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Like It Or Not, Ultra-Premium Golf Equipment Is Here To Stay

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Back in 2015, Bob Parsons burst onto the golf scene with PXG. Its ultra-premium pricing, eccentric CEO, and bombastic brand image have remained a lightning rod for attention in the golf industry for the last two years. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Nearly everyone has an opinion on the matter, and they will argue it until their face turns blue. There’s one thing it’s time for us all to agree on, though, regardless of which side of that fence you happen to be. Parsons started something. It has officially stuck. And it’s not going anywhere.

About a month ago, I wrote an article surmising that the vast majority of golf clubs are incredibly well priced. I also stated that some equipment manufacturers are looking to reach new heights in that regard, and ultimately, consumers will vote with their wallets as to the validity of those prices. After letting that idea marinate for a little bit, I think the aforementioned validity is already bubbling up to the surface. Consumers are buying it.

The obvious place to start is with TaylorMade, which launched its P-790 irons about a month ago. While their retail price is less than half of a comparable set of PXG irons, their construction (a hollow head filled with “Speed Foam” and tungsten to increase MOI) was strikingly similar to PXG’s 0311 (a hollow head filled with TPE and tungsten screws to provide perimeter weighting). The constructions are similar enough, in fact, that Parsons has elected to drag them to court over the matter. Time will tell on that one.

The company that’s probably most excited about that lawsuit is Callaway, which has been leaning pretty heavily on the accelerator pedal in its own right. In January, the company released the GBB Epic and GBB Epic Sub Zero drivers at a price of $499.999 each. Later came its Epic and Epic Pro irons at roughly $2,000 a set, and just recently, Callaway released an ultra-lightweight line of Epic Star clubs. Those will hit the streets at $699.99 for a driver and $2,400 for an eight-piece set of irons. Callaway isn’t filling its irons with SpeedFoam or TPE, but it is reaching for the same ultra-premium price points.

Even if you step outside of the “big boys,” you’ll notice that as long as a company is providing an exceeding level of technology, quality, customer service, fitting, etc., consumers are more than willing to open up their wallets. Examples include some names that have been around a long time in the “boutique putter” game such as Tyson Lamb, Byron Morgan, and MannKrafted, but can also be stretched into newer craftsmen such as Raybon Putters and Selfmade Flatsticks. I spoke with the owner of Bluegrass Fairway, a company that sells hand-made leather scorecard holders and yardage book covers, who recently told me he was “blown away” by how busy his business is.

If you read the forums and comments sections on GolfWRX and all the other sites across the golf world, you’ll find a lot of belly aching over the price of gear nowadays and also over the gear geeks that buy them. What’s starting to crystallize at this point is that regardless of your personal opinion, this level of gear has officially gained traction in the marketplace. In return, the consumer is getting a very high quality product with unprecedented attention to detail and technological advancement. Who knows how long PXG will be around, but its contribution to the game has already left an impression.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids. Follow Peter on twitter and Instagram using the links below.

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Sean

    Sep 29, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I have no problem with premium clubs, and I don’t understand people who do. It’s not like golfers are being forced to purchase them. If people want to lay out the cash for these types of clubs, that is their business. It has no affect on either my wallet, or my game.

  2. Steve C

    Sep 29, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Full disclosure… I am currently a 6 HDCP and have been as low as a 3. So, I am neither a good or bad golfer. I recently went on a vacation to see some friends. Not expecting to play golf, I did not bring my clubs on this trip. I ended up using my buddy’s wife “Golden Bear” set that was likely 10 years old. I shot an 80, which is probably what I would have shot with my own clubs. MY POINT IS THAT I DOUBT SO CALLED PREMIUM CLUBS WILL TRANSLATE TO BETTER SCORES.

  3. Peter Schmitt

    Sep 29, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks for the reactions and comments as always, guys and gals. As one can plainly see, it’s a polarizing subject, which makes it worth pondering and writing about.

    To be continued… 🙂

  4. Mike

    Sep 29, 2017 at 4:21 am

    Have you forgotten we used to pay $1500 big ones for a”J’s Professional Weapon” driver not so many years ago

  5. AD

    Sep 29, 2017 at 3:02 am

    Ooooh I want my $3000 set of irons, please

  6. Da Judge

    Sep 28, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Ultra-premium priced golf equipment is so so pathetic. It’s only for show and status. Toys for golfturds!

