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What we talked about at Adams Golf

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I’ve gone through the comments on my previous stories, looking for topics that my readers seem to want covered. So far, I’ve focused on the nuts and bolts of the industry and stayed away from what might be considered more personal. But one comment kind of stuck with me.

What did we talk about while having a beer? This person wanted to know more about the day-to-day discussions of people in the industry.

Obviously, I can only respond from the Adams Golf viewpoint. The industry is very competitive and as such, we didn’t have industry functions where we got together and socialized. Many years ago, Golf Magazine would have an outing after the PGA Merchandise Show and invite its customers, which included equipment industry folks. I played in a couple, but we didn’t get together to discuss the industry.

At Adams, any conversation during a get-together had the same theme — how do we increase our sales so we can effectively compete with the big guys?

Let me put this in perspective. It’s post 2000, post IPO, we are the No. 1 hybrid on tour and competing daily against companies 5-to-15 times our annual volume  At our peak, we did a bit more than $100 million in annual sales and, while that may sound like a lot, it’s well short of the roughly $140 million you need to do all the necessary marketing stuff and turn a profit. You are managing cash flow.

What were we doing with the money? Huge salaries, big benefits, expensive marketing? I know it doesn’t mesh with what many outsiders believe about the golf equipment industry, but we were very conservative. Since it’s public record, you can confirm that my yearly salary never exceeded $200K. Some of our key people actually did better in areas where we had to pay to get the best folks, but we were very professional with our salary structure.

There’s a saying about marketing that goes like this:

“I know 50 cents of every dollar is a waste. I just don’t know which 50 cents.”  

We probably spent as much time in random discussions on this subject as anything. We would get a call saying Player X is available and we can get him for… well, more than any of us were making. Once the euphoria of being associated with a known name wears off, it’s the old question: Will the association pay off in sales?

There is no formula that applies to a company that has a tour staff of one or two players. The only thing that moves the needle is to have a large tour staff, and financially it wasn’t in the cards for Adams. It isn’t just the player; it’s how much of your advertising budget gets dedicated to promoting the relationship. Where else could the money go?

That conversation brings us around to “who are we” and “how do we capitalize on our image?” At Adams, we knew we wanted to appeal to the average golfer. Our designs were focused on making the game more enjoyable for what demographically is the largest constituency.

Now remember, in the example I’m giving, this is a bunch of us sitting around having a beer and giving opinions. There’s no formality, just ideas. When it came to the issue of helping the average player, there was one unavoidable step. You had to make excellent product that good players would use and do so knowing it would be a small percentage of total sales. Golf has a pyramid of influence, and if the better players aren’t complimentary of your products the selling effort increases significantly.

There’s an important thing to remember here. The golf equipment industry is a lot more like the fashion industry than many people are willing to admit. The actual differences between products are minor and often subjective. We don’t want to copy, but we are remiss if we don’t look at what seems to be popular and decide how to position ourselves.

Doing all of this — tour, marketing, product design — and you missed break even at $100 million in sales? 

Well, cut back!

Drop the Tour staff to one or two minor (read: cheaper) players, cut back on advertising, don’t spend money designing a driver that competes favorably with the best in the market, etc. This movie has been seen, and the company slides into oblivion during the denouement.

There are other “opportunities.” A golf ball manufacturer will make a top-quality ball under our name, a shirt company will do the same. This can be done with golf shoes and virtually anything that’s sold at golf retail. Look to history. Has any smaller company ever been successful adding non-equipment products? The answer is no. So we collectively decide that our focus is on-course and we will try and do the best we can knowing we don’t have the luxury of funding.

Then the sales guy says,”I was in one of the ____ stores the other day and our [very costly] displays were in the back and some had product from other companies.” (I’m assuming everything was done to correct this!)

This is a killer. You spend the advertising dollars, the tour dollars and the R&D money just to have your product displayed where it’s hard to find. There’s a simple reason why; the big guys pay for premium space and make sure it’s properly managed. We completed our budget just getting to the store — renting premium space doesn’t fit. We have to come up with an in-store sales strategy that allows us to compete.

Get the picture? We’re still drinking beer, having a good time and we’re all passionate. And it’s good that we are; we want to put the best product in consumer hands and do so in a way that allows us to compete going forward.

That’s what we talked about.

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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.

74 Comments

74 Comments

  1. Nat

    Feb 24, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    As always a great article, thank you. Like many have said, Adams made great stuff. I have just stopped using an F11 driver after using a 9015. Great great drivers. My son had the opportunity to caddie for Tom Watson’s group in a pro am last year and was shocked to see him using an F11. He said it was the best driver he’d ever used, ‘nothing better out there today’.

  2. golfandgamble

    Feb 23, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Why the vitriol towards Mr. Adams? Between he and Wishon, their writing series’ have been outstanding and very insightful. I can’t figure out why people need to be so bashful on here, he doesn’t have to do this, but I’m thankful that he has.

