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How TaylorMade’s marketing slayed Callaway and saved golfers money

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Adams TaylorMade Mark King Full Size

I’m going to start this one with a disclaimer. Understand that I have no motive outside presenting an accurate historical accounting.

Back in March of 2012, TaylorMade-adidas purchased Adams Golf. At the time, Adams was a public company and the decision to sell had been made by a sufficient number of shareholders that a positive vote to a good offer was decided in advance. At the time I was a minor shareholder, so my votes had no impact on the decision and I voted with the majority. Further, I had no relationship with TaylorMade and to this day I have never met any executive within their organization.

Now the story.

Back in the early 1980’s, the golf equipment industry was all about Ping. The company had effectively replaced the old guard — Wilson, McGregor, Spalding and Powerbilt — as the hot brand. Ping’s EYE-2 irons became the best-selling iron in the industry and the introduction of investment in casting and perimeter weighting led the way for thinking about designs far advanced of blade irons and persimmon woods.

In the mid 1980’s, a marketer with a passion for golf by the name of Ely Callaway acquired a company called Hickory Sticks, which in 1988 became Callaway Golf. He attracted investors, brought out irons with no hosels and eventually released an oversize titanium driver called the “Big Bertha” after the famous German howitzer.

bigbertha Here’s a bit of insider history. When tested, the first Berthas didn’t perform as well as hoped. They tended to go low and right (not unlike the infamous oversized Bridgestone “J” driver designed for Jumbo Ozaki) when folks finally got them. The Callaway folks noticed that their 11-degree driver worked fine; it was the 9-degree model that was giving golfers problems. The fix? When the clubs made it into production, the 9-degree driver actually had about 11 degrees of loft and the 11 degree had about 13 degrees of loft. Aided by strong marketing, the clubs were a huge success spawning line extensions that went on for years.

Here’s another digression: The reason the 9-degree Big Bertha driver (and the J driver) didn’t perform very well was that its center of gravity (CG) was too close to the face. That made it very low spinning compared to what golfers were used to and also very hard for average golfers to square the face. Does the low-spin, high-loft story sound familiar in today’s marketplace?

adams I started in the golf equipment business in 1987 and registered somewhere below obscurity until a club called “Tight Lies” became popular in the late 1990’s. Along the way, I got to know Ely Callaway. In fact, we had an informal exchange of phone calls on Friday afternoons.

Ely told me that when he entered the golf industry he was not impressed with the marketing he saw. Further, he discerned that more distance was the great elixir to the public and that a combination of a strong tour staff, creative marketing and innovative product would allow his company to dominate. And boy did it ever. All respect to Ping (one of my all-time favorite companies), it became an also-ran with everyone else as Callaway set new standards for sales volume at previously unheard of high retail prices, generating margins held in envy. Cleveland and Cobra had some good numbers, but nothing close to Callaway.

Now ask yourself a question. You have just been given the CEO job at a competing company. Your dream comes true. You face this 400-pound gorilla called Callaway that has more money, huge market momentum and unheard of market acceptance. How do you compete? Do not say that you’ll make great product and sell it cheaper. The product can’t be just cheaper. It will have to be much cheaper — like half — and you’ll have to spend a ton of marketing money to convince the public that it’s as good. That’s not exactly a thrilling message. This is a recipe for going broke, as history teaches.

That CEO’s name was Mark King. He was the vice president of golf ball sales for Callaway and he got recruited to TaylorMade as CEO. He had Adidas money behind him and a seemingly impossible challenge. He came up with a unique strategy — speeding up the new product release cycle — and figured that Callaway couldn’t react to his speed, or at least by the time Callaway did TaylorMade would have already shifted momentum. He got Addidas to underwrite a huge presence on Tour because without it, no strategy would have worked. It takes big money as it becomes a bidding process for faces on television.

The strategy succeeded beyond most people’s dreams, maybe even King’s. He not only disrupted Callaway; he disrupted all the companies. The low-price market disappeared, and consumers could now buy discounted product that was only a few months old. This was highly preferable to buying products from low-price brands. TaylorMade became the volume and innovative leader and along the way attracted millions of loyal customers. You see, without this strategy everything would probably still be full retail price like it was before.

The problem is that the strategy can’t endure forever. Every year, the market inventories increased and along came the storm. We have to realize that since 2000 golf has lost some 40 percent of the folks who pay 71 percent of all expenses including equipment. Retailers sniffed the impending adjustment and dumped inventories, cut back personnel and reduced buys. Some decided golf equipment was a lousy business and looked to other products.

Momentum shifted, business magazines wrote stories about the fall of the golf industry and nobody was optimistic. They still aren’t.

And you, Mark King, took heat as TaylorMade’s sales dropped significantly and got “promoted” upstairs. Members of the golf community including consumers and internet readers made you out to be a bad guy. The truth? One can argue that the speeded up cycle had to crash that there was no other way to stop it. Maybe, maybe not, but King did a great job fighting the Callaway juggernaut and saving consumers money along the way.

For those who complain about equipment prices, here’s a bit more history. In 1995, three woods and nine irons from Callaway retailed for $2325! Now assume that King hadn’t been successful with his strategy, factor in normal price increases and consider what golf equipment retail would be like today. The long-term strategy may have been flawed and the drop in play hurt, but over the years Mark King saved consumers a lot of money.

