Golf Forum - Golf Blog (MyGolfSpy.com) http://www.mygolfspy.com MyGolfSpy - "the top-secret golf site!" Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:40:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6 How to Save the Great American Golf Shop http://www.mygolfspy.com/how-to-save-the-american-golf-shop/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/how-to-save-the-american-golf-shop/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:00:24 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43518 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for How to Save the Great American Golf Shop

Written By: Tony Covey

Some of you had suggested that our coverage of the industry has been a bit too negative lately. I’m not sure what to tell you. It’s not like we’re making this stuff up as we go.

Dick’s laid off 500 PGA Pros and is scaling back it’s golf business (you could make a case that the latter is a positive). TaylorMade is having a lousy year. They’ve cut staff, closed Adams HQ, and it may not be done yet. Callaway has successfully raised its average selling price and increased margins. By most reasonable accounts it’s having a comparatively good year…and by good I mean it was only off 8% in Q2.

There’s a whole bunch of ugly out there right now.

This is not the golden age of the golf equipment business. It’s anything but. Smaller golf manufacturers are telling us it has never been worse than it is right now. Retail managers are telling us much the same thing, and even the most upbeat of industry guys will concede that conditions are challenging. While I don’t particularly embrace my role as harbinger of doom, we don’t think any of this bodes particularly well for your friendly neighborhood golf shop owner.

At the risk of rehashing, let’s briefly run down the list of things working against brick and mortar shops:

  • Growing, and arguably unfair competition from online retailers, eBay, and the manufactures themselves.
  • Declining margins on hard goods coupled with rapid release cycles and the price cuts that often accompany them.
  • Sites like this one put product information at your fingertips. The consumer no longer needs to visit a golf shop to find out what’s new (sorry guys, my bad).
  • The continued decline of the American Middle Class and its associated discretionary income.
  • Ambivalent consumers who no longer find value in face to face interaction and customer service.
  • Ambivalent consumers who don’t believe that custom fitting offers any real benefit.
  • Ambivalent consumers who have no reservations about dinging up demo clubs in golf shop hitting bays before buying from an online retailer, eBay, or direct from the manufacturer.

The bottom line is that the manufacturers are evolving. The consumer is evolving…or arguably devolving. Either way it works to the detriment of brick and mortar, and so the retail shop must evolve too.

Despite the rapidly evolving world of the consumer, the average American pro shop looks much the same as it did before the rise of the internet, eBay, and the iPhone. Retail and by extension golf retail, is very different than it was even a decade ago. The status quo is not a sustainable business model within the golf industry. Evolve or become a victim of natural selection. Those are the options.

club-fitters-bw

Solving the Problem

I’m not a huge fan of my previous boss (that’s a subject for another day), but he was really big on the notion that his guys shouldn’t bring him problems. He wanted solutions.

Fair enough, right?

So let’s put our heads together and hammer out a solution.

In the previous article I suggested some pretty obvious (I think they’re obvious anyway) things retailers can do to try and make up for business lost to the internet. If you’ve got the space, sell buckets of balls. Regrip and repair clubs. Give lessons. If you’ve got a launch monitor (and you should), lease largely unsupervised time on it.

If you’ve got the population to support it, follow the lead of the New York Golf Center and others like it, and expand your business to include a true, build-on-site, custom fitting department.

All that sounds great, but my guess…or at least my hope, is that most shops are already doing most or all of the above.

Some have diversified their offerings. Maybe that means selling golf carts. For others it’s getting into the putting green installation business. There are alternative revenue streams, but how can you stay in the club business and still turn a reasonable profit?

With MAP pricing and the clever ways internet retailers can get around it, it’s next to impossible for the local guy to compete on price alone.

What can a golf shop do to entice you turn your back on eBay and the rest of the internet and spend your money locally (since you’re there demoing clubs anyway)?

lie-bending

Would you be more willing to buy locally if your retailer offered:

  • Free lie/loft check and adjustment for as long as you own your clubs
  • Free annual regripping for as long as you own your clubs (shops on tighter budgets could at least offer free install)
  • Discounted range memberships (where applicable)
  • A free lesson
  • Free launch monitor session with club purchase
  • A free round of golf at a local course with every iron purchase

buying-local

What I’m talking about is offering simple, relatively low cost services that could not only make the consumer think twice before buying online, but that also brings the golfer back to the shop on a regular basis.

Host tech nights to explore new products and new technologies. Educate your customers about all the new drivers and all the new irons. Do it every season…provide refreshments. People…even golfers love refreshments. There isn’t a manufacturer in the business that wouldn’t help you with that. The basic ball flight laws, the role of the shaft…the list of potential ways to reach your local customers is nearly limitless. Any of it could bring golfers to your shop.

Every shop, every location is a bit different, and most definitely the onus is on the retailer to understand his market, identify those services which offer the most value (and get asses through the door) and adapted his business accordingly.

#SaveTheShop

What is your local retailer doing to bring golfers through the door and entice them to spend their money? You tell me (and anyone else paying attention), what other services or promotions could a brick and mortar golf retailer offer in order to earn your business?

save-the-shop

 

]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/how-to-save-the-american-golf-shop/feed/ 19
First Look – 2015 Nike Vapor Flex Driver http://www.mygolfspy.com/first-look-2015-nike-vapor-flex-driver/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/first-look-2015-nike-vapor-flex-driver/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 20:17:55 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43492 Post image for First Look – 2015 Nike Vapor Flex Driver

It would appear that the proverbial cat has escaped its sack. Nike Golf is finding it increasing difficult to keep secrets, and that’s probably a positive indicator where brand interest is concerned.

3 Vapor Models

Nike won’t be the only ones shifting to a bit of an as much tech as you’re willing to pay for model this season, and so it’s not the least bit surprising that all signs point to 3 distinct versions of the Vapor Driver. The early images showed both a fixed hosel driver (possibly a smaller Tour/Pro model), and an adjustable model that looks like the natural evolution (as natural as anything Volt-colored can be) of Nike’s cavityback driver technology.

I suppose that is reasonably compelling, but the most interesting of the 3 models is the upcoming Vapor Flex Driver, which features its own version of cavityback technology along with Nike’s new Flex Flight Module.

The Tech Video

About that Flex Flight

flexflight2

Conceptually, one could think of the Flex Flight Module as a horizontal (Callaway) Gravity Core. Now before we ramp up the predictable who stole what from whom crap, be advised that Nike patent applications for this particular design go back several years. It may be new(ish) to us, but team Swoosh has been iterating this idea for a while.

The Nike patent drawing below isn’t 100% what we’re looking at today, but it’s undeniably similar.

US20140162808A1-20140612-D00028

From a technical standpoint, the Flex Flight Module is a flippable 15-gram weight, which can shifts the center of gravity 2mm front to back. That equates to 1° of loft and roughly 300 RPM of spin. While it’s not discussed in the video, moving the heavy end of the module towards the rear should, along with increasing launch and spin, increase MOI as well.

vapor core

In the tech video, Nike’s Nate Radcliffe (that’s not Nate in the image above) explains that moving weight horizontally can alter both shot shape and trajectory, and 200 RPM can be the difference between simply being comfortable, and being dialed it (competition ready). The point is that while Flex Flight isn’t a comprehensive fitting solution in and of itself, as the final step in the equation, it can help get your driver totally optimized.

Unlike Callaway’s Gravity Core, the Flex Flight Module locks in place without an additional cap. It’s a small detail, but it saves a bit of weight, and that’s always helpful.

Carbon Reinforced RZN Crown

crownshot

I’ll discuss it in more detail in the coming weeks, but one of the things I love about what Nike is doing for 2015 is the cohesiveness of the entire lineup. Volt is ever-present, as is the inclusion of Nike’s RZN material (although it’s formulated differently depending on the application).

Nike is Volt. Nike is RZN. Those two points will be made abundantly clear in the coming months.