  3. T-MAC

    Feb 23, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Love the arm-chair quarterbacks here. Most of the ideas given on how Adams “should have” grown their brand are a joke. But, it makes for good reading.
    I used to be a big Titleist and Mizuno forged guy (after getting rid of my forged Wilson Staff Tour Blades back in the 1980’s). Then one day I went to a Adams Demo day at my Club and hit the forged CB1’s and CB2’s. Best irons I’ve EVER hit. I’ve since owned CB1’s, CB2’s, CB3’s and Pro a12’s. Love the dark finish on these so I stocked up on them since they are no longer available (you can still find some of these in stores today). I also bought a 3-wood as well as several hybrids, which I think are the best on the market. It pains me to see that TM now owns Adams. I guess they thought buying the company would be less expensive than going through a lawsuit over the slot technology? 😉

    Appreciate the inside information Barney. Best of luck to you in the future Sir.

  4. farmer

    Feb 15, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Keith and West, you guys are awfully harsh having the benefit of hindsight and no demonstrable credentials. What Mr. Adams describes is a cautionary tale for the new Hogan brand.

  5. Barney Adams

    Feb 13, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    As for shipping one club; very slippery slope you are trying to develop relationships with retailers and this broaches direct selling. Larry; try me at barneyadams9@gmail.com. As for the “Adams demise. ” never happened. The shareholders decided they could benefit from a sale. Happens every day. Johan Adams marketing comes from TM and has for the last couple of years.

    • Johan Klarin

      Feb 13, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      Barney, that explains a lot. TM’s marketing playbook can’t be applied to Adams. TM marketing: flood the world with pushy and loud messaging. Experiment (dolls anyone?) frequently, outspend the competition, and “buy” more pros to endorse your gear. Applying this marketing toolkit/thinking on a smaller scale to Adams will never succeed.
      For a recent example of how to do this better: Cadillac’s marketing guys, shared across GM and other Detroit-based manufacturers for decades, with predicable amounts of harmful groupthink, recently decided to move their top marketing guys to a new office in Manhattan, away from Detroit (both physically and intellectually).
      I would bet some Adidas stock that one of the most cost-effictive ways to help Adams over the next 1-3 years would be to follow the Cadillac (and others) playbook: create a separate marketing team for Adams, and place it physically far away from TM’s marketing. They can still collaborate, but it would make it much easier for Adams to create and tell a story that resonates enough in the marketplace that sales increase meaningfully. It has been done many times before, by many companies, in many industries.
      Thanks for your great commentary across the WRX pages.

      • Del Capslock

        Feb 16, 2015 at 10:26 pm

        Johan….what would you budget for that parallel sales force? Can you afford it?

      • Gorden

        Feb 21, 2015 at 2:32 am

        The only way they are going to keep the Adams line is if it sells….they can use Adams as a testing ground for ideas they are not sure of yet for their flagship TaylorMade clubs. As Adams golf proved haveing one great product (Tight Lies) is not enough to compete in the Golf Club game……..at a level we would call pro level equipment anyway….

  6. Larry111

    Feb 13, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    Barney,
    I have in my possession a prototype driver head designed by an iconic long driver who is deceased. It’s aerodynamic and slippery from any angle but it retains an old school look. It looks like it’s getting ready to take off and fly right off my desk. I may be looking at the next Big Bertha.

    Here’s the problem, I don’t trust the major manufactures especially Taylormade and Callaway so I don’t want to put it in their hands just yet. Could you suggest an ethical party that knows the ins and outs of the business who I could send it to for an evaluation and maybe establish a game plan? Send me a pm here at GolfWRX if you have any suggestions.

  7. Andy W

    Feb 13, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    What’s up with older comments? I click on it and it just scrolls up to the top of the page…

  8. Johnnie McFarland

    Feb 13, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Jonny B described me to a “tee.” I am an old man by my own self-description (58) and a “hacker” for lack of a better term of a casual weekender whose goal is to break 100 consistently. But statistically, am I not the median or average golfer? What percentage of golfers do I fit in? Am I in the majority of golfers out there? I just bought a set of Adams V3 irons because from Adams’ marketing and price point, these clubs fit my game. Would me buying a set of higher-priced, bigger name-brand clubs really improve my game? I doubt it. And I realize that with more time and a greater effort, I can and should improve. The question for me is will my ability synchronize with the potential of my equipment? I formerly played with bargain basement, no name equipment and got teased unmercifully until I asked this question, if a tour player and I exchanged equipment, would my game improve by quantum leaps and bounds and would the tour pro fall into a wormhole? Marketing without question is the key. The thought of purchasing the same equipment top 10 tour pros use might possibly increase my confidence which in turn might possibly improve my game. But would my game improve measurably? And is that improvement more mental (which is extremely important) versus physical? Do I buy clubs because my favorite player uses this brand or do I buy clubs based on my ability and budget. I choose the latter and Adams has been a good choice for me. I took pride in occasionally beating my competition with “no name brand” equipment and I hope to play better with Adams.

    • Justin

      Feb 20, 2015 at 6:18 pm

      It really doesn’t matter. You play and buy what YOU want, what you can afford. The biggest deal is if you’re properly fitted for your sticks.

      Even if it’s a low-end aluminum-faced (or “titanium matrix”) driver and zinc irons and wedges that you got as a full set from Wal-Mart, if you’re chasing after the little white ball you are golfing. Are you “optimized”? Most likely, no… but who really is? Tiger Woods is undoubtedly “optimized” for his equipment, but even he has his days when he has to rely on his B, C, or even D game. That’s golf.

