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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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Equipment

Ben Hogan adds GS53 MAX driver to lineup

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Ben Hogan golf is throwing its Hogan flat cap into the ring and entering the MAX driver-category with the introduction of the all-new 460cc GS53 MAX driver.

The GS53 MAX creates extra forgiveness, thanks in part to its multi-material construction and a 22-percent larger and 11-percent taller face than the current GS53. For those that love the original GS53, don’t worry it will continue to remain in the line, with the new MAX being a line extension for those looking to get extra help on shots missed around the face.

The driver is constructed from 4 distinct pieces

  • Carbon composite crown to reduce mass around the top of the driver’s head and to push more mass low to increase MOI.
  • Forged face for precision, and ball speed
  • Titanium soleplate with perimeter mass
  • Tungsten weight at the rear of the sole to further increase MOI and help increase launch while reducing spin.

Thanks in part to the weight savings from the crown, the titanium soleplate has more mass positioned away from the face and around the edges to increase the stability of the head, and to acoustically tune the driver for a solid sound at impact.

“The combination of the lightweight composite crown and tungsten sole weight allows us to position the Center of Mass so that we maximize launch while decreasing the amount of ball spin. This provides a higher ball flight, especially for players who don’t have Tour-caliber clubhead speeds for increased carry and roll out. “
– Scott White, CEO, Ben Hogan Golf Company.

The GS53 MAX driver will initially be available right-handed and come in lofts of 9° and 10.5°. It will be adjustable using their proprietary hosel adjustment system known as “flight control”, which offers the ability to add or decrease loft by 1° and lie angle all while never having to worry about realigning the shaft/grip.

The last part of the driver puzzle is the shafts options and to increase the value to consumers the GS53 MAX comes with the choice of three premium aftermarket shafts including:

  • Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black for golfers seeking a lower trajectory
  • Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei CK Blue for golfers seeking a mid trajectory
  • UST Mamiya Helium for those seeking a higher trajectory

Price, specs, and availability 

Thanks to Ben Hogan Golf’s direct-to-consumer model, the new 460cc GS53 MAX, is available starting today fior $355.00 with the choice of the 3 premium shaft options.

For more information on other Ben Hogan clubs including fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, and putters or to purchase the GS53 MAX Driver visit www.benhogangolf.com.

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Equipment

U.S. retail golf equipment sales exceed record $1 billion mark

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This summer, golf saw a surge in business as states emerged from COVID lockdown and equipment sales is one of the areas that has been booming.

On Wednesday, Golf Datatech, an industry research firm, announced that U.S. retail golf equipment sales surpassed the $1 billion mark for the third quarter – which is the first time sales have reached $1 billion for July, August and September.

That figure also represents the second-highest quarter ($1.013 billion in Q2, 2008) of all-time, and per Golf Datatech, golf equipment sales for 2020 are up a whopping 42% over the same period in 2019.

Speaking on the incredible surge in equipment sales, John Krzynowek, Partner, Golf Datatech, LLC, said

“The story keeps getting better as golf continues to surge coming out of the shutdown, and Q3 equipment sales suggests that 2020 will likely end up positive for the entire year. Year-to-date sales for total equipment are now up 0.2% compared to 2019, and considering the size of the hole created by the shutdown in April and May this recovery has been nothing short of remarkable. While the US economy will not enjoy a ‘V Shaped Recovery’ in 2020, if golf continues on this trajectory we will be there soon.”

Per the company, the best selling items for September were golf bags at +19% and wedges at +18%, while golf shoes were +2%.

Overall, the golf club category was +0.9% for the month, with balls and gloves trending slightly lower at -2.7%. Krzynowek also revealed that rounds played was another area with surging numbers:

“These month-over-month sales records are unlike anything we’ve ever seen since Golf Datatech started tracking performance data in 1997. Our Rounds Played data also shows similar record-breaking growth over the past several months, which is a strong indication that avid golfers and newcomers alike are driving the sport to new levels right now.”

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Equipment

‘Play a big driver. Why not big irons?’ – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been discussing the case for big irons. WRXer ‘2Down’ plays a Ping G410+ driver and has recently put Ping’s G710 irons in the bag, saying:

“Wondered how many play a large headed driver and play a draw or fade off the tee but when they pull an iron it’s some blade size thing so they can “work” the ball.

Recently I put G710 in the bag and answered my question for myself. They feel different for sure, but I am quickly adapting to only bringing the putter with me to the green.”

Our members have been discussing the combination in our forums.

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.

  • Itsjustagame: “Personal preference but big irons tend to have more bounce, more offset and wider soles some or all of which may not suit a particular player.”
  • Fairway14: “Driver is played from a lie with the ball sitting on a tee, irons are played from a variety of lie types.”
  • J13: “They don’t really make “big” irons for players. Most have offset low CG for high launch, and super strong lofts.”
  • LeoLeo99: “I love my big irons. G400. Best I’ve ever used.”

Entire Thread: “Play a big driver. Why not big irons?”

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