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Barney Adams is the founder of Adams Golf and the inventor of the iconic "Tight Lies" fairway wood. He served as Chairman of the Board for Adams until 2012, when the company was purchased by TaylorMade-Adidas. Adams is one of golf's most distinguished entrepreneurs, receiving honors such as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999 and the 2010 Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contribution to the golf industry by the PGA of America. His journey in the golf industry started as as a club fitter, however, and has the epoxy filled shirts as a testimony to his days as an assembler. Have an equipment question? Adams holds seven patents on club design and has conducted research on every club in the bag. He welcomes your equipment questions through email at barneyadams9@gmail.com Adams is now retired from the golf equipment industry, but his passion for the game endures through his writing. He is the author of "The WOW Factor," a book published in 2008 that offers an insider's view of the golf industry and business advice to entrepreneurs, and he continues to contribute articles to outlets like GolfWRX that offer his solutions to grow the game of golf.

124 Comments

124 Comments

  1. Pingback: Culture Is King: Three Ways Adidas Is Striving to Build a Culture of Extraordinary « Malaysia Daily News

  2. JEFF

    Jan 9, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    Wow, how NOT interesting!

    • George

      Apr 22, 2015 at 12:09 am

      Barney is right, and you Jeff, are a clown!

  3. Pingback: Mark King- Consumer Killer Or Savior? - The Golf Shop Online Blog

  4. Jeff

    Oct 25, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Mr. Adams, might I suggest throwing some quotation marks around the word SAVED in article title?

  5. Carl Paul

    Oct 23, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Barney, your comment about the ineffectiveness of the Bertha 9 degree is only half right. With the cg close to the face, the club head has less effective loft at impact. the farther the cg from the face (everything else being equal to avoid mixing variables) the greater the effective loft and thus the higher launch angle and yes, greater backspin. With the cg close to the face, there is less effective loft and less spin (as you correctly said).

    • barney adams

      Oct 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

      Carl, please send me an email on the Gmail address listed. Without attempting to get into an intricate design debate, Callaway was concerned about face caving on their very first drivers so the faces were thicker that the springs of today. couple that with them being much deeper than anything else and you had a 9 deg driver that didn’t spin enough hence the “quiet ” switch to 11 deg.I find that ironic given some of today’s new technology of lower spin and higher lofts.

  6. Doc Adams

    Oct 23, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Mr. Adams, I must disagree with some of your article.

    1. Adidas had more money and global resources than Callaway, so money was not a barrier King faced.

    2. 2003 was the year TMaG started growing rapidly. 2002 was also the year Mark King became President and CEO of TMaG. King states in published articles that TMaG operated autonomous from Adidas (something Adidas is regretting currently). My point is King designed a business model that was not sustainable. Acushnet is a sustainable business model. So is Ping. Great companies build sustainable business models. TMaG’s model was a high speed train that has derailed in 2014.

    3. TMaG under Mark King has the highest turnover of management of any company in the golf industry.

    4. King stated in 2013 that TMaG would do 2 billion in 2015. He made that statement full well knowing the context of the current and past golf participation levels.

    5.Consumers are best served when they receive value for their spend. TMaG frequent product cycles devalued earlier models rapidly. Where is the consumer value in paying $300 for a TMaG driver that is selling for $99 in six months or less.

    If Mark King ever did anything for the consumer, it was an accidental by product of cramming a size 14 foot in a size 10 industry.

    • barney adams

      Oct 24, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Doc ( maybe you are a long lost relative ?? ) TM was frustrated with their sales vs Callaway hence the hiring of King. My story was about the industry , what happened and what might have been. I have tons of opportunities to get into personalities and choose not to .

  7. golfiend

    Oct 23, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Mass chinese production and increased supply is what brought down prices for the recreational golfers. It’s simple supply and demand economics backed by smart marketing. Get your brand name recognition, then make as much as you can, and sell the excess inventory at a discount to take market share from smaller competition. It’s been wonderful for all the club hoes out there. It’s American and it’s Capitalism.

  8. Rex

    Oct 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    This POV is just that… It is also a gross historical distortion.

    I believe you do a disservice to the thousands of supply side employee’s and shop owners who have lost their passion and livelihood as a direct result of the decisions made at TM.

    • Barney Adams

      Oct 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      Read my comment under Dave. The industry needs to look within.

      • Rex

        Oct 23, 2014 at 6:58 pm

        Simple math and simple excuses… Too often the NGF’s data has been used to tell half truths. Especially this year. So by your reckoning, golf equipment and soft-good sales should be down in excess of 40%…heavily compounded by TM’s price cascading business model (i.e., a blended decline in avg. retail price). Not even close. Furthermore, you choose to ignore any impact (perhaps conception) of depleted pent up demand as a function of relentless innovation in a conforming constrained category. I could go on and on… but you get a pass today.

        • Patrick

          Jan 3, 2015 at 5:34 pm

          Dumb it down for us golfers…what’re you trying to say? lol Once again, a comment that has been chosen to be one that is not responded too. In this case, using too many business words that make you sounded like gargamel from the smurfs. Sorry, but we should not demean what he says, it is just an opinion article. Remember, Mr. Adams did it…we have not.

    • Dan

      Oct 26, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      I agree

  9. Nick

    Oct 23, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Frankly, I have always been a fan of the companies that DIDN’T shorten the release cycle. I don’t disagree it may be better for the company but how bad does it suck to have your shiny new Callaway or TMAG obe old hat a few months later.

    I am a Titleist fanboy and sure, you pay a pretty penny. No doubt about it. But my Ap2 712s and 913’s are several years old and still don’t feel like old tech despite the release of a newer line in each category bt Titelist. Meanwhile, your TMAGS are like 6 generations old, and while it probably doesn’t matter, they FEEL older because they have all this fad trendy stuff that’s now passe. I’m sure it means more sales for the company but as a player, I’d rather shell out a big wad once every 7-8 years then buy a new set every 2 that felt old 6 months into ownership. In the end, its less money and I can get fitted for shafts, etc. without knowing I’ll be shelling out again for the custom components in 2 years time.