The selling point for RZN as a crown technology is that it’s lighter than titanium, and although strength is similar, RZN is less rigid, which means Nike has some freedom to move weight around, and shape the material in ways that aren’t possible with cast titanium.

internal-rib

Relevant to the discussion of crown technology is the inclusion of an internal rib. Functionally it acts as a support brace that stiffens the head in all directions, which Nike claims pushes the energy transfer forward. For comparison’s sake, this isn’t much different than what TaylorMade extols as one of the benefits of a forward CG placement. The theoretical upside to the Nike implementation is that, if it works at advertised, it would accomplish the same thing without reducing dynamic loft or sacrificing MOI.

Allow me to reiterate that IF part.

As long as we’re talking about the crown…yes, the giant swoosh carries on, and will now be joined by Nike’s meteor print pattern (see below) on at least a portion of the crown.

meteor

Compression Channel is Back

compression-channel

Nike’s version (and some would argue the original version) of slot technology disappeared when the company moved to the cavityback design made famous by the Covert series. Compression Channel makes its return in the new Vapor series.

Now before anyone starts ranting about the USGA and CT/COR, understand that the new version is variable width. Basically, it’s designed to boost (or at least maintain) ball speeds as impact moves towards the perimeter of the face. We’ve talked about this before, but just for the hell of it…

The USGA’s CT test is limited to the center of the face. If you can maintain ball speed away from the center, you increase average ball speed (since none of us hit the center of the clubface every time). Simply put, the idea here is to maximize energy transfer.

Flex Loft 2.0

flexloft2

Finally, Nike has tweaked their Flex Loft adjustability system for 2015. The new 2.0 version offers the same performance (4° of loft, left, center, right), but the total weight has been reduced by roughly 5.5 grams. There are plenty of places in a clubhead where additional mass is beneficial, the hosel isn’t one of them.

No doubt some would suggest that Nike’s hosel is still too bulky, but this is clearly a step in the right direction. Bonus points/kudos to Nike for making the updated system fully compatible with the original incarnation (your other Covert shafts will work in the new head).

Additional Details

We don’t have pricing, and we don’t have your stock shaft details yet either. Actually, we don’t have much more than this right now. Nike has given me a polite and official no comment on all things driver related, but at the rate leaks are springing up, it probably won’t be long before more information becomes available.

While I’m sure Nike would have preferred everything stayed under-wraps, anecdotally there’s more interest in the new lineup than any Nike release I’ve ever seen. Whether that translates to sales…I won’t speculate just yet.

You can say what you want about Volt, but it’s definitely grabbing some attention.

]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/first-look-2015-nike-vapor-flex-driver/feed/ 58
The Death of the Great American Golf Shop http://www.mygolfspy.com/the-death-of-the-great-american-golf-shop/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/the-death-of-the-great-american-golf-shop/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:00:43 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43456 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for The Death of the Great American Golf Shop

Written By: Tony Covey

Most of you have already read One Insider’s View on The Demise of Golf Equipment Salesand hopefully have a better understanding of the all too unpleasant realities of running a brick and mortar golf business in 2014.

These guys are being squeezed on all sides. Competition includes other shops, big box, online warehouses, eBay, and the golf equipment companies themselves. As the marketplace has evolved, so too have consumers. More than ever we know what we want, we know what we’re willing to pay, and we’re willing to buy before we try.

None of that works to the benefit of the traditional golf shop.

I know my specs. If I can save $40, and get a free sleeve of balls for the convenience of keeping my ass firmly planted in my desk chair, all the better.

As we considered the plight of our anonymous author, and countless others just like him around the country, we found ourselves asking a most uncomfortable question.

Do we even need brick and mortar golf shops anymore?

As the business of golf has evolved around them, the average American pro shop has become a jack of all trades, and a master of none.

The modern pro shop can’t offer the best prices, it doesn’t have the best selection, it can’t keep up with the volume, and the majority simply cannot compete with a growing network of hardcore fitters and builders. Hell, the golf companies are dipping into the little guy’s pocket too.

Even customer service, a traditional strength – perhaps the last great advantage – of brick and mortal, has become devalued by an increasingly ambivalent consumer for whom price isn’t simply the bottom line, it’s the only line.

Brick and mortal is dying. It’s the next victim of golf’s great recalibration.

Big Box and the Internet Retailer

Big Box…Dick’s, GolfSmith, and to an extent PGA Superstore, Edwin Watts (what’s left of them), and even regional sporting goods chains are able to service those looking for a tactile experience (I just want to see it and touch it in real life), or the instant gratification of buying off the rack and taking it home right freakin’ now.

The chains have the facilities to satisfy the guys who want to take a few swings on their own before taking the plunge, and they can provide a drive by fitting experience for those of us who are looking for just a little bit more hands-on help.

For a healthy percentage of everyone else, online is the new reality. There is a growing number of consumers who make-up their minds without ever stepping through the doors of a golf shop. And when they do, there’s still a healthy chance that they’ll go home and buy online just to save a few bucks. Today’s golf consumer is making it absolutely impossible for brick and mortar to compete with the internet.

30-day guarantees (use it, if you don’t love it, we’ll send you something else), better pricing (add to cart to get a price below what the guy down the street can sell it to you for), free shipping, no tax, and the occasional $25 gift cart is more than your local pro shop can offer.

Between tax, discounts, and other incentives, it’s not unusual to save upwards of $50 compared to your friendly neighborhood golf shop…and that’s before we start talking about Open Box Programs.

openbox

We love Open Box programs and you should too. There’s no better way to save on this year’s gear. Open Box is often billed as unhit returns, and more often than not that just means that the factory plastic has been removed from the club. The retailers claim it can’t be sold as new.

Save $50 and skip the hassle of trying to get that damn plastic off? Yes please. Ask your brick and mortar guy about his Open Box program. Let me know how that goes.

And Then There’s eBay

ebay-img

The volume of counterfeit clubs on eBay is legendary. Hell, we even wrote an article about it. That was several years ago, and much to the dismay of nearly everyone in the business of selling clubs, things have changed significantly.

It’s an indisputable fact…actually it’s one of the industry’s dirty little secrets, that some manufacturers funnel their excess inventory to eBay. Where the clubs end up might not be on the authorized sellers lists, but the gear is genuine, and it’s not unusual to find brand new stuff for barely above, and sometimes below wholesale.

What makes eBay unique and nearly impossible to compete with is that it’s an entirely consumer driven marketplace. Goods aren’t worth what the manufacturers say they are (listing at MAP is a great way to sell NOTHING), the products are worth exactly what the highest bidder is willing to pay, and not a damn thing more.

eBay is where the consumer wins, and there’s no better gauge of consumer confidence in a given brand than the average selling price.

The old adage “if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is” doesn’t much apply to eBay anymore. A US-based seller, with 99% feedback, and thousands of completed club listings isn’t selling counterfeit goods. He’s exploiting loopholes in the current retail model, and some of these guys are doing it with the support of the manufacturers.

Demo down the street, but buy on eBay for 30% less. Brick and mortar absolutely cannot compete.

The Franchising of Custom Fitting

coolclubs-combo

For the golfer looking for a complete custom fitting, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the traditional pro shop to compete with a growing number of seriously custom fitters.

Not long ago truly being custom fittted for the entire bag meant either paying top dollar to visit a TaylorMade Performance Lab (or something of that ilk), or filling your bag with gear from KZG, Wishon, Swing Science, or some other component company that, if we’re being brutally honest, doesn’t appeal to the average golfer in nearly the same way that the big OEM stuff does.

Those days are over. Not only can custom fitting specialists like CoolClubs (photo above), Modern Golf, Club Champion, and HotStix custom fit you for every club in your bag, they’ll build your new gear on site to exacting specifications.

To borrow a line from one of the guys at Modern Golf, these guys #builditbetter.

They stock heads and shafts from every major manufacturer and often boutique brands as well. Because everything is built to spec, custom fitting franchises can carry less in the way of volume and more in the way of variety.

Net down is never an issue.

A fitting at one of these places offers an experience and a level of true service that the average golf shop simply can’t compete with. Yes, it costs more, but the demand is clearly there, and unlike traditional brick and mortar operations, these fitting specialists have developed a service portfolio that’s next to impossible for big box, online, and even eBay to compete with.

The custom fitting franchises are golf retail’s greatest innovators.

Dear Retail Partner, Screw You.

