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Costco files complaint against Acushnet in Kirkland Signature golf ball dispute

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It seemed unthinkable just a few months ago that Costco and Titleist could face off in a legal dispute over golf ball patents and advertising claims… yet here we are.

David Dawsey of golf-patents.com dug up a complaint from Friday in the United States District Court in Seattle in which Costco is seeking a declaratory judgement that it is:

  1. “Not infringing any valid patent rights owned by … Acushnet” (the holding company of Titleist, FootJoy and Pinnacle).
  2. “Not engaged in any false advertising regarding the [Kirkland Signature] golf balls.”

The dispute appears to have started when Acushnet sent a threatening letter to Costco, accusing the retailer of “infringing 11 Acushnet patents based on its sale of the [Kirkland Signature] golf ball and engaging in false advertising based on its Kirkland Signature guarantee that all Kirkland Signature products ‘meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands.'”

The “Kirkland Signature guarantee” appears to be a major sticking point for Acushnet. According to the complaint, “Acushnet asserts that the statement is intended to indicate to a reasonable consumer that the [Kirkland Signature] golf ball is the same or of greater quality as Titleist’s Pro V1.” Costco says it has “never publicly compared the [Kirkland Signature] ball with any Titleist ball, including the Pro V1.”

More interesting than all the legal mumbo jumbo for most golfers may be this sentence:

“Even though the Costco [Kirkland Signature] golf ball has sold out, Costco plans to continue to sell the [Kirkland Signature] golf ball.”

There it is, on record, that Costco plans to continue selling the $15-per-dozen, four-piece, urethane-covered golf balls that golfers went crazy over last year.

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84 Comments

84 Comments

  1. Matt

    Apr 11, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Doesn’t anyone care that Titleist golf balls are made in the USA instead of all these import golf balls????????? And if the Titleist are too expensive, try Pinnacle, made in the same factory in Massachusetts, and I’ve found them for $15 a dozen..

    • Simms

      Apr 13, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      Better check your sources, Titleist does make ProV’s over seas as well as in the United States, just as Taylormade makes its pro balls in U>S> and over seas and in the past even at the same shop that made the Kirkland ball.

  2. westphi

    Mar 31, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Good luck suing Costco…Titleist ball sales are on the decline and every manufacturer is starting to eat their lunch. Just a sign of the times. Bye Bye Titleist…

    • Doubt it

      Apr 1, 2017 at 11:16 am

      The Titleist ProV1 and ProV1x have been the best selling balls for over 15 years. No end in sight.

      • setter02

        Apr 4, 2017 at 3:40 pm

        Doubt it, doubt it. No chance that either ball has been #1 in total sales, likely ever. It isn’t even their top seller, let alone over all. They make their coin on the lower priced balls, you know, the ones that more golfers play, and lose…

      • westphi

        Apr 5, 2017 at 10:30 am

        ha!

  3. Gorden

    Mar 27, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    Everyone misses the point that yes ProV1’s, Taylormade TP5 all top line current balls are better then the Kirkland Ball, if only by small percentages of performance, and that is big to the pro or top amateurs. But the fact you can sell a top ball for $15 a dozen kills all the less then top performance balls of all manufactures,,,, Why buy NXT, E6’s. any WIlson ball if you can get a 4 piece ball for $15 or theirs for $25 or more.

    • Mad-Mex

      Mar 28, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      They get the point, they are just in denial, they still think “tour issue” equipment is better and that they “need” XX-Stiff shafts tipped 2 inches and a 8.5 driver to lower their rpm’s by 10 rpms,,,,

    • Point Made

      Apr 1, 2017 at 11:21 am

      That is an excellent point. I strongly believe the Titleist balls are better due to extreme R&D and extreme quality checks (now 91 checks on a ProV1 and 120 checks on the ProV1x). How much might be hard for the average player to discern. However, the less the premium balls will suffer. Finally, to the other reply, Titleist balls for the tour player are identical to Titleist balls bought at your local golf shop. Not so with some other balls…. The Chrome Soft that Mickelson plays / played is not the same ball as the one you buy at your local golf shop. Slightly different markings and different characteristics. It just looks like its the same to make everyone else think they play the same ball.

  4. Dave R

    Mar 22, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Oh thoese poor titleist / acushunet people what’s the matter ? Just a little competition making you worry a little bit gee that’s to bad. Don’t worry the pros will still play your $65.00 a dozen balls. No ball is worth $5.25 a ball really now is it.

  5. edge of lean

    Mar 22, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    I go to Costco for Callaway golf gloves (3 for the price of one at Golf Town) and umbrellas.

  6. Darryl

    Mar 22, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Girls, girls, you’re BOTH pretty…….

    Personal preference people, if you don’t mind paying premium prices for the “premium” ball, then have at it. If you want to save yourself a few shekels by buying what you consider a good performing ball for 1/3 of the price, great. Honestly, grown a$$ men crying that someone doesn’t share their enthusiasm for a brand name, its almost as bad as arguing about the giant sky fairy.