  10. Dave

    Oct 23, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Mr. Adams your thinking is really flawed. To say Mark King’s strategy was a positive for consumers is like saying Countrywide (and other lenders) were great for the housing industry. Sure people lost their homes because of greed and an industry tanked but look on the bright side, a lot of folks got some great deals on foreclosures!

    • Barney Adams

      Oct 23, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      In 2000 there were 10.3m Avid Golfers who picked up 71% of all golf related expenses ( source; NGF) today the category has 6.4m. Speeding up the supply cycle had nothing to do with the decline. The industry needs to self examine.

      • Dan Cohen

        Oct 24, 2014 at 11:13 am

        Barney, I disagree. if we unnaturally grow over the correct and natural growth, we get a temporary growth to 10.3m from the natural 6.4m, This causes the excessive building of extra courses, overproduction by the Callaways and TaylorMades. Losses of companies such as Tommy Armour, Hogan, Maxfli, and Top Flite who can’t keep up with the discounts. Now when the bubble bursts, we think we have lost that 3.9m golfers,when they were probably only there due to the discounts and played the minimum 15 rounds to be considered “avid”…and now we are about to lose Adams golf as well. Speeding up the supply cycle and the discount cycle is the cause of the bubble bursting and one can only hope we are finally at the end of the correction period.

        • Barney Adams

          Oct 27, 2014 at 5:34 pm

          The minimum rounds were 24 and picking up 71% of all golf related expenses isn’t minor. I too hope the equipment cycle returns to normalcy. ( definition ? )

  11. Tim Baker

    Oct 23, 2014 at 4:23 am

    I am a long time admirer of Adams, especially tight lies.
    One of the most difficult shots in golf for a mid-high handicapper is the fairway wood off the deck. The original tight lies gave me so much confidence and also the first wood that could be used from the rough.
    Ever since I have carried an Adam wood of some description in my bag.
    Only gripe is that they are not as readily available in the UK.

  12. JP

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Who cares about product life cycles?? If you like what you bought, does it matter if a new model comes out. My toaster works great, does the job, I don’t care if a new and improved toaster comes on the market. TaylorMade, Ping, Callaway and Titleist are the golf innovators and drive each other to make better products so we can have fun. Sometime they hit a home run with a product and some times they don’t, but at least they keep trying. It’s fun to see product, maybe a little less often with some companies, once a year is perfect. Every 2 years launching clubs, to me is too long.
    Companies don’t make you buy their products.
    Ebay killed the golf biz anyway.

    • Stubaka

      Jan 9, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      Exactly. Ebay and the used club market expanding killed golf. I don’t understand why people are so angry at Tmag for speeding product cycles. They come out with cars, cell phones, tablets, shoes, and clothes every year. You are not required to buy anything you don’t want or can’t afford. Every year product cycle is fine.

  13. China

    Oct 22, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Here are your companies using Chinese manufacturing…please give them a round of applause.

    Nike
    Calloway
    TaylorMade
    Ping
    Titleist

    • Guy in the business

      Oct 22, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      Take ping off that list. They’re one of the only ones was with foundries still in the US.

      • Matt

        Oct 23, 2014 at 9:26 am

        All cast irons and Titanium woods are produced and polished in China, even Ping. Many of the forged irons in the market are produced elsewhere, but they are then sent to China to be polished. Ping was the last manufacturer to actually cast the clubs in the U.S., but they stopped doing that roughly 8 years ago. There are no heads cast in the U.S.

        • Scooter McGavin

          Oct 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm

          This.

        • Christosterone

          Oct 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm

          No you are wrong. Ping golf has foundries in Japan and US only.
          The Japanese foundry specializes in deflationary protractred recession forging(Ansers for example).
          The S56 was the first batch of Ping ever fully cast outside the US and it was in Japan. NOT china.

    • JP

      Oct 22, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      How is your USA made cell phone or computer? Who cares where it’s made. It is spelled Callaway.

      • MHendon

        Oct 23, 2014 at 1:58 am

        I kind of care where its made. When U.S. companies move manufacturing overseas the only Americans making money are the company owners. Our middle class is almost extinct.

        • JP

          Oct 23, 2014 at 10:39 pm

          Most parts for golf clubs are made over seas, but assembled here. We can’t make things here and have the same wholesale cost. Labor is so cheap there we can’t compete, unless you want to pay triple for items made here it’s not going to happen.
          So once again, who cares where the parts are made, there are thousands of US people these companies employ. You want to boycott products made over seas you are hurting people here. Call customer service at ANY major golf company, guess what? All here in USA. Call tech support for your home computer, good luck on getting someone here in US.
          Please tell me I am wrong.

      • John McClain

        Oct 25, 2014 at 11:00 am

        I care where stuff I buy is made. I would pay a little extra to be made in the USA. I want jobs back in the USA. On a side note companies that have clubs built and assembled in China are spending a lot of money to stop counterfeit products. Acushnet has an entire department with teams that hunt down counterfeiters.

    • barney adams

      Oct 23, 2014 at 10:53 am

      who isn’t

  14. Billy Crenshaw

    Oct 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Mr. Adams,
    Prior to presenting a story like this, I think it would be wise to present all the facts.
    Your story makes Mark King out to be a super marketing strategist that could look in a crystal ball, develop a plan to take down Callaway Golf or anyone else, WHEN HE IS NOT!

