Tom Stites, the chief club designer at Nike Golf since the company entered the club business, is retiring. He will stay with the company as a consultant.
''Officially, Tom has retired,'' Rob Arluna, Nike Golf's global golf club business director, confirmed to Golfweek. ''He is moving into a consultant's role, and we call him the Chief Imagineer.''
Stites made his name as a club designer at Ben Hogan Golf in Fort Worth – under the watchful eye of Hogan himself – and had formed a popular boutique firm, Impact Golf Technologies, when Nike knocked on his door in 2001. Nike Golf's first club launches under Stites came in 2002, and he has overseen the development of every major Nike golf club – including all the ones in Tiger Woods' bag – ever since.
Nike Golf established a research and development facility nicknamed ''the Oven'' in Fort Worth, where Stites has created dozens of clubs, including the recent VR_S Covert line of woods and irons. Stites will continue to work there, but instead of focusing on day-to-day operations going forward, he'll concentrate on conjuring up the clubs that'll make up Nike's long-term future.
Stites' move has been in the works for some months and, late last year, Nike Golf hired Cleveland Golf veteran Nate Radcliffe as director of engineering for golf clubs. Also, Golfweek said, Mario Lafortune, director of the Nike Sport Research Laboratory for the past 15 years, will move to Fort Worth from Nike's headquarters in Oregon.
Back in the 1990s, Adams Golf earned the attention of golfers everywhere with the introduction of its Tight Lies fairway woods, and for years those clubs were among the most prominent in all of golf.
Two decades later, the Tight Lies line is back. The new iteration features many of the same design elements that made those originals so successful, along with the Velocity Slot Technology found in current Adams clubs.
Just like the original, the new Tight Lies line will debut with a 16-degree 3-wood in mid-August, with other loft options to follow later.
''In the ever-present pursuit of maximum distance, today's fairway woods have become mini-drivers – extremely difficult to hit from anywhere other than from a tee,'' said Adams Golf Director of Research and Development Justin Honea. ''The low-profile design places the center of gravity (CG) below the CG of the ball, making it easy to hit the ball in the air.''
A hallmark of the original Tight Lies fairway wood was its revolutionary low-profile, upside-down design, and it is back in the new version. This design feature allows for a very low center of gravity – below the ball's center of gravity – making it easier to get the ball up in the air with distance and accuracy.
The Cut-Thru Slots in the crown and sole create extra flex in the face, which helps create faster ball speeds as well as increased forgiveness across the face. And that unique tri-sole design reduces turf interaction to improve performance from the fairway, rough, sand – even, as Adams says, tight lies.
The new club already has made a fan in eight-time major winner and 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson.
''The most important thing for me is to know how far the ball is going to go,'' he said, ''and with the new technology, here with Tight Lies, we can hit it where we want it to go and that's what you want in a golf club.''
The regular Tight Lies woods will come standard with the Mitsubishi Rayon Bassara Eagle graphite shaft, while the slightly hotter Tight Lies Tour edition will feature the Aldila Tour Blue shaft. Both models will feature a matte black finish, while the women's model will have a matte grey crown. All will include the familiar white half stripes low on the shaft that were also featured on the original.
Along with the 16-degree models available soon for lefties and eighties, the Tight Lies line also will include 14-, 19- and 22-degree models in right-handed, and 19 degrees in left-handed. The Tour clubs will add 14.5- and 18-degree models for right-handers, along with a 14.5-degree model for lefties.
The women's models will come in 3-wood, 5-wood and 7-wood models for right-handers, and 3-wood and 5-wood clubs for lefties.
The standard Tight Lies will carry a suggested retail price of $199.99, with the Tight Lies Tour going for $229.99.
Because it's always played on links courses, the Open Championship prompts the players to make more club changes than any other event on the calendar.
Here's a quick overview of some of the club selections at Muirfield from Sports Marketing Surveys, the company that tallies the clubs in each player's bag at the start of every European Tour event. These stats are from the full field that teed off Thursday:
--Two players didn't even have a driver in their bag.
--Among the 156 players, there were 66 hybrids, 66 utility irons and 39 2-irons.
--53 players didn't have a 3-iron.
--There were 506 wedges – that figures out to 3.24 wedges per player.
--15 players were using a long or belly putter.
This week is an anomaly because of the course conditions, but I wouldn't have expected to see the same number of utility irons as hybrid clubs, even though Ernie Els won the 2012 Open with three Callaway utility irons in his bag.
The popularity of these is utility irons shows that companies like Callaway, Titleist and, most recently, Ping were definitely onto something when they decided to create a new generation of utility irons. On the flip side, it's also interesting to see so many players going without a 3-iron on a course that requires so many low, penetrating shots.