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.
Flatstick Focus: Anser-Style Draft and Interview with Nate Stone from Chirrp
In Episode 10, Glenn and Parker draft a team of 5 Anser-style putters to compete for listener votes on Instagram. We also interview Nate Stone from Chirrp Golf to discuss their new product coming to the market later in 2020.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
The best golf commercials of all time
The world of golf has seen its fair share of commercials; both memorable and well…not so much.
Lucky for us, and cinematographers alike, production values, camera technology, and creative concepts have certainly improved over time with the biggest creative leap thanks to Nike golf. This is look back and both some and the best and, let’s say less creative.
Golf’s Not That Hard, Right?
The Moment Tiger introduces Joe the 27 Handicap, you know it’s not going to end well.
Titleist DT – It’s Wound In.
I don’t know if the best part of this commercial is the music, the fist pumps, or the classic sweater and stiff collar outfits worn by everyone involved.
This was a big Superbowl commercial and it was long after that shankapotomus became part of the golf vernacular.
Kenny G Sells Clubs?
I’ll never quite understand that demographic that was targeted at. People, that enjoy forgiving clubs and smooth saxophone? I guess Lisa Simpson wasn’t available.
Boo Weekley – Launching It
When it comes to characters in golf, Boo Weekly will always be remembered as one of the finest. Although considering VJ is well knows for living right next to TPC Sawgrass I feel like they took some liberties with shooting locations.
Get Custom Fit!
Although the company certainly isn’t around anymore the message is a good one – You’re going to play better with custom-fit clubs. Throw in a groin-hit for good measure because that’s always fun right?
Big Bertha Caddies
This one is pretty good, and if you have ever caddied for any period of time it’s quite relatable. But regardless of the clubs there players are gaming, I’d rather not be carrying a staff bag around for 36 holes unless there is “a little something for the effort.”
PING G10 Irons & Driver
These will always be my favorite golf commercials. They are endlessly funny and play directly into many golfers often farsighted aspirations around their own golf games. Best line “Exactly. One good year and that’s all taken care of.”
What did we miss, GolfWRXers? Let us know your favorite golf commercials in the comments!
A 2015 conversation with Dean Snell
Have a bit of time travel with us, as we go back five years and read what Dean Snell had to say.
Dean Snell lists positions with Titleist and TaylorMade golf ball divisions over his 25 years of involvement with the development of golf balls. In 2015, Snell founded Snell Golf, selling golf balls directly to the consumer. He agreed to answer our interview questions, so have a read.
1. Give us an idea of how Dean Snell found golf and how it became the focal point of his professional life.
I actually did not like golf at all growing up.. I was a hockey player my whole life. My first golf experience was when i was playing hockey out in Hershey PA, my dad came out to see me play, and we had a day off, so he wanted to play golf. I rented clubs.. he was a very good player. The first hole I shot my ball so far right, never found it.. he made par.. Second hole I was again way right, in the woods.. when I heard a huge commotion in the fairway.. my dad was also a big boy, and took no crap from anyone… well these two guys were in his face, so I ran across fairway, clothes-lined one guy and we beat the crap out of these two guys on the second fairway. needless to say they threw us off the course.
I asked my dad what happened on the ride home… evidently he was waiting for me in the woods, and the guys behind us hit their ball and it rolled into him.. so he grabbed a 3 wood and fired it back at them… then they came down and it was GAME ON… so i thought maybe golf can be a fun thing after all.. haha..
I was actually working at BF Goodrich Aerospace and Defense in 1990 designing composite parts for F16 and blackwhawk helicopters when I answered an ad for a quality engineer at Titleist… which happened to be in my hometown of Acushnet MA… they sent my resume over to R&D because of the engineering degree and background I had… two weeks later they offered me a job and I started my career in golf.. i didn’t even have a set of clubs…So I got some clubs, started playing and have been hooked on golf since… which makes it easier cause my hockey days are not over…I started working on designing the engineering process to make cast urethane golf balls, and introduced the first cast urethane ball in Titleist Professional in 1994/95.
2. What were the most important lessons you learned while at Acushnet and TaylorMade?
I love both companies… Both extremely professional and very technical… While at Acushnet, I truly had to learn the game of golf.. engineering, performance, what was important, testing, EVERYTHING…. then i began to work with the tour players and developing a good understanding of what they would look for in a design. At TaylorMade it was a complete business start up… They had one ball patent, and didn’t even have a scale to weigh a ball.. so very interesting in building factories, processes, designs, development and complete business practices.. Again, worked very close with tour players and continued to understand what they need and how to make products they eventually would play and win at the highest level. Today, a lot of these players are still good friends and I keep in touch with.
3. Snell has two golf ball lines, the “My Tour Ball” and the “Get Sum.” What are the most important features of each ball?