    What was going on at Callaway Golf was this:
    1. Ely was in the process of retiring.
    2. Callaway Golf was introducing a new golf ball and as Ely had always done, he doing it in a first class manor. He over spent!
    3. He hired Chuck Yash (Spalding) and Mark King (from TaylorMade) to run the golf ball side of the business. The golf ball company hired it’s on sales force.
    4. Callaway Golf had released Bruce Parker as Vice President of Sales and hired Mick McCormick from Nike Golf to run the sales side of Callaway Golf. Mick’s strategy was to align Callaway Golf with major retailers like, Edwin Watts or Golf Galaxy which was the new retail leader in the golf business out of Minnesota.
    5. Callaway Golf hired Ian Rowden from Coca Cola to support its new marketing strategy.
    6. Mike Galeski and the tour department were going to loose most of their budget to support the management pay of Mick & Ian and their marketing plans. Needless to say, Mike Galeski and the tour department were not happy!

    With all the above said, Mark King knew Ely’s & Callaway Golf’s plan, so he did what anyone would do that had inside information. Similar to having inside information on stock! With inside information, Mark King invested highly in the tour and bringing out new products, which is what anyone, would do with a minor in business.

    Mark King did nothing more than use inside information to his advantage and Callaway Golf. Callaway Golf could not respond because it had already invested everything into bringing and new golf ball to market, high priced management and a new marketing strategy!

    And if I am correct, you and your group (Adams) were in business at that time and if you knew what Mark King knew would have done the same……

    • barney adams

      Oct 22, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      I thought you might have some merit until you said Adams could have done the same. Except for being 100m or so short in marketing money we might have done something but it wouldn’t have been to speed up the product release cycle.

    • Brett

      Oct 22, 2014 at 10:35 pm

      The lesson here was that Taylormade gave us too many options and their equipment worked. You can’t follow up Rocketballz with Jet Speed and SLDR.
      The next great equipment move in golf will be adjustable loft / lie irons.

    • barney adams

      Oct 23, 2014 at 10:56 am

      I cut my comment short; you may not be a King fan but the truth is he went to TM, shortened the production cycle and the rest is history.

  15. Jeffrey Yoder

    Oct 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Great article. Callaway seems to be following in TMAG’s footsteps. Thanks for taking the time!

    • Jeff

      Oct 25, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Wondering when someone would say that. Does anyone think Callaway is in for a great 2015 and 16? Because this article lays bare the gains and eventual losses of the sped up product cycle. Anyone want a set of Apex Pros w/ C tapers? I wanna try the MP-15s anyway, ha.

  16. wendell

    Oct 22, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I find it funny that you start your post with a disclaimer stating that you were not responsible for the sale to Taylormade and that you voted with the majority. From my point of view you were the face of Adams golf and if you had made it clear to other shareholders that you didn’t want the company sold then maybe the outcome would have been different… and maybe Adams would have survived instead the brand being cheapened by Taylormade before being destroyed. Mr Adams it is sad that you allowed your company to die by selling out. For that reason you have no credibility with your rants about equipment pricing from other companies. What was really important was lining your pockets with cash… the consumer was the last thing on your mind.

    • Jack

      Oct 23, 2014 at 3:25 am

      Whatever. Mr. Adams has industry knowledge as a high level executive. You? How often does someone like that share his knowledge to the public? However tainted you think those views are, they’re still more unique. Not to mention easier to write than a reporter having to dig all this history up.

    • barney adams

      Oct 23, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Wendell. I appreciate your assessment of my power, unfortunately it’s completely innacurate.

      • barney adams

        Oct 23, 2014 at 11:02 am

        inaccurate ! before the spelling police arrive.

      • Wendell

        Oct 23, 2014 at 8:31 pm

        Voting against it just seems like a better move regardless of the end result. It looked like you were trying to make a move to get aligned with Taylormade. Voting against it would have caused some waves for sure. Again it’s all about perspective… How it looks from the outside… How that move looked to lack integrity… From a man who I understand was well respected in the industry… I am shocked that you didn’t vote to not sell to Taylormade. Ask anyone what they remember from Adams golf… Most will say you and I would bet a few bucks on that. I can’t imagine that you walked away without a fight… Without at least a vote to say … No

  17. nikkyd

    Oct 22, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    I love lamp

    • Jeremy

      Oct 22, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      I love how my legit, coherent comments always have to await moderation, but this…

  18. Matthew Bacon

    Oct 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Two main things Mr. Adams failed to address. TaylorMade’s Pittsburgh Persimmon and Burner series metalwoods were just as popular and were more groundbreaking than the S2H2, so they weren’t the little engine that could. The internet and EBAY! Online stores and auctions created a secondary market that facilitated the re-sale or discounting of golf products. If they didn’t exist and individuals could only buy products at ProShops and big box stores the club industry would be a graveyard.

  19. Dpavs

    Oct 22, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    This grows a bit tiresome. If you look at the actual statistics regarding equipment sales according to the National Sporting Good Association, in the past 10 years golf equipment sales bottomed out around 2009 coincidentally with the housing and market crashes. Go figure! Since 2009 sales have continued to steadily increase since then and 2014 sales will be very close to what they were in 2007. References to market state over 10 years ago hardly seems relevant given the changes in equipment prices and marketing strategies. It’s great history but not much more at that point. Oh we could look at those peaks back in the 90’s but that’s another subject as to why, when and how they occurred and how the market re-stabilized after some abnormal fad growth spurts.

    • plusfore

      Oct 22, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Tm’s “rapid release strategy” did not seem to effect Titleist’s marketing strategy at all, perhaps Calloway was weak and vulnerable from the start.

      • MHendon

        Oct 26, 2014 at 11:57 am

        Didn’t effect Titleist because titleist has a lock on the Holy Grail of the golf equipment business, the golf ball market.