  7. Andrew

    Sep 28, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks, shoeshine boy. Now I know the market for “ultra-premium” is topped. Good luck, suckers.

    • Doobie

      Sep 28, 2017 at 7:22 pm

      Next big golf club market is the “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” golffing gearhead geeks who don’t play golf… they just want to fill their WITB so they can join golf forums and share their feeelings with other like minded morons.

      • AD

        Sep 29, 2017 at 3:01 am

        You really aged yourself there, girlfriend, with that quote from what was it – Mary Poppins, is it? Lemme look it up on Wiki…..

  8. Methislife

    Sep 28, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    if you can afford a ferrari, go ahead… But your the douche that drives a Ferrari. If you can afford PXG, go ahead.. it’s your money… But your the douche that plays PXG

    • Fredo

      Sep 28, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      I guess that makes you the douch that can’t afford top end anything

      • Da Judge

        Sep 28, 2017 at 10:21 pm

        And what are you? A bottom end golfer with top end ultra-premium clubs?
        You know what that makes you look like? (Clownish).

  9. L

    Sep 28, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Parsons didn’t start anything really. Brands like Honma pioneered the ultra expensive sometimes funky looking equipment niche way before PXG came along.

    • Doobie

      Sep 28, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      Honma pioneered the ultra expensive clubs because in Asia you are what you own…. even if you can’t hit the golf ball a snot.

  10. BB

    Sep 27, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    GM. Ford and Chrysler owe their survival to pickup truck sales at exhorbitant prices for a cheap to build product. The markup on pickup trucks is huge whereas profits are meager for the econo-sedans because the Asian car builders have the low end market sewn up.
    Similarly the big golf OEMs are not selling enough lower priced clubs to a dwindling market and must seek profits from the upscale market where price is irrelevant.
    So stop slobbering over the premium golf equipment because that’s not for you to judge. People who buy these golfing pickup truck at premium prices are mostly golffing clowns anyway.

    • bbdumdum

      Sep 28, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      You sound jealous. Maybe you can get a used set in a few years.

      • Da Judge

        Sep 28, 2017 at 10:23 pm

        Me jealous? Naaah! I just love to twist you WITB nerds and geeks into pretzels.

        • DaJudgeisJealous

          Sep 29, 2017 at 8:44 am

          Just what we all thought. Jealous. Thanks for confirming.

    • JThunder

      Sep 28, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      The fact that golf sales are down since the dizzying heights since the high point “bubble” of Tiger Woods era hardly makes them “dwindling”… if people would stop drinking the Kool-Aid, then the global economy and corporate culture might actually work.

  11. Tom54

    Sep 27, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    The golfing public is pretty smart when it comes to equipment. Those that love the game and all it’s new products will continue to purchase the latest stuff. Those that don’t have fat wallets will wait a while (not that long anymore) till this years hot item is a fraction of what it was when it was current. That’s the way to go.

  12. Gorden

    Sep 27, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    We all know part of the fun of golf is having new or equipment we really want to play (even if may not be right for our level of play) So having premium equipment is important for ones who can afford that choice. I would worry more about the division in course quality we are facing now…the premium market (Country Clubs etc) are even facing this problem…Just in my area 4 public courses have closed in the last 3 years, 2 more have announced closing in 2018 add to that 2 Private Country clubs in the same area have gone Public this year….must remind those buying premium equipment hitting off bare dirt fairways and putting through weeds on greens may not be worth the price.

  13. Jim

    Sep 27, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Actually nothing new about appealing to the upscale, luxury (big ego) market. Ever hear of Hiro Honma (who hasn’t)?. Some of their gold-plated stuff goes for well over $10,000 per set of irons.
    Many of their older, lower cost items (PP-717, 727, etc.) are quite wonderful, very playable blades, challenging any muscle back or blade in today’s market.

    • Doobie

      Sep 28, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      In Asia, you are what you own…. even if your slicing drive is only 150 meters…!!

  14. AM

    Sep 27, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Of course they will be here to stay, and new and improved premium clubs will be available annually.
    The new model clubs will sell because they are aimed at the ultra-rich up-scale market where price doesn’t matter.
    The rest of us peons will play with our 5-7 y.o. clubs and save money for another super-duper driver down the road. The golf market for cheaper clubs is vanishing along with the drop in participation.

