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GolfWRX exclusive: The story behind the new Costco KS1 putter

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Costco, together with its Kirkland Signature brand, is one of the biggest forces in retail. Once again, it is disrupting the golf equipment space with the introduction of the company’s very first original golf club: the KS1 putter.

In an exclusive interview with GolfWRX, Tim Farmer, Costco vice president and general merchandise manager, dug into the details behind the putter. Farmer also spoke at great length about Costco’s other golf products, including the wildly popular Kirkland Signature four-piece golf ball and the current Kirkland three-piece urethane ball, which upon the time of publication has over 17,000 reviews and a 4.5/5 star rating.

The Costco Golf story

“The approach to creating the KS1 putter was no different than creating any other Kirkland Signature product – to work with a manufacturer to create something that offers exceptional value to our customers”

-Tim Farmer

First, some background on the Kirkland Signature brand, from Costco 

“By taking the lead in sourcing and formulating new products, co-branding with premium national and international brands, and partnering with top manufacturers around the world, we’ve created an exclusive range of (Kirkland Signature) products that reflect our members’ tastes and exceed their expectations.”

The approach, from a Costco’s perspective, is to capitalize within a market where they believe an opportunity exists to be a price disruptor to other products currently available. The research includes talking with venders, working with Costco’s long list of approved suppliers, and visiting trade shows—including the PGA Merchandise Show.

The $1.25 Golf Ball That Flew Off Costco's Shelves Is Only Growing ...

The original golf breakthrough came with the introduction of the Kirkland Signature Tour Performance four-piece ball in late 2016. The story goes, Costco was approached by a manufacturer with its own IP on a golf ball design and the opportunity to produce a ball under the Kirkland brand. Independent testing conducted by a third party and Costco’s own internal testing proved the four-piece ball offered exceptional performance. The ball was then approved and shortly after arrived in warehouses. “That’s when things went a little crazy,” says Farmer.

The price of $29.99 for two dozen four-piece urethane balls seemed too good to be true, but in the age of social media and launch monitors, golfers were buzzing, and the balls sold out almost immediately company-wide. Demand and buzz even created a secondary market where the golf balls were selling for 4-5 times their initial price including on eBay. Costco was both shocked and excited, and the ball became the proof of concept that its own line of golf products could be in high demand by members.

The Costco KS1 putter story

Considering the number of options Costco had for potentially producing a golf club, a putter was selected for its relative simplicity and the knowledge that of all the clubs in the bag, golfers love to experiment and test putters the most.

Farmer admitted that he, (a 9 handicap) along with a lot of other employees and members of the board of directors at Costco, are golf nuts themselves, and the putter was an exciting product to develop. It was an attractive product because the company knew it was a category where it could offer the best value and performance comparable to other products on the market.

The Costco buyers approached a well-respected manufacturer in China that also produces putters for a number of well-known OEMs to help develop the KS1. After working through initial prototypes and multiple designs, the wide-body plumbers neck was the final choice based on its popularity and mass appeal.

Farmer made the point that mass appeal is a huge part of the Costco merchandising philosophy because the average Costco Warehouse is 160,000 square feet, and at most, merchandises only 3,700 items per store. When you compare that to other big box stores of similar size, they could carry upwards of 120,000 different items. Fewer products create more value, which at the end of the day, is Costco’s biggest goal.

Costco KS1 putter specs

The specs of the putter clearly reflect the greatest opportunity to offer a club to the largest part of the bell curve for the best possible value.

  • Construction: 100% milled from 303 stainless steel. Also has a 303 insert.
  • Length: 34.5″
  • Loft: 3 degrees
  • Lie: 71 degrees
  • Head weight:  340g with stock 10g adjustable weights. A separate weight kit will be available for 34.99 (online only) and will come with a wrench and adjustable 5g (x2) and 15g (x2) weights.
  • Grip:  Superstroke Countercore
  • Head cover included
  • Right-hand only 

One of the interesting details from my conversation with Farmer concerned the reason the weight kit is being sold separately: “Research shows the majority of golfers don’t tinker with weights and settings of their clubs,” he said. “So to offer the best value, we are making it available online.”

It’s a smart decision that falls right in line with Costco’s directive to offer the greatest value while still creating options for members who are looking for something extra.

Availability & price

According to Farmer, the putter should become available online within the next couple of weeks. They don’t have an exact in-store date yet since pallets (how everything at Costco is moved around, stored, and merchandised) are currently in the process of being built and delivered—but expect to see them around three weeks from now.

