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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

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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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Aaron Dill gives deep dive into Nelly Korda’s wedge set-up

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Nelly Korda is flying high in 2021, winning the LPGA Meijer Classic last weekend to become the first player this year to win multiple times on tour.

The 22-year-old fired her career low-round of 62 at the event on Saturday and heads into this week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship as one of the favorites as she looks to break her major duck.

Titleist gave golf fans an awesome deep dive into both Nelly and sister Jessica’s WITB earlier this year, and now, master craftsman Aaron Dill has provided fans with an in-depth look at Nelly’s wedge set-up.

Speaking on the process behind fitting Korda for her SM8 wedges, Dill says Nelly sent her current gamers to him, which he then spec’d out to figure out what was missing so that he could then make the perfect set for her.

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On Nelly’s SM8 (50-08F) Gap Wedge:

AD: “This is a great wedge for her; it’s really an extension of her irons. It’s a way for her to branch out of the pitching wedge and into something a little shorter with a little more versatility and short game feel. So this is a great fit for her and matches her gaps nicely.”

On Nelly’s SM8 (54-14F):

AD: “Before, she had less bounce. She had a lot of clubs that were on the lower bounce spectrum, and it limited her on how much short game she could really do or the shots that she could get out of each one.

So as we tested, we began to realise that she was missing some higher bounce clubs in that wedge set, and this one fits that nicely because it doesn’t limit her around the greens. She can hit it from the fairway, in the bunkers, pitches and chips, into the grain – great fit for her.”

On Nelly’s former SM8 (58-08MV):

AD: “She started with a 58 M grind with a V. This was a good fit for her in the beginning, but as we began working together more, she realised that ‘these golf courses I’m playing on, the types of shots I’m trying to hit. I need a little less bounce from time to time.’

And it wasn’t a lot less bounce; it was really more ‘I just need it to be a little less here and there, especially when I’m in the sand.’ This wedge was a little bit wider.”

On Nelly’s SM8 (58-10S):

AD: “This is slightly thinner, with a little ribbon on the back. Ten degrees of bounce, but the bounce is all right here (sole). So when she’s hitting those square faced shots, she has that protection and the bounce that she needs, but when she needs to be creative, the ribbon on the back and the thinner flange helps her have that versatility around the greens. 

But then we took it a step further, and I said, ‘Hey, for you to really maximize potential, especially when you’re going from course to course, that’s when we bring in something a little bit less, into a 58T.”

On Nelly’s SM8 58T:

AD: “I think for her, it was really a moment where she could really take a breath and relax and say, ‘Okay, if things firm up, I’ve got the best wedge for that (58T), if things stay soft, I’ve got this too (58-10S).’ So she carries both. She takes them from course to course; she decides which one fits based on conditions.”

On Nelly’s Aerotech SteelFiber i95 wedge shafts:

AD: “She plays a SteelFiber graphite shaft at 1/2 an inch over as she’s very tall and Tour Velvet grips, and she’s a little bit upright. So she likes to have more of that straight to slightly draw-biased ball flight – it’s a great way to help her bring her ball flight down, keep that spin up and carry that number that she’s trying to hit at the time.”

Check out the video in full below.

 

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Follow Aaron Dill on Instagram here and Nelly Korda here.

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GolfWRX Spotted: Cam Smith’s 2021 Titleist T100 irons with black finish

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Titleist dropped some big news this week, announcing that their new T-Series irons had begun Tour seeding. Our exclusive in-hand photos of the clubs from this week’s Travelers Championship are currently in our forums, with links below on this page.

At this week’s event, we have also spotted the new T100 irons from Titleist with a blacked-out finish. Australian’s Cam Smith has the clubs in the bag at TPC River Highlands, and it’s a finish that has caught our members’ eyes.

 

Have your say on Cam Smith’s 2021 Titleist T100 irons with a black finish here.

Exclusive in-hand photos

 

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Equipment

Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (06/23/21): Axis 1 Rose putter

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At GolfWRX, we love golf, plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buy and selling equipment.

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for an Axis 1 Rose putter ($395).

From the seller (@HoganHQ): “Axis 1 Rose putter, played 1 round, 34.25 inches, Brand new Flat Cat grip, headcover included $395”

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: Axis 1 Rose putter.

This is the most impressive current listing from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

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