If there wasn’t already enough competition, retailers are now facing stiff competition from the golf companies themselves. In the golf equipment business, retailers are the middle men…and golf companies have figured out that it makes sense to eliminate them where they can.

TaylorMade, Callaway, Cobra, Mizuno…hell, basically everyone not named Titleist or PING now sells direct to the consumer from the company website.

You want the new Callaway Big Bertha V-Series driver? Why not go directly to Callaway to get it? It’s certainly easier to customize it from the comforts of home then it is to go to the store and have them place the identical order for you.

From the manufacturer’s standpoint direct to consumer can significantly increase profits. A $400 driver costs a retailer $290. Eliminate the middle man, and keep all $400 for yourself. It’s shady as hell, but it’s also just good business.

This isn’t some fad. It’s here to stay. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that you’ll find a TaylorMade store sandwiched between the Gap and Victoria’s Secret at your local mall.

Apple Store, Microsoft Store, Oakley Vault, and lets’ not forget the Nike store. The no-middle-man, direct-to-consumer, product-centric approach model works. It can (and likely) will work for golf as well.

What’s Left for the Little Guy?

None of this bodes well for the average golf shop.

For whatever it’s worth, green grass (on-the-course shops) has the distinct advantage of transforming commodity into necessity.

If I show up to the course, as many golfers do, without tees, balls, a glove, or in the case of one of my buddies, golf shoes, green grass is the only game in town.

I need those things (often high-margin things), and no online shop can compete with the immediacy of the demand. Green grass can survive on apparel, the occasional bag of clubs, and plenty of high-margin accessories.

For the traditional off-the-course retailer, things are a bit more complicated. There will always be a measurable percentage of golfers who want to try before they buy. For those guys, a golf shop that’s geographically disparate from any big box competition (as is still the case for many local shops) can claim one of the few remaining advantages left for a small retailer.

Those guys still have to compete with online, and eBay, and direct to consumer business that make it very enticing for try before you buy to become try before you buy somewhere else.

As our discretionary capital shrinks, buying local will often take a backseat to getting the most bang out of what few bucks we have to spend on our hobbies.

Never mind the little guy, we’re going to support ourselves first.

Differentiate or Die

For guys who do little more than sell clubs (and other miscellaneous golf wares) the future is bleak. It’s not going to get easier.

Diversification is one solution. What none of you could know is that the author of last week’s piece is doing just that. He’s already expanded his business within the golf industry, and he’s currently looking into some options outside of golf to help support his business.

I would imagine many others are doing the same.

If you step away from the passion we all feel for this game and look at the economics of golf the same way a business like Dick’s Sporting Good does, you’d find that not much delivers less ROI per square foot than golf.

One shop manager I spoke to recently told me that he’s ecstatic if he can pull in a 35% average margin on golf…and he’s not ecstatic very often.

Retail markup at Dick’s across all departments runs in the ballpark of 50%. When you can sell yoga pants all day long (and make 70% doing it), does it even make sense to bother with golf?

For most, I believe the only chance for long-term success in the golf retail business requires shifting the focus from product to services.

Sure, nearly every golf shop preaches customer service, but is that really much of a competitive advantage? In today’s world, Amazon’s customer service is good enough. Hands-on isn’t valued the way it once was. To the average consumer, you’re selling commodities. Accept it and adapt. I’ll buy my milk from anyone if the price is right, and so will most anyone else.

The shops with the best chance for survival are already providing services like regripping, repair, and lessons. Those with the acreage can do well with driving ranges (demo days can also offer a substantial revenue boost).

Those who have already invested in Trackman, Foresight, or some other simulator would be wise to sell blocks of time to customers who want figure things out for themselves. Those who haven’t invested in technology, probably should.

It’s pretty simple, differentiate or die.

And if it is the unfortunate latter, with some many other options, will today’s golfer even notice?

Help Support MyGolfSpy’s Continued Independence

We’re not lying when we say that we refuse to take advertising from the biggest names in golf. We truly believe it’s the only way to remain above the influence while maintaining our freedom to provide honest opinion and commentary about what’s happening inside the golf equipment industry.

If you found this story important, meaningful, or just interesting, please consider making a donation to help support MyGolfSpy’s independence.

We accept credit cards through PayPal. A PayPal account is not required in order to donate.

Choose donation amount:
Anonymous donation
]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/the-death-of-the-great-american-golf-shop/feed/ 101
TaylorMade R15 vs. TaylorMade SLDR 2.0 http://www.mygolfspy.com/taylormade-r15-vs-taylormade-sldr-2-0/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/taylormade-r15-vs-taylormade-sldr-2-0/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:52:21 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43435 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for TaylorMade R15 vs. TaylorMade SLDR 2.0

Do names matter? Should what’s stamped in the sole of  a driver impact how a golf club sells?

While I will tell you that it shouldn’t, there’s a serious argument to be made that it does. Granted, PING (mostly Is and Gs) and Titleist (9…what year is it?) have succeeded by keeping it simple. Some of the other guys…well…they’ve been known to complicate things a bit. We’ve had RAZRs and Diablos, JetSpeeds and Rocketballz, and Cells of both the AMP and BIO varieties too.

Does campy work, or are manufacturers better off keeping it simple? Golf is serious right, and serious golfers like simple…at least that’s what I’ve been told.

Cultivating a brand identity (product names are certainly a part of that) is integral to the success of every company.

Who are we, and how do we convey that to the consumer?

The Next TaylorMade Driver

It’s a given that TaylorMade will release a new flagship driver. Maybe it happens in November, or maybe the company holds off until February. Regardless, there will be another one.

What will they call it? Better yet, what do you want them to call it? You tell us, which one of these potential names do you find more appealing.

Vote Now

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/taylormade-r15-vs-taylormade-sldr-2-0/feed/ 55
HOW IT’S MADE – 59Belts http://www.mygolfspy.com/how-its-made-59belts/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/how-its-made-59belts/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:00:37 +0000 mygolfspy http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43389 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for HOW IT’S MADE – 59Belts

59 belts launched in August 2007. Since then, many of the game’s top players have enjoyed being part of the golf brands coined ‘#59Crew’. Players such as Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Mike Weir, Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam are just a few who have, or still do, proudly represent the brand and their commitment to doing things the 59 way.

Today we will take you on a tour of the 59 Custom Shop, their manufacturing facility in Southern California. From raw material to the fashion fairways of the PGA Tour, the magic really does happen somewhere in here. #CommittedtoBetter

Making 59 Buckles

Raw aluminum arrives to our shop in California in flat bar stock which will be cut down to blanks to be further shaped into what will become a 59 buckle.

aluminum-bar

After cutting material into workable sized blanks, the material goes into the machine to be precisely shaped and leveled on both sides in preparation for milling & engraving.

Image #2 Squaring raw_aluminum_block

After being shaped to 59 buckle specs, a single post hole is drilled to prep the buckle to hang for hand powder coating.

Image #3 finished cut

Next ‘flapping’ the buckle to create an abraded surface to enhance adhesion of the powder coat. Coating professionals would say that this step is excessive but we go the extra mile to ensure a long lasting and durable finish.

Image #4 Flapping prior to powder coat

Buckles are hung from racks and powder coated by hand with a powder gun and an electric charge. Black is the color of the day!

Image #5 buckles post powder coating

Buckle blanks are then placed in an oven to bake the powder coat for a minimum of 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Powder coating provides a very durable, yet aesthetically pleasing finish. A wide selection of powder colors provides a plethora of custom options for our customers.

Image #6 buckles in powder coat oven

Back into the mill to drill 3 more holes and add back engraving to further personalize your 59 buckle. Custom engraving is limited to 25 characters.

Image #7 Tap holes _ Back engraving

Finally we get to work on the actual buckle design. This buckle is pocketed to create an island in the shape of the “MyGolfSpy” shield. Next, smaller tools will be used to machine the finer details inside the shield.

Image #8 Design Pass

The final steps involve hand assembling stainless steel parts to secure the belt strap. A delicate touch is needed to line up the post holes to accept our patent pending wire clip.

Image #9 - Post Assembly

Last step in the process is pin assembly which is done on a hand press. A slip at this point in the process would be like dropping a baby – NOT good!

