Tiger is back as the hottest property in golf and he has not even picked up a club and swung it in a competitive round! Wow, that is marketing power! The entire world is abuzz with Tigers announcement that he will “hopefully” return to competitive golf at the Safeway Open in October. With Nike withdrawing from the golf equipment race, who will get Tiger’s endorsement? E. Michael Johnson and Mike Stachura of Golf Digest give us their 6 questions on Tiger and his possible choice of new equipment. I’m giving away a 3 day school at the Mel Sole Golf School, to the first correct guess of which EquipCo that signs Tiger! Just post your comments below and I will award the prize the day of this eagerly awaited news!
With the news that Tiger Woods is hoping to return to competitive golf in October, there remains the lingering issue of what clubs he’ll play now that Nike has announced it is his exiting the equipment business.
1. Is Tiger obligated to use Nike equipment when he returns?
Not even close. In fact, he’s not obligated to use any of it. Woods, like other Nike staff players, is essentially an equipment free agent, able to play any clubs or ball he chooses (although in order to keep his Nike contract intact, Woods must wear the company’s hat, apparel and footwear). That doesn’t mean that all of a sudden his bag is going to be filled with non-swooshed products. Since Nike’s announcement that it was exiting the equipment arena, some of its players have slowly begun making the transition to other equipment—although none has made a wholesale change. Rather it’s been dipping the toes in the equipment waters with a club here and there so far. Rory McIlroy changed to a Scotty Cameron by Titleist putter as has Brooks Koepka. Russell Henley and Jamie Lovemark each changed to Titleist’s Pro V1x golf ball, with Lovemark also playing a TaylorMade M2 driver.
2. What are the odds that Tiger signs a new equipment deal by the time he returns?
You have to look at this question from multiple directions. First, his deal with Nike to wear its apparel and shoes hasn’t changed (and it’s believed to be a figure higher than any other current player’s deal), so financially it would be silly for Tiger to enter into a deal that would force him to walk away from the Nike contract, which is set to expire at the end of 2018. Second and conversely, equipment companies that might be pursuing a club or ball deal with Tiger Woods might find themselves a little hamstrung in that Tiger might agree to use their clubs but he’ll be doing so wearing Nike’s swoosh from head to toe, with no other logos showing. Third, he’s planning to test the competitive waters for the first time in over a year after using and testing only Nike clubs precisely tuned to his peculiar swing tendencies for the last decade-plus. A wholesale equipment change brought on by a new contract signed in the next month seems about as likely as Tiger playing the Ryder Cup as a warmup event. Plain and simple, it’s hard to see how now would be the time to make that kind of change.
3. Yeah, but if he does, who are the contenders?
The number of golf equipment companies who might be in a position to pursue Tiger’s asking price on the equipment side is likely limited to Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist and wild card PXG. Callaway has its old horse Hall of Famer already in Phil Mickelson, TaylorMade is in the midst of a reorganization and likely sale that surely will limit its marketing spend and clearly will be focused on finding money—the kind of money Tiger Woods might be seeking—to pay the likes of Jason Day and/or Dustin Johnson and/or Justin Rose. Titleist? Titleist sued Nike after Tiger’s infamous hackey-sack commercial, when Tiger at the time had contracts with both Nike and Titleist. While those scars have healed, Titleist doesn’t have a track record of signing older players who haven’t been playing their clubs for a while. PXG? Not likely. Company founder Bob Parsons, who indicated he was interested in Rory McIlroy, told Golf Digest last month, “There’s no doubt that Tiger has been an icon in the game, that no one has done as much for golf as anyone in history and he’s highly respected for that, but I don’t know that his game is what it once was.” Which perhaps leads us to one final point: He’s ranked No. 711 in the world, hasn’t played a “full” season in three years, is coming off three back surgeries and the last equipment company he had a contract with just got out of the business. Is this really how you would want to spend some serious marketing dollars?
To see the rest of the questions about Tiger and his equipment, go here!
