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Oakley as a golf brand? Exactly

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On the surface, it doesn’t make much sense. Why would Oakley — a brand beloved by surfers, snowboarders, skiers, skaters and otherwise “cool” people — want to be a golf brand? Doesn’t it know that golfers are notoriously uncool, and that for every Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy there are 50 Tour players who make Chris Kirk seem exciting?

GolfWRX regulars might have noticed that we’ve been learning a lot about the Southern-California based company lately. When Oakley signed Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson in 2013, we did a Q&A with the company’s sports marketing manager. We followed up with a feature on the impact Bubba Watson has had in shaping Oakley product this spring, and spent this summer reviewing Oakley’s Carbon Pro 2 golf shoes, M2 Frame and Holbrook sunglasses and its latest golf apparel.

What we’ve found is that few companies spend as much time perfecting its products as The Ellipse, which became even more evident when I visited Oakley headquarters.

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Oakley HQ, nicknamed the “Design Bunker,” looks like a spaceship that might blast off from its Foothills Ranch, Calif. location. Even though it’s a public facility that includes a retail store and a walk-in warranty department, the winding, tank-equipped driveaway screams “keep out” to poindexters.

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The coolness threshold was reinforced in the lobby, where I was instructed to wait for my tour guide in an authentic fighter jet ejector seat. I, in khakis and a polo, wondered if I was about to be propelled through the vaulted ceilings of the main lobby. Was I cool enough to be in this place?

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Luckily, it was another case of a journalist making stuff up, and I made my way through the public lobby and into the private Oakley hallways unscathed.

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If you’re waiting for a photo tour of HQ, the production facilities and research labs I saw, you’re out of luck, as just about all of the areas were off limits for photography. Oakley protects its prototype products and procedures more tightly than any golf apparel company I’ve ever toured, which is why it makes sense to shift the conversation from what exactly Oakley does to produce its apparel, footwear and accessories to why it does it in the first place.

For that answer, I talked to Nathan Strange, Oakley’s head of global golf marketing. Strange spent a decade working at one of the golf equipment industry’s traditional powerhouses, and is the man responsible for the now famous Bubba Hovercraft video.

The outside-the-box video was perfect for the Oakley brand, Strange said, as it showcased what I kept hearing from every member of the Oakley golf team.

“We’re different,” they kept saying.

I, like you, have seen the barrage of Oakley marketing material that has hit the internet in 2014. It includes the message that Oakley is “Disruptive by Design” and celebrates the company’s 30-year anniversary of releasing innovative products. In the early days, those products included motorcycle hand grips, goggles and performance sunglasses that were a hit with extreme sports athletes.

How do you know that you’ve been sufficiently disruptive since? I won’t play the game of what’s disruptive and what’s not, but I will say this. When your brand is healthy enough to get House of Cards frontman Kevin Spacey to narrate your video, you’re doing better than ok.

But a spokesman like Spacey, or even endorsers such as Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson don’t actually change a brand or a sub brand. They might change its perception, or even offer a new insight, but their affiliation does not by itself make something different.

So what actually makes Oakley different? I kept wondering this, and prodded team members with questions that I hoped would lead me to that answer. It didn’t hit home until I sat with Strange at the end of my visit that I finally figured it out.

At the core of Oakley’s business has always been an obsession with individual athletes, the hard-working, go-it-alone perfectionists who do whatever it takes to reach their goal. That’s when it occurred to me that while golf will never be labeled as an extreme sport, the demands golf places on its players are extreme. Few other sports need its athletes to be as precise and consistent as golfers need to be in the time it takes golfers to play 18 holes, and even fewer sports place those athletes on ever-changing courses and climates that are as variable as the ones golfers face.

Let’s look at Oakley’s marquee product in golf, its sunglasses, which became popular in part thanks to their use by David Duval and Annika Sorenstam in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Sunglasses were nothing new to the sport, but Oakley’s models were comfortable, precise and protective against the damage the sun and debris can do to a golfer’s eyes. It didn’t hurt, either, that people thought they were cool.