The current plan is to have the putters in a select 80 stores to start with the potential to have them expand once the initial volume and sales data is analyzed. Like all things Costco, from mayonnaise to socks, every item has to earn its floor space. But if the putter sells anything like the golf ball, you can expect to see a potential second and third run.

The KS1 putter will be sold for $139.99 USD and the weight kit (available online only) will be a separate $34.99

The putter might just be the beginning…

Toward the end of my conversation with Farmer, the one question I had to ask is if other clubs and balls are on the horizon for Costco and the Kirkland Signature brand. I asked specifically about a rumored three-wedge set, and if they planned to update the current three-piece urethane ball.

Although Farmer was unable to provide specific details about any clubs beyond saying, “we are always working on new products that offer value to our members,” he was willing to say they are excited to see the reaction to the KS1 Putter. As for the three-piece golf ball, Costco is currently going through the testing phase for a potential replacement possibly by the end of the year.

When it comes to offering value, quality, and trust, there really is no other company in the entire consumer goods space that has the ability to deliver on a grand scale like Costco, and the Costco KS1 putter could be another game-changer for this constantly innovating retail giant.

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. stanley

    May 24, 2020 at 2:53 pm

    rick shiels put up a video review of this putter. i guess it is what you expected.

  2. uhgolfguy1

    May 18, 2020 at 1:02 am

    You’d think quality control could be an issue but given the nature of the milling process, the putters should have good quality.

    303 SS is a great material for putters… just ask Scotty Cameron.

    Me personally, I think the KS1 is a bit chunky for my taste, but I’m sure it feels great.

    • Simms

      May 23, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      Very much a Odyssey looking putter, I ordered one first thing on line and 8 days latter still waiting, but I went into a COSTCO yesterday and they had a pallet full of them…so I got a hands on look….will be sending mine back when it comes without even opening, not anything special until they drop the price to say $79…

  3. stanley

    May 13, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    can’t lie. i am excited to see some reviews for these putters. but lets keep in mind that we have some amazing american milled putters here.

  4. Cody Reeder

    May 13, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    I just want to know where it is made… and by who.. Sean Toulon says it is not made or has anything to do with Odyssey soo… Who??

    • Spitfisher

      May 26, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      Do you really honestly believe any manufacturer would come clean with a ” yeah, we make it” statement?

      Besides there is no Odyssey, toulon etc factory anywhere in the world. A factory is tooled for product, proto types and QC samples are produced, vendor writes a PO ahead of time, production starts, product and marketing material is produced and a way it goes.

  5. Jimmy Ray

    May 8, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Right Hand only…nuf said.

    • curt j benjamins

      May 9, 2020 at 5:22 pm

      Damn it we lefties always get shafted, no pun intended

  6. Bill

    May 7, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    Does this look like an Odyssey O-Works #1 with a different insert and color scheme?

    • Duke

      May 8, 2020 at 10:54 am

      It is just that. I listened to a podcast the other day and it revolved around this putter. It is constructed by same plant with very similar characteristics.

      • Mike

        May 8, 2020 at 2:03 pm

        I believe it’s technically the exact same putter that comes with the Callaway Edge set that they sell, but gets branded as Odyssey with their license agreement.

  7. stanley

    May 7, 2020 at 11:16 pm

    i thought about this….. and it’s a no go. but we will see. kirkland sells everything.

  8. Jack

    May 7, 2020 at 10:10 pm

    Thing is, the design is just atrocious. Did they do any consumer forums before finalizing on the design?

    • Michaele

      May 8, 2020 at 9:30 am

      One picture shooting primarily the bottom of the putter is your basis for your comment?

      Your comment is atrocious too.

      • Duke

        May 8, 2020 at 10:56 am

        It is constructed by same plant with very similar characteristics as the Odyssey line.

  9. Bob

    May 7, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    You can buy a full set of 10 Callaway Edge clubs from Costco and that includes an Odyssey putter. These must be made for Costco as they are not available anywhere else. A review of them made them sound like a good deal for an average golfer. I hope that I survive this Covid and get a chance to play them. B.

  10. Duh!

    May 7, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    Made in a Wuhan lab to destroy American golfers everywhere.

    • Gary Mohlenkamp

      May 8, 2020 at 12:35 pm

      I agree! I will never purchase anything made in China if I have a choice.