MY TOUR BALL is a 3-pc CAST URETHANE covered ball..this cover technology has been around since 1994 and I believe nothing will ever replace it.. it is outstanding… allows very soft covers for soft feel, extremely durable urethane and we cast it very thin to allow outstanding short game spin and control…The core is very low compression and FAST in ball speed, which equates to lower driver spin rates and faster ball speeds, both of which make the ball very long off the tee… the mantle layer is designed to control the iron spin… it works with the core on longer irons to keep spin down and prevent ballooning, and then works with the soft urethane cover to create high short game spin and control…LONG, SOFT, ,DURABLE, and spin control… great combo.
GET SUM is made to have low compression, low spin core and thin soft ionomer cover to give very soft feel. This ball is lower in spin, launches a bit higher with all clubs.. great ball for higher handicaps, as the lower spin helps reduce hooks and slices and helps the ball fly straighter… also easier to get up in the air, which is sometimes a challenge…
4. How does a start-up golf ball company hope to compete with established companies, boasting decades of success at all levels of the game?
In all honesty I do not think we plan to compete with the big companies. This is an on line direct to consumer based business where we reduce a lot of expenses and pass the savings on to the consumers… The larger companies will still have the big stores, on course and off course retailers, and even they sell some on line… I am trying to bring the best technologies and processes and performance at a lower price to consumers to help them play more, and want to play more..The way we sell will not be measured in any market share numbers reported by the larger companies.
5. Snell golf has a members forum on its site, for supporters to ask questions, contribute comments and offer opinions. What is the value in dedicating a portion of the site to your customers?
I love education and think that golf is very tough and technical.. I have some good experience and stories over the last 25 years, and if I can find a place to share this info to consumers, I love to do that. anyone can log on and submit any technical questions they may have about golf balls and technology, and I will do my best to give my technical opinion and help them out…
6. Currently, Snell golf balls are available only through the company website. Why is this and will it continue into the future?
We are a small start up… the niche today is selling direct to consumers.. so no big marketing expenses, no big tour contracts, no sales reps, no mark ups… so the balls cost the same to make as other balls, but all the expenses we can save is passed on to the consumers…I have a lot of pro shops call and want to carry… will it ever been seen in pro shops, I am sure it will… but today we have a niche and are not set up to support this type of system. If any pro shop wanted to call and place an order for their club or members, we would certainly take the order and ship out the next day…I have a crawl, walk run philosophy in business… i think if you try to do too many things too fast, you fail. we have a had a lot of requests to have distributors overseas… great ideas, but just not ready to do this yet… LET IT DEVELOP is my favorite saying.
7. How will you measure success for Snell golf balls?
Our plans are realistic and we plan to start small and let it develop… learn and try to do things right. We have target goals to meet in a 3 year plan, and will work hard every day to meet these goals…
8. What aspects of golf ball development and production are most unknown/confusing to the consumer, and deserve clarification?
I think I have two…compression.. people think they have to play a low compression ball to “compress” the ball..not true at all every golfer compresses the ball.. compression is a designers tool that helps us understand spin rates and has a small factor in the overall feel of the ball.. so dont worry about compression.. most balls today have not ratings for a reason.. they are not important… Second is swing speed… in my opinion players should not choose a ball based on swing speed.. if a player picks a lower compression ball based on swing speed, that means he or she is playing a ball that has a lower spin rate… so think about it… you are picking a ball that “may” increase your ball speed by 0.5 mph with a driver.. lets say that did happen.. that means now your 230 yard drive just went 231 yards… so now you are a whopping one yard longer (maybe) and you have to play the rest of the hole with a ball that is made to have no spin or low spin… and where do you need spin the most? around the green…you should play a ball that fits your game around the green.. test several models from inside 70 yards.. chips,… putts, etc.. then dont worry about driver.. they all go about the same distance today… but you score around the green… choose the ball that fits your game where you play the most… not off the tee…
9. What questions haven’t we asked, that you wish we had? Ask them and answer them, please.
Is this a cheap tour ball?
No, I never use the word cheap.. people believe that if the tour ball is cheaper then it is not as good.. i only ask that you try it… I used the same technologies and materials that have been used in tour balls for over 20 years… proven on tour… the performance is there.. the cost is a savings for you to hope you play more…
Will there be any tour players in the ball?
At this point, we have had a few players contact us to play the ball.. unfortunately, as a small start up, we are not paying large tour contracts at this time, and are passing this savings on to you the consumers… I have designed or co designed golf balls for the best players in the world over the last 25 years at both Titliest and TaylorMade, and have a good understanding of golf ball performance, and what it takes to create this type for performance. Golf is my passion today, but hockey is still my favorite sport… even if I have never been successful to tie the two sports together like I had in my first golf experience with my dad.. haha..
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