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Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020

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As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.

Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.

TaylorMade became educators…and kicked off live golf again

Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.

Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.

Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.

PXG leaned in

Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.

The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.

Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.

In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.

Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.

The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.

Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled

Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.

There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.

Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.

Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.

Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”

Cobra Rev 33 Irons

Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.

It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.

What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.

Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.

It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.

The Titleist train chugged on

I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.

So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.

It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.

Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to

Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.

The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.

As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.

Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball

Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.

However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.

 

 

 

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Johnny Wunder is the Director of Original Content, Instagram Manager and Host of “The Gear Dive” Podcast for GolfWRX.com. He was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. John is also a partner with The Traveling Picture Show Company having most recently produced JOSIE with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. In 1997 Johnny had the rare opportunity of being a clubhouse attendant for the Anaheim Angels. He now resides in Toronto, On with his wife and two sons. @johnny_wunder on IG

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Cambo

    May 28, 2020 at 6:58 am

    Anyone else try to push play on the Lee Westwood image???

  2. Cody Reeder

    May 27, 2020 at 9:46 am

    I need those Rickie Fowler blades. It is a neck and neck race with me as to which brand has been in my bag more. Cobra, or Mizuno. They are wildly different but I have loved both.

    I was a huge Greg Norman fan back in the day, so I have always been drawn to Cobra.

  3. Radim

    May 27, 2020 at 1:13 am

    What about Mizuno?

    • Simon

      May 28, 2020 at 2:13 am

      Yeah I’m really excited about the new updates to the JPX919 Hot Metals. Thinking they should be due Q4 2020 unless any COVID related delays.

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What GolfWRXers are saying about the easiest to hit hybrids

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In our forums, our members have been discussing the easiest to hit hybrids currently on the market. WRXer ‘Used2PlayAlot’ struggles to launch the ball with anything less than a five iron and reaches out to fellow members for suggestions on an easy to hit hybrid. Our members discuss.

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.

  • kcsf: “Ping G410. Consider going with a softer flex than you’re currently using too.”
  • mgoblue83: “Sounds like you are playing clubs that are way too heavy and stiff for you. Try something with a light R flex or Senior flex shaft in the 21-25 degree range. Choke up on it if needed, but if you can’t get that in the air it’s your swing, and no club will help.”
  • Tax77: “Adams 2014-2015 model hybrids, New Idea or Idea tech. The heads are massive, super-duper game improvement hybrids. You can find them for 20-30 bucks.”
  • Argonne69: “The Ping G30 and G hybrids can be found used for less than $100. Heck, I just sold a G30 4h for $60. Both models are available in 26 (5h) and 30 (6h) degrees. If you can’t get them airborne, it’s definitely a swing issue.”
  • txgolfer45: “Callaway Big Bertha hybrids.”

Entire Thread: “Easiest to hit hybrids?”

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Golf club history: woods and irons

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If you’re going to play golf, you’re going to need some clubs. The game dates back to the 1400s in Scotland, so naturally, golf club history does too. We’ve come a long way from wooden clubs and feather-filled balls. For the sake of this piece were going to stick with the modern evolution of the game’s equipment starting off with the invention of the steel shaft in the early 1900s.

Some of the first steel shafts came from a fishing rod producer in Britain by the name of Apollo and we’re developed in the early 1920s. The shafts were much more consistent than the wooden shafts they were attempting to replace but they were still considered inconsistent by many players. Steel shaft also didn’t catch on until a number of years after their conception because until 1924 the USGA considered them nonconforming equipment. It took 5 more years for the R&A to make them legal in 1929.

It was that same year in 1929 when True Temper advanced the steel shaft and developed the process to taper shafts down or create “steps”—something we are all familiar with now. These steps could be moved around the shaft and change the flex which created more options for golfers to find the right equipment and be fit.

Since that time, the biggest steps (no pun intended) we have seen taken in steel shafts have come from stronger, lighter materials to create more flex and bend profile options for golfers.

If you are curious about graphite shafts, check out my piece “The real firsts of the golf industry” for the history behind their development as well as some other technological firsts.

Here’s a broad survey of recent golf club history.