  15. Matt

    Sep 27, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    Don’t see a problem with more options. I’m one of few in my group with new gear, though definitely wasn’t in the market for PXG prices. Most of the guys I play with are old school – quality second hand clubs and new balls only for tournaments.

  16. SV

    Sep 27, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Just keep churning out the equipment at whatever prices the OEMs want. If it’s available left-handed and I like it, I’ll buy it later on Ebay or Global Golf for a lot less and enjoy it just as much.

  17. 06aces

    Sep 27, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Might be the up and coming market….time will tell…
    a already elite sport played by the rich….becoming harder and harder for the young families to play together…
    Not sure how this grows the game….
    Look at all the golf course closures in Myrtle Beach the last 10 years….
    The true bench mark for golf course is not how many $600 drivers it sells….it is all about…”rounds of golf played per year”……a number that has been declining recently

  18. Sam

    Sep 27, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Why would people not like this? It’s just more choices and something for everyone.

  19. cgasucks

    Sep 27, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    Let’s face it…most guys want to play the same clubs the pros play on TV and most pros choose performance over luxury. The luxury golf club market will be there, but it will be nowhere as big as the regular mainstream performance club market.

    • Joey5Picks

      Sep 28, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      So how do you explain Nike have virtually no success in the club market, despite Tiger Woods playing their equipment for 2 decades?

      • JThunder

        Sep 28, 2017 at 4:25 pm

        The stuff that sells well in stores has very little to do with what the pros play. Ping G-series irons far outsell Titleist MBs, yet tour use is the very opposite.

  20. Golfgirlrobin

    Sep 27, 2017 at 11:40 am

    As with virtually all products, the tech in these ultra premium clubs will filter down to the more reasonably priced sets at some point, and every golfer will benefit.

    Every sport has equipment options that the average participant can’t afford but they don’t seem to take those offerings as a personal affront the way golfers do.

  21. Darrin

    Sep 27, 2017 at 10:55 am

    I have several friends who own these sort of clubs. They are the kind of people who have a lot of disposable income, they might wear Rolex watches, drive new BMW’s, live in nice houses located at private clubs etc. What exactly is the problem? Some people like premium products, if you can’t afford them or justify buying them then don’t buy them. Personally I can’t justify it, I have good clubs, I am happy with them, but I don’t look down on people for buying them if they can afford it.

    So I guess I don’t get the “like it or not” title to the thread. Should we protest premium products just because we can’t afford them? It’s a really weird mentality. I also think it’s cool to see people playing discounted classic clubs, because they like them and because they are affordable.

    To each his own.

    • Ray

      Sep 27, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      Agree with comments here. This is the same unfortunate mentality that prevails every aspect of daily life. Its called jealousy.

      Example: I know for a fact where i play locally that a good portion of the higher handicap golfers tend to disparage and isolate the accomplished members. The same mentaility applies to those buying $5,000 bag of clubs. Sad but true….

  22. Ripken08

    Sep 27, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Yes expensive equipment is here to stay, but not “ultra premium”. Think you got it all wrong as the performance isn’t there to warrant the price. This is just going to drive prices up and shy away people that mat want to take up the game.

  23. Ray

    Sep 27, 2017 at 10:54 am

    Im happy shooting low 70’s consistently with my Ping I3 blades, thanks anyway though 🙂

  24. moses

    Sep 27, 2017 at 10:36 am

    A lot of people thought Callaway was crazy charging $499 for the Great Big Bertha Driver back in the 90s. How did that work out?

    • BB

      Sep 27, 2017 at 10:43 pm

      Yeah…. and then they yanked out the stock graphite shaft and put in an exotic shaft because the stock shaft was floppy, soggy crap intended for sub-80mph swings.
      So the suckers had a $499 GBB driver head and a $150 fancy graphite shaft for a $650 driver….. and nothing changed until the OEMs decided to offer a choice of shafts when they realized what was happening.
      Stupid is as stupid does…. and nothing much has changed.

  25. Dat

    Sep 27, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Next up, golf equipment loans and credit lines.

    • TC

      Sep 27, 2017 at 1:17 pm

      Taylormade already started it:

      “Here’s how it works: After credit approval, a consumer can purchase drivers and irons such as the company’s current M1 driver and M2 irons on TaylorMade’s e-commerce site through a monthly payment plan on an 18- or 30-month billing cycle. The resulting interest would lead to the $500 M1 driver typically costing about an extra $100.”