Source : E. Michael Johnson Mike Stachura Golf Digest
Pictures : Golf Digest
Is it OK to play non-conforming clubs? Of course it is. As long as you don’t use them in competition you can use anything you like. Non-conforming clubs are any clubs that do not conform to the R&A and USGA club specifications. They are currently gaining in popularity as golfers seek out equipment to make the game more fun while still staying close to the original game. Illegal wedges that give you more spin or illegal balls that go 20 yards farther make golf fun for the amateur golfer, and if this trend is going to help grow the game, I’m all for it! Thanks to Mike Stachura of Golf Digest for giving us this interesting perspective!
Callaways’ ERC Driver caused a stir by having an illegal spring-like effect with it’s driver face. This club is coming back in popularity!
Last month’s PGA Merchandise Show might be a lot of things, but tucked around every corner and emanating from every aisle and booth is the sense that this is golf’s annual convention of the unconventional.
Devices from drivers to carts all seem to offer game-changing—or even life-changing—improvement. But in an era where generating excitement seems to be at the core of every company’s mission statement, Dono Kim simply, quietly thinks the game needs more fun, and he doesn’t really care if that means his latest club is “illegal.”
“My business is to do something radically different from conventional,” said Kim, a trained mechanical engineer with past experience working in marketing for the Korean Olympic Committee. Somewhere mixed within all of that is his passion for inventing golf clubs. Kim said he developed the patent for the square driver a decade or so ago. “It doesn’t matter if people accept the idea, I love developing things that will change the game.”
Kim’s latest effort, however, is a far bolder step than a four-sided driver. His company, Amazing Cre LLC, is debuting the RVS9, an otherwise conventional-looking driver—save for the gaping hole that swirls down from the crown all the way through to the grass below. Kim is standing next to his spartan tent during the PGA Merchandise Show’s annual Demo Day, where about a dozen golfers are flailing away at ball after ball using his latest invention. The sound is decidedly more softball bat than shotgun blast.
Holding a support pole tightly as the wind nearly blows over his rickety tent, Kim says that nonconforming drivers in the Asian market fetch big money today. “They don’t care about that sort of thing,” he said of clubs that aren’t in compliance with The Rules of Golf. “It’s a totally different mind.”
To be sure, in a convention where “odd” often is the preferred currency, Kim’s product is the only one on the entire 42-acre driving range that is overtly nonconforming. And while he doesn’t trumpet that feature on the simple card he hands out touting the RSV9’s “aerodynamic” and “perimeter-weighting” benefits, he doesn’t hide from it, either. In fact, Kim says he isn’t planning to submit the club to the USGA for conformance testing, even though its design is almost exactly duplicated in Appendix II, Rule 4a, Figure 19, as an example of a nonconforming wood head.
“I’ve ahad products where I’ve had to wait so long to hear [from the USGA] that I was already in the market before I found out it was nonconforming,” Kim said. “If the general public likes the club, then I don’t care if it’s nonconforming. It’s OK. I think a lot of people are waiting for something new, something really strange.”
But are golfers really interested in breaking the rules? Kim’s attitude may come across as subversive at worst or cockamamie at best, but viewed in a larger context his philosophy is one that cycles through the golf business about as often as reports of flattening club sales or free-spirited, serial entrepreneurs buying their way into the equipment game.
At the 2016 PGA Show, just like at nearly every PGA Show for the last two decades, there is always grumbling about decisions from the ruling bodies that limit performance or restrict innovation, or utilize arcane testing methodologies. This ends up being about as focused and useful as complaining about the weather or rush-hour traffic.
A 2014 Golf World study showed that nearly 1 in 4 golfers would be interested in a nonconforming driver that promised an additional 15-20 yards. Of course, the research isn’t clear from physics that such a club or result could be produced. Even so, what is clear from a Golf Digest study in 2015 that the average golfer already is leaving 23 yards on the table simply because he hasn’t had his swing and specs dialed in on a conforming driver.