      Ever see one of those guys on a rec softball league with all the fancy gear? How many actually “play up” to the equipment? They’re buying it to make themselves feel better about their game (admirable, as it’s their money to spend as they see fit), but it doesn’t help when they go 0-4 at the plate, or drop that routine fly ball.

      Buy what makes YOU happy, and ignore everyone else.

  9. Johan Klarin

    Feb 13, 2015 at 10:06 am

    You are describing a branding issue perfectly: in commoditized markets (small variances in product, competitive industry, low margins) if you can’t compete with money, only way to win is to “tell a better story” that resonates. Easy to say, incredibly hard to do. Especially in a company where R&D / engineering and product is historically seen as the core. Nope, this is a marketing gig. Look at SCOR wedges for example – BY FAR the highest satisfaction rates, backed up by robot testing. Meanwhile, most amateurs think Bob Vokey oversaw the production of their SM5 wedge, and thus continue to perpetuate a very effective marketing myth. Vokeys win, not by product excellence, but by superior – and consistent – storytelling. And yes, they do ads – but the ads support the story – they aren’t the story.
    The answer is to hire (internally and agency) the best marketing brains – including several from outside the industry. Adams has plenty of engineering and product excellence, and it doesn’t have to flood the golf channel with ads to do much better.
    I could be totally wrong about Adams marketing as I’m an outsider, but as a start, I’d take a look at the organization’s top marketing talent.
    Currently gaming two 9031 hybrids. Nothing better anywhere.

  10. Jonny B

    Feb 13, 2015 at 8:19 am

    My two cents as a consumer – Adams demise (or failure to achieve desired market share) can be partially attributed to their brand image. The brand image is that these are “old man” clubs, or “hackers” clubs. Cleveland is struggling with the same right now, and as such their equipment sales are plummeting. This brand image may or may not be the fault of Adams, I’m sure they didn’t set out to make old man and amateur clubs, but that is the market who bought them.

    Another problem is that superior equipment is such a finicky term and goal – so much is subjective when it comes to that stuff. If I go to the range and demo 5 similar iron sets or drivers today – the difference in playability and results is minimal – MINIMAL. So you may say your goal is to produce better equipment, but what is that “better” based upon… better materials, better results, better adjustability, etc? And it isn’t better unless the market knows it’s better, and that takes $$$$ to educate consumers, get clubs in their hands, get premium retail space. The public doesn’t know what they want – you have to tell them. And in the golf industry, you tell them with $$$ and tour players gaming your gear. Adams failed to do this, and so we see they have gone by the wayside.

  11. DMR

    Feb 13, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Mr. Adams,
    Thank you for taking the time to talk about your experience at adams golf. Although some of the comments I see here lack civility, I am sure most people appreciate your insight. I am curious, in the 70’s and 80’s, the equipment industry did a complete turnover. Wilson, MacGregor, Dunlop, Ram, Hogan…a bunch of companies that had experienced success, seemed to disappear over time, and new companies took their place…Callaway, Taylormade, Ping…even Adams. In your view, how did this occur, and is there a chance, it could occur again?

    Thank you….and by the way…I have a couple adams hybrids in my bag that date back a few years. Still have not found a hybrid I like better…

    • Mike

      Feb 14, 2015 at 1:03 am

      That is a great question. I’m very interested in mr Adams take on this.

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 14, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      In a word the demise of those Companies; Callaway. They introduced an era of strong marketing and innovative product. You either learned to compete or you got run over.
      I think it’s happening now. The USGA has essentially stifled real innovation so we have a four horse marketing game. TM, Callaway, Ping and Titleist albeit really a ball company.

  12. Chuck

    Feb 13, 2015 at 5:19 am

    I’m curious what Barney can say about Tom Watson; obviously a consummate player and professional, Watson’s marketing worth is something that a number of companies (Ralph Lauren Polo, for one) seem to like. And yet Tom Watson appears to have resolutely stayed away from contracts with the major club manufacturers (Titleist, Taylormade, Callaway, Mizuno, Wilson.) Barney can you say anything about the Tom Watson/Adams golf linkage?

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 14, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      It was one of the great experiences. Whatever we said a club would do Tom had to prove it via his ball flight. Couldn’t have had a better partner.

  13. Gorden

    Feb 12, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Barney what do you think of Wilson slowly gaining some more market share…it has been a long time since Wilson Had a female President that dropped John Daly and killed any Driver sales they would have for years.

  14. Andy W

    Feb 12, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Sales in the range of “$140 million…. necessary for marketing stuff and turn a profit” is enlightening. Man, it all adds up being in all the golf mags, TV time, pay for play Pros, ect., all to establish presence and motivation for golfers to buy. Have to think TMAG spent $10 million just on the PGA Show the last three years….

  15. tom

    Feb 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    it’s all time and place. barney did what he did at the time he did it. his company grew to its apex and could not have grown anymore. you have to consider what he was up against. callaway, titleist, taylormade, ping, et al. those companies were doing all they could against each other and there’s only so much you can do to win the limited amount of golfers there are in the world. $100MM in rev is all he could have done – end of story. if he had started when titleist, ping, taylormade did, and have the “hits” those companies did, he could have been in a different place altogether. if taylormade didn’t have that HUGE hit with the metalwood, they’d be an adams. if ping didn’t have those ground breaking upright lie irons, etc., it’d be a different story. adams didn’t really do much of anything except popularize a utility club. they rode that fad as long and hard as they could, and the other vendors provided a similar product that golfers were content buying to fit their bag profile. look, microsoft was a time and place business. apple, time and place. google, time and place. adams did what they could, and that’s it – end of story. adams is a remarkable story, but callaway, titleist, taylormade, ping, cleveland, cobra, mizuno, nike, bridgestone, are more remarkable.

