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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

Tigers Woods WITB for each Masters win

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At its core, Tiger Woods’ equipment hasn’t changed by much over the better part of the last two decades. However, Tiger Woods’ equipment is constantly evolving, and there is no better tournament to witness that evolution than to take a peek into the equipment he used to win all five of his Masters Tournaments.

A couple of major notes to consider is Tiger used a steel-shafted driver playing less than 45 inches all the way up until the 2004 season when he finally made the move from his trusted Titleist 975D long after the rest of the PGA Tour had swapped in newer technology. It was still another two years before Tiger made the move to a 460cc driver head in the pursuit of greater ball speed and forgiveness.

Tiger also held onto his 2-iron for a long time, and up until a few years ago would rotate it in and out of the bag with a 5-wood. 2019 was the first major tournament Tiger won using a 5-wood instead of his trusted 2-iron.

Masters Winning Gear from 1997 – 2019

Tiger Woods WITB 1997 Masters

Winning Score: -18 bested his next closest competitor Tom Kite by 12 shots!

5101543P BAY HILLS INVIT''L

Driver: King Cobra Deep Face (9 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

3-wood: Titleist PT (15 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 15

Irons: Mizuno MP-29 (2-4) and MP-14 (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTG (Raw Tour Grind) (56, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport TeI3

Ball: Titleist Professional 90

Tiger Woods WITB 2001 Masters

Winning Score: -16, beat David Duval by 2 shots and Phil Mickelson by 3.

Driver: Titleist 975D (7.5 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shaft

3-wood: 
Titleist 970 (15 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Irons: 
Titleist 681 Forged (2-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: 
Titleist Vokey Design 200 Series (58 bent to 56 degrees, 6o degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: 
Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS

Ball: 
Nike Tour Accuracy TW

6502203P THE MASTERS X

Tiger Woods WITB 2002 Masters

Winning Score: -12, was 3 shots better than Retief Goosen and 4 better than Phil Mickelson

Driver: Nike Forged Titanium (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

3-wood: Titleist 970 (15 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Irons: Titleist 681 Forged Prototype (2-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design 200 Series (58 bent to 56 degrees, 6o degree)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400

Putter:
 Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS

Ball:
 Nike Tour Accuracy TW

1805138SH010_Amex_Champs

Tiger Woods WITB 2005 Masters

Winning Score: Tiger beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff after they both tied at -12. The next closest golfers were Luke Donald and Retief Goosen at -5.

Driver: Nike Ignite 460cc (8.5 degrees)
Shafts: Mitsubishi Diamana 83 TX

3-wood: Nike T60 Ignite (15 degrees )
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana Blue 103 TX

Irons: Nike Forged Blades (2-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Nike Pro Combo (56 degrees), Nike Blade TW (60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS

Ball: Nike One Platinum TW

Tiger Woods WITB 2019 Masters

Winning Score: -13, was one shot better than Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, and Xander Schauffele.

Driver: TaylorMade M5 (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ White 60 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade M5 (13 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ White 70 TX

5-wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ White 80 TX

Irons: TaylorMade P-7TW irons (3-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind Raw (56 and 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS

Golf Ball: Bridgestone TourB XS

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

 

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The irons GolfWRXers with a 10-18 handicap are playing

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In our forums, WRXer ‘jjfcpa’ dedicated a thread to irons that fellow members with a handicap in the 10 to 18 range play. ‘Jjfcpa’ himself currently plays Callaway Apex CF19’s, and our members have been discussing the irons they currently play and why in our forums.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • tangojay: “Ping G-700, Alta CB graphite shafts, hitting them long, high and straight. Hitting them same distance and higher than my seven-year-old G-25’s with steel shafts, am 58.”
  • SouthLand: “Right now it’s a set of Cobra Amp Cells (~2013 GI), but I am in the process of upgrading. Need more spin on the ball, as I’m way below the desired range for spin metrics mainly. Pro thinks I could pick up some distance with improvement there. Driver too.”
  • Twinsgroupie: “Coming from Cobra Tour Forged and just ordered a set of PXG 0211’s. I tend to like a little bit more of a players iron than game improvement. Ball striking of the irons is better than my handicap would lead you to believe – let please not talk about my short game and putting…”
  • pat_kato: “Was playing Nike Vapor Pro Combos then went with the Mizuno MP-20 MMC, and I love them.”
  • BPetry: “Just got a set of Cobra Forged Tec players distance irons and so far I really like them. I came from hitting Callaway Razr X MB’s or a set of MP-54’s that I still hit well when I swing well but needed the extra distance with a bit slower swing speeds as I get older.”

Entire Thread: “10-18 handicap: What irons?”

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What GolfWRXers are saying about Ping Eye 2 Berylliums

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In our forums, our members have been talking about Ping’s classic Eye 2 Berylliums after WRXer ‘mywong23’ kicked off a discussion on the irons. ‘Mywong23’, who refuses to replace them with newer technology, reaches out to fellow members who give their thoughts on the vintage clubs.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • Old Tom Morris: “I never liked the way they looked. The shape was funny, and the lack of ferrules turned me off. However, they were and still are an excellent iron that are as good as many models out now. Nothing wrong with gaming that set, not hurting you at all.”
  • need2golf: “The rich kids had the Eye 2’s back in the late ’80s, nothing wrong w/ that. I had Wilson 1200 GE’s. Years ago, I bought my very own Eye 2’s, loved them, but sold them. Just bought BeCu Eye 2’s a little while back, can’t play golf yet but dying to game them. I shot some great scores w/ the Eye 2’s several years ago, can’t go wrong.”
  • scruffynick: “No but they’re my dream irons. Used the stainless for best on two decades… They were the greatest irons ever made for me. But I’d love a set of BeCu…. Had a look while on lockdown as there’s a 6-PW in red dot and I’m so tempted but… Mrs not having it considering I’ve got brand new Mizunos in my locker.”
  • 14max: “I’ve always been partial to the steel EYE2s, but the nickel and copper ISIs have made their way into my bag on more than one occasion. The copper EYE2s are pretty special and just seeing them sitting in a bag makes me wax nostalgic…”
  • BobV56: “I played mine until 2018. Sometimes I still miss hitting them.”

Entire Thread: “Ping Eye 2 Berylliums”

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