The Acushnet Golf division of Fortune Brands, Inc., which includes the Titleist, FootJoy, COBRA and Pinnacle brands, reported that fourth quarter sales rose 1.8% to $195.8 million, compared to $192.3 million in the year-ago period. Operating income for the division fell 52.3% to just $2.1 million from $4.4 million in the 2003 fourth quarter. Management said that results were “impacted by the wind down of certain products in advance of new product launches.”

Management said that combined market share for the Titleist and Pinnacle golf ball brands rose two full points to “a record at on and off course U.S. golf shops” in Q4, which is approaching the 50% mark. They said the strongest gains have been at on-course golf shops.

Golf Club category sales were “off modestly” versus a double-digit increase in the year-ago quarter, which the company attributed to “a function of close-outs and the year-over-year timing of new product launches.”

FootJoy closed a year of double-digit growth, including double-digit gains in Europe and Asia. Management said that FootJoy maintained its Golf Shoe market share above 50% in the U.S. and now exceeds 50% for the first time in Europe. Combined with Titleist, Glove share is also above 50%.

The company said that its share of inventories at retail continues to run below its market share position in key categories.

For the year, Acushnet Golf posted an 8.1% increase in revenues to $1.21 billion from $1.12 billion in 2003. Operating income for the division rose 10.6% to $153.6, compared to $139.1 million last year.

Management said its long-term goal for the Golf division is to grow operating income before charges at a low- to mid-single-digit rate, a range they expect to achieve in 2005.