Golf club history: woods

best driver 2020

Now to the “big stick.” The term “driver” comes from the idea that the longest club was meant to be driven as far as possible from the teeing area and hence the name stuck. The club heads were made of persimmon, because of the strong dense nature of the wood. To get these wooden heads to where they needed to be for weight, they would be fitted internally with lead weights.

The video below profiles one of the last persimmon wood manufacturers in the world.

With persimmon becoming more expensive and golf growing in popularity, many manufactures shifted from using solid persimmon to laminate—that change also made the clubs more durable, and also a change in golf club history. Those companies included Wilson, Spalding, MacGregor, even Ping with the introduction of the Karsten driver and woods.

As technology continued to move forward, other companies used various materials like graphite composites to make woods, and as much as they worked well for increasing durability they never quite caught on.

The next jump came in 1979 when Gary Adams had an idea to make wood a thing of the past. He took out a $24,000 loan against his house to found TaylorMade Golf. The first product to market was a 12-degree metal driver; the very first of it’s kind in golf club history.

Since then, metal wood technology has continued to move forward leaps and bounds; shifting from steel to titanium, and titanium to multi-material heads featuring aerodynamic designs built for speed. The rules of golf have limited size and spring-like effect of drivers but manufacturers continue to innovate and make drivers faster and more forgiving.

golf club history: Irons

Until Karsten Solheim and Ping arrived on the scene (see Greatest Ping irons of all time), iron design remained mostly the same—thin, forged blades that weren’t very forgiving. It’s not to say that everything was exactly the same, quite the contrary, but from an evolution standpoint, these were just baby steps.

To see the blade evolution here are a couple of great reads:

Then, just like with putters, Karsten Solheim designed an iron that would help reduce the severity of shots hit away from the sweet spot and the modern cavity back was born: the Ping 69. It was then only a few years later in 1982 that the most popular iron of all time, the Ping Eye 2, was set free into the world and this is where iron technology went from baby steps to full-blown Olympic sprinting.

Cavity back irons make the game more enjoyable and easier because their design reduces the severity of mishit shots and get the ball in the air easier, something that benefits all level of golfers, even professionals. Just like drivers, over the last decade, we have seen the introduction of faster, longer more forgiving multi-material designs enter the market. As CAD design and manufacturing techniques go well beyond was would have been imaginable only a decade ago.

Golf club history: beyond cavity backs

New 2020 PXG Gen 3 Irons

The next leap forward was thin-faced irons so fast they needed to be reinforced with polymer materials to prevent them from caving in. The idea wasn’t new, with the introduction of clubs like the PXG 0311 or Taylormade P790, but they perfected the ability to build ultra-thin faced irons that not only performed but felt good too. The title of the first thin or slot-soled irons belongs to Wilson golf and their Reflex irons.

Conclusion

Technology will continue to push the boundaries of design, and golfers will benefit from these breakthroughs. The question of “how much further can we really go?” is up to engineers and advancements in materials and manufacturing, but however far it is, we should be excited about what they will think of next!

 

 

 

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The most popular golf clubs on Amazon right now (Summer 2020 edition)

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The most popular golf clubs on Amazon right now (Summer 2020 edition)

What are the most popular golf clubs on Amazon right now? From time to time, we like to get out of our little bubble of OEM releases and what’s being played on tour to look at what golf consumers are buying on one of the largest online retail marketplaces: Amazon.

Here are the best-selling golf clubs on Amazon as of July 2020.

1. Callaway Golf Men’s Strata Complete


The best-selling golf club on Amazon is actually a collection of clubs: a starter set from Callaway’s Strata line. 

From the listing: “The Strata 12 piece set is designed for maximum performance right out of the box; The set includes: driver, 3 Wood, 5 Hybrid, 6 to 9 Iron, PW, Putter, stand bag and 2 head covers.

Price: $249.99.

Buy here.

2. Pinemeadow Wedge

The most popular golf clubs on Amazon right now pinemeadow wedge.jpg

A decent-looking wedge for under 30 bucks…plus, it comes in 68 degrees!  