      • Delbert

        May 8, 2020 at 3:46 pm

        Why do companies continue to do business with a country that steals IP like they do? Their government and economy are set up in such a way to prevent creativity. Do not buy this putter. It will give you the YIPS! There, I said it. But I didn’t say shank.

        • Jbone

          May 19, 2020 at 8:37 pm

          Agreed. The one positive of this virus is China getting exposed. Hopefully people speak with their wallets

  11. Martin

    May 7, 2020 at 6:52 pm

    Time will tell if it will sell, but i have a feeling it well.

  12. Calvin

    May 7, 2020 at 6:41 pm

    I don’t understand why you would do a CNC machined 303SS putter and just to put in a machined 303SS face insert. Doesn’t it just defeats the purpose of the CNC precision and you are not trying to affect the impact feel with different material anyways?

    • Homer Simpson

      May 8, 2020 at 10:42 am

      You’re a club homer. Only you would would dissect the club like this. Calvin, tell me, what’s your favorite hole on your golf bag?

  13. Joe McManuis

    May 7, 2020 at 5:20 pm

    Any indication whether it will be available in Canada this summer and whether weight kit will also be available?

  14. Al

    May 7, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    Lot of occasional golf dads will see this come June.

  15. Chris

    May 7, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    So why did conversation on 4 piece ball stop? They should have talked about why they stopped making the 4 piece ball and why they won’t have the same problem with the putter…or will they?

  16. BingHogan

    May 7, 2020 at 11:09 am

    They only want to sell you chicken.! And a $65.00 “club” fee.

    Not sure how many members they have now but I have heard they make about $70 million per year.

    The Costco Country Club. Has a nice ring to it…

  17. Paulo

    May 7, 2020 at 10:59 am

    Is this Piece an advert for Costco ? Maybe state that st the top like they used to in magazines

  18. Vanilla Ice

    May 7, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Balls – Hero
    Putter – Zero

  19. steve

    May 7, 2020 at 10:21 am

    $150 OTD for this club seems more in line with buying a club from a traditional gilf retailer. Why would someone make this purchase versus numerous other options from other well known manufacturers? This example of value in no way it compares to that of the original four piece ball that they sold. Thanks Costco but I think you’re whiffing on this one

  20. John

    May 7, 2020 at 9:26 am

    I don’t know about you folks… but sure reminds me of a Scotty Cameron Newport 2

  21. Stanley

    May 7, 2020 at 9:04 am

    No pics from address?

    • Paulo

      May 8, 2020 at 1:06 am

      The Costco marketing dept didn’t send any…

  22. DB

    May 7, 2020 at 8:42 am

    Sorry, not interested in another putter coming from some cheap Chinese factory when there are so many great putter makers milling their putters right here in the USA.

  23. jim

    May 7, 2020 at 8:05 am

    139.99 in my opinion is not a “real Value”. plus another $35 for weight kit (for those who want it) puts it very in-line with other putters in the big box stores.

    • Homer Simpson

      May 8, 2020 at 10:46 am

      It is a value. Not everyone buys used golf clubs on wrx for a value. I like this site but there are too many club homers and poors trying To flip and make money.

  24. MJ 23

    May 7, 2020 at 5:01 am

    Now THAT is funny! Does it come with a corn dog?

    • brian

      May 7, 2020 at 8:43 am

      The only putter line that really puts it in line with are the cheaper Cleveland putters and low-end Odyssey White Hot line, none of which have adjustability features.

      • Brandon

        May 7, 2020 at 9:48 am

        You can find plenty of new past model year higher end Odyssey putters for right around 130 bucks. Got by eye on a stroke lab double wide right now.

        • brian

          May 7, 2020 at 1:22 pm

          I’m only seeing used Stroke Lab putters for under $150 doing a search.

        • Guy

          May 8, 2020 at 7:24 pm

          I just bought a brand new O-works #2 for $70. There’s deals to be found if you strike at the right times.

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Equipment

WRX Insider: Top 5 equipment stories at the PGA Championship

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This week at Harding Park had a few key stories to track from a WITB standpoint. Some were huge, some were subtle. All are interesting.

Here are the top five equipment stories from the PGA Championship.