    I’ve been using the Dunlop NZ9-V3 lately, a £9 a dozen, three piece ball and they perform every bit as well as the Srixon AD333 (which I suspect are exactly the same ball since Dunlop and Srixon are both owned by Sumitoyo), the Callaway Supersoft or the Titleist NXT Tour. If spring ever arrives I’m planning on buying a box of Dunlops “premium” offering, the DP1-3V which is supposedly their Z-Star/Pro V1/Chrome equivalent.

    And yet……I can’t help that nagging doubt about them that I feel when one of my playing partners knocks their major OEM ball past me off the tee when I feel I have hit a good one! That’s the power of saturation advertising, I suppose.

    This all boils down to what you think of your own game, do you think that it’s worth paying $4 a ball for the two or three times in a round that you might just hit the ball well enough to notice the very slight performance difference over a $1 challenger.

  7. Mad-Mex

    Mar 21, 2017 at 9:15 pm

    If you were to hand these Kirkland balls without a brand on them and told all the Titleist fans it was the new Pro-V1 “platinum” and that it was their best yet. They would go out and scream how great it is and that nothing comes close.

  8. Simms

    Mar 21, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Golf balls from Costco great, If I was working in Costco’s purchasing department I would get together with Golfworks and start selling their products. Irons, Fairways, Drivers even their putters…they have patents on a lot of their stuff and can compete with the big boys at half the cost or less. Be a big win/win for both of them.

  9. AussieAussieAussie

    Mar 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    All this talk of $45 a dozen golf balls. ProV1s retail at $74.99 a dozen down here in Aus. $45 is soooo cheap, stop all the complaining.

  10. jc

    Mar 21, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    callaway chrome soft…you can keep the titleist and the megabox of kirlands…

  11. JuNiOR

    Mar 21, 2017 at 1:30 am

    Instead of yelling Bababooey….Yell Costco goes farther after a drive!! Let’s start with The Masters LOL

    • setter02

      Mar 21, 2017 at 9:20 am

      I know people would get mad, but how awesome would a ‘Costco’ chant be leading up to every Titleist players tee shot!

    • Michael

      Mar 22, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Junior, don’t quit your day job if you have one. You have absolutely no future in comedy.

      Bababooey will always rule.

      • Jimmy G

        Apr 7, 2017 at 11:21 am

        There can be no greater improvement in today’s game than having anyone who yells either “Bababooey” or “Get in the hole” after a shot on tour immediately removed from the premises. C’mon kids…how about a little creativity. Been hearing both for decades.

  12. Mad-Mex

    Mar 20, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Caddies vs Country Club Snobs

    GO COSTCO !!!!!

    • Caddy

      Mar 21, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      You don’t understand which side you should be on. You are rooting for the 120 Billion dollar a year company over the 1 Billion dollar a year company. You are rooting for major corporate over small mom and pop. This is like Wal Mart moving into the neighborhood and taking out your corner shop. It’s OK if you are on that side, but at least know the facts. If you just like everything cheap. That is a philosophy.

      • Brian

        Mar 21, 2017 at 5:28 pm

        No, he’s rooting for the consumer, who is the real winner here. If there’s one thing golf needs, it’s financial accessibility to a wider swath of society.

        • Schwinger

          Mar 21, 2017 at 7:23 pm

          No it doesn’t! Golf isn’t basketball

          • Brian

            Mar 22, 2017 at 8:35 am

            Your mother must be so proud.

            • Schwinger

              Mar 26, 2017 at 2:09 am

              Brian, we can’t all be poor like you. Have you looked at the list of Billionaires who run the planet? Get a clue man

      • Mad-Mex

        Mar 21, 2017 at 9:07 pm

        Caddy, NEITHER company can be called “mom AND pops” so that philosophy goes out the window. If you buy your golf equipment other than at the golf course, you are not following your own argument. And in addition to what Brian said so accurately, I am for your average being Joe able to buy quality equipment without the mark up. I play these Kirkland golf balls and find their performance to suit my needs, I am financially able to buy Pro-V1 without a problem, but I don’t get off on labels nor care to impress anyone, too old for that.

    • Michael

      Mar 22, 2017 at 10:57 am

      Obviously, you are more concerned with your little class war and doing bad comedy routines. Get some new material. Your current script is very poorly written.

  13. Golfyguy

    Mar 20, 2017 at 7:22 pm

    It’s not necessarily about Acushnet vs. Costco. It’s more about Acushnet trying to support its premium ball pricing structure.

  14. #1 Ball for a reason... EVERY SEASON.

    Mar 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Titleist is simply following protocol as the #1 brand by filing a lawsuit. They are covering bases. The Costco guarantee does seem to indicate its as good or better than the leading brands which, nearly assuredly cannot be proven in serious robotic testing. Average player testing may indicate the balls are similar but there is a reason the “robots” on tour play a Titleist (or other leading brand)…. because they are BETTER. Costco will pay someone to produce a ball. The ball will be decent. It will never be as good as a Titleist.

