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Q&A with Oakley Golf: “We’re armed and ready to be a leader”

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Al Janc, Oakley’s sports marketing manager, took the time to answer these questions from GolfWRX Managing Editor Zak Kozuchowski about the future of Oakley Golf.

ZK: The two latest additions to Team Oakley, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, have both won The Masters (Bubba in 2012, Zach in 2007). But they have different personalities and contrasting styles of play. How are they both fits for Team Oakley?

AJ: Bubba and Zach do have different personalities, different games and go about their business in different ways on the golf course. We believe this is a benefit, as both guys appeal to different target demographics, which widens our consumer base.  While both of these young men have contrasting styles, they have values that align with our brand’s core values of Passion, Authenticity, Performance, Humility and Innovation. Bubba and Zach believe in family and faith and they respect the game of golf.  They maintain professionalism on and off the course, and believe the game of golf should be for everyone to play and enjoy, not just the elite.  They both keep themselves in excellent physical shape and wear the Oakley apparel collection very well.

ZK: How do endorsements like Watson’s and Johnson’s work? Do athletes approach Oakley, or vice versa? 

AJ: It works both ways. In some instances, we have identified and pursued athletes. In other instances, we’ve been approached by individuals that, after meeting them and analyzing their body of work, we felt they were a good fit for the Oakley brand and culture and signed them up to endorse the brand.

Courtesy of Oakley

ZK: The Oakley website lists team members in dozens of sports. What is the company’s commitment to golf and where does it see growth potential?

AJ: Most people know Oakley as a performance eyewear company, but even avid golfers still don’t know we’re committed to categories  outside of our eyewear: apparel, footwear and accessories. This perception is quickly changing, however, due to a number of factors: the performance of our athletes on professional golf tours around the world, the quality of the products we’re producing and the incredible ambassadorship Oakley maintains at the grassroots level. From a US standpoint, there are tremendous growth opportunities as it pertains to a number of entities in the golf space—apparel, footwear, accessories, women and active ophthalmic eyewear. From  a global standpoint, there is huge a opportunity in every segment of our golf business as we are now diving into a wider market.

ZK: Who is the Oakley Golf brand targeting – golfers or athletes? Does Oakley believe that there is a difference between the two?

AJ: Oakley does not believe there is a distinction between a golfer and an athlete any more. Years ago, people who played golf didn’t have the physical skills to keep up on the diamond, gridiron, or basketball court. That is not the case any longer. The athletes playing the sport of golf now, and in many cases, are choosing to be a golfer rather than a football, basketball or baseball player.

ZK: In your opinion, what’s the most important thing a golfer wears on the course?

AJ: It would probably be the golf shoe followed closely by  eyewear.  Golfers spends an incredible amount of time on their feet during the course of the day, so their shoes need to be as  light and comfortable as possible without giving up any performance benefits when it comes to swinging a driver and knocking a ball 300 yards or more. The shoes need to have a stable platform, be light and comfortable with incredible traction all wrapped in design lines true to the Oakley design.

Courtesy of Oakley

Eyewear is key piece of equipment as well. We are really seeing a trend in players protecting their eyes from the sun, wind and foreign particles blowing around on a golf course.  You cannot reverse eye damage and you are seeing many of the modern players understand this and adapting to wearing eyewear.  We believe those athletes who play in eyewear have a huge advantage over the competitors who don’t by reducing eyestrain from squinting into the elements all day long. Oakley has created an array of lens tints specifically suited for the game of golf and the changing light conditions. We also have sports specific frames like Fast Jacket and Radar Lock that were conceived so athletes and consumers have the ability to change out their lenses in varying light conditions quickly and easily.

ZK: What should golf fans expect from the Oakley brand in golf in 2013 and beyond?

Innovation. Innovation is in Oakley’s DNA. The company was built on the premise that “everything can and will be made better,” and that includes our own designs. With patented technologies in our eyewear, apparel and footwear we’re armed and ready to be a leader in the industry when it comes to cutting edge innovations for the sport of golf. We’re excited about the many opportunities that lay in front of us as a brand.

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. DLanger

    Jan 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Dave Pelz was pictured wearing Oakley shoes all last year in Golf Magazine. It looks like Oakley is making the push, but in my opinion they need to match Addidas in performance and comfort. For me, Addidas fits me best and has the best platform for lateral movements. Last year’s models could not compete with my 3 year old Tour 360’s.

  2. jhill

    Jan 15, 2013 at 9:52 am

    That’s cool they think ZJ has fans… good for him. He does wear glasses when he plays I think so that was probably part of it. They need to scrap everything and start over on shoes. Keegan looked ridiculous last year in those things. Bubba is very marketable. That partnership has some potential. I just hope they let him wear FJ’s until they get things figured out.