#5. Fleetwood goes to Ventus

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 07: Tommy Fleetwood of England plays his shot from the 14th tee during the second round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on August 07, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Tommy Fleetwood has one of the most eclectic bags on Tour. The Englishman is the epitome of finding the right 14 sticks no matter what. This week at Harding Park, he made what I would call a pretty substantial change to his driver set up. Being a player that has trusted the Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 TX for a while now, Tommy not only switched shafts but switched companies going into the ever-popular Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X.

According to my source, Tommy was fighting a left miss with the normal setup and was searching for a way to stabilize the head a bit. The Ventus not only helped that but also kicked up the ball speed a touch. Obviously it helped, at the time this article was written he was two back of the leaders having put on a ballstriking display with a Friday 64.

#4. Fleetwood swaps in TM Proto 4 and 5-irons

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 07: Tommy Fleetwood of England plays a shot on the tenth hole during the second round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on August 07, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Tommy also swapped out his Srixon Z765 4 and 5-irons for two TaylorMade prototypes. The switch was in an effort to bridge the gap between his 5-wood and 4-iron. In past weeks, he had tested a TaylorMade SIM Max 4 Rescue. The switch required him to strengthen his 5-iron to gap properly, but ultimately that recipe wasn’t the right fit.

#3. Koepka goes back to his M5

If anything has been holding Brooks Koepka back this year, it has been his driver. Notoriously an intimidating player off the tee (especially on tough golf courses), Koepka had been struggling in 2020.

He started the season with SIM Max and quickly swapped that for the Callaway Mavrik he used up until early this week. According to my source, BK liked the ball speed and feel from the Callaway but felt going back to the M5 he used in 2019 put him back in a comfortable pocket, and as you can see, he is right at the top of the leaderboard again.

Another interesting nugget is the M5 switch required no tweaks, straight into the bag. When no wrenching is needed, you know that club is dialed.

Koepka has also gone back to his trusty Nike Vapor Pro 3-iron. Previously, BK had the TaylorMade P790 UDI in play, but this return comes as no surprise—that particular club draws strong affections from certain players, namely Koepka and Tony Finau.

#2. DJ lands on a 7-wood

Height, spin, and gapping have become a huge theme in the past weeks—especially in that no man’s land between 3-wood and 5-iron. Dustin Johnson is a player who is not afraid to experiment, and he has checked off every possible box.

At any given point this year he has had a 3-iron, 4-hybrid, utility, and now a 7-wood. Although these changes will be course-specific, the trend I’m seeing is players are looking for spin and versatility wherever they can find it. Most clubs in that range tend to be low spin, so if there is a way to find 400-500 RPMs flying out of the same window, its a bonus.

#1. Tiger ditches the “Elder Wand” (it won’t last)

At this point, I think the story even made it to CNN. When Tiger switches anything its world news, especially his trusty Scotty Cameron. In this case, he moved into a Scotty Cameron “Timeless Prototype,” which is a lead into the 2020 Studio Select collection at retail.

Two things going on here

  1. Ability to manipulate head weight to match up with green speed. Tiger’s gamer is, by today’s standards light at 327 grams. This experiment allows him to add subtract weight out of the head via weight ports in the sole.
  2. Added length to take the pressure off his back. Not the first time a player has done this. Freddy Couples, Rocco Mediate, and many others have gone to longer putters to encourage more upright posture.

At posting time, Tiger putted it all over the place on Friday, so although this switch is newsworthy, it won’t last. He’s just putting the Elder Wand in the reflection chair as I do with my kids.

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Whats in the Bag

Jason Day WITB 2020 (August)

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  • Equipment accurate as of the PGA Championship.

Driver: TaylorMade SIM Max (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 X

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15.0 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Chemical Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

5-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (18.0 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Chemical Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

Irons: TaylorMade P760 (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X Seven

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 Satin (50-09SB, 54-11SB, 60-10SB)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Taylor Made Itsy Bitsy Spider Limited Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

More photos of Jason Day’s WITB in the forums.

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Whats in the Bag

Paul Casey WITB 2020 (August)

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  • Equipment accurate as of the PGA Championship.

Driver: TaylorMade SIM Max (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw Orange 75 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade M3 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 80 TX

Irons: Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro (3, 4), Mizuno MP-5 (5-PW)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 120 TX

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52-08F, 56-10S), Vokey Proto 60-T (60T)
Shafts: Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 120 TX

(Pics c/o Titleist’s Aaron Dill)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Special Select Fastback

Grips: Golf Pride ZGrip Cord

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

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