  20. Golfraven

    Oct 22, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    The Q2 2014 http://www.adidas-group.com/media/filer_public/2014/08/11/ap_q2_2014_internet_final.pdf reports says that TMaG had lower margins (down 5% vs ~1% for Adidas group) and sales. Shareholders don’t care how many great woods and metals TM introduced, they care about profits which are generated by consumers who rightly walk away feeling ripped of. TMaG will pay for the greedy way of doing business and shortened release cycles and righly so. Times are tough and people don’t have the cash to burn – except thise idiots who don’t care about worlds economy.

    • Jack

      Oct 23, 2014 at 3:29 am

      If you paid attention, Adams actually is saying that Mark King screwed Taylormade. They thought they were winning when the rapid release cycle was actually cheapening their product and making the sales bin more relevant. Maybe that was their plan all along too though. To allow people who wanted to always get the latest products get them, and also for cheapos like me get used/slightly dated equipment for mucho cheaper.

  21. teddy nucks

    Oct 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    SLDR TP – $400
    SLDR TP Fwr – x2 = $600
    SLDR irons (only 8 irons)= $1000

    Total = $2000

    • Dave

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      And, the $2k you mention is not time adjusted, the prices given in the article are historical prices.

      • teddy nucks

        Oct 22, 2014 at 6:14 pm

        ah yes inflation! still underwhelmed

    • jcorbran

      Oct 23, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Jetspeed driver $200
      Jetspeed fairway x 2 $360
      Rocketbladez irons $400

      Total $960

      Less than half price in 9 months.

  22. Ed

    Oct 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Interesting read.

    To Correct. The Original Big Bertha as noted was not Titanium, But cast stainless.

    Taylor Made didn’t save anyone anything. if anything, they destroyed the Golf Course Pro shop. Especially the smaller ones. No Pro Shop these days is going to take a flyer on 50 new drivers OF ANY BRAND When there will be an endless supply online a few days after release, new and used.

    Saves Golfers Money? Maybe. Destroyed a sector of the business for many who had been in it for years. Indeed.

    • RG

      Oct 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      Uhh, I guess you don’t know sarcasm when u read it. Mr. Adams point is that TM flooding of the market has destroyed the market.

  23. Duffing

    Oct 22, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    It’s funny now that people who bashed TaylorMade’s RSI irons now agree with Adams’ words.

  24. sweetcity

    Oct 22, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    I enjoyed the post. In all honesty the thing that no one talks about is demo programs. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s demos were an afterthought. No companies like Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade etc all expect green grass shops to take demo packages. At year end these packages get sent back and then sold through secondary channels like 3balls, global golf, and 2nd swing. What this has done is saturate the market. Now instead of buying a 915 Titleist driver, there will be 10,000 913 demos floating around in 2015.

    Demos are what have killed the industry

    • drew r

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Wow you just described how my entire bag. Even after customization its still cheaper to modify demo irons and buy adjustable woods.

  25. Regis

    Oct 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Spot on Mr. Adams. Spot on. I’ve been an avid golfer for 50 years. I bristle when “newbie” golfers blame TMAG for the demise of the golf business. Up until the 70’s all golfers played Wilson Staff or Mac Gregor. There were no Golfsmiths, Dicks, or Golf Galaxy’s. Even when Ping introduced their irons which were game changers, they were only available in Pro shops and there was a 2 month backlog between order and delivery. The Spalding Executive was a market changer. But what really revolutionized the game and lead to the explosion which brought in new golfers was when Taylor Made introduced the metal wood in 1979. Then graphite shafts, It took a while for it to gain acceptability but the industry never looked back. Then they introduced the “hybrid” or as they called it the Rescue which replaced the long irons which were unhittable for all but single digit players, then adjustable hosels. TMAG bashers are either disingenuous or lack historical perspective. Taylor Made made the game easier to learn and play and more affordable. Now they bash TMAG as the company that single handedly is responsible for the demise of the sport. Ridiculous.

  26. James

    Oct 22, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    In essence, TM did to Callaway what Callaway did to Ping.

  27. Bert

    Oct 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I believe “Price Fixing” has and continues to be a problem that is hurting the consumer. Companies set their prices and will not allow the seller to compete. Those companies really do compete with each other, but not really. The buyer should be able to purchase from a seller that can adjust prices. Nothing turns me away from a purchase than “certain company”requires us to set this price and we cannot provide any incentives; not even free shipping. Of course the buyer is starting to wise up; they have stopped buying the products as they did and now wait for the inevitable price reduction after another new product hits the market. However they most likely purchase at the price the product should have sold for originally.

    • Jason

      Oct 22, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Ummm……yeah a $400 driver costs on average $300 maybe you can get it down to 280 or $270…..maybe. I used to own a golf shop where we could almost do $900,000 in total sales. The real problem for the “little guys” is if we have 20 drivers we can’t sell then the “company” drops the price to $299 and I get 6 or 8 “free” drivers to make up my net down now I have 28 or 30 drivers I still can’t sell so then you expect me to drop the price on those? So it’s just an endless stream of clubs that I can’t sell or that I’m just discounting so I can break even……not many businesses stay in business by breaking even.

      • Jack

        Oct 23, 2014 at 3:33 am

        Interesting that they give you free product to bring the average cost down.

  28. Shallowface

    Oct 22, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    TaylorMade saved me a lot of money by making stuff that was so ugly I wouldn’t have it in my bag. A lot of their clubs looked like they were designed by Mattel. And unfortunately, much of the industry followed suit.

    The newest TaylorMade product looks a lot better. Hopefully the industry follows suit once again.

    • Regis

      Oct 22, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      So I guess you are still playing Persimmon?

      • Shallowface

        Oct 23, 2014 at 2:47 pm

        Not always, but I do play a good number of rounds with persimmon.

    • Cally

      Oct 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Lol clueless

      • Shallowface

        Oct 23, 2014 at 2:52 pm

        Maybe, but I retired at 46, play over 100 rounds a year, and have zero debt.

