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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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  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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Best golf gifts on Amazon

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To supplement our holiday gift guides, we thought we’d give our readers some of our best picks for best golf gifts on Amazon. We’ve included 12 items to help you in your holiday gift selections, with a bonus extra for our friends in the UK!

So whether you’re looking for ideas for gifts you want to give, or even better receive, we have you covered!

Best golf gifts on Amazon

The Golf Father Gift Ceramic Coffee Mug

From the listing: “Do you need a gift idea for Christmas, Valentine’s day, anniversary, birthday, family occasion, or father’s day? This novelty mug will make a great gift for your husband, boyfriend, brother, uncle, grandparents, co-worker or friend.”

Price: $8.45

Buy here.

Titleist Pro V1 Christmas Golf Balls – 3 Pack (Amazon UK)

From the listing:Titleist Pro V1 Golf Balls – 3 Pack – Printed with christmas motifs. Total performance for all golfers with the combination of exceptional distance, the best short game spin and control, and very soft feel. Exceptional Distance | Drop-and-Stop Short Game Control. Very Soft Feel.”

Price: $22.50

Buy here.

Nike Men’s Academy 18 Drill Top

From the listing:Sweat-wicking Nike Dry-FIT Technology. Half-zip design. 100% Polyester. Machine Wash. Fastening: Zipper. Academy 18 Drill.”

Price: $49

Buy here.

GoSports CHIPSTER Range

From the listing:Includes 3 Chipping Targets (12 inches, 18 inches, 24 inches) for practicing at varying distances and directions. Targets setup in seconds and neatly store in the included carrying case. Use outdoors with real golf balls or indoor with foam balls.”

Price: $29.99

Buy here. 

Titleist Players Men’s Golf Glove

From the listing:Ultra-thin, for maximum feel and lasting performance. Premium, quality fit means a seamless connection to your club. Utilizes proprietary breathable fabric for comfort and support. Satin reinforcement at cuff and thumb for strength and durability.”

Price: $30

Buy here.

2020 Callaway Chrome Soft Golf Balls

From the listing:Chrome Soft takes Tour performance to another level; We’ve reengineered every aspect and element in the ball for more speed off the tee, and longer distance off of every club in the bag. A faster, larger Graphene-infused Dual SoftFast Core is designed for increased distance; The significantly larger inner core creates higher launch and lower spin. And the thinner, firmer outer core is reinforced with Graphene for better durability.”

Price: $39.99 (down from $47.99)

Buy here.

TaylorMade TP5 Pix 2.0 Golf Ball

From the listing:Better visibility: Multi-Color, high contrast graphics. Better alignment: Unique clear path alignments.”

Price: $39.99 (down from $44.99)

Buy here.

Titleist Golf Warmer 

From the listing:Mitten style with micro fleece lining and cinch opening for comfort. Water resistant shell for performance in all weather conditions. Internal hand warmer compartment.”

Price: $44.99

Buy here.

TaylorMade Pro Stand 6.0 Golf Bag

From the listing:9″ Top stand bag. 7-Way top with a front integrated grab handle and two side grab handles with color co-ordinated air mesh. Light weight high-mount automatic stand system. 4-Point adjustable backpack strap for maximum balance and comfort. Towel loop and umbrella holder.”

Price: $79.99 (down from $129.99)

Buy here.

Garmin Approach S10

From the listing:Simple, easy-to-use golf watch. Sleek, lightweight and comfortable with a high-resolution, Sunlight-readable display. Provides yardages to the front, back and middle of the Green -as well as Hazards and doglegs -on more than 41, 000 preloaded courses worldwide. Keep Score on the watch for a summary of your round, total distance played and total time.”

Price: $99 (down from $149.99)

Buy here.

Under Armour Men’s Spieth 3 Golf Shoe

From the listing:Textile and Synthetic. Imported. Synthetic sole. Shaft measures approximately low-top from arch. Breathable, Clarino microfiber upper & a lightweight waterproof membrane keep you cool & dry. Smart woven forefoot panel & heel counter for biomechanically correct foot support & lightweight comfort. Integrated lacing system for a locked in fit.”

Price: $117.21 (down from $200)

Buy here.

Puma Men’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged Stars and Stripes Golf Shoe

From the listing: 100% Synthetic. Synthetic sole. Adaptive Fit System. Ignite Foam. Power cage. Power frame. Power adapt.”

Price: $169.99

Buy here.

Callaway Golf 2020 Mavrik Fairway Wood

From the listing:MAVRIK is the longest fairway wood that Callaway has ever made. The new A. I. -optimized Flash Face SS20 is forged from exotic materials, which are uniquely designed for each model and loft to maximize ball speed and performance. We’ve combined our industry-leading technologies to deliver distance, forgiveness and performance from every club.”

Price: $249.99 (down from $299.99)

Buy here.

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Whats in the Bag

Steph Curry WITB (The Match 3)

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Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero Single Diamond (9 degrees, -1/N)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 7 X (45 inches, D3)

3-wood: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 8 X (43 inches, D3)

Utility: Callaway X Forged UT ‘21 (18 degrees)
Shaft: KBS Tour 130 X

steph curry witb the match 3

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro ’19 Double Dot (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5

Wedges: Callaway Jaws MD5 (50-10S, 56-10S, 60-10S)
Shafts: Project X 6.0

Putter: Odyssey Toulon Atlanta (Stroke Lab)

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Midsize

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Equipment

‘My brief blade experience’ – GolfWRXers react

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In our forums, our members have been reacting to an interesting experience WRXer ‘LongJohnPeter’ had when testing out blades for the first time. ‘LongJohnPeter’ writes:

“For reasons unbeknownst to myself, I have been obsessed with playing blades lately. So I took a trip to my local range today and picked out an old Lynx USA 7 iron blade from the rental rack (I don’t own a blade and had never hit one previously). While I did see a reduction in distance (more of a result of EXTREMELY crappy range balls and a 50 degree day), I couldn’t believe how much more consistent my face contact was, compared with my Ping Zing’s I currently use. And even on the few mishits, they weren’t punished nearly as bad as everyone and their mother said they would be, and I knew exactly what had happened and could adjust accordingly.

Anyone have a similar experience? Is this just a honeymoon phase? Or is the golfing elite trying to preserve the sanctity of blade irons?”

And our members have been reacting to the post and sharing their thoughts in our forum.

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.

  • uglande: “I switched back to blades this year (had not played them in decades), and I will never give them up. They are so pure and consistent and easy to maneuver. I prefer the thinner soles, which give me better turf interaction. Blades will never produce those nuclear shots that go 15 yards longer than you expected. And, yes, GI clubs help retain ball speed on mishits, but I would rather be 10 yards short of the green than in the bunkers or other garbage on either side of the green. And I certainly don’t want to torpedo one (happened frequently with my P790s) that goes over the green, which is always where the worst hazards lie.”
  • NotTheGuyOrAmi: “I ’m far from a technical expert, but I have concluded that increased MOI may give some incremental benefit, and of course less loft means clubs with a particular loft might hit father, but the point of most of the “improvement” in-game improvement irons is to allow people who hit the ground before the ball with a slow swing speed to get a better result from a lower center of gravity. This, by the way, is not a good thing.”
  • CCTXgolf: “For some people a smaller club makes them concentrate a little harder, and that extra little bit of concentration can certainly help you find the center of the club face more often. Problem is it’s tough to keep that going for 18 holes. Much less day to day. I just went to blades in my short irons (8-P) and don’t really find that much difference in those shorter irons. They sure are pretty though.”

Entire Thread: “My brief blade experience”

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