 20% off, toss in a free fairway wood, 3 dozen balls and a Labradoodle for the guy who buys it next week…you know, because the numbers don’t look so good.

Nike Golf doesn’t play that game. Nike believes in the integrity of their brand, and understands the value of consumer confidence.

It sounds a lot like Titleist and PING, doesn’t it?

Nike Golf sucks? Bullshit.

One of us is delusional.

Maybe you should think differently about Nike Golf.

And yet, here we are. Nike’s more than 10 years deep into the golf industry, and is still fighting perceptions that they’re just a shoe company, that their equipment is garbage, that they just don’t belong in the golf business.

That’s some pretty shallow thinking right there.

Nike views the journey of a golfer as a 40 year endeavor. The company is barely 25% of the way into their first generation. If it can’t convert you, Nike can probably wait you out.

All of that said, there are some uncomfortable obstacles that Nike Golf needs to overcome sooner rather than later. For all of the perceptions, and misconceptions about Nike Golf, I’ve come to believe the biggest issue Nike faces is the disproportionate amount of indifference to their golf business.

Uncomfortable Facts

Perhaps I delayed writing up these survey results as long as I did out of some overly-optimistic delusion that more people would actually participate in the survey. It didn’t happen. We’ve done several surveys prior, and a couple since. We’ve marketed and promoted them the same, and despite all of that, the raw head count, suggests that golfers just aren’t that interested in Nike as a golf brand.

By far our Nike survey generated the fewest responses. It’s almost disconcerting.

Want some context?

The total number of responses to our Nike Golf survey were roughly half of what we got for Callaway. That’s an interesting parallel as you have one iconic company still trying to establish itself in golf, while another iconic golf company is fighting to rebuild after years of digging an increasingly deeper hole. Neither is where it wants to be right now (at least I hope neither is), but it sure looks like golfers have a greater interest in the Callaway story right now.

Now it’s entirely possible that for whatever reason we have a disproportionally Nike-averse audience. It’s also possible that Nike is the biggest victim of golf’s generation gap. Sure…almost all of us own something with a swoosh on it, but I’d wager that Nike brand performance is strongest among the 30-40 crowd (give or take a few years on either side). That demographic (toss in the mid-to-late-20-something’s too) represents golf’s lost generation.

Visit any golf club…you’ve got juniors on family memberships,and then a massive gap that extends nearly all the way to the AARP. 20 and 30-somethings aren’t playing any measurable quantity of golf.

I’m 41. I’m one of the kids at my club. I’d be a kid at nearly any club. In 10 years, I’ll still be one of the kids. Nike’s generation isn’t playing golf right now, and I believe that explains a good bit of the indifference.

For those of you who did respond…let’s go to the survey.

Nike Brand Survey Results

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It’s not unusual to see Marketing lead the way. We have a cynical audience anyway, and that generally means that everyone short of Titleist and PING takes a marketing first approach. Remember the point I  made at the beginning. Nike is more PING and Titleist than they are Callaway or TaylorMade.

Just think about that rationally for a moment.

I’d wager that Nike would prefer to see both the Quality (4.16%) and Performance (8.20%) numbers higher (it’s that perception problem again). The good news is that the innovation message does seem to be resonating as 25.80% selected that as the most positive differentiator.

The most fascinating (and entertaining) responses to this question were found among the 12.49% that answered Other.

As you might expect there were plenty of mentions of Tiger and Rory (sometimes individually, sometimes together). There were more than a few who mentioned things like “Clean and simple design. No gimmicks“. And of course we had plenty of negatives like “inferior to all other brands“, “Nike is a shoe company“, and perhaps harshest of all, “nothing“. Indifference might be better than nothing.

Finally, one guy said “Criminal Athletes“. I’m not sure what the basis for that is, or how that qualifies as a positive diffentiator, but if it does, Go Browns!

From my perspective as a golfer, as much as I loathe the overuse of word, from this list, I’m inclined to go with innovation. Nike is less afraid to step outside the box than anyone else in golf, and while that doesn’t always yield the best products out of the gate, it means that Nike has the greatest potential to tear down the current boundaries and make the equipment game exciting again.

First with a rubber core golf ball? Nope…not Titleist. It was Nike. True story.

Nike likely has more intellectual property than anyone outside of the tech world (and Nike has tech patents too). It’s a pool that deepens on the daily. If you don’t think some of that knowledge and innovation crosses over into the golf world, well…now who’s delusional?

