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Oakley as a golf brand? Exactly

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On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense. Why would Oakley — a brand beloved by surfers, snowboarders, skiers, skaters and otherwise “cool” people — want to be a golf brand? Doesn’t it know that golfers are notoriously uncool, and that for every Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy there are 50 Tour players who make Chris Kirk seem exciting?

GolfWRX regulars might have noticed that we’ve been learning a lot about the Southern-California based company lately. When Oakley signed Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson in 2013, we did a Q&A with the company’s sports marketing manager. We followed up with a feature on the impact Bubba Watson has had in shaping Oakley product this spring, and spent this summer reviewing Oakley’s Carbon Pro 2 golf shoes, M2 Frame and Holbrook sunglasses and its latest golf apparel.

What we’ve found is that few companies spend as much time perfecting its products as The Ellipse, which became even more evident when I visited Oakley headquarters.

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Oakley HQ, nicknamed the “Design Bunker,” looks like a spaceship that might blast off from its Foothills Ranch, Calif. location. Even though it’s a public facility that includes a retail store and a walk-in warranty department, the winding, tank-equipped driveaway screams “keep out” to poindexters.

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The coolness threshold was reinforced in the lobby, where I was instructed to wait for my tour guide in an authentic fighter jet ejector seat. I, in khakis and a polo, wondered if I was about to be propelled through the vaulted ceilings of the main lobby. Was I cool enough to be in this place?

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Luckily, it was another case of a journalist making stuff up, and I made my way through the public lobby and into the private Oakley hallways unscathed.

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If you’re waiting for a photo tour of HQ, the production facilities and research labs I saw, you’re out of luck, as just about all of the areas were off limits for photography. Oakley protects its prototype products and procedures more tightly than any golf apparel company I’ve ever toured, which is why it makes sense to shift the conversation from what exactly Oakley does to produce its apparel, footwear and accessories to why it does it in the first place.

For that answer, I talked to Nathan Strange, Oakley’s head of global golf marketing. Strange spent a decade working at one of the golf equipment industry’s traditional powerhouses, and is the man responsible for the now famous Bubba Hovercraft video.

The outside-the-box video was perfect for the Oakley brand, Strange said, as it showcased what I kept hearing from every member of the Oakley golf team.

“We’re different,” they kept saying.

I, like you, have seen the barrage of Oakley marketing material that has hit the internet in 2014. It includes the message that Oakley is “Disruptive by Design” and celebrates the company’s 30-year anniversary of releasing innovative products. In the early days, those products included motorcycle hand grips, goggles and performance sunglasses that were a hit with extreme sports athletes.

How do you know that you’ve been sufficiently disruptive since? I won’t play the game of what’s disruptive and what’s not, but I will say this. When your brand is healthy enough to get House of Cards frontman Kevin Spacey to narrate your video, you’re doing better than ok.

But a spokesman like Spacey, or even endorsers such as Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson don’t actually change a brand or a sub brand. They might change its perception, or even offer a new insight, but their affiliation does not by itself make something different.

So what actually makes Oakley different? I kept wondering this, and prodded team members with questions that I hoped would lead me to that answer. It didn’t hit home until I sat with Strange at the end of my visit that I finally figured it out.

At the core of Oakley’s business has always been an obsession with individual athletes, the hard-working, go-it-alone perfectionists who do whatever it takes to reach their goal. That’s when it occurred to me that while golf will never be labeled as an extreme sport, the demands golf places on its players are extreme. Few other sports need its athletes to be as precise and consistent as golfers need to be in the time it takes golfers to play 18 holes, and even fewer sports place those athletes on ever-changing courses and climates that are as variable as the ones golfers face.

Let’s look at Oakley’s marquee product in golf, its sunglasses, which became popular in part thanks to their use by David Duval and Annika Sorenstam in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sunglasses were nothing new to the sport, but Oakley’s models were comfortable, precise and protective against the damage the sun and debris can do to a golfer’s eyes. It didn’t hurt, either, that people thought they were cool.

