Equipment

January 19, 2013 - 5:00pm
Posted by:
John Kim
john.kim's picture
Callaway X-bombs
Photo: Callaway Golf
Callaway's innovative x-bomb campaign ties in college football passion to the golf world.

 

Golf has come such a long way in the last couple of years in terms of social media, fan engagement and better branding ideas.  This is no small thing - industry insiders know that golf hasn't always been at the forefront of change nor communication with consumers. But I'm happy to say - I think those days are long gone.
 
Some of my favorite people on Facebook and/or Twitter happen to work in golf - and that's not coincidence or even industry driven.  The major equipment companies have made it a priority to hire and recruit people who have a keen sense of consumers, a sharp wit and an eye for a good picture or the tone of a good story. As the world of media and communication changes, they are in good shape to adapt and now - lead. It's no longer just telling a story - it's finding innovative ways to share it. 
 
One group who has been particulary active on social media fronts is the team from Callaway Golf.  Golfers will no doubt enjoy reading about their often hilarious brainstorms and campaigns or just following the crew as they engage in often hilarious back and forth on Twitter. From Callaway executives to Tour players to golf fans who are trying a new RAZR Fit Xtreme driver - they all get in on the conversation and the fun. And anytime you make it fun to learn, you're going to learn more, right?
 
 
But friends at TaylorMade, Titleist and Nike aren't taking a back seat to anyone. Nike Golf has long been a leader in engagement with fans - something their dominant numbers in the social space reflect. Cleveland, PING and Adams are also actively engaging with thier consumers. It's a new golf world - one that is better for all of us who work and play in this space.  
 
The technology says that there's never been a better time to buy golf equipment. But before I spend significant money - I want to know why I should.  It's no longer about the fun 30 second ad or the Tour player who's playing it - why is it good for my game?  Now, because of the efforts of some superstar marketing groups - you have avenues for answers you've never had before. 
January 18, 2013 - 5:22pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Rory McIlroy
Getty Images
The photo on the left shows the putter Rory McIlroy used Friday (the three circles indicate it's a Scotty Cameron), while the photo on the right shows McIlroy with his Nike putter on Thursday (you can see the Swoosh on the heel).

Is the honeymoon over already?

On Friday, Rory McIlroy reverted back to his old Scotty Cameron putter for the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – after playing only one competitive round with his new Nike flat stick.

McIlroy, who was unveiled as Nike's newest brand ambassador in a big news conference on Monday, took 31 putts with his new Nike Method 006 putter on Thursday. On Friday, he went back to his trusty Titleist Scotty Cameron Studio Select Newport GSS – even though he kept it under a Nike putter cover.

The two putters are fairly similar in size and shape, and the switch didn't help much. McIlroy, who used the Cameron putter to win both of his majors and a plethora of other titles, took 30 putts on Friday as he carded his second straight 75 to miss the cut.

After his round, he downplayed the quick change.

''I felt the greens were pretty slow out there,'' he told the Golf Channel. ''The Nike putter that I used is a little light and it was just a weight issue more than anything else.  I feel like the one I used today was a little heavier and I was able to get the ball to the hole.''

He also gave no indication of his future putter plans.

''It's the first week out. I wouldn't look too much into (the new equipment),'' he said. ''If anything, it's more the Indian than the arrow at this point.''

McIlroy isn't scheduled to play again for a month, at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. No doubt all eyes will be on what's in his bag.

 

January 17, 2013 - 3:58pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Spotless Swing golf towels
The Spotless Swing golf towel is as imaginative as the press release being used to tout it.

The PGA Merchandise Show – where thousands of golf companies big and small gather in Orlando for the world's largest golf trade show – is next week, and we are routinely inundated with press releases in these days just beforehand. But one we got Thursday stands out above all the others.

It's from a guy named Scott Salzman, who is the inventor of a pretty cool golf towel called the Spotless Swing. The towel is actually built like a headcover – you can dry your hands on the outside, but you stick your clubs up into it so the dirt stays on the inside.

His press release is titled: ''Oh Great, Another Boring Press Release!''

It leads off with: ''Have you heard about Spotless Swing? Probably not.''

And here is Salzman's sales pitch:

''How will Spotless Swing help your golf game? Will it:

--Get you on the PGA Tour? Doubtful. It's a towel, not a magic wand.
--Keep your clubs, gloves, and grips clean and dry? Absolutely. That's what it does.
--Get you out of bunkers and tall grass? Yeah, right…
--Take strokes off your game? Sure, if you use it. Clean clubs allow for better accuracy and further drives; and from what we hear, those are good things.
--Make you look cool? No, but it may distract from those ugly pants and that sweater vest you're wearing.''

A little later on, he encourages us to stop by his booth, where he'd love to engage us ''in some riveting towel talk, and have you take home a free sample, so you can see firsthand how great Spotless Swing really is, and how it can improve your dismal golf game.''

Can't make the Show? Fear not, he says, he can send you one in the mail.

''Only the media gets them free because you all write great stories about Spotless Swing which helps us sell towels,'' he admits. ''So go ahead and write about us; put us on the cover of your magazine or make us a feature story; share with the world your story of how one simple golf towel saved your golf game ... and possibly your marriage.''

I'm not sure this one blog post will help save anyone's marriage – or golf game. And I should be a little offended by that sweater vest crack. But after a pitch like this one, how could I resist?