    • Bob Chipeska

      Mar 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

      So “serious” robotic testing cannot prove if one ball is better than another, but you arrive at the conclusion that Titleist balls are better just because the pros play them? I can see critical thinking is not your strong suit.

      • Philip

        Mar 21, 2017 at 10:02 am

        He at least proves why marketing works better than facts and hard data

      • Caddy

        Mar 21, 2017 at 12:27 pm

        To a 25 handicap chopper, all balls are the same. In that case, Costco is correct. However, Titleist will prove to have the best and tightest tolerances on premium tour quality golf balls. I saw one fellow who said the Kirkland was WAY BETTER than Titleist. This was also the same fellow who said NO GOLF BALL IS WORTH $48 dz. In short, he has an issue with price that colors his opinion of golf balls. I have an issue with technology, R&D, and quality control which colors mine.

        • Bob Chipeska

          Mar 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm

          “Titleist will prove to have the best and tightest tolerances on premium tour quality golf balls.”
          You have any data to back that statement up?

          • Caddy

            Mar 21, 2017 at 3:34 pm

            I have faith in the free market and R&D. They continue to slightly improve their ball every other year despite no changes to the USGA rules on golf balls. I firmly believe Titleist will be able to demonstrate premium ball superiority through robotic data. You don’t get hundreds and thousands of patents on golf balls because they are all the same and nothing matters.

            • Michael

              Mar 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

              So what you are really saying is you stated something as fact, but you have no proof what so ever and it is nothing other than an opinion. Right?

              • Caddy

                Apr 1, 2017 at 11:44 am

                I’m not sure I stated something specific as fact. What would that be? Titleist is very tight with robotic testing data. When they go to court I think you will see the data demonstrates a difference. I believe in R&D, technological patents, material differences, quality control checks and validation at the highest levels of play. Have you ever seen the ball counts at the US Amateur, US Junior, Girls Junior, Pub Links etc..? Titleist overwhelms all other brands combined. Is this because they are being paid? NO. This is because the players believe there is a difference. They are probably good enough to tell. It is not the lack of other brands availability. It is real and perceived difference. As stated, I believe the Titleist data will demonstrate they have superior golf balls.

        • Hooters 714

          Mar 26, 2017 at 9:47 am

          Caddy I guess you don’t understand who Costco is buying the balls from. They are buying the balls from a ball manufacturer who has already done the testing and R & D. Some individuals like yourself spout off without really doing any research what so ever a so called know it all but actually know’s very little. Have a great day caddy and that is a laugher.

          • Caddy

            Apr 1, 2017 at 11:53 am

            Every ball company who actually makes balls does some research and performs some quality control checks. I have confidence in Titleist having the best. All patents are different. That’s why they are patents. Titleist has 91 quality checks on a ProV1 and 120 quality checks on a Pro1x. Their goal for over 80 years has been goal to produce the most consistent golf ball in golf. Better players can more easily judge consistency. Better players more often choose Titleist. I believe the proof is in the pudding. All ball companies are not equal. There is a reason Wal Greens sold the Po-Do… it was cheap. It was cheap for a reason. There were patents and quality checks… just not as good and not as many. Your comment exposes your foolish line of thinking. Your rudeness is typical and it demonstrates who really lacks knowledge and the ability to put a cohesive argument together.

          • Caddy

            Apr 1, 2017 at 4:34 pm

            All balls have some form of technology and some form of quality control. I’m banking on the fact neither is like Titleist… or even close. WalGreens sold the Po-Do because it was cheap. The ball had patents and was produced at a factory that utilized some form of quality control. That does not mean the balls were in any way comparable to a Titleist. I guess the Po-Do appeared round and had dimples. Before you say someone is “spout(ing) off without really doing any research what so ever a so called know it all but actually know’s very little.” you should consider your stance. You have demonstrated you know very little about R&D, patents, materials, and quality control. All things are not equal.

    • Brian

      Mar 21, 2017 at 11:21 am

      Michael Breed, is that you?

  15. Cohenfive

    Mar 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    While I don’t blame titleist for doing whatever they have to do in order to protect their market share and pricing, I do fear they may be fighting a losing battle. Note that they didn’t sue costco for patent infringement… They sent a letter, probably hoping it would cause costco to pause. Clearly from Costco reaction that did not work. Costco never said there ball was better than any titleist product, only talksd about general quality which is very difficult to attack on legal grounds. If costco can produce and sell balls this isn’t likely to end well for the incumbent ball companies. Costco may very well use the golf ball as a break even product to attract more high income customers like us from wrx!!

    • Mike

      Mar 21, 2017 at 3:24 pm

      Costco can claim it’s balls are better than Titleists all it wants to. I can make golf balls from rubber bands and duct tape and advertise that they are better than Titleists. “Better” is a value judgement, not a quantifiable claim. Acushnet has no legal grounds for a suit here, they are just trying to bully Costco.

