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.
Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments
Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.
Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.
I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.
For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.
His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.
Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.
Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.
He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached. I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.
On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.
When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.
Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.
Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing. Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)
Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.
Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!
A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters
Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.
However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.
I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.
There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.
If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.
Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.
Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.
Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!
At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.
Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.
It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”
What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.
You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.
The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!
Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.
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