        Clueless is spending so much money on the latest and greatest that there’s nothing left for green fees, purchasing all of it on credit, and having to kowtow to the boss because without that job it’s the soup line.

        Contentment is wonderful.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Oct 22, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      I hope you’re not ragging on the 2010 Taylormade Superfast Burner TP driver. That is one ugly beast and I’m still playing it and still outdriving all my golf friends.

  29. Jim

    Oct 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you very much Mr. Adams. I enjoyed your article and history lesson very much. I still have my 10-degree Big Bertha as well as the persimmon-headed MacGregor M 65 W Eye-O-Matic that it replaced. But today, as Danny mentioned above, I play a Ping G25 driver, 5-wood, 20 and 23-degree hybrids. I also play Titleist AP1 irons and Vokey SM5 wedges. I play those two brands because I believe they are both high quality products that fit my game well.

    Previously, I had played Mizuno irons (MX-20 and MP-32) for over 10 years as I loved forged heads and believed they were the premier iron company. But age has stolen strength and swing speed as well as some eye-hand coordination. Going back to the Ping and Titleist brands after a few years, has been a great fit for me as I believe they offer superior products. I did play a TaylorMade R7 driver for a season but never felt that it offered the consistency of the Titleist 905 or Ping TiSi that it replaced. When initially considering going back to Ping metals, I did try the TaylorMade SLDR for a month after it was first introduced, but it was too light and simply didn’t work for my swing.

    I am slightly biased against TaylorMade as I believe they are too much of a marketing machine and overhype what their products will do. However, that may simply be a generational thing as my son, age 24, loves TaylorMade and won’t consider anything else. He views Ping and Titleist brands as clubs for old farts, like his old man, and never understood why anyone but a Pro would want to play blades. He’s on his second set of TaylorMade irons and probably third or fourth TaylorMade Driver, and even plays TaylorMade balls!

    So maybe the younger generation will continue buying TaylorMade and Callaway clubs with their claims of extra distance as they jack down their lofts, while brands such as Ping, Titleist and Mizuno continue offering more conventional clubs, relatively speaking. Regardless, the economy has to improve for the game to begin attracting a broader base of players, in my humble opinion. Thank you again Mr. Adams, for everything you have done to help the game of golf.

    • Alex

      Oct 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      Such a common misinformed point of view.

      Check the lofts on those “traditional” companies. Then compare them with others. You’d be surprised.

  30. E

    Oct 22, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Nice article. But internet/eBAY HAS made and broke the golf business.

    • Jafar

      Oct 22, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      Not exactly. Ebay might be sustaining golf. If someone paid $1000 for golf equipment and could not use it, it would just sit in their garage. Instead they sell it, buy other equipment and continue playing, while someone on ebay gets a discount and either starts playing golf or continues to play golf.

  31. Maverick

    Oct 22, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I see just the opposite. Taylormade puts out so many different versions on each new model they crashed the market buy flooding the market with drivers, FW wood and irons. Also the gimmicks, racing stripes, movable weights, quick change shafts, and a continuing change in head size has had a hand in ruining golf.
    Barney Adams has had some weird ideas about trying to increase the hole size, drastic equipment changes all of which create another game which is not golf.

    • Shallowface

      Oct 22, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      Those ideas (increasing the size of the hole, etc.) of which you write belong to Mark King, not Barney Adams.

    • barney adams

      Oct 22, 2014 at 8:00 pm

      excuse me!! Barney Adams has ideas about hole size and other weird changes. Someone is spiking your Ovaltine.

      • Shallowface

        Oct 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm

        Sorry Barney. I thought you were opposed to such nonsense. My mistake.

  32. Jafar

    Oct 22, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Cool story.

    Explains everything.

  33. Ty Webb

    Oct 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    eBay killed the golf biz not Mark King…….although he played a small role IMO.

  34. Busterpar

    Oct 22, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I’ve said for years after my first stint on the retail side of the biz that if the Nicklaus or Palmer golf companies had had access to Callaway’s marketing dollars at the time – there wouldn’t be a Callaway company now. They made such superior equipment with good shafts in comparison to the crap shafts Ely used. But the general public ate it up and wondered why they couldn’t hit the ball straight.

    • MHendon

      Oct 26, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      I don’t know maybe you or someone else can answer this for me. How did Callaway as a new start up have more marketing capital than already established brands as Nicklaus and Palmer. I took up the game around the time Callaway was getting big and their products seemed better to me than anything Nicklaus and Palmer where putting out. I know my dad who had been playing since he was 12 had at the time Ping eye 2’s in the bag and Callaway woods, S2H2’s.

  35. dan360

    Oct 22, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Mr. Adams, your insight is priceless. I thoroughly enjoy your articles about the “inside” of the golf equipment industry and look forward to much, much more.

    Thank you, again, for taking your valuable time to share with us. Dan C.

  36. JertyBirdWatcher

    Oct 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Barney – thanks for a gutsy, “tell-it-like-it-is” take. At one time, TMag boasted they employed 37 full-time R&D guys. Now we know what they were all doing; they had a Wheel of Fortune-type spinner with the terms, “speed” “blade” “rocket” and “balls”on it. ‘Nuff said…

  37. Kevin

    Oct 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Loved this article. TMaG ruined themselves by flooding the market through Dick’s and Golf Galaxy. Those big box retailers bought in huge bulk and had product they could make more money on and sell cheaper than the green grass guys could. Green grass couldn’t stock TMaG clubs and expect to compete. TMaG turned themselves into a big box brand. Will be interesting to see how they try to get back into the pro shops.