      • Jack

        Mar 21, 2017 at 10:11 pm

        There are tests that do show that they are similar and if not better. It’s not just a value proposition at 1/3 the price, it’s also a performance proposition. If you can’t quantify “better”, then you can’t say the Pro Vs are better either. Actually there are performance characteristics that are quantifiable so not sure where this is coming from.

        • Mr. Roboto

          Apr 1, 2017 at 11:57 am

          There are tests… robotic. Player data by choppers does not demonstrate the balls are the same. It demonstrates the players cannot tell the difference based on their ability level and lack of ability to hit it the same way twice. If its not hit the same way, the result is not comparable.

  16. Fat Perez

    Mar 20, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Oops! Looks like somebody’s loafers got stepped on! Pardon moi! This should be interesting. My buttered popcorn is on order! I’ll have a box of Mike ‘n Ike’s as well!

  17. retired04

    Mar 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    The price on the new batch coming to Costco’s stores will be interesting-remember, Costco strives to do no worse than breakeven on product sales after all related costs and their profit comes from the annual membership fees collected minus those related costs (just like the other membership clubs).

    Whole thing immaterial to me-I’m 70 and have fallen in love with the new srixon Q Star Tour that is hitting the shelves this month. With my s-l-o-w-e-r swing speed, it is longer off the driver than either Pro V.

  18. Golfguy

    Mar 20, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I sent an email to Costco Canada a couple months ago. They stated then that they fully intend to offer their Signature ball to Canadian customers.

  19. KJ

    Mar 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    This is a joke right? Costco can only “sell” these as they have access to over runs and/or inventory from golf ball manufacturers that they want to get rid of. I see this as a “spot” buy from time to time and not a normal inventory item that they will sell. Plus, when you compare to the “leading” brand, its CLEARER poking at Titleist. No idea why you would want to do that?

    • ;George

      Mar 20, 2017 at 10:53 pm

      You maybe wrong here, if Costco is letting out a contract for millions of golf balls there will be more then one manufacturer in the Asian world that will be able to and gladly supply. The sticking point is a Urethane cover ball….as has been mentioned many times the process/machines used to apply that Urethane cover are few and far between, but that problem may go away if Costco is letting out a contract that pays enough.

    • Jack

      Mar 21, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      That’s not how the costco supply chain works. There are many products that are basically tailored for and made for Costco. If you want to know just go to a costco and you will see. Even the TVs are made for costco versions.

  20. PCR

    Mar 20, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    C’mon, GolfWRX, why the low-res image of the K-Sig, but an HD image of the Titleist? Total conspiracy. :0

    • Philip

      Mar 21, 2017 at 10:04 am

      Maybe because they are afraid of a letter from Acushnet too …

  21. Mr Muira

    Mar 20, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Americans are the greatest suckers on earth for believing advertising. The companies know it and that’s why you have the craziest prices on commercial time. That is why Titleist is the biggest selling ball, not because it’s “the best”, simply because the US golfers believe the rubbish they tell you. Is it a bad ball?, no, but there are plenty of balls out there for half the price which are JUST AS GOOD. 40 cents to make a ball and they retail it at $5-6…no thanks.

    • S Hitter

      Mar 20, 2017 at 6:19 pm

      But the weekly stats of Tour players’ use of the Titty is a fact. And that’s enough to sell more of it, even though there are better balls out there

    • Steve

      Mar 20, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      That’s funny. I could say the same thing about overpriced Muira irons, Mr. Muira. Plenty of clubs out there for half the price which are JUST AS GOOD.

      • JThunder

        Mar 20, 2017 at 11:01 pm

        Americans are suckers for advertising, yet Japan has by far the most expensive golf equipment on the planet. So, those $4k/set irons are 4x better than anything on the US market? You should have called yourself Mr Brexit instead of Mr Miura.

  22. larrybud

    Mar 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    I think Acushnet better be careful what they wish for. When golf manufacturers have to start backing up their marketing claims with facts, like “gain 20 yards” with this ball, or this club, they might be committing marketing suicide.

  23. jgpl001

    Mar 20, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Do you really think Acushnet are afraid the impact of Kirkland on Titleist balls to any significant degree – get real

    Titleist were the worlds best selling ball long before Kirkland came into exist into existance, and they will be long after they are gone, they couldn’t even supply the limited market demand last year…

    Callaway and Bridgestone make the equal of any Titleist ball, yet they are still world number 1

    It amazes me how many on Golfwrx are anti Titleist ball, anti all things TM, anti game improvement irons….I could go on

