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Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020

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As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.

Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.

TaylorMade became educators…and kicked off live golf again

Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.

Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.

Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.

PXG leaned in

Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.

The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.

Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.

In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.

Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.

The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.

Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled

Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.

There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.

Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.

Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.

Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”

Cobra Rev 33 Irons

Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.

It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.

What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.

Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.

It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.

The Titleist train chugged on

I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.

So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.

It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.

Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to

Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.

The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.

As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.

Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball

Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.

However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.

 

 

 

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Johnny Wunder is the Director of Original Content, Instagram Manager and Host of “The Gear Dive” Podcast for GolfWRX.com. He was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. John is also a partner with The Traveling Picture Show Company having most recently produced JOSIE with Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner. In 1997 Johnny had the rare opportunity of being a clubhouse attendant for the Anaheim Angels. He now resides in Toronto, On with his wife and two sons. @johnny_wunder on IG

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Cambo

    May 28, 2020 at 6:58 am

    Anyone else try to push play on the Lee Westwood image???

  2. Cody Reeder

    May 27, 2020 at 9:46 am

    I need those Rickie Fowler blades. It is a neck and neck race with me as to which brand has been in my bag more. Cobra, or Mizuno. They are wildly different but I have loved both.

    I was a huge Greg Norman fan back in the day, so I have always been drawn to Cobra.

  3. Radim

    May 27, 2020 at 1:13 am

    What about Mizuno?

    • Simon

      May 28, 2020 at 2:13 am

      Yeah I’m really excited about the new updates to the JPX919 Hot Metals. Thinking they should be due Q4 2020 unless any COVID related delays.

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Equipment

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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