Image #10 Hook Assembly

Finished 59 buckle! From raw bar to finished buckle takes 45 to 60 minutes to make an aluminum buckle. Creating the finished buckle involves TWELVE processes plus two cleanings along the way.

Our stainless buckles buckles travel a similar process, but require a hand polishing step in place of the powder coating. Stainless Steel also take considerably more time to prep and machine due to the added strength of the material.

IMG_1316
IMG_1323IMG_1317

Thanks for joining us in the 59 shop, we would be happy to answer any questions about the process or how to order a custom buckle. Visit us at 59belts.com or contact us directly at customerservice@59belts.com.

*This is actually the 2nd MyGolfSpy Buckle 59Belts has done for us. You can check out the original stainless steel buckle in the MyGolfSpy Forum.

]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/how-its-made-59belts/feed/ 4
What You Told Us – Mizuno Survey Results http://www.mygolfspy.com/mizuno-golf-survey-results/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/mizuno-golf-survey-results/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:00:27 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43346 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for What You Told Us – Mizuno Survey Results

Mizuno isn’t the biggest brand in golf. They don’t spend nearly as much as some others on Tour endorsements. They don’t have an astronomical marketing budget. They don’t even have a booth on the PGA Show Floor (Mizuno goes the conference room route).

What they do have is an innovative iron fitting system, a loyal following, and a reputation for producing some of the best feeling irons in golf. How does all of this translate to our brand survey?

Let’s get to it.

Here’s What You Told Us

Chart_Q5_140909

We’ve seen similar results before. In many respects these Mizuno results are fairly close to the responses we saw for our Titleist Brand Survey. The Performance numbers are basically equal, and if you’re Mizuno you certainly must be pretty damn psyched to see that 66.13% of respondents associate the Mizuno brand with Quality. That number basically doubles the Titleist number (which no other brand had previously come close to matching) for the same buzzword.

What I find interesting is that like Titleist, the Innovation value for Mizuno is low. Certainly Mizuno has done some innovative things with their irons of late, but I’d wager that most think about metalwoods when they hear innovation.

It’s not like Mizuno is the market leader in any category, but my inference here is that the Mizuno guy is one who cares more about concrete ideas like quality and performance than the nebulous concept of innovation.

Chart_Q6_140909

No descriptor that I would consider negative registered above 5%, and quite frankly there are worse things than Bland (3.44%). Positive stuff substantially outweighed the negative; suggesting that most of you who responded hold Mizuno in extremely high regard.

As is often the case, some interesting bits of info were gleaned from the Other field. Forged and Feel led those responses, with Classic, Reputation, and Niche also popping up multiple times. Curiously, one person wrote in Invisibility. I’m not sure if that’s meant to suggest that Mizuno is invisible as a brand, or if Mizuno clubs can make you invisible. Something to think about…or not.

Chart_Q7_140909

We understand that there’s an inherent skew to surveying brands individually like this. If you’re a Mizuno fan you’re more likely to participate in a Mizuno survey (and say good things) than someone who isn’t a Mizuno guy. Makes sense right?

Obviously we know that nearly 60% is not an accurate representation of the marketplace as a whole (if it was, Mizuno would be nearly thrice over the #1 iron brand at retail), The most recent Datatech report has Mizuno at about 6% of the iron market, but we can appreciate the fact that you Mizuno guys are loyal.

Also not surprising is that 35.54% of you have no Mizuno clubs in the bag. Mizuno is generally regarded as an iron company, so it’s to be expected that the number of metalwoods reported to be in the bag significantly trail irons and wedges.

It’s not that Mizuno metalwoods are bad. We’ve tested some solid stuff from them over the years, but there’s little doubt the company is more focused on irons, and that shows up in our reader’s bags.

Chart_Q8_140909

Why are perceptions of Mizuno Golf either stagnant or improving? Certainly I think they’ve run some great promotions. Play Famously is perhaps the best marketing campaign any golf company has run…ever (at least as far as being really cool goes). I also believe they’ve done an outstanding job diversifying their offerings to reach a wider range of golfers.

We’ll talk about that a bit more after this next chart.
Chart_Q9_140909

The historical knock on Mizuno irons was that they were almost exclusively for the better golfer. Mizuno irons were something you might play when you got a little better. While Mizuno had some stellar offerings in the MX line, I think even those inside Mizuno would agree that the company struggled to reach the mid to high handicap golfer.

A few years ago Mizuno folded the MX line into the JPX series. Since that time Mizuno has continued to produce more traditional quality player offerings under the MP series. The biggest change is that for whatever reason JPX is resonating with the average golfer more than MX ever did. Maybe it’s the name. Maybe it’s the bolder colors. Maybe its the technology story. For whatever reason JPX works.

That said, Mizuno clearly has some work to do as the number of people who think Mizuno’s products target a wide range of players (36.62%) is only slightly higher than the percentage of you who believe that Mizuno’s products target a narrow range of players (33.40%).

Those two big long bars. Those are for Products are manufactured to tight tolerances (81.12%) and Product Engineering is Superior (74.69%)

Chart_Q10_140909

This question always fascinates me, even if the results themselves ever produce much insight. I suppose there’s an argument to be made that Mizuno is a leader in iron technology. You could probably argue that it’s a follow on the metalwood side. More than anything, I believe the company has a vision of what a Mizuno club should be, and it’s largely unwilling to deviate much from that. In that respect Mizuno is unconcerned with what others are doing.

See what I mean…fascinating to discuss, but little actual insight.

Chart_Q11_140909

Irons great. Wedges Good. Metalwoods a bit behind the curve.

Chart_Q12_140909

All good news here for Mizuno, although it’s perhaps a bit surprising that Value rated as well as it did. Mizuno irons are generally a bit above average cost wise, so I suppose it’s perhaps reassuring to see that Mizuno loyalists are able differentiate between cost and value.

Chart_Q13_140909

It’s hard to really know what’s going on at Mizuno Golf. As a subdivision of a Japanese company the numbers can be hard to dig up. We’ve heard that, like most everyone else in the golf industry, Mizuno had a rough start to 2014, but the fall product is as compelling as anything we’ve seen from the company. Boron people, Boron.

Couple that with a following that while not massive is loyal and you have a recipe for sustainability. Toss in the oh by that way that retailers love work with Mizuno and there’s definitely reason for optimism.

Chart_Q14_140909

So I’m guessing we’re mostly drawing an association with the irons here, but whatever…you think highly of Mizuno. Perhaps the most interesting number in all of this; not a single person who took our survey thinks that Mizuno products are the worst in golf. Nobody. 0%. That’s never happened before.

Chart_Q16_140909

60/40 is roughly the average split we’ve seen for nearly every brand. Move along…nothing to see here.

Chart_Q17_140909

Again…a fairly typical response pattern, but the other option did provide some interesting results. Here are some of the other reasons why some of you don’t follow Mizuno:

  • I’m on Team Titleist (I wasn’t aware that was exclusionary, but ok).
  • Time Waster (so true)
  • They don’t use Google+ (talk about wasting your time)
  • Limited left-handed offerings (fair point, but that’s improving)
  • The Mizuno rep was rude to me so I switched to Adams (angry fist shaken)
  • Do I really care what Charles Howell III or Brian Gay thinks of the new irons? Perhaps I should, but I don’t. (it’s ok. I don’t care either)
  • I don’t reveal info to social media (I either…or does me?)

Chart_Q18_140909

Is Mizuno more engaged than the average shaft company? Sure. Are they slightly less engaged than the average equipment manufacturer…that’s a good question. I’m glad I asked it. Certainly they’re not Callaway. They’re not TaylorMade, Nike, or Titleist either. They’re probably not even Cleveland. Where does that leave them? I’d say slightly less engaged is about right.

Chart_Q19_140909

We might as well stop asking this question. The result is always the same.

Chart_Q20_140909

This one too, although there’s a part of me that believes that for those of us who use social media regularly, the influence is probably significantly greater than we’re willing to acknowledge. I mean seriously, how can you look at that Play Famously stuff and not think more highly of Mizuno?

The Final Word

So what’s the takeaway? Those of you who responded hold a generally favorable view of Mizuno. The lack of vitriol suggests that at worst there may be some indifference towards the Mizuno Golf brand.