    • Someone

      Mar 20, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      That might be true if Titleist were going against another name brand golf company that dealt in such a niche market. We’re talking Costco that deals with way more than golf. They have literally got far greater buying power than Acushnet because their reach extends beyond golf balls. If Costco makes a ball that gives tour performance and is built to tour quality at the cost of low end, entry level 2pc balls, you better believe that ALL golf company’s would feel the pressure. Costco/Kirkland signature has such a good return policy and guarantee of quality that it’s ridiculous to think that the niche golf market wouldn’t be threatened. If Acushnet really weren’t interested, they wouldn’t have started anything. Costco has found the winning formula to get the customers to buy their product. They looked at what was so appealing about $40+ golf balls, found something comparable and then delivered it to the customer at warehouse rates. Then they decided to take a stab at it and it was ridiculously successful. Costco is not driven or regulated by anything PGA. They don’t have any risk of backlash or the like from any governing golf body, with the exception of the conforming products list. And last I saw, Kirkland Signature balls was on that list of conforming products. The only way for golf to get Costco to increase their price is to charge a “fee” to get on the conforming list. But that would in turn cause all golf companies to have to raise their prices. I think it’s great what Costco is doing and it’s nice that a company so large is able to deliver something to consumers that will definitely be in demand as long as the sport is still around. Costco did right to leave behind the golf clubs and stick to less customized products such as the golf ball and golf accessories. I hate paying any more than $25 a doz and am always looking for deals on any premium ball (which I have found a consistent one). As much as I like Titleist golf balls, I do think we pay more for the name rather than the product or technology. I mean what other areas can they really “improve” on that could be considered anything but marginal at best?

    • Brian

      Mar 20, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      Callaway and Bridgestone don’t make an equal golf ball for $15 per dozen.

      • #1 Ball for a reason... EVERY SEASON.

        Mar 20, 2017 at 6:52 pm

        Exactly.

      • Steve

        Mar 20, 2017 at 7:57 pm

        That sums it up pretty perfectly. If Callaway and Bridgestone made “the equal of any Titleist ball” and started selling it at a third of the price, Titleist wouldn’t still be holding onto the world #1 title without making a serious price adjustment. That is, of course, assuming that most golfers aren’t complete morons.

    • larrybud

      Mar 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm

      Obviously Acushnet is afraid, why else file send a threatening letter to Costco?

      • Lawyer

        Apr 1, 2017 at 11:59 am

        To defend their well established position as the best when someone else “claims” to be as good.

    • setter02

      Mar 20, 2017 at 4:28 pm

      jgpl001, I guess you don’t know that the bulk of their revenue isn’t from those who buy Pro V1/X’s, but low end and Pinnacle. So when you can buy a better ball for the same or lower price point of those bottom tier balls, people will switch.

      No different than the Cally gloves they sell. I love the FJ StaSof, but I can get a 3 pack for $6 less than 1 FJ at GT.

    • ;George

      Mar 20, 2017 at 11:00 pm

      Your right if you only talk about ProV balls, but Titleist sells a ton of lesser balls that will be in deep trouble if Costco, or anyone, can sell a quality ball for less then Titleist sells its lesser balls. Why would anyone pay $29 a dozen for a 2 piece ball or a 3 piece harder cover ball if they could get a quality ball for less…

  24. Dat

    Mar 20, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    I hope Costco wins. They never made any claims whatsoever about the Pro V. Titleist is picking a fight with the wrong competitor. They should look inwards at their pricing model and realise the unavoidable truth that it’s far out of line with reality, especially in a declining sport that has been far too expensive for far too long.

  25. Sims

    Mar 20, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Not only Titleist but every golf ball seller out there has to be scared..best they can do is offer free balls or better prices, which a lot of them are doing right now. Also you can imagine the R&A up tick to make better balls then who, Costco. Costco has a chance to take an enormous share of the amateur hackers ball market…and bring in a few new million paid members to their stores and on line site. How much is it worth to gain 2 million members at a minimum of $50 each, plus the chance they may spend a lot more money then the $30 for golf balls…..big win for Costco, not bad for average Joe golfer either

  26. JCGA

    Mar 20, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    K-Sig’s a very good golf ball… I hate buying balls at $40+…

  27. matt_bear

    Mar 20, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    i find it funny that Costco is just a large major retailer. In Costco’s world golf balls are just another item on their shelves, but it’s a threat that can take down a top company in the golf world. This is 100% about protecting margins.

  28. Someone

    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    let’s not misrepresent the facts. They said they would still sell the balls, you added the part about it still being $15 a doz. The balls may in fact still be sold, but the price point could change with all the commotion. Titleist’s actions are kind of two fold. In one aspect they’re protecting their market share in golf balls, but the second aspect is by doing so, they are somewhat admitting that kirkland signature balls are a threat and possibly comparable in quality and performance. Big companies only respond to legitimate threats when it comes to issues like this.

    • Joey5Picks

      Mar 20, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      And no guarantee it will be the same ball. Maybe it will be, or maybe it will be something close, but different. Either way, at $15/dozen no reason to buy $45+/doz “big name” brands.

  29. Brian M

    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    This is like Troy McClure vs Monty Burns’s 10 High Priced lawyers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmRPVTbzRzk

  30. alexdub

    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    The plot thickens…. This is awesome.

  31. Matt

    Mar 20, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Ha, Titlesit/Acushnet must be freaking out to take Costco on in a legal battle.

