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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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2020 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts for the Golfer Looking to get Better

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to get better,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.” (Editor’s note: remaining installments to publish tomorrow and Wednesday)

You know the golfer looking to get better by his/her closet full of every infomercial training aid and a pursuit of forgiveness that would put the most penitent sinner to shame.

Here are our best recommendations for “golfer looking to get better” in your life.

Get a lesson

James Oh

Former tour player and now Southern California based coach to a number of fast-rising players in college and on tour, James teaches not only the swing, short game, etc., but he is also arguably one of the best Golf IQ coaches out there.

Book a lesson here. 

George Gankas

Get on the mat with the hottest teacher in the U.S. and longtime coach to Matthew Wolff and Akshay Bhatia. In a few years, these appointments will be few and far between.

Book a lesson here. 

James Ridyard

Short game teacher to the best—notably Francisco Molinari. A private session with James is expensive, but it’s worth the investment and then some. The best way on the planet to get your short game dialed.

Book a lesson here. 

Marcus Potter

Young and nimble, Marcus Potters career has taken off via word of mouth and Instagram. Schedule an in-person or video-based session with Marcus, and you will be putting like a young Ben Crenshaw.

Book a lesson here. 

Get Better at Home

PlaneMate

The hottest training aid in 2019 continued to be fire in 2020 as players are now learning how to utilize it over the winter to hit the ground running in the spring.

Buy here. 

Gankas G Box

If you really want to learn how to rotate like the best players in the world, there is no better and easier-to-use aid in the market. Good indoors and out.

Buy here. 

Get Faster

SuperSpeed Sticks

No longer a secret tool on tour, the SuperSpeed Sticks offer adults and juniors the ability and training program to truly hit it longer. If you want to build true speed and learn how you hit it farther, the SuperSpeed Sticks are a necessity.

Buy here. 

At-home practice facility

If you’ve got the dough to do it, building a Foresight hitting bay at home is almost like cheating. Not only can you dial in your swing, your clubs, and a create sound practice routines, you can also have some fun and play multiple iconic tracks over with your friends in the comfort of your own home.

Buy here. 

Wellness

Urban Golf Performance

For the SoCal crowd, buying a membership at Urban Golf Performance in Los Angeles puts you in an all-encompassing golf ecosystem that works with your body, your game, your mind and your bag. Its Equinox for golfers—and oh yeah, Collin Morikawa works out there amongst a bunch of other PGA pros and college stars.

Book here. 

For the .com crowd

Me and My Golf online membership

It’s a rabbit hole of tips, tutorials, and insight for golfers of all levels. Arguably the biggest golf platform on YouTube now offers you the VIP experience.

Buy here (7-day free trial).

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2020 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide: Golf gifts for the Value Seeker

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members, the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and hopefully receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

In an effort to provide more value and tailored recommendations, we’re presenting our guide as a series this year, targeting “the purist,” “the gearhead,” “the value seeker,” “the golfer looking to improve,” “the clothes horse,” and “the big spender.” (Editor’s note: remaining installments to publish tomorrow and Wednesday)

You know the value seeker by his/her eschewing of anything that will put a significant dent into the wallet while still getting the most from their game, this includes equipment, practice tools, or anything else you might find filling out a golf bag – maybe even the golf bag itself.

Here are our best recommendations for “the value seeker” in your life.

Tour Edge Hot Launch series clubs

Tour Edge and its Hot Launch line of clubs are one of the undisputed leaders when it comes to offering game improvement technology and value to golfers of all skill levels. The newest Hot Launch 521 Series, which includes the Hot Launch E521 and Hot Launch C521 line, can be broken up into two categories to help players quickly identify which clubs they should most consider, and it goes from drivers all the way down to wedges.

The Hot Launch E Series offers high-MOI, extreme game improvement designs with a singular focus on delivering easy-to-launch performance, which is built around correcting the most common miss in golf: the dreaded slice.