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Above is Bubba Watson’s outfit script for Sunday at the 2014 PGA Championship, with White Take 3.0 pants and the Markus Polo.

Now, Oakley is making even better sunglasses that are more adaptable and available in more styles. Its expanded into performance-first polos, jackets, accessories and golf pants that look the part on the course, but could just as easily be worn in yoga class. They’re that soft, lightweight, bendable and breathable. Again, nothing new, but they just perform a little better.

So why is Oakley in the golf business? Simply put, its team thinks it can make better apparel and accessories than the big guys. In fact, its team thinks that it already has. For the team of performance-obsessed sports product people, what’s cooler than that?

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Takeaway: A Look at the Golf Industry (November 2014) « Grow the Game Central

  2. stripe

    Oct 16, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I can get down with the clothes but will always stick with FJ.

  3. Gregg

    Oct 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

    At the high school golf level I see a lot of Under Armour clothing and very little Oakley stuff.

  4. Craig

    Oct 15, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Oakley lost it’s cool factor a long time ago. And Bubba has never been cool.

  5. hjsdl

    Oct 14, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Oakley makes very good products and had Rory not signed with Nike, Oakley might have been one of the top selling clothing brands in golf by now.

  6. Corny

    Oct 14, 2014 at 2:43 am

    I hate that O symbol, it gets in the way of everything, it looks so out of place and corny. It’s corny baby, yeah, corny!

  7. J

    Oct 14, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Wonder when Oakley makes a putter…. Bet they do.

  8. RumtumTim

    Oct 13, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Oakley hasn’t been “cool” since the LeMond days.

    • Ponjo

      Oct 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      That’s like saying Nike has not been cool since Tiger did what he did.

  9. Mike Belkin

    Oct 13, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I do view Oakley as a disruptive brand especially in the golf space, but am surprised at how little we see Oakley product on our NCCGA college golfers. Part of that may be that NCCGA college teams are somewhat geographically East-coast centric, however.

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Whats in the Bag

WITB Time Machine: Phil Mickelson WITB, 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open

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  • Equipment is accurate as of the Waste Management Phoenix Open (2016).

Driver: Callaway XR 16 Sub Zero (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Fubuki J 60 X (tipped 1 inch, 45.5 inches)

3-wood: Callaway X Hot 3 Deep (13 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Fubuki J 70 X (tipped 1.5 inches)

Hybrid: Callaway Apex (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana S Hybrid 100 TX

Utility iron: Callaway Apex UT (21 degrees)
Shaft: KBS Tour-V 125

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro ’16 (5-PW)
Shafts: KBS Tour-V 125

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy PM Grind Wedge (56-13, 60-10, 64-10)
Shafts: KBS Tour-V 125

Putter: Odyssey “Phil Mickelson” Blade
Grip: Odyssey by SuperStroke JP40

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft (2016)

Grip: Golf Pride MCC Black/White

WITB Notes: Mickelson uses the rearward weight setting in his XR 16 Sub Zero driver.

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Greatest Adams hybrids of all time

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It’s almost impossible that, over the past decade, you or someone you played golf with didn’t own an Adams hybrid. The fact that they can still be found in the bags of players on the PGA Tour demonstrates the kind of cult-like dedication some players have to those clubs.

They were in everyone’s bags—from low handicaps to golfers just trying to break 100. Simply, Adams was hybrids in the early-to-mid 2000s. In an age when many would still call them “cheater” or “old man” clubs, Adams pushed the envelope of design and ushered in a new era of small, workable-yet-forgiving, anti-left clubs.

Adams was also one of the first companies to do exclusive combo sets off the rack for better players with the initial Idea Pros and then later with the Idea Pro Golds. It’s a common practice now, but at the time it was revolutionary.

Here is a list of some of Adams’ all-time great hybrid designs.

