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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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That one time Tiger switched driver shafts and NOBODY noticed

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It seems like pretty much everyone on the planet has an idea of what clubs Tiger has in play at any given moment. Especially now in the age of social media. However, his bag was still analyzed and tracked immensely from the beginning of his arrival on the golf scene. Point is, when the guy switches anything out, the world will know.

But did you know that, during the 2002 and into the 2003 season, he switched driver shafts? It was a pretty substantial switch too, but it fell completely under the radar. As a Tiger junkie myself, I noticed it, but in those days 1) The internet wasn’t what it is today and 2) I was bartending in Newport Beach and didn’t have access to info like I do today. So, it went in my Tiger vault…until now.

Always known to have a True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shaft in his driver, Tiger and the Nike team wanted something a bit lighter, all while maintaining the stiffness profile of his X100.

We now introduce you to the 118-gram DGSLX100 Tiger Proto (a stock Dynamic Gold X100 shaft is 130 grams).

UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 28: Tiger Woods (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA)

A complete one-off made specifically for Tiger Woods. If you look at the pictures you will see an unfamiliar step pattern that starts off a bit wide towards the handle but gets progressively closer down towards the tip section. Basically, the step pattern (diameters) dropped lower to keep stiffness across the board.

“That’s the shaft we used to get him out of Titleist 975D and into Nike Blue 275cc driver in 2002.” – Anonymous Nike source

In theory, this was Tiger accepting the fact that he was going to have to get used to the feeling of a lighter shaft to begin the inevitable transition into graphite, which ultimately happened for good in 2004.

With the mystery of his bag completely gone these days with minute-to-minute reporting, I thought it kind of nice to still have a couple of nuggets to discover.

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GolfWRX Spotlight: Precision Pro NX7 Pro Slope rangefinder

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If you are looking for a premium full-feature laser range finder at a price normally reserved for more entry-level units, the PrecissionPro NX7 Pro Slope is exactly what you are looking for. Clear optics, easy-to-use, pulse vibration targeting, and last but not least: Free batteries for life. You heard that right, for as long as you own the rangefinder, Precision Pro will make sure you never run out of juice on the course.

NX7 Pro Slope features

Generally, a product that fits into the affordable category has to compromise along the way to meet a certain price point. With the NX7 Pro Slope from Precision Pro, you don’t have to compromise to get everything you would want from a top-of-the-line rangefinder at a less-than-top-of-the-line price.

The NX7 has pulse vibration, which notifies the user the laser has locked onto the target. Having used a lot of other rangefinders in the past, I always thought of a “pulse” as being a bit of a redundant feature to someone with experience using a rangefinder. I was completely indifferent but was quickly proven wrong! To me, the pulse is just the extra reassurance to know that I am locked onto the flag instead of something behind. The NX7 Pro Slope does this with a priority target acquisition process to make sure you are getting the flag and not a tree behind the intended target.

As the name would lead you to believe, the NX7 Pro Slope comes with a slope feature that can be turned on and off for casual mapping of a course or competition—just be sure to check with any tournament committee for conformity during an event. It’s easy to see both the measured and calculated distances in the viewfinder without ever being cluttered.

The extras

Each rangefinder comes with a well-made protective case that allows you to store the unit either on the outside of your bag or tucked away for safekeeping during travel to and from the course. Although it seems like a small feature, details matter, and having the case latch with a mini elastic cord makes getting the rangefinder out just that much easier—no need to zip and unzip 40 times per round.

The rangefinder also comes with a cleaning cloth, pre-installed battery—and don’t forget those batteries for life. All you need to do is register your rangefinder and go through the form on the Precision Pro website.

For $289, it’s one of the best buys in the rangefinder market.

 

 

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Bettinardi collaborates with Scottie Pippen to create limited-edition authentic jersey putter covers

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Bettinardi has collaborated with six-time NBA Champion and Chicago Bulls Legend, Scottie Pippen to create limited Home, Road, and Alternate authentic jersey headcovers ahead of this weekend’s NBA All-Star game.

Pippen is the only NBA player to have won an NBA title and Olympic gold medal in the same year twice (1992, 1996), and just 33 of the covers have been made by Bettinardi – which are constructed from the NBA star’s own authentic jersey collection making each cover unique.

The covers feature the seven-time NBA All-Star’s iconic number 33, his signature stitched across the underbelly and also the Hex B logo.

The covers will be available to purchase in the Hive at Noon CST on Saturday. Bettinardi will also have a special USA “Dream Team” 1992 cover (only 8 made) due to release at the same time.

Also look out for a special “All-Star”  giveaway which will be unveiled on Bettinardi’s Instagram page on Sunday.

 

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