The Hot Launch C Series is designed for golfers who desire classicly shaped clubs that offer optimal launch and spin rates, while still getting all the benefits of easy to hit, forgiving clubs built around maximizing MOI.

Buy here.

Snell golf balls: $28.99 (when you buy 5 dozen)

The premium golf ball market if full of high-end competition from major OEMs, and in the direct to consumer market, there is value to be had at the cost of performance, but with Snell golf balls, you get the best of both worlds.

Founder Dean Snell has been in the golf ball business for over 25 years, and with Snell Golf, you can skip the middle man and go directly to the source—and save money. Beyond just saving money on one dozen, the more you buy, the more you save. When you buy 5 dozen (hopefully that’s at least a season’s worth for most golfers on your list), it breaks down to only $28.99 a box!

Buy now. 

Cleveland Huntington Beach Soft Premier putters: $129

Golfers love milled putters, and Cleveland Golf’s Huntington Beach Soft Premier line proves that you can get a milled putter packed with technology for under $150.

The Huntington Beach Soft Premier line is all about enhancing the looks and feel of the putter while continuing to offer familiar shapes and proven technology. The grey satin finish reduces glare and offers a premium look—without a premium price.

Buy here. 

GoSports Golf Practice Net: $79.99

Practicing your golf game shouldn’t just be a nice weather activity, and whether it’s winter or summer unless you are a member at a club or have already purchased a membership at a local range, buckets of golf balls can really add up.

Buy here. 

Golf Avenue gift card

Golf Avenue is one of the largest online shops for used clubs, and there is no better value when it comes to gear than buying used. They also offer a huge selection of new closeout priced bags, shoes, and accessories to help outfit any golfer with the essentials.

Buy here. 

Imperial hat: >$30

The Imperial brand is over 100 years old, but they never rest on their laurels and are constantly working on new designs and partnering with others to create unique collections. From dogs to donuts they have fun graphics and styles to find the perfect fit for any golfer on your list. You can get what amounts to a premium, custom hat at a reasonable price.

Buy here. 

Linksoul Gaiter Gift Box: $65

When it comes to premium face coverings that are stylish to boot, Linksoul’s offerings are first in class. And with the average price of a quality poly/cotton-blend gater running in the $20-25 range, take advance of the opportunity to snag four for $65.

Buy here.

Caddy Tek CaddyLite V3 3-wheel push cart: $176

There is no better way to enjoy a round of golf than walking the course, and with the Caddy Tek CaddyLite V3 you can do that in style and at a great price. It’s compact and comes with an umbrella holder along with an undercarriage cooler bag to keep your clubs and accessories at your fingertips as you stroll the course in style.

Buy here.

Gogogo ProGS24 Laser Rangefinder: $90

Nobody wants to be the “What yardage did you get?” golfer in your group, and with the Gogogo laser range finder, you won’t have to be! It can measure larger objects up to 650 yards, but also has a “flagpole locking function” to help get you locked onto the pin inside of 150 yards, along with 6X magnification for ease of use. For less than $100, it’s hard to find a better value and more highly rated (4.5 stars on Amazon.com) laser range finder!

Buy here. 

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GolfWRX Classifieds (11/23/20): Tour issue TaylorMade M5, Ping G410 LST, Jones Trooper bag

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for 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 – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds 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

Member mykdel – Jones Utility Trooper bag

Jones makes some of the nicest carry bags on the market for walkers and this Utility Trooper is in amazing shape and for a crazy good price – best to act fast on this one.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Jones Trooper bag 

Member mupepperbuy – Ping G410 LST driver

The only thing nicer than the G410 LST driver are these pictures of said driver for sale. Even with the G410, the G400 LST continues to be popular with golfers of all skill levels thanks to its low spin performance and stability.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Ping G400 LST

Member Snipzky9 – TaylorMade Tour Issue M5 driver head

Unlike the modern SIM, the TaylorMade M5 was never released to the public in an 8° head – only as a tour issue item, which makes this head particularly rare.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: M5 Tour Head

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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