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Above is Bubba Watson’s outfit script for Sunday at the 2014 PGA Championship, with White Take 3.0 pants and the Markus Polo.

Now, Oakley is making even better sunglasses that are more adaptable and available in more styles. Its expanded into performance-first polos, jackets, accessories and golf pants that look the part on the course, but could just as easily be worn in yoga class. They’re that soft, lightweight, bendable and breathable. Again, nothing new, but they just perform a little better.

So why is Oakley in the golf business? Simply put, its team thinks it can make better apparel and accessories than the big guys. In fact, its team thinks that it already has. For the team of performance-obsessed sports product people, what’s cooler than that?

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Takeaway: A Look at the Golf Industry (November 2014) « Grow the Game Central

  2. stripe

    Oct 16, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I can get down with the clothes but will always stick with FJ.

  3. Gregg

    Oct 15, 2014 at 10:49 am

    At the high school golf level I see a lot of Under Armour clothing and very little Oakley stuff.

  4. Craig

    Oct 15, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, Oakley lost it’s cool factor a long time ago. And Bubba has never been cool.

  5. hjsdl

    Oct 14, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Oakley makes very good products and had Rory not signed with Nike, Oakley might have been one of the top selling clothing brands in golf by now.

  6. Corny

    Oct 14, 2014 at 2:43 am

    I hate that O symbol, it gets in the way of everything, it looks so out of place and corny. It’s corny baby, yeah, corny!

  7. J

    Oct 14, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Wonder when Oakley makes a putter…. Bet they do.

  8. RumtumTim

    Oct 13, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Oakley hasn’t been “cool” since the LeMond days.

    • Ponjo

      Oct 14, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      That’s like saying Nike has not been cool since Tiger did what he did.

  9. Mike Belkin

    Oct 13, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I do view Oakley as a disruptive brand especially in the golf space, but am surprised at how little we see Oakley product on our NCCGA college golfers. Part of that may be that NCCGA college teams are somewhat geographically East-coast centric, however.

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Farmers Insurance Open Tour Truck Report: Details on Adam Scott’s AutoFlex experiment, Jon Rahm’s new putter (and shoes)

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Titleist

Adam Scott was spotted testing an AutoFlex SF505XX shaft in his Titleist TSi4 (9 degrees). In early testing, Scott was looking at numbers to the tune of 182 mph, 11 degrees launch, and 2,200 rpm. Scott has been near the top in driving leaders all year, and this switch may be a new way in to optimizing that even more. The AutoFlex shafts are unique in their profile—in simple terms, they are light/stiff, AND whippy. Yes, that’s correct. Word is the shaft will most likely go into play this week.

Charles Howell III tested (and will put in play most likely next week) a set of Mitsubishi Chemical MMT 125 TX shafts. Howell was looking for a bit tighter dispersion with his irons, especially on mis-hits, and found that the MMT gave him that plus a bit more launch with his long irons. Howell would be the third player to make the switch to the MMT 125 TX following Rickie Fowler and Davis Love III. CH3 will have the MMT in his Titleist T100 4-iron this week.

Jimmy Walker went in the opposite direction of Adam Scott going into a Ventus Black 10 X is his TSi3 (8 degrees). It’s a beast of a stick at 43.5 inches, which to Walker felt more comfortable with his new swing.

Max Homa added a Titleist TSi2 7-wood to the arsenal with a Graphite Design Tour AD XC 9 TX shaft.

Wedges with Aaron Dill

Adam Scott switching from 60-14K to 60-12D the change was inspired by Adam needing more forward bounce to control trajectory. True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100 shaft.

Sung Jae Im is changing from 52-08F, 56-08M, 60-04L setup to a 52-08F, 58-04L because of length of golf course. Im wanted to add an extra club to the top part of the bag. Both are set up with Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts.

