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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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Whats in the Bag

Patrick Reed WITB 2021 (July)

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Patrick Reed what’s in the bag accurate as of The Olympics. 

Driver: Titleist TSi3 (9 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue Silver 125 MSI 70 TX

(Photo via Sports Marketing Surveys)

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM (15 degrees)
Shaft: Aldila Rogue Black 130 MSI 80 TX

Hybrid: Callaway Apex Pro (20 degrees)
Shaft: UST Mamiya Recoil Prototype 95

Irons: Grindworks PR-202 (4) Grindworks PR-101A (5-PW)
Shafts:  True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Artisan Proto (51), Vokey SM8 (56-08M), Vokey WedgeWorks Proto (60)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

(Photo via Sports Marketing Surveys)

Putter: Odyssey White Hot Pro 3

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Featured image via @sms_on_tour

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Equipment

Titleist launches new U505 utility and T200 long irons

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Titleist has introduced its new U505 utility and T200 long irons, which are available for fittings today and will hit retail on August 26.

The new U505 utility irons and T200 long irons from Titleist will offer players seven new opportunities for golfers looking to increase launch and spin from their utility and long irons, including four options in the new U505 model and three irons from the new T200 family.

Note: This is the tour U505. The retail version doesn’t have the hotmelt port.

“The new U•505 is the direct result of tour player feedback of the originalU•500 and U•510utility irons. The U•505 combines the best of both, and the result is our highest performing and most playable utility iron yet. The new T200 long irons offer similar high launch and speed with the look and feel of an iron set at the top of the bag.” – Josh Talge, Vice President, Titleist Golf Club Marketing

2021 Titleist U•505 utility: ‘The Players Utility Irons’

The new U•505 utility iron from Titleist is a wide-soled, high-launching club designed for the player looking to increase launch and speed from their long irons with a faster face.

With a thinner forged L-Face and the infusion of Max Impact Technology (Max Impact 2.0), the U•505 is Titleist’s highest COR utility iron ever.

The club features a new reconfigured hollow body, core support structure, and enhanced high resilience polymer core in design to ensure that dynamic speed generation now comes with a superior feel and sound.

Utilizing Denser D18 tungsten weights and a brazing process used in aerospace construction, Titleist engineers could concentrate weight more efficiently and be even more precise with CG placement. In the U•505 utility iron, that meant sliding it lower and towards the heel, where according to the company, tour pros and better players felt it improved launch dynamics the most.

The U•505 was designed with a shorter blade and shallow face but kept the wide sole to maintain all of the performance advantages of its predecessors while moving towards a look that feels more in line with an irons set.

Specs & Pricing

The new Titleist U•505 utility irons are priced at $249 (HZRDUS shaft) per club.

2021 Titleist T200 long irons: ‘Performance and Technology’

The new T200 long irons are designed for the better player looking for long irons to increase launch and speed at the top of their bag.

The improved Max Impact Technology in the new long irons from Titleist includes a core support design and an enhanced high resilience polymer core designed to improve both off-center speed and mass efficiency at impact across a forged, high COR SUP-10 L-Face Insert.

An engineered muscle plate contributes to precision sound tuning and saves weight which is optimized in a streamlined 17-4 chassis.

The retail version doesn’t have the hotmelt port.

The T200 long irons also feature a shorter blade length, less offset (same as the new T100), narrower topline and thinner sole. The combination of all of this is in design to provide long irons with a tour-inspired look and feel while delivering maximum speed and distance.

In addition, the long irons utilize denser D18 tungsten weights, which seek to provide greater mass efficiency, while also allowing Titleist engineers to position the CG more precisely in design for faster, more forgiving, and higher launching long irons.

Specs & Pricing

The new Titleist T200 long irons are priced at $249 (Project X HZRDUS shaft).

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Equipment

Titleist introduces next-generation T-Series irons

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After much anticipation since tour seeding started in June, Titleist has introduced its latest iteration of the T100 iron with four models: 2021 T100, T100S, T200, and T300, coming to retail on August 26.