    • Andy W

      Feb 13, 2015 at 7:37 am

      Yep, one club (tightlies) was the catalyst, yet clones were everywhere and few Pros saw a need to pull the 2-iron. What if Adams had offered a putter that was a USGA conforming “Surveying Instrument” with an Operating System that guaranteed a perfect Greenread 100% of the time? What if Adams with this putter offered free support just like Microsoft does on their Operating Systems. What if for 17 years nobody could compete with this Adams SI putter like Apple does with Microsoft? What if Pros deemed this putter essential equipment in the bag? With something like that, $100M is not the limit.

      • tom

        Feb 13, 2015 at 9:12 am

        Yup, Andy W, my fine apprentice, you have been correctly influenced by my assertion. had adams come out with something truly revolutionary (e.g. the taylormade metalwood is the great golf equip example) that everyone ‘had to have’, they’d have created the channel “pull thru” required to catapult them to the uber manufacturer status of callaway, ping, taylormade, titleist, et al. however, the “hybrid” club as the “adams revolution” gave them only $100MM rev pull thru at their peak and they were relegated an alsoran at retail. so they had “push thru” going for them and that’s why their retail displays sat unopened in the back receiving area of retail stores. for those channel sales neophytes out there – pull thru occurs because demand for your product is so strong, people come into stores already knowing what they want and literally pull the product off of store shelves. push thru occurs when a product or company has not produced anything hot enough to generate demand and as result you rely on gimmicks (sales spiffs, training, incentives, sexy retail displays, buying end-caps, ads, etc) and hope that you these things will push products thru the channel.

        Barney needed to realize that in order to grow his business he had to focus very heavily on a push strategy. you can see in his article that he did NOT focus on this as much as he needed. In fact, he says “(I’m assuming everything was done to correct this!)” when he heard a sales guy talking about their retail displays sitting around in back. if it were my business, i’d have fired the guy! if you’re going to “assume” your sales org is doing what it needed so consumers are, then you’re out of touch and you’re not going to grow. you have to be a push marketing sherpa. your organization has got to know precisely at every level what it needs to do – that starts at the top. if consumers don’t know your product, or if consumers simply aren’t actively looking for your product you have to push your product. if your product isn’t known, then nobody will be looking for it. you can’t assume your retail sales org is doing its job. you have to know they are.

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 15, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Tom, I found myself agreeing until the end and your choice of ” more remarkable” companies. Based on industry data Adams had a greater market share than Cleveland, Mizuno, Nike, Bridgestone or Cobra and all of those companies were owned by a corporate giant and it’s support systems. ( or in Nike and Bridgestone’s cases were a division of a corporate giant) Take Titleist’s ball business away and they too fall off the radar. Just FYI. Makes no difference it’s all history now.

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 15, 2015 at 7:17 pm

      Tom ; your conclusion. Adams had greater market share than any of the ” successes” you mentioned starting with Cleveland and they all were either owned by large companies or were large companies. We would have continued to increase but it was an annual street fight. As I’ve said before it’s a fashion/ marketing business. The USGA does not want nor will allow distance improving innovation or anything they feel makes the game easier.

  16. Kenner

    Feb 12, 2015 at 8:35 am

    “Necessary marketing stuff…”
    I don’t need to see Ernie every other commercial telling me he has two in the bag.
    Or Kenny Perry saying that its out of here.

  17. west

    Feb 12, 2015 at 1:20 am

    And am definitely appreciative of Barney, because I will have learned from his mistakes.

  18. Shawn K

    Feb 11, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Sounds like many other businesses. You have to hope quality of product will sell it and your are making money at or it doesn’t work. It is tough to compete with the big boys in any industry toe to toe in marketing, no matter how creative you get. It still costs a lot to market products these days.
    If you can’t compete you need to get out or sell. Pretty simple IMO. Sounds like Barney sold and has kept the brand alive. BTW I just picked up an XTD Driver (Demo sell off of course for half of retail. I think that was a whole other discussion.)
    Thanks for the article Barney.

  19. Brian

    Feb 11, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I gamed Adams equipment for >10 years. It was flat out good stuff. There’s nothing better than a small company that makes better products than the big guys. And I owned the stock too. Adams Golf was a good, innovative company.

    I find these articles to be very interesting reading.

    Barney, just ignore the armchair CEOs and 300 yard hitters and keep it coming.

  20. Ryan rymail00

    Feb 11, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Mr. Adams,

    Once again I enjoy reading your articles, and giving us an insight 99% of the golfing world will never see. Once again the haters come out of the wood works.

    Keep posting!
    Ryan aka rymail00

  21. Tom Duckworth

    Feb 11, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    Barney I just want to say you made some of the best and most honest equipment during your run. I enjoy your articles and I’m sorry you have to take pot shots from a bunch of wannabe a**holes.