I officially encourage you to hop on over to SpotlessSwing.com and check it out.

January 15, 2013 - 12:38pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
Bomb patches on Callaway golf bags
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
The "X" patch (upper right) is for a drive that measures 325 yards or more, while the "4 bills" patch is reserved for drives of 400 yards or more. Tommy Gainey's bag (right) already is sporting the proof of some tremendous tee shots.

College football season might be over, but its spirit lives on at Callaway Golf.

The folks at Callaway were inspired by the helmet stickers that some teams award players who make big plays – the most famous have to be those buckeyes that seem to overwhelm the headgear of every Ohio State player from the star quarterback down to the third-string left guard. So they've adapted the idea for golf – and have created special "bomb" patches that they’re adding to the bags of their staff players.

To promote their new X Hot and RAZR Fit Xtreme drivers, Callaway will award the patches to players who hit drives 325 yards or more with those drivers, explained Callaway Senior Vice President of Marketing Harry Arnett. There's also a special "mega-bomb" patch for players who launch drives 400 yards or more.

The idea for the patches came about as a way to recognize the driving distance achievements of their staff players, a collection of some of the game’s biggest bombers. Among the Callaway crew are crushers ranging from Nicolas Colsaerts (who registered a 403-yard drive with his very first official swing with an X Hot driver last week at the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa) to Luke List, Gary Woodland, Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey and Phil Mickelson.

In fact, Callaway said, Gainey already has earned a plethora of patches, including eight at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and several more last week at the Sony Open. That’s his bag on the right side of the image above.

Gainey is playing the Humana Challenge this week, as are List, Mickelson and Woodland. Something tells me the "patchers" are gonna be busy.

January 10, 2013 - 1:49am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Ryo Ishikawa
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
New Callaway staff professional Ryo Ishikawa was the youngest player ever to break into the top 100, and then the youngest to break into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

The signings have been coming fast and furious since the calendar flipped to 2013, and Callaway has made the latest splash.

Late Wednesday night, Callaway announced the signing of Ryo Ishikawa. The 21-year-old sensation remains overwhelmingly popular in his native Japan and across Asia, and is a fast-rising star in the United States, where he will play a full PGA Tour schedule this year.

Ishikawa, who has won 10 times on the Japan Golf Tour, will play Callaway equipment – including the company's new RAZR Fit Xtreme Driver and the Odyssey putters he has used for nine of his victories, the company said. He also will wear Callaway-branded apparel, caps, gloves and footwear.

Ishikawa played several events on the PGA Tour in 2009, and caught the broader public's interest at the 2010 U.S. Open with his pink attire and low scores. He tied for 20th in the 2011 Masters – about a month after he announced that he would donate his 2011 tour earnings plus an additional 100,000 yen for every birdie he made to the Japan earthquake relief efforts.

In May of 2007, Ishikawa became the youngest golfer to win a Japan Golf Tour event, capturing the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup at 15 years and eight months of age. He turned professional in 2008 and, by the end of that season, became the youngest player to break into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings.

He went on to dominate the 2009 season in Japan with four wins to become the leading money winner and be named the circuit's MVP. Also that year, he became the youngest golfer to ever reach the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

He officially became a member of the PGA Tour last March, and had two top-10s in 18 starts while amassing $727,051 in official earnings. He will make his debut as a Callaway staff professional at the Humana Challenge next week in La Quinta, Calif.

 

January 9, 2013 - 11:22am
Posted by:
John Holmes
john.holmes's picture
True Temper shafts
Courtesy of True Temper
Shaftmaker True Temper CEO Scott Hennessy says people tend to buy more drivers and putters because they're always looking for "some magic in their hands."

If you really want to know what's going on in the car business, you can ask the carmakers – or you can get a broader perspective by asking companies that supply them with parts and pieces.  The same goes in golf.

In that spirit, Terry McAndrew over at GolfBiz.net got a very interesting outlook on 2013 from Scott Hennessy, the CEO of True Temper, which holds a dominant position in the golf shaft business. As such, True Temper has benefited in recent years, first from the USGA's groove ruling prompting more sales of wedges in 2010 and, more recently, the sudden popularity of long putters juicing the sales of flat sticks.

"We don't anticipate that [kind of a boost generated by a specific club type] happening again in 2013," Hennessy told McAndrew. Even so, he doesn't expect the putter business to dip much this year.

"I don't think the category will be adversely affected even if the market softens," he predicted. "The two clubs out of the 14 in players' bags that have the most turnover are drivers and putters. Everyone is looking for some magic in their hands. Due to the price point and offerings in putters coming, I don't think the overall unit volume will change."

All in all, golf is "no longer a high-growth industry" and is "in a low churn towards upward growth," Hennessy said, adding that he's optimistic that the golf industry has seen the worst of its drop in course closures, equipment sales and rounds. Equipment makers must innovate to grow in this economic climate, he stressed, and offered some thoughts on what we'll see up ahead.

"I think you will see in 2013 and 2014 that no new product will be heavier. The move continues to be towards lighter as golf caters to aging baby boomers," he told McAndrew. "You will also see iron set make-ups evolve. The days of 3-PW [pitching wedge] are long gone, replaced by hybrids. … you will also see the number of wedges players carry increase."

McAndrew is one of the consistently best in his coverage of the golf industry. For more from him, visit www.GolfBiz.net.

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