Original Idea Pro – 2008

This is the one that started it all. After going through a number of tour issue prototypes leading up to the retail release, the Idea Pro had a lot of buzz, and it delivered. It wasn’t that other companies weren’t producing hybrids at the time, but the sheer popularity of the Adams outweighed what others had in the market thanks to it working its way to become the number one hybrid on the PGA Tour. It also came stock with an 80g Aldila VS Proto Hybrid shaft that was directly aimed at better players, and considering the aftermarket price of the shaft on its own, it made the Idea Pro a no brainer for those looking to replace harder-to-hit longer irons.

XTD – 2014

This was the final hybrid ever made by Adams and was packed with technology: all-titanium construction, crown, and sole slots for greater face deflection and ball speed—along with an adjustable hosel. TaylorMade had taken over ownership at this point and engineers at Adams took advantage by using the proprietary TaylorMade adjustable sleeve—this allowed for more shaft options for many golfers that had used TaylorMade hybrids in the past.

The entire XTD line from Adams was premium by design and from the driver to the hybrid, offered real-deal shafts and tight quality control. This is still a hard club to beat.

Idea XTD Super Hybrid Ti – 2012

You could argue the 2012 Super Hybrid XTD was the original bomber hybrid. Thanks to the multi-material titanium construction, it produced a higher-than-expected launch, along with exceptionally low spin. For faster players, this was a perfect control club off the tee and easily replaced a 5-wood (in the 19 degree). Don’t believe it? Check out this historic review from the GolfWRX Archives: GolfWRX.com – Adams Super Hybrid Review (2012)

Super 9031 – 2013

The Super 9031 was released the year after the original Idea Pro Blacks and featured an updated white paint job along with a technology upgrade that included both sole and crown slots for faster ball speeds compared to the original (hence the “Super” designation). It has a high toe, flatter lie angle, and open appearance from address—something better players love! Although I should attempt to be unbiased, I will admit that not only did I love these hybrids, but I still hold a place in one of my travel bags.

It’s not just me that has a sweet spot for the Super 9031, you can still find these in the bag of PGA Tour player Brian Gay.

Boxer A3 Idea – 2007

You might be wondering that after all of the others on the list, how the A3 earned its spot. Well, it’s quite simple. Just before the launch of the Idea Pro, the A3 and A3OS (oversized) were massive sellers at the retail level. The sets offered classicly shaped irons alongside easy-to-hit hybrid clubs into the longer clubs. Although never marketed towards better players, it did have a bit of a cult following to the point that even Vijay Singh was using one during the 2008 season in replacement of a 5-wood. They came stock with Grafalloy ProLaunch Red hybrid shafts and in both right and left-handed to outfit almost any player.

GolfWRXers, did you have any of these clubs? Check out the Cult Classic Clubs Discussion in the GolfWRX.com forums.

 

 

 

 

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Equipment

SeeMore releases new RST Hosel series of plumber neck design putters

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2020 SeeMore RST Hosel series

For 2020, SeeMore has introduced their new RST Hosel series of plumber neck design putters in 7 models.

Through RifleScope Technology (RST), the fluted barrel hosel aims to bring a new approach to the classic offset plumber neck in a design where player’s hands will sit slightly forward of the ball at address and impact.

2020 SeeMore RST Hosel series

For the first time in company history, SeeMore has combined a plumber neck hosel with their RifleScope Alignment Technology.

Designed for players to place their hands forward, the putters utilize the company’s RST alignment system which is often seen in the company’s straight shaft putters. The RST alignment system hides the red dot of the putters (to lock in your alignment) by using the lower portion of the new RST Hosel.

2020 SeeMore RST Hosel series

The RST alignment system is designed to provide a true reference point for golfers leading to an improved set up and stroke. Per the company, the technology ensures “that the putter face will be square to the target at set up, address and impact, with the loft of the putter also set the same every time giving a consistent roll on every putt.”

2020 SeeMore RST Hosel series

The base of the plumber neck in the new series enters the head on a single plane angle, at 70 degrees. The design aims to provide an entry point of connection closer to the sweet spot than a standard plumber neck – leading to improved feel and balance.

The 2020 SeeMore RST Hosel series are available to purchase now at SeeMore.com with prices ranging from $250-$400.

2020 SeeMore RST Hosel series

 

 

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