The company will never be #1, but I don’t believe it has any aspirations to be. Steady improvements to an already quality line would appear to be the goal, and in that context, Mizuno is succeeding admirably.

]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/mizuno-golf-survey-results/feed/ 12
One Insider’s View on The Demise of Golf Equipment Sales http://www.mygolfspy.com/insiders-view-golf-equipment-sales/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/insiders-view-golf-equipment-sales/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 14:00:20 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43314 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for One Insider’s View on The Demise of Golf Equipment Sales

Editor’s Note: An insider tells how the industry works and why it is nearing self-destruction. The following article was submitted by a MyGolfSpy reader. He owns and operates multiple retail golf facilities and wanted to share with you some of what he experiences in dealing with accelerated product cycles, MAP pricing, and declining profit margins.

For obvious reasons, the author wishes to remain anonymous.

Some Background

I’m a business owner of more than one retail shop. We have been in business for over 10 years. In my time, I’m pretty sure I can say I’ve nearly seen it all.

What’s the reason for writing this article?

The industry as a whole is in nearing self-destruction. Rounds played are down, golf courses continue to close, and from my perspective the golf equipment business has never seen a lower point than now.

We initially opened our doors as a franchise. My partners and I didn’t have a strong background in retail, however, being avid golfers we knew about equipment. Additionally, the backing of a franchise is supposed to carry some weight, buying power is supposed to be greater. Ultimately, it didn’t work out that way for us, but the franchise approach did provide support in attaining accounts with major vendors, opening up our store and properly merchandising our inventory.

After 3 years in business, we bought out of our franchise. Within the first year, we felt we had learned enough go it alone. The franchise leadership had changed (not for the better), and overall group buying power was lackluster. With 80-100 stores nationwide, one would hope the major vendors would consider our group buying power. This never proved to be the case, and as a result, we saw no increase in our margins. We are now a multiple location business branded with our own name.

It starts with buying power and margins

Here’s how our industry works:

Most companies release new product right after the annual PGA Show in Orlando. That used to be the case anyway. For the sake of discussion, let’s say that still is the case, because quite frankly that’s how, as a retailer, I think it should be.

Sales reps will visit us in the fall to show us the equipment that will be launched in the early Spring. Order management is always fun. We look at lots of numbers; sell-through by each company, in each category for the prior year. Additionally, we’ll look at Golf Datatech for insight into each vendor’s market share.

It’s not a complete guessing game, but there is a fair amount of looking into the crystal ball as well.

What’s the hot driver or set of irons going to be for the upcoming year? We need to know before we place our orders.

Volume Discounts

10-off-volume

Vendor X will offer us a 6% discount if we book $25,000 worth of their stuff, and if we really want to make some money, $100,000 worth of merchandise will get us a 10% line item discount.

That’s wholesale folks. $100,000 of equipment/goods from one company can be a lot. Welcome to the game, and yes at this point it’s a game, and it’s a joke.

Here’s the problem. From vendor X, a $400 driver cost roughly $290 wholesale. We pay shipping (one of the costs of doing business the consumer almost never considers) on the driver, so $290 is now closer to $300. Selling for $400, it gives us a profit margin of 25% – $100 (money made)/$400 (retail).

Overall, as a healthy business we try to operate at 36%-38% profit margin. We’re already off by 10%-15% and the fun is just getting started.

Let’s say that, for some reason (it’s not very good) that $400 driver hasn’t seen much sell-through (you’re not buying it). Vendor X decides to run a $50 instant rebate on it. We, the retailer, are still into that driver for $290, so our immediate margin has just been reduced on our point of sale to 14.2%.

Vendor X still expects us to pay the invoiced amount of $290 for the driver. However, what we get to do is track sales for the 6 week promotion. At the end of week 6, we’re then going to be credited somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$14 per driver.

Credit doesn’t keep the lights on.

So, what happens after 6 weeks?

More often than not the vendor will just drop the price for good. The $400 driver is now $350 or even $300. Again, we’re still into that driver for $290 (less any tremendous discounts they give us), and now it’s being sold for $300. We’re probably credited on our account, or in some instances in the past, we were given MORE of that product at NO CHARGE. Now we’re stuck with even more of those shitty drivers that didn’t sell and we’re not making any money on the ones that do.

Today there’s less of a push to take on additional product than there was in past and credits are much more common. Here’s the problem with that. Our margin of 25% may stay the same, but 25% on $300 is not the same DOLLAR amount made on that driver when our margin was 25% on $400. We now make $75 instead of $100.

What’s worse is when, because of poor sell-through early, the promotions begin after the product has only been on the shelves for 2 weeks. We have had 2 weeks to sell it!

We Don’t Choose Where to Spend Our Money

proshop

One other interesting (more fun) part of the business that consumers probably aren’t aware of is that with certain vendors you’re forced to spread your spending over multiple, and often undesirable, categories.

You can’t say, “I want all of my money to be put into woods and irons, because those are the best-selling categories.” Nope, as a business owner I’m basically required to purchase 60 hats, 120 gloves, 18 bags, 120 dozen balls, 24 putters, and oh why not, some towels, divot tools, and umbrellas.

Vendor X wants…basically demands, that its entire line be represented in my store.

What?!?!

After all is said and done, margins may even trickle down to 18%-20%, meaning on an initial investment of $100,000, we’ve made all of $25,000. That covers 2 months of overhead.

Why did margins move so low?

For all that stuff in the categories we didn’t actually want to bring in to begin with, we’ve had to discount to 10% over cost or sell at even cost. There’s no way in hell the vendor will simply take the unsellable back.

The standard response from our reps:

Let me know what you had to discount and I’ll get you a credit on your account.”

More credits…no actual money.

12 reps, 12 vendors, this is lots of fun (not really).

It’s far from uncommon to discover that an online discount retailer has dropped the price on a cascaded product (usually previous generation stuff). The typical response from rep; “They must be blowing them out, do the same.

What?!?!

Are you going to give me some actual money to do that or should we just YET AGAIN take it in the shorts?

Let me know the next time you have an order and I’ll get you a percentage off wholesale.”

Unwrapped is Unmovable

used-clubs

It’s also not unusual to basically be stuck with a dozen or so drivers that are not moving. Can we send them back for credit?

The standard response is, “Have they been hit?

No vendor wants product that has been hit, but we’re the ones in the trenches day in and day out working with customers to move their product.

A customer that comes in and demos 8 different drivers often wants to walk out with one still in the plastic. It makes it extremely difficult to run a profitable business. The numbers suck in our industry and most of the vendors do too when it comes to supporting their retailers.

The Demise of Dick’s Doesn’t Hurt

I’m sure you’re aware of the situation at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I don’t know where to start other than I’m glad it happened. Obviously it’s unfortunate that the PGA professionals lost their jobs, but I have no love lost for Dick’s.

Dick’s was and is based off the premise of volume. They are the Wal-Mart of our industry. They’re not alone, but they get the brunt of the criticism because of their never ending advertising, and arrogance.

We all have MAP (minimum advertised pricing) policies we have to adhere to. We always play by the rules, but these guys didn’t on several occasions. The demise of Dick’s golf business is the best thing to happen in the industry since my start in it. I won’t say much more about it because there’s a lot that has to play out, and hopefully it will sooner rather than later.

The Internet Makes Competing Difficult

add2cart

MAP pricing? That apparently doesn’t apply to a lot of online retailers. Add to cart for price is a great feature!

Why don’t we sell online?

We’re not interested in volume, but rather giving a quality experience to our customers. We don’t have the capital or manpower to invest in the online space.

We’ve invested heavily into our point of sale and our simulator units over the past 3 years. I’m told things are going to change with internet sales, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

It’s always fun (frustrating as hell) when we spend an hour of our time with a customer demoing 8 drivers, only to be told, “Thanks, I’ll be back.”

Welcome to Best Buy and window shopping. We’ve thought of instituting a policy similar to a golf course where if customers want to demo a driver, we’ll rent them a bay for 30 minutes. It’s a catch-22 because we often ask people if they want to try something out.

“Yes sir, you can try that out but it’ll be $10.”