Still, there is recent historical evidence that nonconforming products aren’t entirely the scandal that traditionalists make them out to be. It is not unusual for everyday rounds to be used with a laser rangefinder that features a slope function, which is specifically against the rules. Also, when several major manufacturers produced certain lofts of drivers that were found to be nonconforming after they had been manufactured back in 2007, the outcry was fairly self-contained, barely a ripple. In fact, in the case of Nike’s Sumo2 SQ, golf shops routinely continued to sell the club because customers had come in asking for the “hot” Nike driver. Nike officials admitted that a return program for the nonconforming driver generated little response from those who had originally, unintentionally purchased the nonconforming version.
The market in Asia has been somewhat schizophrenic over the last decade. Most manufacturers decided to move away from nonconforming or high-COR drivers in the early 2000s, after the USGA and the R&A agreed to adopt the same standard. But within the last five years, the interest from manufacturers in the East in hotter drivers has increased. A section of the tourspecgolf.com website, which deals in clubs issued originally only for the Asian market, is devoted exclusively to high-COR drivers from Japan. And they don’t come cheap. Several are in the $1,000 range. Those are the kind of numbers that have caught Kim’s attention.
Kim believes golf should change because society is changing. “Everything is changing so fast, and in my opinion golf should be changing, too. Maybe two sets of rules. Insisting on keeping the traditions of the game doesn’t make sense to me. If you watch how average golfers actually play, I don’t even know what those traditions mean anymore.”
Although he seems that way, Kim isn’t necessarily a voice crying in the wilderness. We aren’t even a year removed from the leading trade group in the second-largest golf market in the world endorsing at least the existence if not manufacture of nonconforming equipment. The Japan Golf Goods Association’s statement from a year ago at the Japan Golf Fair read in part, “JGGA believes that it is desirable for the stimulation of the golf market to have a wide variety of golf equipment available in the market from which all types of golfers may choose in order to find one that really fits their respective purposes and needs, hoping that more and more golfers will enjoy playing golf as a result of such improvement in the golf equipment market.”
After that statement, the JGGA responded to questions from GolfDigest.com in part this way: “JGGA recognizes that there is a clear desire or preference among amateur golfers in general for more distance from a driver shot or more back spin from an iron shot that makes a ball stopping or coming back on a green as professional players do. JGGA believes that it will contribute in the healthy growth and revitalization of the Japanese golf market to create an environment in which each golfer may choose and use golf equipment that matches his or her unique goals and needs.”
The JGGA stressed subsequently that it did not wish to recommend amateurs use nonconforming equipment. Rather, “recognizing the recent trend in the Japanese market where an increasing number of nonconforming golf clubs are being marketed and distributed year by year as a reality, JGGA felt strongly that we needed to demonstrate the leadership in guiding manufacturers of such nonconforming clubs to provide consumers with a clear indication and appropriate explanation when they sell those products to avoid any confusion by consumers.”
To read the rest of this interesting article on non-conforming clubs in the marketplace, go here!
Source : Mike Stachura Golf Digest
Pictures : Blend Images – Picturenet/Brand X Images/Getty Images
Cobra Golf has approached their new wedge design with what most golfers are looking for in a wedge, feel! So many companies talk about loft, bounce and groove depth, but in the end feel is what we are all looking for. What is feel? It certainly is a perplexing question. Feel comes from the sound and also the solidness of the hit. Those two things combined equal feel for us. It looks like Cobra Golf has done a good job here. Thanks to Mike Stachura of Golf Digest for bringing us this great equipment review!
Cobra unveiled its latest family of King wedges today, and while there is much to talk about with regard to groove design and loft/bounce options, sometimes lost in all that minutiae is the simple but elusive idea of feel. That’s why the team at Cobra refocused its efforts by studying the best way to make its new wedges properly resonate in the golfer’s hands and ears.
The key came from understanding through modal analysis the way the head vibrates, and the way its tour players like Rickie Fowler and Jonas Blixt want the club to feel. Engineers isolated the ideal feel by subtly thickening the face and raising the height of the muscle in back. The King wedge face thickness is 11 percent thicker than its Tour Trusty predecessor, and the rear muscle is 5 percent taller. Those two changes result in higher vibration frequency for better feel.
To read the rest of this wedge review, go here!
Source : Mike Stachura Golf Digest
Pictures : Cobra Golf Co.