  3. Troy Vayanos

    Jan 14, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    It’s interesting because I’ve always identified Oakley as predominately an eye wear company. Even after seen Rory McIlroy wear their clothing it’s always been their eye wear that I have associated them with.

    This will be the challenge for Oakley to change the perception and have themselves viewed as a leader in all golf and athletic apparel.

    Bubba and Zach are two great role models for golf and Oakley have done well to sign both. Losing Rory McIlroy will hurt them but these two guys are very well respected and always command plenty of television coverage.

    Thanks for the interview, much appreciated.

    • FATZ

      Jan 15, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Hard to take footwear seriously when NONE of their athletes wear it.

      Rory didn’t, Bubba doesn’t, Zack doesn’t. Only guy who did is Keegan and they let him get away.

      • floycota

        Jan 16, 2013 at 3:13 pm

        Oakley shoes are great, the problem with them is that they don’t make most of their styles in anything but D. People have wide and narrow feet. Start making more sizes and I’ll start buying them again. They are my favorite shoes, when I can get them in a wide.

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pga tour

K.J. Choi WITB 2018

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2018 Valero Texas Open (4/18/2018).

Driver: Ping G400 Max (9 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-6x

Driver: Ping G400 Max (9 degrees)
Shaft: Ozik Matrix MFS M5 60X

3 Wood: Ping G400 (14.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-7x

5 Wood: Ping G400 (17.5 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI-8x

Hybrid: Ping G400 (22 degrees)
Shaft: Atlus Tour H8

Irons: Ping G400 (4-PW)
Shaft: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Tour 120X

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 (50-12SS, 54-12SS, 58-10)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Ping Sigma G Wolverine T
Grip: Ping Pistol

Putter: Ping PLF ZB3
Grip: Super Stroke KJ

Putter: Ping Sigma Vault Anser 2
Grip: Ping Pistol

WITB Notes: We spotted Choi testing a number of clubs at the Valero Texas Open. We will update this post when we have his 14-club setup confirmed. 

Related:

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Choi’s clubs. 

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Accessory Reviews

I tried the great Golfboarding experiment… here’s how it went

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Corica Park Golf Course is not exactly the first place you’d expect to find one of the most experimental sports movements sweeping the nation. Sitting on a pristine swath of land along the southern rim of Alameda Island, deep in the heart of the San Francisco Bay, the course’s municipal roots and no-frills clubhouse give it an unpretentious air that seems to fit better with Sam Snead’s style of play than, say, Rickie Fowler’s.

Yet here I am, one perfectly sunny morning on a recent Saturday in December planning to try something that is about as unconventional as it gets for a 90-year-old golf course.

It’s called Golfboarding, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an amalgam of golf and skateboarding, or maybe surfing. The brainchild of surfing legend Laird Hamilton — who can be assumed to have mastered, and has clearly grown bored of, all normal sports — Golfboarding is catching on at courses throughout the country, from local municipal courses like Corica Park to luxury country clubs like Cog Hill and TPC Las Colinas. Since winning Innovation Of the Year at the PGA Merchandising Show in 2014, Golfboards can now be found at 250 courses and have powered nearly a million rounds of golf already. Corica Park currently owns eight of them.

The man in pro shop gets a twinkle in his eyes when our foursome tells him we’d like to take them out. “Have you ridden them before?” he asks. When we admit that we are uninitiated, he grins and tells us we’re in for a treat.

But first, we need to sign a waiver and watch a seven-minute instructional video. A slow, lawyerly voice reads off pedantic warnings like “Stepping on the golfboard should be done slowly and carefully” and “Always hold onto the handlebars when the board is in motion.” When it cautions us to “operate the board a safe distance from all…other golfboarders,” we exchange glances, knowing that one of us will more than likely break this rule later on.

Then we venture outside, where one of the clubhouse attendants shows us the ropes. The controls are pretty simple. One switch sends it forward or in reverse, another toggles between low and high gear. To make it go, there’s a throttle on the thumb of the handle. The attendant explains that the only thing we have to worry about is our clubs banging against our knuckles.

“Don’t be afraid to really lean into the turns,” he offers. “You pretty much can’t roll it over.”

“That sounds like a challenge,” I joke. No one laughs.

On a test spin through the parking lot, the Golfboard feels strong and sturdy, even when I shift around on it. It starts and stops smoothly with only the slightest of jerks. In low gear its top speed is about 5 mph, so even at full throttle it never feels out of control.