Why people buy a $300 driver online without ever trying it, is beyond me. It happens all the time. We know it happens because we’re the lucky ones that get to put the new grip on it, or take it on a trade when they’re ready for our expertise on actually getting fit for a driver.

The internet is tough to contend with, and I hope for the sake of the entire industry there is some shake up regarding policy on it.

Direct to Consumer is Direct Competition

direct-to-consumer

We’re now moving into an era where we’ll be put into direct competition with our vendors. I haven’t talked yet about the vendors we actually like, but I will now.

I’ve had customers spend $800 on a set of irons through us, and the following year they purchase another set directly from our vendor for another $800.

Why does this happen? We treat our customers well. They seem to like buying from us.

It turns out that customer has been given a $100 gift card from the vendor. The customer comes to us – we’re local and most of our customers like to support local – and asks if they can use his gift card here.

We call the vendor and find out that the card can only be used directly through them. The customer wants to shop with us, but they can save money by going directly to the manufacturer. How does that support the industry as a whole?

There’s truly nothing like having your big brother beat you up, only to hold you down so your little brother can jump on you at the same time!

Some Actually Do Golf Right

There are 3 (equipment) vendors that I’ve told people we could carry to the exclusion of others and we’d be just fine. Example: A golfer visits the vendor’s their fitting headquarters. He walks out with his complete fitting information and is told to purchase his clubs at his local golf store or golf course.

We like these guys, and we move a high volume of their equipment. They don’t get into pricing wars. They stand behind their product, and maintain 18-24 month lifecycles.

They also don’t sell direct to the consumer.

Their businesses are based on quality. That’s what we stand for too. We fit people. We want people to play better golf. We’re certified fitters with all 3, and we’ll move as much volume with any 1 of these vendors as a most stores in a population center 5 times our size.

All of my employees, myself included, used to be unbiased with regard to what we sold. We aren’t anymore. We are not hard sellers, however, we now get behind certain vendors much more than some others because of the business practices I’ve discussed.

These 3 vendors have it figured out. The great thing about them not discounting their product is that we run between a 32%-38% profit margin with all of them!

Weird, right?

We make money when we properly fit a customer into a set of irons he’ll hopefully be happy with for 5-10 years. That’s how the business is supposed to work.

Wise Up

Where do I see the industry going and where should it go?

I haven’t touched on product lifecycles much. Some may love them, but we hate it when they’re 4-6 months, and consumers should too.

Wise up consumers!

There’s a reason that $400 driver is now $249.99 6 months later – IT’S NO GOOD.

Get out of your groupon/discount/sale mode and realize that spending $600-$800 for that properly fit set of irons now will benefit you more than looking for the $300 discounted set.

I’ll probably get flack for that statement, and rightfully so. I’m a consumer too. I want good deals, but I still understand quality.

Invest in Your Pastime

I need a new riding lawn mower. My neighbor is selling one for $250. I could buy it and take the risk that it needs a new battery/tires/belts. What might that cost? A couple hundred bucks maybe. I’m more inclined to spend $800-$1,000 on a new one I know will last me 10+ years.

I tell people that same thing in our store,

“Invest in your pastime.”

I don’t care if it’s skiing, fishing, hunting, or whatever. Invest in it!

Do we sell used irons for $200, or complete sets for $400? Yes we do. Is there a market for this? Of course. I’m not calling those people out; I’m calling out the guy that just wants a discount because he can get a discount.

“What’s on sale?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that one – “The whole place is on sale, dumbass (I’d never say that aloud to a customer by the way).”

Try the stuff before you buy, work with a certified fitter to make sure it best fits you, and pay for it. You’ll be glad you did. Oh, and don’t forget if it breaks (because we are dealing with amateur golfers), we do have a full service repair center, or we can send it in if it’s covered by warranty (see the lawnmower analogy above).

Lastly, IF for some reason you’re struggling on the golf course with that new driver, please feel free to come back in at ANYTIME, and we’ll help you get it dialed in again. Perhaps even give you a couple of pointers on your swing; if you’re open to it (we’re very cognizant of not giving tips if people don’t want it).

We sell golf equipment, but keep in mind we’re human too and nice guys, and at the end of the day want people to enjoy the game and the time they spend with us so we see them again.

Where is the Industry Going?

Now that I’m off that the tangent…where is the industry going?

Hopefully to longer life cycles. I believe is inevitable. From there, I’m not sure. Where does it need to go? Where it was 10-15 years ago. We need golf courses and smaller shops with the expertise a big box store staffed with college kids working for beer money won’t have.

Golf companies need to get out of the direct to consumer selling model. I also believe the market is over-saturated with vendors. I’d like to see 2-3 of major vendors go away.

Lastly, vendors must rein in the internet. I personally wonder if we’re not losing some people from the game because they’re getting bad information, or had a bad experience with someone selling them the improper equipment? When the retail industry is based on volume, as opposed to quality, I can’t help but think it’s a factor in the decline of the game. Scale things down for the good of the industry.

As I wrap this up, please know that I’m only writing because of my passion for the game of golf and the equipment side of the industry. I love working with people in our stores, hearing about the birdies, holes in one, golf trips, etc. Most of all, I love hearing from the repeat customer we sold a custom set to who has since dropped from a 15 to a 9 handicap because of proper equipment and practice.

Yes, I said practice. We get that equipment alone cannot do it all. In fact, I play with many of our customers and they are now family friends.

Because of my passion for this game, I wanted to convey what it’s like in our shoes right now, and specifically how challenging the equipment business has become. It is this way because of many factors, but primarily it’s the consequence of poor decision making and of poor business models by several of the major vendors.

I’m optimistic that there are good things to come in this industry. Golfers and consumers should be too.

fb-header-1200x600

Help Support MyGolfSpy’s Continued Independence

We’re not lying when we say that we refuse to take advertising from the biggest names in golf. We truly believe it’s the only way to remain above the influence while maintaining our freedom to provide honest opinion and commentary about what’s happening inside the golf equipment industry.

If you found this story important, meaningful, or just interesting, please consider making a donation to help support MyGolfSpy’s independence.

We accept credit cards through PayPal. A PayPal account is not required in order to donate.

Choose donation amount:
Anonymous donation
]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/insiders-view-golf-equipment-sales/feed/ 218
Behind the Scenes – Cobra Pimp List Wedges http://www.mygolfspy.com/behind-the-scenes-cobra-pimp-list-wedges/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/behind-the-scenes-cobra-pimp-list-wedges/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:00:46 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43214 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for Behind the Scenes – Cobra Pimp List Wedges

Very little wows us anymore at MyGolfSpy. We’ve seen just about everything…or so we often think.

We desperately want to be blown away.

That was the goal behind the creation of #ThePimpList. There are absolute artists working for the golf companies and we wanted to offer an outlet for them to show off their work in ways that standard off-the-rack stuff simply doesn’t allow for. We wanted to see what would happen if the biggest motivation behind the design of a golf club was to make jaws drop.

We wanted to see something we hadn’t seen before. We wanted to be wowed.

That was our plan, and so #ThePimpList was born.

A Snake in the Grass

What the team at Cobra Golf produced was the absolute biggest surprise of the #ThePimpList. I mean, let’s be honest, most of what we’ve seen from them has been fairly straightforward. They don’t have a custom program. They don’t have a face of the brand like Bob Vokey or Roger Cleveland. When it comes to wedges, Cobra tends to stick to the routine.

The wedges they submitted for #ThePimpList were anything but. We’ve never seen anything like this from them before.

cobra-mgs-wedge-1

Cobra actually submitted 4 wedges, and while under normal circumstances we’d probably have been partial the the Tour Trusty with the MyGolfSpy logo stamped into an otherwise blank face, we were absolutely blown away…stunned…dumbfounded by two of the company’s other submissions.

Given our reaction…and your vote, we wanted to dig a little deeper to give you a behind the scenes look at the people, the ideas, and the execution that went into creating these two jaw-dropping PimpList favorites.