The new T-Series iron family features new materials, processes, and refinements designed to provide exacting precision, performance, and unmatched feel, with a model for every golfer’s needs, according to the company. 

“The new T-Series irons represent another step forward in Titleist iron design and technology. With these new irons, across the board, every detail matters. They provide the best precision and performance in their respective iron category with stunning aesthetics and feel. Golfers don’t buy an iron ‘line’, they want specialization, and that’s what each of these models offer.” – Josh Talge, Vice President, Titleist Golf Club Marketing

2021 Titleist T100 iron: ‘The Modern Tour Iron’

The “player’s iron” of the new family, the T100 iron features an all-new Tour-designed sole, which was inspired by discussions with both the tour staff and the Vokey wedge design team. It features a new variable bounce sole design, which provides less bounce in the heel and more bounce in the toe to facilitate better turf interaction and improved feel.

The new T100 face features a continuous cradle construction that aims to provide a seamless striking surface and a more uniform leading edge than its predecessor.

A fully forged, dual cavity supports the face construction, and the faces on the 3-7 irons have been redesigned to impart slightly more spin for improved shot-shaping and increased control. The 8-PW are forged with one-piece 1025 carbon steel.

In addition, by utilizing a denser version of tungsten (D18) weights in the heel and toe of the 3-7 irons for greater mass efficiency and a brazing process used in aerospace construction, Titleist engineers were able to eliminate weld points and be even more precise with CG placement to produce the highest MOI in a “players iron.’

Jordan Spieth put the new T100 irons (4-9) in his bag earlier this month at The Open Championship, and speaking on the new clubs said

“The sole just glides through the ground so nicely. With the added bounce off the toe and the reduced bounce in the heel similar to the wedges that we have on those grinds, it just allows for some consistency when you get a little bit off. The idea that you can be on uneven lies and have it kind of make up for that, and then if you get in the rough and have it not drag as much, but instead slide through just as easily, that’s where we see the improvement in these irons.”

Jessica Korda is another high profile player to put the T100 irons (5-9) into play recently as well as a T200 4-iron, and said on the new irons from Titleist:

“They’re just really pure. It’s like I’m hitting blades, but you’re not. I loved how solid they felt. The height on them is incredible. It’s exactly what I’m looking for, especially in the longer irons.

“The consistency is what I look for. Because when I’m standing over the ball and I need this thing to travel a number that I have in my head, and I can rely on that and just be like, just make a good swing, it takes so much of the guesswork out of it and it makes you commit to the shot more. I don’t change often. It has to beat what I have, and this is really nice. To be even better, to help me hold greens like I need to with the longer irons, especially going into par fives, it’s really, really nice.”

Specs & Pricing

The new Titleist T100 irons are priced at $186 per club and $1,299 per 7-piece set (steel).

2021 Titleist T100S irons: ‘The Faster Tour Iron’

Aimed at players who want the feel of a tour iron but who want added distance, the new T100S head dimensions exactly match the specs of the T100, except for being engineered – not bent – two degrees stronger.

The iron also features the same fully forged face, backed by an innovative Muscle Channel designed to add both speed and launch. 

Like the T100, the new T100S face features a continuous cradle construction designed to create a seamless striking surface and a more uniform leading edge.

A fully forged, dual cavity supports the face construction, with the 3-7 iron faces redesigned to impart slightly more spin for improved shot-shaping and increased control, while the 8-W are forged with one-piece 1025 carbon steel.

In addition, utilizing denser D18 tungsten weights and a brazing process used in aerospace construction, the T100S irons feature the exact precise CG calibration as the T100 irons.

Weight savings from the Muscle Channel are shifted to produce even lower CG and higher launch, resulting in improved MOI and increased ball speed from a solid, fully forged design.

“The uniqueness of the T100•S comes from the fact that we engineered the 2* stronger loft into the iron rather than just bend them. The reason for this is to keep the integrity of the sole and optimize its performance through the turf. That would be lost by simply bending a T100.