TaylorMade

Matthew Wolff was testing new putters with Keith Sbarboro on Tuesday afternoon. Not 100 percent if the Spider Chalk will get replaced, but he was testing a TP Model with a long neck that was pretty cool looking.

Callaway

Patrick Rodgers put the new New Epic Speed Max LS driver at 46 inches with a Fujikura Speeder TR 757 TX shaft in the bag. The new setup gave Rodgers 4 mph increase in ball speed.

Jon Rahm put Callaway’s new Odyssey 2-Ball “10” with a red Stroke Lab shaft in play this week. It’s quite a monumental occurrence as the putter was the final holdout from his TaylorMade days. And peep the Air Jordan 11’s!!

Ping

Louis Oosthuizen put a BGT Stability Tour shaft in his Vault 2.0 Voss Platinum putter.

Old news, but Bubba showed up with these again. Seems to be something he’s committed to.

Another long hitter (although non-staff), JB Holmes put the Ping G425LST in play (9 degrees, Small -) with a Fujikura Ventus Black 6X.

Free Agents

Newly minted free agent Lucas Glover showed up to the Farmers with a bag full of PXG Gear. The bag included a mixed set of PXG Gen3 T (4, 5, 6) and ST irons (7-p) with Nippon Pro Modus3 120 X shafts. Glover has a Srixon Z785 driver in the bag with a Fujikura Ventus Blue 7 X shaft. In the woods department: Titleist TSi2 3-wood with a Fujikura Atmos Blue 8 X shaft and a PXG 7-wood with a Fujikura Ventus Blue 8 X shaft. In addition to a PXG putter, Glover has Vokey wedges: SM7 52-12F, 56-14F, SM5 60-08M.

Jason day is making his 2021 debut this week at Torrey with a new Chris Como swing (#workinprogress), and a brand new mixed bag.

Driver: Ping G425 LST (9 degrees @8.5)
Shaft: TPT 14 LO 5

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15)
Shafts: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 TX

Irons: Mizuno MP20 HMB (3,4) Mizuno JPX 921 Tour (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X7

Wedges: Artisan Prototype (50, 54, 60)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Odyssey 2-Ball

Ball: Bridgestone Tour B XS

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Most interesting photos from Tuesday at the 2021 Farmers Insurance Open

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If you haven’t already had the chance to dive into the more than 10 galleries of pictures we have from the Farmers Insurance Open being held once again at Torrey Pines, be sure to check them out here in the GolfWRX Tour & Pre-release Equipment forum.

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But if you are looking to get the Cliff’s Notes version of what we have seen at the event so far—like a high school kid prepping for a book report—here are the top things we’ve spotted.

Bubba using iron covers

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As a lifetime Ping staffer, I don’t think Bubba is worried about the resale value of his irons, but these iron covers from Ping Japan are still a fun way to keep them clean and organized.

Harold Varner III’s custom Jordan “elephant print” bag

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Being a Jordan ambassador has some perks, and for HV III that means his own custom elephant print bag, which also features the name of Jordan’s personal course Grove XXIII (23) on it. I hope that means Harold gets his pick of tee times.

Blast from the past “YES” putter spotted

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It’s been a long time since YES! Golf was a major player in the putter world, but we did manage to spot this Mollie model being used by Troy Merrit.

Jhonattan Vegas wearing True Linkswear

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Jhonattan has been a long-time Nike staffer, and it’s a bit of a surprise to see him wearing anything but the “swoosh.” Judging by his golf bag along with his outfit, Mr. Vegas is a complete free agent, so following him week to week could be interesting.

Charl Schwartzel with Bettinardi wedge in the bag

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Former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel is a notorious tinkerer to the point that he once drilled holes in his own irons to reduce their head weight. Although they are more well know for their putters, Bettinardi has been producing some amazing wedges and it looks like one has ended up in Charl’s bag.