The Cobra Team

Doug Roberts – Director of R&D Club Design
Cameron Day – Golf Club Industrial Designer
Jose Miraflor – Director of Product Creation
Matt Johnson – Machinist
Brett Viboch – Club Technician
“Cau” Chau – Master Modelmaker

The Challenge

After hearing about #ThePimpList from Jose Miraflor, Cobra set up a meeting to brainstorm ideas. The feeling inside Cobra was that the other companies would likely present finely stamped patterns on wedges. Cobra wanted to do something completely different from the rest of the field. How Cobra zig when everyone else zags?

Cobra felt their designs needed to be different, fun, techy, and cool.“Cool stuff that Works” is the Cobra brand. Their designs had to be Bad Ass!

It didn’t take long before the team had some awesome ideas. The next step was execution. The Cobra team wasn’t sure how its ideas would turn out, but they knew they’d have fun finding out.

The Idea: Damascus Wedge

damascus 1-1

Cobra believed that Damascus Steel would give their wedge a unique look.

For those who don’t know, Damascus Steel is created by stacking layers of different types of steel together before forge welding the individual layers together and manipulating them form a unique pattern. It’s not unusual for Damascus Steel to be made up of hundreds, even thousands of layers.

Creating quality Damascus Steel is a time-consuming process, but Cobra felt that, if machined correctly, the grain pattern would present a very cool design element.

We’re inclined to agree. Quite honestly, we’ve never seen a Damascus wedge before, and when we saw it for the first time…it was basically one of the biggest holy shit! moments in the history of MyGolfSpy.

damascus grain-1

With the initial design settled, Cobra Designer, Cameron Day, was asked to add a little Cobra flair to the graphics design.

cameron-day

Cobra loved the idea of the material technology showing through, combined with a new Cobra logo presentation on top.

Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-1-2

Damascus Wedge: Execution

Cobra’s Cameron Day quickly went to work, using design software to create the look and model in CAD the 3D graphics. Machinist, Matt Johnson was assigned the difficult task of finding, treating, and machining the steel. 

Once Cobra secured blocks of 1018 and 1025 steel blocks, the blocks needed to be forged.

Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-14
Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-13
Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-11

The steel block was squared and then 100% machine milled into the final wedge shape.

Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-4Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-5

Next the wedge was sent to heat treat. The red material is molten sand.

Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-9

Cobra’s Master Moldmaker “Cau” Chau machined the face and scorelines.

Cobra-Damascus-Wedge-6

To complete the vision for the Cobra Damascus Wedge, Brett Viboch added the paintfill, finish, and final and did the final assembly of the product.

The Idea: Raw Weld

Quite frankly we wondered how you guys would respond to the Raw Weld Wedge. It certainly lacks the elegance of some of #ThePimpList entries. Nevertheless we were drawn to this 100% milled creation. So much of the detail on this wedge was done by hand, and we felt that despite being true to the raw concept, there was a tremendous amount of detail in this wedge. It too, is exotic.

In the spirit of being unique, Cobra’s Doug Roberts knew that “raw” look could be cool. He had seen previous tour wedges with small weld designs and Cobra believed that:

  • The weld would create an  interesting visual and color.
  • Weld could also present an interesting feel to the treatment of the steel.

Raw Weld Wedge: Execution

Doug Roberts made a quick 3D CAD model of the Design Concept.

dougroberts

Cobra’s Machinist, Matt Johnson machined 100% the wedge shape.

Cobra Weld Wedge-4

Next Matt added the weld design and heat treatment.

Cobra Weld Wedge-2Cobra Weld Wedge-5
Cobra Weld Wedge-3-2

Brett Viboch handled the sole grind and the polish while Cameron Day added in the detail stamping design.

Cobra Weld Wedge-6

Finished, Paintfilled, and Assembled.

Cobra Weld Wedge-4-2

In keeping with the “raw” theme, Cobra added a completely blank grip, similar to a racing tire rubber.

Cobra Weld Wedge-5-2
Cobra Weld Wedge-2-3Cobra Weld Wedge-1-3

Forging Damascus

For those interested in how Damascus Steel is made (and who have 30 minutes to kill), here’s an excellent into video that explains exactly what it takes to create the contrasting beauty that is Damascus.

]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/behind-the-scenes-cobra-pimp-list-wedges/feed/ 9
CEO For a Day – TaylorMade http://www.mygolfspy.com/ceo-for-a-day-taylormade/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/ceo-for-a-day-taylormade/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:41:21 +0000 Tony Covey http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=43139 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for CEO For a Day – TaylorMade

Written By: Tony Covey

TaylorMade’s new CEO Ben Sharpe has his hands full. His might be the fullest hands in golf. And his feet…with former CEO Mark King off to adidas North America, Mr. Sharpe has some pretty big shoes to fill as well. It’s a safe bet that the new boss is having little trouble staying busy. His company is in need of a bit of restoration.

While it’s absolutely a stretch to say that the ship is sinking, the SS TaylorMade has taken on some water over the last few months. The company is now working to plug the holes. Fixing the ship is part of Mr. Sharpe’s job right now, which certainly explains why TaylorMade has been, metaphorically speaking, in dry dock, for the last couple of months or so.

I’m done with the boat analogies.

Even as its main competitor (Callaway) has announced new product (and I promise you there’s lots more to come), TaylorMade has remained quiet. By now we should be talking about the next SLDR driver and the next SpeedBlade iron.

Instead, it’s barely updated putters, a driving iron, and more doom and gloom than is probably warranted.

It is a time of great restraint at TaylorMade, and while only the deepest of insiders know for sure, I would imagine that right now is when the new business strategy is being prepped and polished for deployment.

Whether that’s simply a recharge, a reinvigoration, or a total reinvention of the brand remains to be seen. I suspect that Ben Sharpe is taking a very close look at the existing executive team and deciding which of the holdovers from the Mark King era fit within his vision.

TaylorMade must recalibrate.

The Obstacles

Let’s take a look at some of the problems TaylorMade currently faces.

Too Much Gear: Over-saturation, excess inventory, a flooded channel, whatever you want to call it, there’s too much in the way of old product on store shelves right now. This isn’t news.

Conservatively TaylorMade is 10 driver models deep on store shelves right now, and that’s a problem.

Golfers Don’t Trust TaylorMade: Some consumers have lost faith in TaylorMade. Most right-minded don’t doubt the quality, but in a tight economy, how do you justify spending big money today, when history has shown time and time again, that simply waiting a few weeks can save you $50-$100?

Most of us believe that given enough time TaylorMade will slash prices, offer up an alternative (430), give us a new color option (R1 Black/SLDR White), or simply bring out a new model (JetSpeed/SLDR S).

TaylorMade has conditioned the consumer wait for something newer, better, different, or at least cheaper, and that’s a problem.

Retailers are Pissed Off: With frequent, early, and aggressive price drops coupled with policies like the now notorious Net Down, minimum order incentives, and demands over the allocation of floor space; as the #1 company in golf, TaylorMade gained a reputation for being heavy-handed with retailers, particularly smaller accounts.

Many of those guys are tired of being bullied. Retailers are angry, and quite frankly more than a couple are enjoying watching TaylorMade get its comeuppance.

The guys selling you gear are fed up with the heavy-handed approach and diminishing margins on TaylorMade sales. There’s a small rebellion of sorts, and that’s a problem.

Dick’s Problem is TaylorMade’s Problem: By now the struggles at Dick’s Sporting Goods are well-known. The company was TaylorMade’s biggest customer. Estimates say 60% of the company’s current inventory is TaylorMade, and it’s not selling like it used to.

As a result of the decline in their golf equipment business, Dick’s (TaylorMade’s #1 source of revenue) is scaling back their golf business in a big way. That too is a problem for TaylorMade.

Cost Cuts are Necessary: Finally, after several less than stellar financial results for the last several quarters, TaylorMade’s parent company, adidas, has drawn a line in the sand. TaylorMade’s costs need to be cut to the tune of $65-$80 million bucks.

Closing down Adams HQ in Plano, and laying off a couple hundred people is an unfortunate start, but it’s not nearly enough.

More money will need to come off the books, and that’s a problem for TaylorMade.

There are some Positives

Like most anything else, it’s not all bad. There are actually some real positives that TaylorMade can take from 2014.

Ignore the financials and step away from the negativity for a moment…it’s actually been a banner year for TaylorMade products.