“In addition, the ‘S’ represents ‘speed’ and the new Muscle Channel delivers it through the long and mid irons by providing longer distance, tighter dispersion and higher angle of descent for greater consistency and scoring opportunities. It has the same look and feel of the T100 but longer flight for those who want it.” – Marni Ines, Director, Titleist Irons Development, Golf Club R&D

Specs & Pricing

The new Titleist T100S irons are priced at $186 per club and $1,299 per 7-piece set (steel).

2021 Titleist T200 irons: ‘The Tour’s Distance Iron’

The retail T200 doesn’t have the hotmelt port pictured on the tour version.

With 10 different patents utilized, Titleist is calling its new T200 iron its most advanced iron ever.

The improved Max Impact Technology (Max Impact 2.0) in the T200 iron now includes a core support design and an enhanced high resilience polymer core designed to improve both off-center speed and mass efficiency at impact across a forged, high COR SUP-10 L-Face Insert.

An engineered muscle plate seeks to contribute to precision sound tuning and saves weight, which is optimized in the new, streamlined 17-4 chassis.

A shorter blade length, less offset (same as T100), narrower topline and thinner sole provides a tour-inspired look and feel while still aiming to provide maximum speed and distance.

As with the other clubs in the T-series family, Titleist utilized denser D18 tungsten weights in the 3-7 irons of the T200 irons for greater mass efficiency and a brazing process used in aerospace construction allowed engineers to position the CG more precisely for maximum benefit in every club.

“Many golfers want the benefit of advanced technology in an iron –and the T200 is our most advanced iron yet – but they don’t necessarily want to see it. All of that ‘Max Impact’ technology-and more-is now ‘under the hood’ in the new T200, so it looks and feels like a Tour-played iron but has the game improvement qualities preferred or required by this golfer.

“With the evolution of Max Impact, we were able to include an Engineered Muscle Plate that allowed us to free up weight and add lightweight polymer and over 100g of high-density tungsten to the design. The result was extremely high MOI properties at Tour inspired blade lengths which allows the iron face to return more energy to the golf ball on off center shots and produce tighter dispersion and more consistent distance.” – Marni Ines, Director, Titleist Irons Development, Golf Club R&D

Specs & Pricing

The new Titleist T200 irons are priced at $186 per club and $1,299 per 7-piece set (steel).

2021 Titleist T300 irons: ‘The Ultimate Game Improvement Iron’

Aimed at those seeking high launch along with long-distance and forgiveness, the new T300 iron features Max Impact technology which seeks to maximize speed across a new variable face thickness (VFT) design.

The Max Impact 2.0 technology in the T300 irons is hidden under the badge. A cantilever core support structure features a new high resilience polymer core in design to deliver maximum speed and distance control.

The T300 now employs a High COR Variable Face Design that is thinner towards the heel in the long and mid irons to improve performance at what is traditionally one of the least effective strike points.

The high-density tungsten (D18) weights are utilized in the heel and toe of the 4-7 irons for greater mass efficiency. In addition, Titleist engineers were able to add 40 percent more tungsten than was in the previous generation T300 through a brazing process applied from aerospace construction usually reserved for Tour-played irons.

The size and shape of the T300 is designed to provide confidence, while a new chrome-plated finish offers a premium look.

“The T300 is the ultimate Titleist game improvement iron. It is for the golfer who wants high launch, long distance and forgiveness, and wants to see the technology they are using. This model utilizes the Max Impact 2.0 technology which is featured in a sleek, clean package at addres sfor which Titleist irons are known.

The design team retained the offset, shape and size, but was able to add 40 percent more tungsten to this iron, precisely lower the CG and meet the performance needs of this golfer.” – Josh Talge, Vice President, Titleist Golf Club Marketing

Specs & Pricing

The new Titleist T200 irons are priced at $143 per club and $999 per 7-piece set (steel).

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