  22. Barney Adams

    Feb 11, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    Wow some readers either having very bad days or just down on Adams. What I provided was an honest assessment of our internal conversations and being self ( or company) critical properly done was healthy not complaining.
    Always room for improvement but I have to mention one thing; we started in 1987. Since then please name me one equipment company that has started and reached 100m in sales etc….

    • Jerry

      Feb 11, 2015 at 8:15 pm

      Don’t worry about it. There’s always 1-2 percent who are haters or jealous because you’ve done what they have dreamed about doing and are working in an industry they can only keep as a hobby. Keep it coming bud.

  23. MT

    Feb 11, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Adams should really think about making their overall brand look more cool. At this moment they look old that is against them making all those innovations. And I am speaking not influenced by some other brands such as TM that simply looks cheasy and cheep though delivering some great woods.

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 11, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      Mr Adams is as they say long gone from the game.

    • gunmetal

      Feb 11, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      There stuff right before and after TM bought them looked “cool”. Problem is Adams isn’t Adams anymore. Taylormade is either calling all of the shots or at least has them on a very short leash. Very sad.

  24. Regis

    Feb 11, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Can’t fathom the degree of vitriol here, but I guess that’s the blog environment. I enjoy the articles Barney.Thanks

  25. Matt Johnson

    Feb 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Barney, thanks for taking the time to write and post this blog. I think you know that a lot of folks find it insightful. Please assume there is a silent majority of readers who enjoy your posts. Unfortunately there is also an outspoken majority of ignorant reprobates. What did Teddy Roosevelt have to say about those that actually enter the arena? “It is not the critic that counts…”

  26. Tom Wishon

    Feb 11, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Barney
    Just curious since you are sharing info from your days – what was your total company payroll as a percentage of annual sales, same question for marketing expenses. And on a different topic related to your article, did your company use “secret shoppers” who would visit the retail stores frequently/occasionally to ask for your company’s products to then see whether the retailers were supporting you well or doing a bait and switch? Just curious.

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 11, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      In reverse order we did have folks visit retail and report back. Not a staff but on occasion. Truthfully placement is the rep’s job and you have to trust them. As for marketing and payroll as a percentage we were high. Not because we were excessive but our volume was the factor. You played the cash flow game and worked to build volume.

  27. Mauricio

    Feb 11, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    I think people are missing the point. Adams puts out great clubs, but the time frame he is talking is before Google was making money in advertising online. A lot of water passed under that bridge. This is great inside information. What I am curious to know is how did Adams Golf got gobbled up by TM Adidas.

    • Keith

      Feb 11, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Adams golf was founded in 1991…so your logic applies for about 9 years of the companies lifespan. There was still a good clip of time that they were still using 1991 logic in the way they approached the marketplace before being purchased. One of the first things that happened post acquisition…Adidas/TaylorMade fired the advertising agency in Dallas.

      It sounds like they focused their dollars in the wrong places…it is actually a great lesson for anyone starting a business in golf. There are a lot of companies that have had a rise after the fall Wilson (present day) and Mizuno (post 2009 when profit fell by double digits).

      I agree with the message though…this is a hard industry to be successful in, there are a lot of ways to mess it up.

  28. ck

    Feb 11, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Which golf companies did you guys run? I missed that part.

  29. LY

    Feb 11, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Barney:
    When you sign a PGA or LPGA player, does that player approach you to play your equipment or do you approach them? And when you do sign a player, how long on average is the contract they sign?

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 11, 2015 at 7:01 pm

      No precise formula. They all have agents and they are the contact. As for duration you certainly want at least 3-5 years and hopefully longer. It takes a couple of seasons before the public notices.

  30. Ty Webb

    Feb 11, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    I don’t get why he is on here. I can’t tell if he is being insightful or bitter.

    • gunmetal

      Feb 11, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      Yeah it blows my mind why we’d want a founder and CEO of a golf equipment contributing to the content of a website dedicated to golf equipment.

  31. golfiend

    Feb 11, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    There was a boon in the golf industry and for golf in general with Tiger Woods, with steel woods and titanium big head drivers, a new club called hybrids, game improvement irons, wedge grooves and grinds, mallet and other funky looking putters, graphite shafts, urethane cover and 3-piece balls, but it seems the innovation have now become purely marketing with the same products being dressed up differently every 2 years. I attribute this partly due to the imposed rules on equipment which companies have seemed to maxed out on.

  32. AJ Jensen

    Feb 11, 2015 at 11:29 am

    What keeps Adams going is their products, putting great clubs in their customers’ bags. It seems obvious enough, but how many other brands can actually claim the same thing? My Adams hybrids (I own four) and my Adams forged irons perform as well as anything I’ve ever borrowed or tried at a trade show. With other brands I get the feeling they’re overspending on sizzle while Adams consistently works on the steak. I see the grandiose product displays in golf stores and marvel at the irony, as customers walk past the Adams rack and reach for the big boys’ clubs, that the better value in the store was overlooked.

  33. ken

    Feb 11, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Advertising dollars must not be just spent. Those dollars must be spent in the correct places.
    That translates to good marketing and keeps the consumer price down.
    Having fewer PGA Tour players on staff also helps to maintain a reasonable price point.