Is equipment from Ping better than Mizuno? Is Callaway better than TaylorMade? Can Bridgestone outperform Titleist? These are the questions going through a golfer’s head when trying to decide which new set of clubs to purchase. Ping claims that their new G series will improve drag by a staggering 37%, so says Marty Jertson, Ping director of product development. But is that 37% for a tour pro or for the 24 handicap lady golfer with a swing speed of 70 mph with her driver? I cannot answer all of these questions, so I post this article from Mike Stachura of Golf Digest and let the reader make the final call! Here is some info on Ping’s latest offering to help make the decision a little easier.
Ping’s reputation in equipment technology has long been driven by the idea of forgiveness, and whether it be its oversized titanium drivers or its cavity back cast stainless steel irons, the goal is to mitigate the downside of all your missed shots and maybe make your results a little better than you believe your actual game might deserve.
Its new line of drivers, fairway woods, hybrids and irons continues that trend in relatively historic and complex ways.
“That’s our challenge,” says Ping director of product development Marty Jertson. “It’s a simple concept, but it’s not easy to do, how we get there is very challenging.”
It’s why the new line—which will go by the name G—employs a diverse array of technologies, including unique-to-Ping elements that borrow from transportation aerodynamics, biomimicry and materials science. The end result are drivers, metalwoods and irons that break new ground for the company.
G metalwoods Like its G30 predecessor, the new G drivers utilize a large, forgiving footprint to create a more stable head on off-center hits. The G drivers feature the lowest center of gravity and the farthest back inside the head of any driver in the history of the G-series. While the G drivers feature a similar lightweight Ti 8-1-1 body and T9S titanium that was used in the G30, they incorporate the idea of a dragonfly photograph that was sent to the design team by company president John A. Solheim.
“He asked us to understand the wings of a dragonfly to see if we could use that create real performance benefits,” Jertson said. The point was the thin structure of the dragonfly’s wings is supported by the veins. That same structure appears in the crown of the new G drivers, allowing the crown to get as thin as .43 millimeters. That saves weight allowing for the center of gravity to be lower and farther back than any Ping driver in history. It also creates a higher moment of inertia measurement than any driver in Ping history and likely the highest of any major driver currently in the market. (A driver with a high MOI number means that it is more stable on off-center hits across a wider area of the face, both left to right and up and down. That yields both more consistent ballspeeds and more consistent spin rates both across and up and down the face.
“The big difference was in wall thickness capability, how we now can go thinner and thinner in casting the titanium,” Jertson said, noting that the wall thickness on the G is 20 percent thinner than the G30 to save eight grams of weight.
The thin structure supports the G’s larger footprint, but that also means engineers had to take the next step in improving one of the key elements of the G30: aerodynamics. Made famous by the G30, the crown turbulators have been updated in the G drivers to improve the club’s air resistance, or drag, as it moves through the downswing. The turbulators’ benefit also was enhanced by a small rear cavity feature aimed at stabilizing the club’s movement when it reaches its highest speeds right before impact. That idea was borrowed from the aerodynamic panel skirts on an 18-wheeler that increased a truck’s efficiency to help save gas.
According to Jertson, the G driver has 37 percent less drag than the G30, meaning all things being equal the G driver moves through the air similar to if an oversized driver like Ping’s G25 was reduced nearly to 3-wood size.
“All these aerodynamic benefits are additive,” Jertson said. “Certainly, there’s a lot of variation in how different players with different swings benefit from these features, but everybody gains.”
Like the G30, the G line also features a slice-fighting SF Tec version and a spin-reducing LS Tec version. The SF Tec features more weight shifted toward the heel to help slicers close the face at impact, while the LS Tec features a lower CG that is slightly forward of the standard G driver.
The G (9, 10.5 degrees), G SF Tec (10, 12 degrees) and G LS Tec (9, 10.5 degrees) all feature Ping’s adjustable hosel that alters loft by plus/minus 1 degree across five settings. They are available for preorder starting today ($400).
To read the rest of the story behind this new Ping line, go here!
Source : Mike Stachura Golf Digest
Pictures : Ping Equipment