The only challenge, as far as I can tell, is getting it to turn. For some reason, I’d expected the handlebar to offer at least some degree of steering, but it is purely for balance. The thing has the Ackerman angle of a Mack Truck, and you really do have to lean into the turns to get it to respond. For someone who is not particularly adept at either surfing or skateboarding, this comes a little unnaturally. I have to do a number of three-point turns in order to get back to where I started and make my way over to the first tee box.

We tee off and climb on. The fairway is flat and wide, and we shift into high gear as we speed off toward our balls. The engine had produced just the faintest of whirrs as it accelerated, but it is practically soundless as the board rolls along at full speed. The motor nevertheless feels surprisingly powerful under my feet (the drivetrain is literally located directly underneath the deck) as the board maintains a smooth, steady pace of 10 mph — about the same as a golf cart. I try making a couple of S curves like I’d seen in the video and realize that high-speed turning will take a little practice for me to get right, but that it doesn’t seem overly difficult.

Indeed, within a few holes I might as well be Laird himself, “surfing the earth” from shot to shot. I am able to hold the handlebar and lean way out, getting the board to turn, if not quite sharply, then at least closer to that of a large moving van than a full-sized semi. I take the hills aggressively (although the automatic speed control on the drivetrain enables it to keep a steady pace both up and down any hills, so this isn’t exactly dangerous), and I speed throughout the course like Mario Andretti on the freeway (the company claims increased pace-of-play as one of the Golfboard’s primary benefits, but on a Saturday in the Bay Area, it is impossible avoid a five-hour round anyway.)

Gliding along, my feet a few inches above the grass, the wind in my face as the fairways unfurl below my feet, it is easy to see Golfboards as the next evolution in mankind’s mastery of wheels; the same instincts to overcome inertia that brought us bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, skateboards, and more recent inventions such as Segways, Hoverboards and Onewheels are clearly manifest in Golfboards as well. They might not offer quite the same thrill as storming down a snowy mountainside or catching a giant wave, but they are definitely more fun than your standard golf cart.

Yet, there are obvious downsides as well. The attendant’s warning notwithstanding, my knuckles are in fact battered and sore by the time we make the turn, and even though I rearrange all my clubs into the front slots of my bag, they still rap my knuckles every time I hit a bump. Speaking of which, the board’s shock absorber system leaves something to be desired, as the ride is so bumpy that near the end I start to feel as if I’ve had my insides rattled. Then there is the unforgivable fact of its missing a cup holder for my beer.

But these are mere design flaws that might easily be fixed in the next generation of Golfboards. (A knuckle shield is a must!) My larger problem with Golfboards is what they do to the game itself. When walking or riding a traditional cart, the moments in between shots are a time to plan your next shot, or to chat about your last shot, or to simply find your zen out there among the trees and the birds and the spaciousness of the course. Instead, my focus is on staying upright.

Down the stretch, I start to fade. The muscles in my core have endured a pretty serious workout, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to muster the strength for my golf swing. It is no coincidence that my game starts to unravel, and I am on the way to one of my worst rounds in recent memory.

Walking off the 18th green, our foursome agrees that the Golfboards were fun — definitely worth trying — but that we probably wouldn’t ride them again. Call me a purist, but as someone lacking Laird Hamilton’s physical gifts, I’m happy to stick to just one sport at a time.

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Equipment

Titleist AVX golf balls passed the test, are now available across the United States

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Titleist’s AVX golf balls first came to retail as an experiment in three markets — Arizona, California and Florida — from October 2017 to January 2018. AVX (which stands for “Alternative to the V and X”) are three-piece golf balls made with urethane covers, and they’re made with a softer feel for more distance than the Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls.

After proving their worth to consumers, Titleist’s AVX golf balls are now available across the U.S. as of April 23, and they will sell for 47.99 per dozen (the same as Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls) in both white and optic yellow.

According to Michael Mahoney, the Vice President of Golf Ball Marketing for Titleist, the AVX is a member of the Pro V1 family. Here’s a basic understanding of the lineup:

  • AVX: Softest, lowest trajectory, lowest spinning, less greenside spin and longest
  • Pro V1x: Firmer than the Pro V1, highest spinning and highest trajectory
  • Pro V1: Sits between the V1x and the AVX in terms of feel, spin and trajectory, and will appeal to most golfers

Different from the Pro V1 or Pro V1x, the AVX golf balls have a new GRN41 thermoset cast urethane cover to help the golf balls achieve the softer feel. Also, they have high speed, low compression cores, a new high-flex casing layer, and a new dimple design/pattern.

For in-depth tech info on the new AVX golf balls, how they performed in the test markets, and who should play the AVX golf balls, listen to our podcast below with Michael Mahoney, or click here to listen on iTunes.

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the AVX golf balls

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