  34. DOug H

    Feb 11, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Barney,

    I would have loved to been in those conversations I always tout the Adams Hybrids to my group. My favorite 3 wood to date for my steep swing has been the Adams Super LS 3 wood. I can’t tell you how many times I have had guys grab this club after hitting mine a few times.

    I like your insight and look forward to reading more articles.

    Doug

  35. Bart Mellinger

    Feb 11, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Is this why you got into Long Drive back in 2008 (because it was cheap)? And did long drive move the needle for you at all? I know you had some pretty good hitters on staff (Sadlowski, Mobley, etc) but I’m wondering if you felt it was worth it in the end.

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 11, 2015 at 7:10 pm

      Yes. We had to spend money giving our driver credentials knowing that the market sales would be minor. They helped us. Although I must say after watching a couple up close what they do to a golf ball is way off any grid.

  36. Keith

    Feb 11, 2015 at 10:23 am

    No offense Barney, but the reason why your advertising didn’t work is because you chose strategies like putting hitting bays in tiny airports and thinking it would move the needle and drive sales (waste of money)…you needed advanced analytics and a robust digital marketing strategy and Adam’s wouldn’t adapt to the change in the marketplace.

    You can measure ROI..saying $.50 wasted is such an old school mentality and couldn’t be further from the truth. When your competition is outspending you 10:1 there are ways to be scrappy and carve out your own share of the pie.

    That ‘very costly’ display money could have been spent on driving awareness and consideration of your product which I would guess hovered around the 25%-35% range…rather than having someone stumble upon your product in store you could of had them seek it out. If consumers want something they go get it…it’s not a code that needs to be cracked.

    And so goes the battle between “marketing” and “sales”

    • west

      Feb 11, 2015 at 11:03 am

      Have to agree with Keith. I know I’v been hard on Barney’s previous posts, and will continue to do so because his approach/perspective fail to demonstrate the ability to adapt and be innovative. Sorry Barney, but the cold hard truth is better that fluffy while lies to make you feel better.

      If you couldn’t get proper brand space in the retail stores–build your own Adams retail chain. Include clothing, shoes, and balls. These other products would have been things you could compete on.

      Having troubles getting marketing or tour presence? Ever heard of Google Ad Words? Screw tour players and retail big box. Appeal to customers online. And with the economy being what it has been since 2009, a product that appeals to customer’s wallets surely should have beat out all the overpriced competitors…Why didn’t that happen? If anything the economic recession should have been an opportunity in disguise for Adams…A resurgence if anything.

      All I hear from you Barney is that Adams was doomed to fail from the beginning because you didn’t have the money or market share…worst excuse in the book. No one is going to give that to you, you have to go out and make it by adding value to your product. Which you never did.

      • Barney Adams

        Feb 11, 2015 at 7:05 pm

        Build our own retail chain ! That’s it the one sure thing we never discussed!

        • west

          Feb 12, 2015 at 1:31 am

          Why Not?!? Put them in outlet malls initally. Surely with the additional merchandise, i.e. clothes, shoes, balls, bags, etc. you will be able to diversify, compete, and expand. I bet the margins are better too in these product types vs. clubs/equipment?

          • Del Capslock

            Feb 17, 2015 at 10:33 am

            YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS?!?!

            How many mall based stores do you propose opening? And how much will it cost to get each one open? Ongoing costs & sales per store?

        • west

          Feb 12, 2015 at 1:36 am

          BTW I actually like the Adams branding waaaaaaaay more than the equipment for what it’s worth.

    • Rob

      Feb 11, 2015 at 11:15 am

      How much is Barney Adams worth….but yeah I’m sure he is taking your advice!?

      • Keith

        Feb 11, 2015 at 11:20 am

        Hey Rob,

        People like Barney Adam’s pay guys like me to make these decisions for them…so in fact he/they already do take my advice. But thank you for adding to the conversation.

        • Rob

          Feb 11, 2015 at 1:24 pm

          “Guys like me…” So NOT you. He has done a fair amount for the golf industry, tough to compete with companies that have the ability to say yeah I like your idea and buy it out. But I bet you could have really saved him with your great advice!

        • Barney Adams

          Feb 11, 2015 at 7:07 pm

          Keith. We had guys like you.

          • Keith

            Feb 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm

            When tasked with these hard decisions…did you listen to the marketing team or the sales team? Based on your comments in the article I have an idea…but would be interested as these conversations can be very interesting.

            One guy brings theoretical volume to your business and the other has tangible numbers…I would be interested to get your point of view.

            • Barney Adams

              Feb 11, 2015 at 9:16 pm

              Of course you listen to the Marketing and Sales team. Sometimes when things were a toss-up we made regional decisions and tracked results. We definitely trended towards marketing. Sales guys get pretty united. Lower prices, more money for spiffs, market leading products good weather etc……

      • west

        Feb 11, 2015 at 12:04 pm

        It’s too late for Barney to take anyone’s advice…Rob.

        BTW I’d rather have a thriving business with sustainability and little personal net worth, than a failed track record, money in the bank, and nothing better to do than write articles on an industry forum about why things were so hard me for back in the day.

        • Greg

          Feb 12, 2015 at 12:38 am

          West- Care to toss around any more compliments without putting your track record on the line for everyone online cowboy to snipe at? Mr. Adams seems to have done something- you?