    • Bill

      Oct 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Kevin, they are already in the pro shops. There marketing presence has made it almost impossible for on course buyers not to stock the product. If a shop doesn’t carry it, they risk that their member goes to golf galaxy or Dicks to get what they want.

  38. Rudders

    Oct 22, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Self-serving would be a simple answer. I don’t see any golf company that issues new clubs just about every 6 months, and tell you the last release is passe, is saving anyone.

  39. Chip Hunt

    Oct 22, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    It’s seems through all the turmoil Ping has remained true to their business model and have maintained a healthy company and brand. I have no idea what their bottom line is or how they have performed on a year to year basis, but I can’t recall ever hearing that Ping was in financial turmoil like Taylormade and Callaway have experienced. It’s as if Ping just lets Taylormade and Callaway fight it out and they keep doing what they are doing. And nothing made golf clubs cheaper over the long run than high quality cast clubs, which were first introduced on the mass market by Ping. Oh and there is that putter design called the Anser. How much money does Titleist/Cameron and other manufacturers make off that design? Don’t get me wrong I love my Cameron putters and my cavity back AP2s…just sayin.

    • HackerDav31

      Oct 22, 2014 at 1:26 pm

      You’re exactly right. The big difference? Ping is privately held. TMaG and Callaway are both publicly traded entities, and that means growth and profits have to be driven every single year, or else that year is a failure…

      • Bill

        Oct 22, 2014 at 2:16 pm

        Hacker, you hit the nail right on the head. Back before Callaway and TM were the big boys on the block, the vast majority of clubs were bought at on course golf shops. The golf professional, who probably owned the shop, made huge margins. As soon as companies became public, the pressures you mentioned kicked in. The off course market grew and the on course shop could no longer afford to stock product that they had to sell for slim margins.

    • Gwillis7

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Perfectly said. That’s why I love Ping…they stick to what they do and don’t care, some people call their products ugly or ‘old tech’, but they just work. Period.

  40. duffer888

    Oct 22, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Another spot on article by Barney.

  41. AllParz

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:58 am

    How does this explain the Golf Ball business?

    Titleist sells ProV1’s for $48/dz — they sell more of these than anything else they make (or anyone else) – they should be the cheapest to manufacture due to the volume and costing no more than a Noodle. Srixon/Callaway/Taylormade make competing balls with very similar performance that sell for the same amount. I don’t believe the materials are more expensive, even if they were the volumes would take of the premium.

    Shouldn’t an upstart be able to price a premium Tour Quality ball for less and take market share from Titleist? Is this just collusion among the manufacturers?

    or is it that golfers are sheep and require themselves to pay $48/dz for what is considered “Tour Performance”?

    • larrybud

      Oct 22, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Prices aren’t determine by cost, at least, not for the long run. They are determined by demand. Titleist charges $48/dozen because they *can*, and people will buy them.

      • Dave

        Oct 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm

        Remember when Titleist’s premium balls (Professionals and Tour Balatas) were $50 per dozen in the late 90’s, adjusted for CPI that’s ~$68/dzn. Not sure why the prices came down (on a real basis), I think there is a lot more competition in the urethane covered balls, but manufacturing could have come down too. I’m sure glad “premium” balls are not that price anymore and they are a lot more durable now.

      • Kevin PGA

        Oct 23, 2014 at 5:38 pm

        Titleist doesn’t charge the $48 for the dozen Pro V-1’s, the retailer sets that shop’s price. And the shop is making about $10/dozen on the sale.

    • Bill

      Oct 22, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      There are balls on the market for much less than the Pro V1 that perform just as well. For some reason people associate quality with price. Titleist, Callaway, Srixon, etc make HUGE margins on golf balls. Back in the 80’s Spalding came out with the Tour Edition golf ball. It was in a very fancy gold and navy blue box. The box cost more to mfg than the dozen balls inside!!

    • Bill

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      You answered your own question. Do you think that all the people who play Pro V actually need to use Pro V1’s?

      • Jack

        Oct 23, 2014 at 3:39 am

        Yes, I do. Those distance balls make me look amateurish. LOL. Kidding aside, I mostly play used balls. People tend to lose them quite early in their life cycle.

  42. Larry

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Firsr article I ever read over the internet some years ago was by Ely Callaway…..he said the first big Bertha driver cost $15 to make and had a retail price of $199. He also said that they knew the shaft was in question and they fully exspected as much as 50% returns on the first runs. He said it took time to get a shaft tip strong enough for the hoselest head and they needed to release the product. He stated what Mr. Adams did about spending all his profits on tour players and advertising.

    • Dave

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      I thought the Big Bertha woods were not titanium until the “Great” and “Biggest” Big Berth lines of woods came out?

      • Matt

        Oct 23, 2014 at 9:16 am

        You are correct. The Big Bertha was stainless steel. The Great Big Bertha and the Biggest Big Bertha were Titanium.

  43. Dan Cohen

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:51 am

    Wow. I am surprised. As someone who’s legacy is about to be destroyed by Giant. Someone who’s company is about to be turned into history the way of Powerbilt by that Giant, you would write an article with such veiled truth. Not sure if inferior products at lower prices count as saving consumers money. The products are lower priced, but they also hold no value. Of all the people in Golf, one would have guessed you would be the most upset at TaylorMade for their destruction of the golf business. This false bubble and the current correction we are in is the fault of TaylorMade and Mark King. Your namesake, and all the employees of you company losing their jobs is the fault of Mark King and TaylorMade. I am not even sure long-term, money has been saved by the consumer, unless one holds on to the set.

    Yes Individual equipment is less money, but longterm costs of equipment is higher for equipment that is no longer customized to the golfer. To me, it is kind of like saying the 40% less golfers and courses closing is good for golf because greens-fees are lower and reducing services like mowing and taking care of traps is good for golf because with reduced greens-fees that is the only way to keep the doors open.