  32. Captain Obvious

    Mar 20, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Acushnet sees someone trying to strangle their golden goose, and they do not like it one bit. No sir!

  33. MikeyB

    Mar 20, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Well they have a point. Only golf sites did the ‘tests’ calling K-Sigs ProV1 killers. Haven’t seen an ad from Costco anywhere that says the ball outperforms any other ball by name.

    Oh and Costco? CAN YOU PLEASE SELL THESE GOLF BALLS IN CANADA!!!

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Equipment

What It’s Like: TaylorMade Golf’s “The Kingdom”

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One of the best parts of this job, beyond the people we get to meet, is the facilities. All of the core OEMs have a “place” that is exclusive, away from anything normal, and you gotta know someone to get a ticket in.

That’s what the “What It’s Like” series is about. Those certain OEM places with no doors open to the public. Those places that if you happened to sneak in, there is no way you can Fletch your way around into two steak sandwiches and a bloody mary.

I never admit this, but I used to manage a night club in Los Angeles called Les Deux (it was cool for a minute). It was a fun although soul-sucking endeavor but the thing that made the experience stick out was the exclusivity of it. If you got in by knowing someone, greased the door guy (me), or got invited, it was four hours of awesome. Yes, it’s a lame example, but there is, unfortunately, something about getting to the other side of a closed door that is just awesome.

TaylorMade Golf’s Kingdom is location No. 1, and as you would expect, it’s nothing short of pure golf ecstasy.

My Experience

I have been to TaylorMade HQ quite a number of times, and typically those visits involve time at what I call the gear junkie mecca (short of Tiger Woods’ garage or the Nike Oven graveyard now called Artisan) AKA The Kingdom.

The coolest thing about it is how subtle the location is. Located just steps away from the front door of TM HQ (and a very random corporate basketball hoop) sits a small-yet-elegant building that if you didn’t know was there, you would fly past it. Once you pull into the side parking lot, unload your sticks, and head to the door, there is still that feeling of “will they actually let me in?”

Here’s the thing. The best (all of them) have been in here. To test, practice, hang out, get fit, get wowed to potentially be on staff and everything in-between. A schmuck like me should get nervous, but then it happens, the door opens and you are not only let in but you are greeted by the master of ceremonies and a man I truly adore Tom “TK” Kroll.

With the passion to match not only yours but anyone else who walks in, he makes sure every nuance is seen and experienced. From the lobby with current TM athletes on the wall to the locker room with your custom locker that sits next to an exact replica of Tiger’s bag. There are snacks, extras shoes, gloves, swag, coffee, beer, and all your wildest dreams…and we are barely in the facility.

From a 35,000 foot view, The Kingdom has everything a golfer would ever want, need, or wish for. Starting with Duane Anderson’s putter studio that has tested thousands of strokes from players ranging from a 20 handicap to Rory McIlroy. The data compiled in this room is staggering. We did a video (link below) that gives you the full rundown.

There are three (one with an Iron Byron for testing) main inside hitting bays with all the bells and whistles you would assume. TrackMans, cameras, big screens, fresh gloves hanging on the wall, and a club fitting matrix with every TM combination you could think of.

The outside hitting area is heaven on earth. There is no other way to describe. Huge hitting area with multiple styles of grass, lies, pins, etc. Any shot you would need to hit can be recreated here on grass with a ball flying into the air and not into a screen. My favorite area is the Flick Tee. In honor of the great teacher and longtime TM staffer Jim Flick. Its tucked up high and privately in the corner of the range under a tree and this may sound ridiculous but you can almost feel Mr. Flick standing there with you as you look out onto the facility. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

As mentioned, the man who manages your experience is Tom Kroll. He’s about as respected and beloved as anyone in the industry and for good reason. You combine passion with service you get an awesome human to hang out with. Everyone that has been through these doors has a TK story, which includes a chuckle and a smile.

I chatted with him recently about The Kingdom, and this is what he had to say.

JW: Walk me through how The Kingdom came to be what it is now? Basically origin to current day…

TK: Back in 1994, I was in R&D, running player testing, and we needed to find our own testing range. We built our headquarters in Carlsbad in the 1990s and added the range in 1998. Only robot, cannon and player testing were done at the start. Once in a while, a tour or staff pro would come out and test, but it was all operated from one building. At the time, what’s currently the clubhouse at The Kingdom was actually a maintenance building. But in 2010, The Kingdom was reimagined to the layout we have now.

Over the last three years I’ve been at The Kingdom, we’ve added GEARS, Quintic high-speed cameras, and a Foresight simulator bay. We transformed the putting lab with a Perfection Platforms articulating floor and SAM technology. Last year we resurfaced the main tee, redesigned and dedicated the Flick Tee, underwent a complete renovation of the short game area with new bunker complexes, redesigned the targeting downrange, and developed a par-3 routing. We partnered with Kurt Bowman Design, a longtime designer under Jack Nicklaus.