          • west

            Feb 12, 2015 at 1:19 am

            I’m just getting started…

            • Greg

              Feb 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

              Your done. You will keep talking– all the while questioning others decision without exposing your own is the ultimate form of cowardice.

              You are just another impotent internet cowboy denigrating someones work, (care to put yours on display?) Your pollution of this a discussion is more than worn out.

              Good bye

          • west

            Feb 12, 2015 at 1:22 am

            And am appreciative of people like Barney, because I will have learned from their mistakes.

    • Barney Adams

      Feb 17, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Re hitting bays in tiny airports. TM is one of the most successful marketers in the industry. They have many bodies including experts on analytics. Suggest you contact them and ask them about the concept involving that program.

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On Spec

On Spec: I fell in love at Sweetens Cove | Finding your golf “community”

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In this episode of On Spec, Ryan can’t say enough great things about his first trip to Sweetens Cove for the first Oil Hardened Classic—an event dedicated to persimmon and blade irons. He also talks about a new group of golf buddies in the era of social media.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

It started with a crazy idea…

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It’s been nearly six years since Bob Parsons decided he wanted to get into the golf club business, and it was five years ago that Ryan Moore was presented with an iron that looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie.

Since then, the name PXG has been growing in stature as quickly as this industry has seen in a long time. In my time with Tour Ops Director Matt Rollins, I discovered once again that there was a point for all of these department heads, where the ability to work in a vacuum with no boundaries peaked enough curiosity to leave great jobs and take a winger on a man’s idea that at inception may have sounded a bit crazy.

Now let’s be clear, Bob Parsons knows golf clubs. Like many on this site, he’s a gear junkie—yes, with unlimited resources to find exactly what he wants. However, being a gear junkie myself, I always wondered what it would look like if I had the resources to go as far down the rabbit hole as I wanted to without risking the roof over my head AND without the mandate of a company to limit my search. This is important to understand because as you may have seen in the last video, the people Mr. Parsons chooses to work with seem to have this unrelenting curiosity as well.

The tour operations started this way: Ryan Moore was the perfect guy to attract early on. He’s a searcher, he has the resume to gain trust, and he’s extremely measured. Ryan doesn’t do anything on a whim, although it may appear so. He considers everything down to the last point before he says yes. I can say this in confidence knowing his story and interacting with him a few times. I have interacted with a good portion of the early PXG staff and to a person they have all said the same thing: “It seemed a bit crazy at the time, but I was curious: I hit the clubs and I wanted in.”

The current staff like the front office is a good mix of all personalities and as a whole they represent the perfect mix to get the PXG message out into the world. Players like Horschel, Perez, Ko, Hahn, Lee, ZJ, Moore, HOF icon Gary Player, and most recently aspiring LPGA player, long drive champion and influencer Troy Mullins.

Now, I won’t get into all of the club junkie tidbits I get from Matt here: ya just gotta watch the video. It was a fun interview and my biggest takeaway personally is that despite all of the opinions and polarizing discussions around PXG, these guys really care about what they are doing and where they want to go.

As you will see in Episode 6 of The Disruptors, Matt Rollins at first had a kind of “yeah right” reaction to the whole thing—then you start to get around Bob, and Mike and Brad and you begin to understand just how serious these guys are about taking PXG to places we have never seen. Are they one of the Big 4? No. They never will be—it’s not designed that way. Are they a company that has the nimbleness, brains, and swagger to continue to shake things up? Oh, yeah. And that’s exactly how Bob likes it.

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Opinion & Analysis

PGA Tour players on the rise and on the decline heading into 2020

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At the end of each season, I compile data on every PGA Tour player and then analyze which players are on the rise and the decline for the upcoming season. There are a number of variables that are historically quality indicators of a golfer’s future performance such as age, club speed, adjusted scoring average, etc. I tend to focus on what I call The Cornerstones of the Game, however, and these Cornerstones include:

  • Driving effectiveness
  • Red zone play (approach shots from 175-225 yards)
  • Short game shots (from 10-20 yards)
  • Putting (5-15 feet)
  • Ball speed

All that is needed to execute the Cornerstones of the Game is for the player to be in the top half on the PGA Tour in each metric. That’s the beauty of the concept; a player does not need to be dominant in each metric. He can simply be average at each metric and it increases his likelihood of not only having a great season but recording a PGA Tour victory. I can then use the Cornerstones concept to more accurately project players on the rise for the following season.

This past season, there were 10 players that reached The 5 Cornerstones of the Game and they made an average of $4.7 million on the season. Given their success, I focused my analysis more on players that narrowly missed The 5 Cornerstones and their metrics to determine what players will be “on the rise.”

Players on the rise

*The following rankings are based out of 194 players

Joaquin Niemann

The young Chilean golfer reached every one of The 5 Cornerstones of the Game, but he made the least amount of FedEx points of any of the golfers that executed all of the Cornerstones.

This was due to Niemann’s early struggles with the putter. However, his putting improved significantly as the season went by.

The dotted black line in the chart represents Niemann’s trendline and that shows a strong upward trend in his putting performance.

Niemann ranked 107th in adjusted par-5 scoring average, and given his quality of ballstriking and distance off the tee, that should greatly improve. The projections are for him to win soon. If he can continue to improve his putting, particularly from 3-5 feet (he ranked 160th last season) he could be a multiple winner this upcoming season.