    • Gary

      Oct 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Dan,

      Can you give me some specific reasons on how TaylorMade has caused the destruction of the golf business? Thanks

      • Dan Cohen

        Oct 24, 2014 at 10:27 am

        It is a bit of an exaggeration, but they have done just what Barney is say by doing the multiple releases and discount process. But what the casual reader doesn’t realize is that TM helps create a situation of oversaturation of product in the market, which then creates a sell at a loss, or hold product until it sells (which, excess doesn’t, until one sells it below cost. At face value this helps the consumer by giving them access to less expensive product. But, long run, experienced qualified fitters and stores leave or go out of business. Leaving only less qualified or box stores to fill the equipment needs of the players. In my opinion (whatever value that has) makes it harder for the consumer and the qualified fitter. In the end, the consumer is buy a less expensive product, that is probably not well suited for his/her game and then ends up trying to buy a game rather than being fitted for proper equipment which will enhance their game. my statement is an opinion based on experience of watching what is happening from an insider’s position in the golf business world. The companies I see caring about the game, are more concerned with proper fitting and quality, rather than dominating the market share reports with discount product. I only see 3 companies doing that in the present market.

        • Gary

          Oct 28, 2014 at 8:40 pm

          Thanks for the comments. Very interesting. Most of my bag is Taylormade. It’s always seemed to fit my eye and game. However, there is a little something about buying a club and it already feels outdated after 6 months. It’s almost the same as buying a new car and then they totally change the design in the next model. I think one reason Mercedes/BMW have been successful is that they keep all the design fairly similar. When Taylormade came out with the SLDR irons they had to know they were about to release the RSI line. Aren’t the SLDR and RSI 2 almost exact except for the slots in the face? Seems like it would have been better to just wait and come out with with RSI line.

  44. Merty Huckle

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Dang that was an interesting read. Now if we could only get the inside scoop on the rest of the OEMs. Let’s start with Don.

  45. Mark

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:33 am

    Cue the wrx flaming on market flooding in 3… 2… 1…

  46. Danny

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:23 am

    This article is why I buy Titleist and Ping clubs. Callaway and Taylormade are marketing firms that sell people golf clubs, Titleist and Ping are golf companies that make quality clubs for people to purchase.

    • HackerDav31

      Oct 22, 2014 at 11:44 am

      This is business, not a love affair. Titleists’ success isn’t based on clubs, its based on balls. And they market more than Callaway and TMaG COMBINED on their golf balls. Ping isn’t publicly traded and getting a look at their books isn’t possible as a result, but you can be sure both companies are in it to make money. That’s the bottom line.

    • Bill

      Oct 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Not sure I would buy or not buy a club because of their product cycle. As Hacker mentioned, Titleist is in for golf ball sales. Their goal is to be the number one ball in golf and they will spend accordingly. The margins on golf balls is through the roof. Not so much on hard goods.

    • LMB

      Oct 22, 2014 at 10:40 pm

      Not that I don’t think Ping isn’t a good company, but have you seen the “quality” of delamination on the I20’s and I25’s?? They have great customer service though for returns, but so does every equipment company nowadays. I really don’t think any manufacture at this time (the big name ones) makes junk golf clubs. People like yourself need to stop drinking the Titleist traditionalist cool-aid in that those are clubs for “real players.”

  47. Floor-is

    Oct 22, 2014 at 11:11 am

    I remember buying a PING driver in 2001 for €700 (about $950 at the time). Now we’re all pointing at the ±$400 driver as being very expensive. I don’t know how to tell you guys: stuff is cheap nowadays. (Also: if you’re looking what should cost most in your bag.. It’s the putter as you use it most!)

    • bradford

      Oct 22, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      While I agree about the cost/use–there isn’t nearly as much tech in your putter as there is in a driver, contrary to what the high priced putter companies will have you believe. Scotty and Miura are among the most expensive around, and both are very simple milled face putters. Don’t get me wrong, I carry a Miura–but it’s WAY overpriced for what it is. So while I agree with the notion that it’s the most important, it should even cost what it does in most cases.

    • Shallowface

      Oct 22, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      I would bet they sold more putters back when they were $20 and could be characterized as “impulse buys.”

      It also hurt a lot less when you spent $20 for a putter and found out that it didn’t read the greens or help you hit it the right speed. Nowadays you drop big money for one, it fails, and oftentimes is butt ugly to boot.

      That really hurts.

    • Jack

      Oct 23, 2014 at 4:11 am

      Why are you comparing Europe to the US? Different taxes, different prices. Clubs are more expensive in Japan too. You’re not doing apples to apples. BTW, a more expensive putter doesn’t make you a better putter LOL. It is the stick that you hit the ball most times with though, so yeah it should be the most expensive, especially since you’re likely to keep that for longer too.

  48. Tom Bowles

    Oct 22, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Well Mr. Adams, despite history, you will successfully stir the pot. Hope you have your flame suit on. 🙂

    • Justin

      Oct 22, 2014 at 11:09 am

      That’s what I said on Facebook, I can’t wait until the reactions come in…”Buuut the golf shops! They’re going out of business because of TM and Cally!” Adapt or die, it’s what almost every industry has had to go through at one time or another, it’s normal.

      • Bill

        Oct 22, 2014 at 4:45 pm

        Look how on course golf shops have change in the past decade. There aren’t too many that stock many sets of clubs. Most carry Drivers, putters and wedges. Most depend on soft good sales (shoes, shirts, etc) for their profits. It’s also why most shops are now owned by the club and not the golf professional.

    • barney Adams

      Oct 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      I took some pills

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