Billy Horschel’s Florida Gators bag

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Just in case you didn’t know where he went to school, Billy Horschel is making it very clear with his new Florida Gators bag.

Hunter Mahan’s swing is still pure

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Although he has struggled in recent years, you wouldn’t know it by his golf swing—Hunter Mahan’s got game and some serious flow out the back of his hat!

Adam Scott with AutoFlex

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Although less well known outside of the main shaft companies AutoFlex has been making headlines thanks to some in-depth reviews, especially from the team at TXG: Testing Autoflex golf shafts. Adam has gone through a number of shafts recently including a Ventus Red from Fujikura, so it will be interesting to see how this works out.

Jason Dufner with Odyssey Jailbird

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Jason must have a love for the classics. He refuses to give up his Titleist 915F 7-wood, and this week he was spotted using an Odyssey Jailbird Versa which was released all the way back in 2014.

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2021 Virtual PGA Show: Things we loved, Day 2

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As promised, we’re checking out all the digital booths at the 2021 Virtual PGA Show for items of intrigue and note, and we’ve found no shortage of interesting items.

Check out a few of our favorites from the second day of browsing below—and you can find our first-day favorites here.

(More on the 2021 Virtual PGA Show here)

Winston Collection: Dancing Head Covers

We know custom headcovers abound, but Winston Collection’s Dancing Head Covers hit the right notes.

Product description: Our American Leather Dancing Head Covers continue to grow in popularity. In addition to the standard Dancing Series we have added Dancing Murals to our options. These covers are unique and very appealing to most golfers. Available with too many customization choices to list.

Website: www.winstoncollection.com

WellPutt: BigTilt

It’s a home putting green that you can adjust. Enough said. The Pro Max version includes laser aiming and a training program. 

Product description: “The BigTilt is a tilting platform controlled by a tablet device, tiltable from 0% to -5% left – right / right – left. It allows you to reproduce real game situations in order to train effectively.”

Website: https://wellputt.com/big-tilt

Precision Pro: GPS Golf Speaker

MySlope technology, a clear display, compact size, and app integration make Precision Pro’s GPS Speaker one of our favorites. 

Product description: “Premium audio quality and revolutionary golf technology powered by the free Precision Pro Golf App. Precision Pro Golf has created the game’s most innovative GPS Golf Speaker. Listen to the audio readout of GPS distances or take a quick glance at the screen.This is the only GPS Golf Speaker with a crystal-clear display that allows golfers to easily see their distance to the front, middle, and back of the green.”

Website: www.precisionprogolf.com

JumboMax: St8 Tech Non-Tapered Grip

Non-tapered grips aren’t a new technology, but JumboMax’s oversized take on the concept caught our attention. 

Product description: The JumboMax STR8 Tech™ Non-Tapered Grip. Combines legendary JumboMax game-improvement with a non-tapered profile to maximize lower hand feel and face angle awareness. Decreases grip tension. Developed with input and real-world testing by some of the world’s best instructors and tour professionals.

Website: www.jumbomax.com

Boston Scott Golf: Dandelion Four Button Polo

We like the creative patterns and modern spins on classic styles. 

Product description: Tapered fit design (relief in the armpit of the shirt with a slight taper to the waist area and tailored fit at belt line for the perfect fit and ability to stay tucked). 92% Polyester / 8% Spandex Blend. Four button placket (placket and collar support). Sublimation design pattern. Moisture wicking with UPF 50 protection.

Website: www.bostonscottgolf.com

Winners Award Group: Championship Belt Trophy

Move over, all other trophies. If you have a hand in organizing your club championship, lobby the committee to upgrade what it awards the winner. 

Product description: Our Championship Belt Trophy for Golf is one of the most popular selling trophies in the golf industry. Now you can use this amazing trophy for all of your big events. In addition to being able to wear it for photo opportunities these heavy die struck belts can be shown in your home or office in these beautiful display cases.

Website: www.winnersawardgroup.com

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