Our superintendent Mark Warren and his crew have done incredible work with our current maintenance equipment, and I can’t wait to see the conditions after we deliver a brand new fleet of brand new Toro equipment. We structured a long-term partnership with Toro and Turf Star Western.

JW: What is the simple function of The Kingdom? 

TK: We still have the robot bay and R&D does development work almost every day. We are mostly a resource for the entire company: Global Sports Marketing (Tour), developmental pros and ams, AJGA standouts, our Crusaders (club professionals), and commercial teams. We host pre-lines to introduce new product to our at-large teams and training events. We’re even a PR resource, hosting media, social influencers, celebrities, and professional athletes.

We also act as a hub for our Crusaders. They send their members to us, and we wholesale back to the staff account. I’ll do a significant amount of corporate events, charity events and have had “Flicks at The Kingdom” where we set up a giant projector and our employees bring their kids, beach chairs and blankets to watch a movie out on the range. Really a fun and cool event.

JW: Give me three awesome stories or experiences from your time there that you are cool sharing.

TK: It’s tough to only pick three! From Reggie Jackson stopping by to Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, President Bush. Those may be the most haughty name drops of all time! What can I say, it is beyond the coolest job I have ever had! It’s truly tough to pick, but here are my three…

Story 1: Tiger was preparing to make his first PGA Tour start after fusion surgery and he just spends the day grinding out here. He was testing an early proto of the TW irons and to see how much speed he still had. There’s a sound that only he and maybe two or three others make when they center it up. That sound is something that goes through your body, I can still hear it. It sticks with you.

He’s playing old school lofts, which are three degrees weaker than any other tour pro, but the carry distances were still there, the windows he hits it through, holding it against the wind, flighting a 6-iron even ripping a 5-wood 275 yards. His feedback and ability to discern the most minute details working with the advanced teams developing the irons was fantastic to witness.

To come full circle, I played with him in the Southern Cal Amateur when he was 16-years-old and had a front-row to his 62 at Hacienda, I was keeping his scorecard so he has my autograph. To again be standing three feet from him while he goes through the process is just special.

Story 2: I’m going to put two guys in the same bucket (because The Kingdom is so magical, I hope the golf gods are okay with it). Rory now spends a day out here the week of Farmers–he has for the last two years, and with the U.S. Open there 2021, I think he’s a lock for the next few. He went through two sets of irons in a wind quartering off the right at 20-25 mph. The consistency of launch, speed and spin were shockingly close! It was one of the greatest ball-striking exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. We handpicked the range after his day, it took us 10 minutes He’s also the most gracious, down to earth person.

Jon Rahm stops by five or six times a year. To watch his sessions in the putting lab, to see Duane show him what’s changing and getting Jon back to baseline and see his confidence, to the 4-iron flop shots after we tell our Seve stories. Jon is part of the family. His brother and dad came out before Jon and Kelly’s wedding. He’s one of the two or three others where the sound goes through you.

Story 3: Has to be Operation Game On (OGO). We have partnered with  Tony Perez for over 15 years, we are the cherry on top of a 6-10 week program where wounded veterans take lessons and the graduation is a fitting at The Kingdom. I had a dear friend, Joe Horowitz, who’s a golfer and a musician, here late one day and I mentioned the OGO guys were coming the next day. It’s Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps Birthday. Not to mention Jon Rahm would be here for a last tweak before he left for Dubai. Joe shows me a video of him singing the national anthem at the Jaguars game a few weeks before, and we both say let’s do that for the OGO guys. I get in early and send an email to all employees to be on the tee at 9 a.m. sharp. We have the OGO guys arrive and Jon is hanging in the locker room. I’m stalling to get all the employees onto the tee through the side gate, I walk the boys into the bay and hit the roll up door. Outside are 250 employees cheering these guys on! Joe sings the anthem (goose bumps every time), then happy birthday to Jon and the marine corps. There’s fittings, a pizza truck, Jon Rahm signed U.S. Open staff bags for the OGO boys. Then, get this, Jon goes on and wins that week in Dubai!

JW: If you could change anything about the property or the experience what would it be?

TK: At TaylorMade, the relentless pursuit of improving is in our DNA. The Kingdom is no different. We’re constantly innovating and reimagining the downrange experience. From targeting, to conditions and turf types, we’re always nuancing and squeaking out ways to be better. One example, we’re designing each of our targets with a specific purpose. When players are testing at The Kingdom, we want them to feel that every shot has a consequence. So, we want to deliver a real-world experience in every testing situation. We went through a massive redesign last fall and are currently still working with the advanced research team on new ways to enhance our testing and fitting experiences to meet the way that players perform in competition.

When it comes to the overall experience, The Kingdom has transformed from a predominantly R&D and fitting facility to the most capable environment to test, measure and understand how equipment performs and how golfers interact with their equipment. I call it the ultimate truth machine. We help golfers at every level uncover the insights they need to improve. After each session, we’re going to know everything about the club, the player and the ball flight.