From the listing: “Built standard with high quality Pinemeadow steel from Apollo(R), a 125 gram shaft with a low to mid kick point for the same $19.95 value, perfect for the beginning to average golfer.”

Price: $29.19

Buy here.

3. Wilson Harmonized Wedge

Tidy-looking wedge with a sole grind that affords you some versatility for under $40. 

From the listing: “Blade shape with modified bounce angles for dead stop spin and versatility from the sand, rough, or fairway”

Price: $36.94

Buy here.

4. PreciseGolf Co. Precise X7 Junior

The top-selling junior set on Amazon, here. 

From the listing: “Right handed, designed for age 9-12, Boys, junior set includes: 15 driver, 22 Hybrid, #6/7 iron (1 piece), #9/P iron (1 piece), putter, 2 head covers and stand bag (rain Hood included)”

Price: $128.67

Buy here.

5. Callaway Women’s Strata Complete Golf Set

Just like the men’s version, Callaway’s Women Strata golf set is the most popular golf set in its category on Amazon

From the listing: “The Strata Plus Women’s Package Set is designed with distance and forgiveness technologies for women who want to easily hit accurate shots that go a long way. The complete set includes: Driver, 5 Wood, 5 hybrid, 6-9 Iron, Pitching Wedge & Sand Wedge, Stand Bag and 3 Headcovers.”

Price: $249.99 – $499.99

Buy here.

6. Pinemeadow Excel EGI Hybrids

Replace any of your irons with Pinemeadow’s Excel EGI hybrids

From the listing: “3 Hybrid/19°, 4 Hybrid/22°, 5 Hybrid/25°, 6 Hybrid/28°, 7 Hybrid/32°, 8 Hybrid/36°, 9 Hybrid/40° & PW Hybrid/45°. More and more players are trading in their traditional irons and replacing them with hybrids. The EGI hybrids allow you to do this for every iron in your bag. Join the movement and expect an improvement in your game”

Price: $43.26 – $69.63

Buy here.

7. PGX Offset Golf Driver

An affordable driver option with plenty of offset designed to help players hit more fairways

From the listing: “Offset anti-slice Technology. 460Cc clubhead. Headcover included ; The matte black finish and white and green gives the driver a clean and sleek look.  The offset of the driver helps you square the ball at impact.”

Price: $49.31 – $119.20

Buy here.

8. TaylorMade Men’s RBZ Black Driver, Black

TMs RBZ black driver is a great option for those looking for greater launch off the tee and comes in a sleek satin black finish

From the listing: “A large, 460cc Titanium head with an adjustable loft sleeve allows for optimized launch and trajectory. Ultralite Titanium core strategically positions mass for higher launch and trajectory control. Premium matrix White tie 55 shaft for maximum distance and smooth feel. Legendary speed pocket performance for high launch and low spin, resulting in more distance. New satin black finish with elegant detailing to improve alignment”

Price: $199.99

Buy here.

9. Square Strike Wedge

The extra wide sole of the Square Strike Wedge aims to do away with fat shots. The wedge is fully legal for tournament play and costs under $100

From the listing: “The Square Strike Wedge pitching wedge has an extra-wide sole and beveled leading edge prevent digging; No more chunked pitch and chip shots reduces wasted strokes; Heavy, solid feel promotes greater confidence vs thin-faced wedges that dig and rotate; Less rotation with the Square Strike Wedge golf wedge for men and women makes clean contact easier and much more consistent”

Price: $99.00

Buy here.

10. Wilson Golf Profile JGI Junior Set

The perfect set for kids learning the game, with each club in the set offering lots of forgiveness

From the listing: “Engineered with Super Game Improvement technology to enhance new Junior golfer experience. Weight is positioned very low in this oversized junior driver to help launch the ball for a better ball flight off the tee”

Price: $127.88 – $325.99

Buy here.

11. Pinemeadow Golf PGX SL Putter

One of the best-reviewed putters on Amazon. A great plumbers neck option for those on a budget

From the listing: “Perfect Balance. Alignment Tool. Headcover Included”

Price: $42.49

Buy here.