SLDR is a fantastic driver. SpeedBlade is as good as it gets in the game-improvement space, and the SLDR iron is the company’s best in years. The new golf balls are excellent. Mini Driver has been a personal revelation, and the Tour Preferred wedge is solid (and let’s be honest, TaylorMade’s wedges haven’t been solid for a while now).

Even the super-niche UDI gained a bit more traction that I expected.

And as long as I’m being honest, while JetSpeed was an almost total debacle, I’m actually impressed by the decisiveness with which the company pulled the plug on it. Scrap it and don’t look back.

I also applaud the company for moving away from the campiness of RocketBallz and JetSpeed (even if they were fun), and taking a more straight-faced approach to the business while reinvigorating the previously neglected Tour Preferred franchise. Think what you will about the marketing, but TaylorMade has always been serious about golf. Speed Police notwithstanding, for a good part of 2014 they’ve acted like it.

It can build off that too.

So What Would You Do?

Put yourself in Ben Sharpe’s shoes for 24 hours. Obviously that’s not enough time to execute a comprehensive change in strategy (if it is, these CEOs really are grossly overpaid), but given the helm of TaylorMade golf for a single day, what one single change would you make to help put the company back on the right track?

]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/ceo-for-a-day-taylormade/feed/ 93
#ThePimpList – Putter Edition http://www.mygolfspy.com/thepimplist-putter-edition/ http://www.mygolfspy.com/thepimplist-putter-edition/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:00:34 +0000 mygolfspy http://www.mygolfspy.com/?p=42911 [READ MORE]]]> Post image for #ThePimpList – Putter Edition

Who can make #ThePimpest putter in golf?

Remember #ThePimpList “Wedge Edition?  If you do, then you got to see what can happen when you ask that same question and unleash some of the sickest most bad ass behind-the-scene wedge designers in the game of golf. You get things like this never done before (damascus wedge) design and this too!

As soon as we started receiving submissions for the original wedge edition of #ThePimpList, we began planning for the custom putter version.

Don’t be fooled by imitators. MyGolfSpy is home to the Original Pimps.

Joining a returning Edel Golf and reigning champion are custom putter specialists Bettinardi, Machine, Xenon, and Slighter. As was the case with our wedges, the participants have done an out-of-this-mind job turning old world craftsmanship and exotic materials into art you can play.

The results are simply stunning.

VOTE! – For The Pimpest Putter Of All

Now for the most important component of this article and ultimately #ThePimpList.  We’re asking you, the  MyGolfSpy reader, to vote for The Best Looking Putter in Golf.  Have a look at all the putters, read about the designs, and then decide which putter should be our Pimp List Winner.

So, go check’em out.  Click on them, zoom in on these beauties.  Share them on Facebook & Twitter.  Want one as a desktop image?  Let us know we will do our best to send your favorite one to you in the ultra BIG file sizes.  But if you don’t do anything else…..at least vote for the one you think is the most pimp.

* As is usually the case, not everyone agreed to participate. If a big name is missing, it’s almost certainly by their choice. All we can do is ask, right? Not everyone has true Pimp Style.

Bettianardi BBZERO Pimp Your Putter

(click images to enlarge)

SM2-pimp-list-putters-2014-1


DESIGNER – Robert Bettinardi
MODEL –
BBZERO Pimp Your Putter
MATERIAL –
DASS
WEIGHT –
345 Grams
OFFSET –
Full
NECK STYLE –
Welded Plumber

BBZERO Pimp Your Putter with tour gloss finish.  F.I.T. face with welded plumbers neck. Bettinardi BBZERO DASS engraved on the sole. Cursive Hex B Logo engraved on the face and in the pocket. Copper plugs are inserted in to the face, neck, bumpers and site line. A total of 82 copper plugs.

pimp-list-putters-2014-4pimp-list-putters-2014-1
pimp-list-putters-2014-2pimp-list-putters-2014-3
pimp-list-putters-2014-5SM2-pimp-list-putters-2014-2
pimp-list-putters-2014-6

Edel Damascus Handmade

pimp-list-putters-2014-8


DESIGNER - David Edel 
MODEL - 
Anser Sound Slot Custom
MATERIAL - 
Damascus, Pure Silver, 12K Gold
WEIGHT - 
318 Grams
NECK STYLE - 
Plumbers w/Damascus Insert
WELD - 
Alternating Stainless & Carbon Beads

Designed by David Edel, machined by Shannon Hubble, engraving by Clyde W., finished by Neil Oster. This beauty stands out because of its damascus grain, its damascus insert neck, the incredible hand-engraving and also the use of pure .999 fine silver and 12K gold. Welding fans will notice the alternating beads of stainless and carbon material around the neck as well.


pimp-list-putters-2014-7pimp-list-putters-2014-9
pimp-list-putters-2014-10pimp-list-putters-2014-11
pimp-list-putters-2014-12pimp-list-putters-2014-14
pimp-list-putters-2014-15pimp-list-putters-2014-16
pimp-list-putters-2014-13

 Machine Delta Mod Adjuster

pimp-list-putters-2014-19

DESIGNER – Dave Billings
MODEL – M10 Damascus Delta Proto2 with Delta Mod Adjusters
MATERIAL – Ocean Wave” Carbon Damascus, Stainless Steel and Titanium Damascus
WEIGHT – 350 Grams – (Adjustable)
NECK STYLE – Interchangeable, Plumbers Neck with Adjustable loft, lie & toe hang.
SHAFT and GRIP – Interchangeable & Adjustable grip and shaft to change style, size, weight, orientation (4x) as well as length of the shaft and / or the grip.


Designed by Dave Billings, this prototype is covered by multiple patents issued & new patents pending for breakthrough fitting, adjustability, customization & personalization technologies. Machined 100% in-house by our machining team: Mike Pelto, machining manager, Matt Pelto (hand turning the shaft and grip components on the manual lathe), Bob Johnson machining the bullet cuts in the sole on the Bridgeport mill. The Damascus head was hand finished, acid etched, hand torched and oil quenched by Dave Billings. This is the 1st ever classically styled putter to provide adjustable loft, lie and toe hang (individually or in combination).

pimp-list-putters-2014-18pimp-list-putters-2014-20
pimp-list-putters-2014-17pimp-list-putters-2014-22
pimp-list-putters-2014-21pimp-list-putters-2014-24
pimp-list-putters-2014-23

Xenon Custom

pimp-list-putters-2014-25


DESIGNER - Kenneth Uselton
MODEL –  Handmade (Nameless for now)
MATERIALS –  303 SS
FACE INSERT -  Mokume gane ( Cu, Brass & Nickel Silver )
BUBBLES  -  Copper, Brass, Aluminum, Aluminum Bronze
WEIGHT –  367 grams
NECK –  Tapered Flow
WELD – Stainless Tig

I wanted to create a brand new design from my mind for this contest. Sleek, flowing lines with an attention grabbing soft material thru-sert and added random accents to pimp out the final product. Importantly though - a brand new, friendly design with actual performance at the front of the “to do” list.  


pimp-list-putters-2014-26pimp-list-putters-2014-27
pimp-list-putters-2014-28pimp-list-putters-2014-30
pimp-list-putters-2014-31pimp-list-putters-2014-32
pimp-list-putters-2014-29

Slighter 442

pimp-list-putters-2014-37

DESIGNER – Tom Slighter
MODEL – Redmond
MATERIAL – Stainless Steel / Damascus
WEIGHT – 390 Grams
WELDED NECK – S Style (slight offset)

Classic style putter of the ages incorporated into the traditional Slighter Redmond. Milled into the flange were numerous Slighter Needle logos. The S style neck was a blend of stainless steel and Damascus welded together with wrap of the samurai sword. The insert was also Damascus.  The theme of this putter is in honor of the United States Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The “Go For Broke” logo was milled into the sole.


pimp-list-putters-2014-33pimp-list-putters-2014-34
pimp-list-putters-2014-35pimp-list-putters-2014-36

Vote Now

Now that you’ve seen what our putter designers brought to the table it’s time to vote. Tell us which of #ThePimpList contestants rises above the pack

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
]]>
http://www.mygolfspy.com/thepimplist-putter-edition/feed/ 48