From my perspective as golf media guy, I’d leverage the Other category, and offer up Rhino-thick skin.

It’s bad enough that the golf media industry is disproportionately powered (paid for by way of advertising) by the companies for which journalists should be providing objective, honest, and hopefully insightful commentary. The lines are growing more blurred by the day. What’s worse is that golf companies as a group are largely thin-skinned. I’d use a different word, but ladies will be reading this.

It’s a culture of manipulation and control, and when it’s lost, it isn’t always handled professionally.

Negative opinions often incur penalties. We’ve been cut-off from info and product (which is a great way for golf companies to try and control what ,you, the consumer sees). Commentary yields complaints, and just about everyone is happy to offer up an opinion on how I should have written something, or suggest that maybe I shouldn’t have written it at all.

This doesn’t happen at Golf Digest.” Seriously…someone said that to me once.

There’s none of that from Nike Golf. No whining, no crying, no backlash, no tantrums, no retribution. Big boy pants, 24/7/365. Nobody at Nike has ever…not even once, tried to manipulate content. I respect the hell out of them for it, and you should too.

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Hey…there’s Marketing again (55.89%). I’m not sure how Modern (50.18%) translates, but it can’t be a bad thing, right? Youthful, Trendy, and Colorful read like our Cobra-PUMA survey, so make of that what you will, but I’m going to assume it speaks to Nike’s apparel line.

Innovation (37.10%) is good. Hype (34.48%) registering slightly higher than Performance (33.41%) probably isn’t.

Given some of the well-known perceptions about Nike Golf, Illegitimate (3.80%) registering only 3.80% is good news, Poser (11.77%) less so. Both words were included in the survey as potential Nike hater bait. The bad news for Nike is that we hooked a fair amount of you with the latter.

Clearly there are plenty of you who still believe Nike doesn’t belong in golf.

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At 60.46% I think this is the highest No Clubs in the Bag we’ve registered to date. We know Nike has some work to do. The driver number (20.43%) is decent, and putters (16.83%) and irons (18.15%) aren’t far off, but we also know that Nike’s current market share numbers aren’t competitive with the top-tier companies right now. Every silver lining comes with a cloud…or something.

As is often the case with Nike, there’s a ton of potential here. The Covert finally got people talking about Nike drivers. The Covert 2.0 generated real interest. By generation 3, that interest could start translating to real sales. Today’s numbers don’t always tell the whole story. There’s a small argument to be made that Nike Golf is trending slightly upward.

The putters have always performed well for us, and the golfers who actually try them generally end up loving them.

The iron situation is interesting. The VR Combo stuff is excellent, but isn’t the sort of thing that has mass market appeal. There is a quiet buzz, however, hovering over the Covert 2 irons. Yes, I know quiet and buzz don’t often work well together in this context, so let me explain.

Callaway’s Apex is the iron story of 2014 thus far. For all the talk of Bertha this and that, Apex is what’s driving the company right now. Despite an obnoxious price tag on the pro model, Callaway has done exceptionally well with the lineup, and more relevant to the discussion at hand, golfers won’t shut up about them.

With the Covert 2 irons, it’s a bit more subtle. A few sources inside pro shops have told me that what’s happening with noticeable frequency is that a guy will demo a bunch of irons and end up with the Covert Forged (if we’re calling Callaway out on price, we should probably mention that they’re also insanely expensive relative to their market placement) in his bag. Within a few weeks, 2 more guys from his foursome will come in and order a set (many without demoing anything else). The sales are almost entirely performance driven. Scores drop, and the guys on the losing end want in on the action. They’re buying what’s beating them.

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There’s nothing spectacularly exciting here. 62.86% report an improving perception of Nike Golf within the last 3 years. I suspect that’s largely due to a more compelling metalwoods lineup. I’d also wager that with each passing year, the acceptance of Nike as a real golf company grows. Through conversion or death, eventually we’ll stop talking about this ridiculous notion that Nike doesn’t belong in golf.

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Here’s one where we don’t agree. While an astounding 73.97% of you believe that Nike invests heavily in marketing, I’d argue they don’t invest enough. It’s July. When was the last time you saw Nike pushing a specific product, demo day, or any other initiative designed drive you to put a Nike club in your hand.