12. Cleveland Golf Men’s RTX 4 Wedge

Cleveland’s RTX 4 Wedge remains a very popular option amongst golfers and comes in several different finishes (Black Satin, Tour Satin, Raw)

From the listing: “4th Generation Rotex Face Technology with our sharpest Tour Zip Grooves yet, the most aggressive face milling we’ve developed, and even more precise laser milling, Rotex 4 generates more spin.”

Price: $99.99

Buy here.

13. Acstar Two Way Junior Golf Putter

A junior putter designed with both right and left-handers in mind

From the listing: “Zinc alloy putter head + 100% carbon putter shaft + anti-slip rubber putter grip construction, shaft flex: regular. Two way putter–Perfect for any golfer,whether you are right-handed, left-handed,advanced or a beginner, this double way putter performs at a high level ”

Price: $28.99

Buy here.

14. C3i Wedge

Featuring a wide auto-glide sole, the high-loft C3i wedge is a popular option for golfers looking for an effective wedge under $100

From the listing: “The C3i lob wedge is extra-wide. Its auto-glide sole cuts through the sand without skipping or digging; This sand wedge is a high loft golf club for men and women that gets the ball up easily to clear the lip and stop it quickly on the green; 12 degrees of bounce make sand wedge for men and women perfect for any type of sand, fluffy to firm; Get out in one more often and reduce wasted strokes; Makes bunker play a breeze with this sand wedge golf club.”

Price: $99.00

Buy here.

15. Odyssey White Hot Pro 2.0 Putter, Black

The evergreen Odyssey White Hot Pro 2.0 Putter remains one of the best-selling putters on Amazon

From the listing: “Designed to meet the meticulous performance demands of the world’s best golfers. Re-engineered White hot insert generates improved sound, feel and overall performance. Laser milling insert cutting process achieves tight tolerances for consistent performance.”

Price: $109.99 – $299.99

Buy here.

16. Wilson Golf Women’s Ultra Package Set

Designed for women picking up the sport, Wilson offers a complete set for just $219.99

From the listing: “Super game improvement design focuses on generating more distance for beginner golfers. Designed for Women’s swing speeds with low center of gravity for improved launch characteristics.”

Price: $219.99

Buy here.

17. TaylorMade Men’s RBZ Rescue, Black

TM’s RBZ Rescue is a massively popular club amongst golfers and it comfortably cracks the top-20 list on Amazon

From the listing: “Legendary speed pocket for high launch and increased carry distance. New satin black finish with elegant detailing to improve alignment. Shallow profile and improved sole geometry for optimized turf interaction.”

Price: $129.99

Buy here.

18. Wilson Golf Profile SGI Men’s Complete Golf Set

The super game improvement characteristics of this set from Wilson makes it one of the most popular sets on Amazon for teenage golfers

From the listing: “Designed for Teen swing characteristics to produce maximum distance and a rewarding experience for beginners. Large 460cc Driver Engineered with Super Game Improvement technology to enhance new golfer experience
Deep, perimeter weighted 431 stainless steel irons with very low center of gravity for improved accuracy and distance.”

Price: $319.95 – $349.99

Buy here.

19. Callaway Golf 2020 Mavrik Max Individual Iron

Loaded with technology designed to take your iron play to the next level, Callaway’s Mavrik iron cracks the top-20 list

From the listing: “With MAVRIK, we’re using Artificial Intelligence for the first time in an iron. Ball speed is further enhanced by our 360 Face Cup that flexes and releases at impact. We’ve created a sophisticated face architecture that’s unique to every loft, so we can create a significant boost in ball speed and increased spin robustness off of every iron.”

Price: $128.58

Buy here.

20. Wilson Golf Ultra Plus Package Set

Another Wilson golf set that has proved popular amongst buyers and offers an entire set including a 360cc forged titanium driver for under $300

From the listing: “Includes 9 clubs: Driver, 3 Wood, 5 Hybrid, 6-PW, Putter. Oversize 460cc forged titanium composite driver features advanced weight distribution to create an enormous sweet spot. Unique driver head design provides stability and improved launch conditions at impact for straighter ball flight for greater distance.”

Price: $299.99

Buy here.

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