So we came from a place where we were mainly focused on research, fitting, and selling. Our goals have changed. Now we obsess over how to help golfers get better.

What would I change? If you’re curious and passionate about making change, the answers are out there. The first thing we do is listen. We’re going to change everything that needs to be changed in order to meet our goals. I have an incredible focus group to bounce ideas off of. To ask our tour pros, club professionals, and teachers for feedback on the design ideas and what they like and prefer is fortunate. We’re constantly learning, we’re constantly improving, and if there’s a better way do something, then we’re going to figure it out and do it.

JW: What does the kingdom look like in 10 years?

TK: We have a lot of incredible plans for new targeting, bunker complexes, and refining the purposeful design of the range and short game area. Beyond that, we have designs for new teeing areas, a new short game complex, adding another GEARS system and Foresight Simulator, along with other new technologies. I can’t disclose all we do, since the R&D guys get a bit jumpy when I start going on about all the cool stuff and high science! I don’t know exactly what The Kingdom looks like in 10 years as technologies and our understanding continue to improve, but I do know give me six months, and we’ll have done something new. Always grinding to get better!

JW: Tell me a little bit about your career at TaylorMade.

TK: 31 years is hard to do in a “little bit” but I’ll try to give you the Clif Notes! Bob Vokey ran our Tour department and had me running his repair shop in Vista after George Willett took a job driving the Tour truck for TaylorMade. I was refinishing wooden clubs and repairing clubs for the local country clubs. I told Bob I was going broke making $4.50 an hour and driving all over San Diego. I asked if he could get me a job at TaylorMade and I started on the custom line with Wade Liles! Get to work at 2 p.m., off at 1 a.m. and golf in the morning. It was the life! Not to mention, I was lucky enough to meet my wife who worked for the company.

I started our player testing and worked for the great Dr. Benoit Vincent–the smartest man I know. I was a pretty good player, and I played a bunch of USGA and national amateur events. But when I did a TV commercial, I lost my amateur status and made the decision to turn pro. I quit my job and started that journey. Our CEO wanted me to take a leavem and I said: “I need to be all-in on this.” I had two children, a mortgage, car payments and had to buy health insurance while getting through all three stages of Q School. I realized I was a better amateur than a tour pro. We had our third child, and then I got the sales rep job in San Diego. After 10 years of sales, I moved inside the building and the ran innovations department before taking over our metalwoods category when we hit our highest market share in history. I spent a few years in product creation, ran global experiential for a few years and then got the best gig in all of golf here at The Kingdom. Been here for three years, and we’re just getting started!

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Puma Golf teams up with Ernie Els in support of Autism Awareness Month

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Puma X Els Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and Puma Golf has teamed up with ambassador Ernie Els in support of the Els for Autism Foundation.

Throughout April, Puma will donate a portion of every individual sale of the brand’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged shoes with the proceeds going towards the Els for Autism Foundation.

Puma X Els Autism

Every pair of Caged shoes sold this month will include a blue Els for Autism shoe bag and puzzle piece ribbon lapel pin – with the color blue and the puzzle pieces representing Autism Awareness.

Puma X Els Autism

The Els for Autism Foundation helps deliver and facilitate programs designed to serve individuals with autism spectrum disorder. You can purchase the shoes here.

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What GolfWRXers are saying about “Boutique brands vs Major OEMs”

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In our forums, our members have been discussing both boutique brands and major OEMs and why the former “trail the OEMs in drivers and woods”. WRXer ‘gr8 flopshot’, who plays a bag full of boutique clubs bar woods, poses the question and it’s got our members talking in our forum.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • DaRiz: “Irons, wedges, and putters don’t change much, and for all the technology OEMs try to pack in there, it’s more about how they look and feel. So boutique can fit in nicely here. Drivers/FW, on the other hand, definitely benefit from the millions of dollars in R&D, and it is probably really hard to compete. You can argue that COR is maxed out, but the tiny changes in launch conditions, spin rates, and forgiveness add up.”
  • MattM97: “One reason why I and most other lefties don’t go boutique is options. At least with OEM’s for drivers and most woods we get the most of what is released, some versions and loft we don’t get but better than nothing. I’m not against boutique; I love my putters, I love the look of a lot of wedges, I would absolutely love a set of Japanese forged CB irons one day. Just woods I’ll stick to OEM options.”
  • sniper: “The Wishon 560’s I had built years ago were as good (or better) as anything I’ve had. My current set of MP-18SC’s and Wishon’s are the best feeling irons I’ve played. Both came from a club builder and not built by the OEM. Obviously on the Wishon’s.”
  • RogerInNewZealand: “Genuinely good point. It’s like why we buy JDM, Yonex Ezone 420…and the famed J33 Bridgestone driver from long ago! T.E.E is another one..always a surprise there. With your wood/driver if your sorted that’s fine! You don’t have to bag an exotic club to hit fairways.”

Entire Thread: “Boutique brands vs Major OEMs”

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