Sung Kang

Kang recorded his first victory at the Byron Nelson Championship but flew under the radar for most of the season. He also executed The 5 Cornerstones of the Game.

Back in 2017, Kang almost executed The 5 Cornerstones, but I was lukewarm to putting him on the list of Players on the Rise as the one cornerstone he failed to reach was red zone play, and that’s too important of a metric to miss out on.

Kang struggled in the 2018 season, but his red zone play greatly improved. In the meantime, his driving greatly suffered. He continued to struggle with his driving early in the 2019 season but made great strides right around the Byron Nelson and ended the season ranked 80th in driving effectiveness. Meanwhile, his red zone play has continued to be strong, and he’s a sound short game performer from 10-20 yards and putter from 5-15 feet.

While I am a little more on the fence with Kang, given his putrid performance from the yellow zone and generally inconsistent play, his putting suffered from ranking 181st on putts from 25-plus feet. That is more likely to move towards the mean and greatly improve his putts gained next season. He’s also 32 years old, which is a prime age for Tour players hit their peak performance of their career.

Sepp Straka

Straka had a good rookie campaign striking the ball and was a competent putter. The only Cornerstone that Straka failed to execute was short game shots from 10-20 yards. However, we can see that as the season went by Straka’s short game improved

That’s also recognizing that short game around the green has a weaker correlation to success on Tour than most of the other Cornerstones like driving, red zone play and putting from 5-15 feet.

Straka should improve greatly on par-5’s (104th last season). He made a lot of birdies last year (25th in adjusted birdie rate), but made a ton of bogeys (155th). These numbers project well at tournaments that are birdie fests like Palm Springs or courses that are relatively easy on shots around the green such as Harbour Town.

Sam Ryder

Ryder only missed The 5 Cornerstones with a poor performance from 10-20 yards. He’s an excellent putter and iron-play performer, and that is usually the parts of the game that the eventual winners perform best from.

Wyndham Clark

 

One of the new metrics I’ve created is called “power-to-putting.” This is a combination of the player’s putts gained ranking and their adjusted driving distance ranking. Earlier this year I wrote an article here about where exactly distance helps with a golfer’s game. In essence, the longer off the tee a golfer is the more likely they will have shorter length birdie putts on average. That’s why long hitters like Bubba Watson can make a lot of money despite putting poorly and why shorter hitters like Brian Gay have to putt well in order to be successful.

The “honey pot” is for a golfer that hits it long and putts well. This means they will sink a ton of birdie putts because they are having easier putts to make and they have the requisite putting skill to make them.

Clark finished first in power-to-putting (Rory McIlroy finished second). On top of that, he was an excellent performer from 10-20 yards which is usually the last step in a long ball hitter becoming an elite performer. Clark’s iron play was very poor and that downgrades his chances of winning on Tour. But, with his length, putting, and short game, he can very well get four days of decent approach shot play and win handily.

Players on the decline

Charley Hoffman

Hoffman ranked 64th in FedEx points but was 139th in adjusted scoring average. Most of Hoffman’s metrics were not very good, but he was a superb performer from the yellow and red zone. The other concerning part of Hoffman is his age: He is at the point of his career that player performance tends to drop-off the most. He only made two of his last seven cuts this past season with the best finish of T51 at The Open Championship.

J.B. Holmes

Holmes finished 166th in adjusted scoring average and was greatly helped by having a favorable schedule as he ranked 21st in purse size per event. The best thing Holmes has going for him is his distance off the tee. He also had a good season around the green that helps long hitters like Holmes when they hit foul balls off the tee.

After that, Holmes did not do much of anything well. He was 179th in adjusted missed fairway–other percentage (aka hitting foul balls off the tee) and his putting was horrendous and doesn’t appear to be bouncing back anytime soon.

Patton Kizzire

Kizzire only made two of his last 11 cuts last season, and it’s easy to see why with his ballstriking struggles. It also doesn’t help that he was poor from 10-20 yards. He’s one of the elite putters on Tour, but elite putting only helps a player so much in the big leagues.

Phil Mickelson

The biggest positive for Mickelson is his newfound power that he exhibited last year. He will also play a favorable schedule as he ranked 16th in purse size per event and has lifetime exempt status on Tour.

For fantasy golf owners, I would be averse to picking Mickelson in the short term. The question with Lefty is if his newfound distance caused him issues with his iron play, short game and putting, or if that is just a temporary slump that once he works thru those issues with his newfound speed, he may be winning tournaments again. But at his age, history is not in his favor.

Francesco Molinari

Molinari turns 37-years-old in November. There’s still plenty of years for good golf, but Molnari’s lack of power and routine struggles with the putter means that he needs to have impeccable driving and iron play in order to be competitive in big tournaments and the majors. Last season he was an average driver of the ball and he was below average from the red zone.

The positive for Molinari is that he has typically been an impeccable ballstriker, so the issues in 2019 may have been a one-time slump. And while he putted poorly, he putted well from 5-15 feet. He ranked 184th on putts from 15-25 feet and 157th on putts from 25-plus feet, and those are more likely to progress towards the mean over time and help his overall putting.

But, Molinari has never been a great putter, and at his age, it will be very difficult to keep up with his impeccable ballstriking to get back to the winner’s circle.

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