Nike did just announce the Nike Lunar Waverly. It’s a cool looking golf shoe, but…well…you know.

Callaway’s Phil Mickelson US Open promo was brilliant in that it incentivized golfers to demo equipment at a time when most of us have already spent our equipment allowance for the year. Only Callaway knows for sure if the benefit justified the cost, but it was something.

Most of the rest of this isn’t much different than what we’ve seen in past surveys. The one big red flag for me (from the Nike perspective) is that only 3.87% of you believe that Nike Golf emphasizes custom fitting. Guess what? We agree. Totally…and then some.

Nike has never been a power player where custom fitting is concerned. We’ve heard the guys that worked their Speed Trial events a couple of years ago weren’t always well trained (in club fitting or the Nike product line), and Nike fitting carts are a rarity. Finding club specifications and other important product details on the Nike Golf website is next to impossible, and most consumer we talk to aren’t the least bit aware that Nike offers the most comprehensive shaft upgrade program in the industry.

This needs to get better, and fast.

On a more positive note, Nike just opened up its first Performance Fitting Center in Scotland, and it appears that Nike is finally starting to realize the value and necessity of building a competent network of fitters:

“Today marks a critical step in our journey as we deliver an experience designed to serve the golfer in fitting and performance. It’s not enough to simply make great product – we have to serve our consumer with world-class experiences that enable them to unlock their true potential” – Cindy Davis, President, Nike Golf

Hopefully Scotland is just the beginning. $20 bucks says it is.
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Nobody in golf wants to be a follower. That’s for real. If you look at Nike products like cavity-back drivers (for better or worse), RZN balls (also for better or worse), and their incredibly interesting collection of patents (some really cool and unique stuff), it’s hard to make any sustainable argument that Nike is following anybody.

How can I say this…25.30% of you are wrong.

I can’t put it any more kindly than that.

While my experience with Nike leads me to believe that they’re generally unconcerned with what the rest of the industry is doing (they’re totally on their own program), if you consider the evolution of golf apparel and footwear over the last decade, and toss in things like the rubber core golf ball (and maybe one day the evolution of RZN), I think 27.00% of you could make a legitimate case for Nike as one of the industry leaders.

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Once again the results play into the perception that golf equipment is mostly all the same. Indistinguishable led the way in every category (it always does). The red flags here are the occasions where Slightly Worse registers higher than Slightly Better (irons, wedges), and where Significantly Worse register higher than Far Superior (Metalwoods, Irons, Wedges, Balls).

Brutal honesty, I think a lot of that comes from consumer ignorance. Some believe Nike makes crap, and so they don’t bother to hit it.

How many have actually hit a Nike wedge side by side against a Vokey or a Cleveland? Nike driver head to head against Callaway, Cobra, and Titleist? There exists in the marketplace a very real aversion…let’s call it a bias against Nike products, and it’s largely founded on nothing other than bogus perceptions.

That’s my opinion and observation on the problem. It’s Nike’s job to fix it.

As with anything else, nothing is the best for everyone, but if you actually believe it when you say Significantly Worse, you owe it to yourself to do some comprehensive side by side testing.

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There’s a tremendous amount of disconnect between the responses to this question and the one that preceded it. In general teal (Above Average) outpaces grey (Below Average) almost across the board. The same is true at the extremes for everything but Value. Overall this is a fairly solid result for Nike Golf.

The highlights are definitely Innovation, where 42.00% of you ranked Nike as Above Average. Toss in the 20.00% who view Nike as the leader and well…that’s a sizable majority on the happy side of the equation. Performance and Quality also scored well which leads me to believe that guys who either own or who have tried recent Nike clubs ranked them highly (even if neither is the first thing they associate with Nike Golf), while those who haven’t largely ran with their assumptions.

 

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I don’t know what the right answer is here…or if there is a right answer. I’m sure Team Nike has a thought or two on the subject, but me, on this, I waffle. Depending on what’s going on at any particular time, you could sell me on any of the middle 3.

Hard goods (anything with a grip) market share numbers simply don’t support any argument for improving rapidly. The numbers alone probably make a better argument for failing slowly, but with that said, the Covert line has improved significantly in just one iteration. Nike club designer, Nate Radcliffe has been called a rock star by more than one person I’ve spoken with, and with Priority Designs in the mix, we think Nike’s best is still yet to come.