      • Dat

        Sep 27, 2017 at 6:22 pm

        Next up, golf equipment credit defaults and government bailouts.

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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PGA Tour Pro and Parkland Alum Nick Thompson is Part of the Solution

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The tragic shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida moved the entire nation in a deep and profound way. The tragic events touched many lives, including PGA Tour Professional Nick Thompson, who attended Stoneman Douglas for four years and was born and raised just minutes from there.

On our 19th Hole podcast, Thompson described in detail just how connected he is to the area and to Douglas High School.

“That’s my alma mater. I graduated in ’01. My wife Christen and I graduated in ’01. I was born and raised in Parkland…actually Coral Springs, which is a neighboring city. Stoneman Douglas actually is just barely in Parkland but it’s pretty much right on the border. I would probably guess there are more kids from Coral Springs that go to Stoneman Douglas than in Parkland. So I spent 29 years in Coral Springs before moving to Palm Beach Gardens where I live now, but I was born and raised there. I spent four years of high school there and it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Thompson’s siblings, LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and Web.com pro Curtis, did not attend Douglas High School.

His reaction to the news was immediate and visceral.

“I was in shock,” said Thompson. “I just really couldn’t believe it because Coral Springs and Parkland are both wonderful communities that are middle to upper class and literally, like boring suburbia. There’s not much going on in either city and it’s kind of hard to believe that it could happen there. It makes you think almost if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. I think that’s one of the reasons why it has really gotten to a lot of people.”

Thompson knew personally some of the names that have become familiar to the nation as a result of the shooting, including Coach Aaron Feis, who died trying to save the lives of students.

“I went to high school with Aaron Feis,” said Thompson. “He was two years older than me, and I knew of him…we had a fair amount of mutual friends.”

And while the events have provoked much conversation on many sides, Thompson was moved to action.

“We started by my wife and I, the night that it happened, after we put our kids to bed, we decided that we needed to do something,” Thompson said. “The first thing we decided was we were going to do ribbons for the players, caddies, and wives. We did a double ribbon of maroon and silver, the school colors, pin them together and wrote MSD on the maroon section. We had the media official put them out on the first tee, so all the players were wearing them. It’s been great.”

“I got together with the media guys and Ken Kennerly, the tournament director of The Honda Classic and they have been amazing. The amount of players that had the ribbons on, I was just watching the coverage to see, is incredible. I actually spoke to Tiger today and thanked him for wearing the ribbon. We really appreciate it, told him I went to high school there. I mean the only thing he could say was that he was sorry, it’s an unfortunate scenario and he was happy to wear the ribbon, do whatever he could.”

Thompson is quick to note the help that he has received in his efforts.

“It’s not just me. My wife has been just as instrumental in getting this done as me. I just, fortunately, have the connection with the PGA Tour to move it in the right direction even faster. I have the luxury of having a larger platform that can get my words out and everything we’re trying to do faster than most people. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart so it was just literally perfect with The Honda Classic coming in town.”

Thompson has also been involved in fundraising that goes to help the survivors and victims’ families. GoFundMe accounts supported by Thompson and the PGA Tour have raised in excess of 2.1 million dollars in just a week.

“One of the most important uses for this money is counseling for victims, for these kids who witnessed this horrific event, or have one degree of separation,” Thompson said. “Counseling for kids who lost a friend or a classmate, who need counseling and to help them with their PTSD essentially. I think that’s one of the most important things is helping all these kids deal with what has happened.”

Thompson acknowledged the fact that the entire Parkland family is activated to help in the healing. As for his efforts, it’s the product of his recognition of just how fortunate his life has been and a heart for service.

“Golf has given so much to me that it was the perfect time to give back even more than I already have. It’s the best we can do. We’re just trying to make a difference. ”

Listen to the entire interview on a special edition of The 19th Hole with Michael Williams on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Podcasts

TG2: What irons did Knudson finally get fit into?

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GolfWRX equipment expert Brian Knudson gets his first ever iron fitting. He dishes about his favorite irons, some irons that didn’t work for him, and he discusses the wide array of shafts that he tried. And then, he reveals what irons and shafts he got fit into. His irons of choice may surprise you.

Check out the podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

jewkh

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