Considering that the RZN ball is finally not only playable, but it’s actually good, and there hasn’t been any significant drop-off with the irons, putters, apparel and footwear, and I suppose Improving Slowly is where I’ve settled today.

I believe in the potential of Nike Golf.

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Again, the curves (or bars) aren’t much different than what we’ve seen in the past. Comparatively fewer of you (6.09%) ranked Nike as the best in the industry, but an even smaller number (1.74%) ranked Nike as the worst. I’m dying to know what company the majority our readers believes is THE worst. We’ll get on that.

As it almost always does, average ruled the day.

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Just shy of a 60/40 split. A majority of golfers who follow golf companies on social media follow Nike. What our numbers don’t reveal is that Nike still maintains the largest social media following in golf. By the numbers they’re killing it. Whether or not that converts to sales, or even brand loyalty is more of an unknown.

There are plenty out there…in here too, that remain unconvinced that you can tweet your way to success in the golf industry.

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Who didn’t know…or assume Nike Golf would be on social media? Seriously?

I’ve shared my thoughts on Nike’s social media approach in the past, and while I’ll concede that I’ve seen some improvement over the last year or so, their approach isn’t as informative (from a product detail perspective), or as personal (hey, you’re my real life buddy now) as some others, so I can definitely see how 26.82% of you wouldn’t find the Nike approach engaging or relevant.

Here’s my question for you guys: What changes should Nike make to their social media approach?

48.04% of you don’t follow Nike Golf because you’re not Nike Golf fans. Can’t argue that logic.

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I suppose it all boils down to how you define engagement. If it’s back and forth, making you feel like you’re a part of something (like a complete reinvention of a brand)…or that someone is even reading your tweets, then nobody is more engaged than Callaway. I mean granted, they don’t engage with me much, or the MyGolfSpy account (we’re on the naughty list), but if you’re a golfer, consumer, and potential customer, they’re still leading the way.

If engagement is a bit more subtle…cool photos, and of course that motivational JUST DO IT, #dontsleeponsummer stuff, yeah…Nike is really good at that.

I’m willing to buy into Slightly More Engaged.

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Given that we’ve seen occasions where greater percentages of readers report that social media diminished brand perceptions, this is actually a fairly solid showing for Nike.

Big picture, Nike leverages their athletes with greater efficiency than anyone in the industry. When Tiger wins, or when Rory wins, or even when Michelle Wie wins, Nike does an excellent job of making that part of the larger brand experience.

When Nike doesn’t win (and it’s golf so Nike doesn’t always win), photos of shoes don’t always convey the message with the same impact and intensity.

In general, Nike isn’t doing anything to hurt themselves with social media (and there’s plenty of companies for which that statement isn’t true), but they’re not totally killing it either…at least not as far as the delivery is concerned.

What’s true for Nike social media is largely true for the company as whole. As go its athletes, so goes Nike.

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Typical response pattern. Absolutely typical. The majority continues to assert that social media has no influence over the buying decision.

I believe that bad social media is much more likely to negatively influence the buying decision than good social media will a positive decision, but can we ever really know?

Wake up, people. It’s a mind game.

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What an interesting breakdown. Across all of the golf industry…and actually, even if we consider only equipment companies, Nike’s efforts reasonably qualify as Above Average.

Even if it’s ordinary bell curve stuff, what’s interesting is the similarities in the numbers between the most effective in golf, and below average.

Again, the raw headcount supports Nike as the social media leader.

More golfers read Nike tweets and Facebook posts than those of any other company. I’m not sure anything trumps that.

Wrapping It Up and Putting a Swoosh On It

All things considered, this isn’t a horrible result for Nike Golf. Obviously general indifference is a problem, and the results convey what we already knew. Nike still has a lot of work to do in fighting against the just a shoe company, not a real golf company perceptions that inexplicably persist.

Within the last year or so, Nike has diversified its message a bit. There’s less emphasis on Tiger, but they’re still focused on the athlete (and I’ve come around to understanding that and believing that it’s an integral part of the Nike way), but they’re finding better ways to reach the average golfer who may not think of himself in that context.

I’m in the minority…I might actually be a minority of one, but if Nike stays in the game, I believe it’s a logical inevitability that they will become the #1 Brand in Golf. It’s a 40 year journey…Nike is only getting started.

Then again, I might be the one who’s delusional.

 

 

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