At the PGA Show in Orlando last week, the new geometries launched two seasons ago that brought high-MOI to the norm now are slowly ebbing back toward traditional. For the most part, vendors appeared to be moving back toward a more traditional business model as well, launching families of products with two year life cycles. Instead of launching the driver this year and the fairway woods and hybrids next, many manufacturers had families of all three on display. Value was often tabbed as a key attribute on display for many vendors, though the definition of value is always up for definition.
Titleist, which has been locked in a design infringement suit with Callaway over the Pro V1 golf ball, partly used the two year life cycle argument to launch a “new, improved” Pro V1 golf ball. The company hosted presentations on both Thursday and Friday morning to introduce the new ball as well as the new 909 family. All eyes were forward with new products and an impassioned plea to retailers to help remain true to the two year product life cycle.
At Callaway, the major launches continued the FT family with the FT-iQ, which was launched in November and the FT-9, which will be at retail in February. The company is keeping the iMix program running, with both drivers available for February. On the family front, Callaway launched the Big Bertha Diablo family with driver, fairway woods and hybrids, and golf ball.
Mizuno brought the MX-700 series to market with driver through hybrid available. The family features a “Hot Metal” titanium face with a vertically aligned grain that is said to expand COR area and increase ball speed.
The Cleveland/Srixon booth was busy on the floor, with two new driver models available, the Hi Bore Monster of the new geometry school and the Launcher of a more traditional design. However, quietly making waves were tonal camo Wedges that seem likely to draw in the Boo Weekley fans. Sources at the company said that support from new parent company SRI Sports was the best they had received since the acquisition by Rossignol. Where before the company was used to offset a winter heavy sales schedule, Cleveland is now being given the money it makes at year-end to re-invest in the business. The company also launched Cleveland Classics apparel. The line is quiet and traditional.
Bridgestone Golf continued to place the greatest emphasis on golf balls, and the recent bout between Titleist and Callaway has diverted some of its top competitions attention away from the company as its ball business continues to thrive.
Lower price points may also boost margins for Wilson Golf, which introduced its Staff Di9 iron, constructed with a low-profile head designed for higher ball flight. A wide sole moves the center of gravity back, adding stability, while a wider shaft tip reduces club head twisting on off-center hits.
Nickent, a relatively small club manufacturer specializing in hybrids, displayed its 5th generation hybrid for 2009. The 5DX Ironwood, which Nickent has anointed “The Longest and Straightest Hybrid Ever,” is an all stainless steel hybrid featuring a new shape and new “wings” on the back of the club head designed to optimize the center of gravity and increase the moment of inertia (MOI). Nickent says the increased MOI and a stronger loft means significant increases in distance. Nickent also placed an emphasis on its driver line, highlighted by the companys newest release, the 3DX RC. The RC features directional control weighting with a tungsten polymer plug that helps close the face at impact, reducing the chances that the golfer will slice the ball. Nickent may be a company to keep an eye on, as the conservative price points and an increasing presence on the tour will allow the company to continue to eat up market share.
In putters, the general story seemed to be a return to traditional as vendors focused on tweaking and perfecting classic designs with modern tech.
At Heavy Putter, it was a movement toward what the consumer demanded that brought out the Mid-Weight series. Where traditional Heavy Putter models weighed 900 grams, the new series tips the scale at 750. Research conducted by the company found that consumers who shied away from the brand because of a break from more traditional configurations would choose to put a 750 gram version of a more modern design. The result: the Mid-Weight series with a quieter black/grey grip that blends in more to the shelf, but is more likely to end up in a golfers bag.
Yes! Golf launched its Pro Series of forged putters that features an interchangeable hosel system. Basically, it is the interchangeable shaft system introduced in drivers around the industry last year, taken to putters. However, the idea is not one of swapping out putter shafts before rounds, but rather selling to the academy and teachers market. Rather than having a room filled with putters, teachers can show students the effect that a change in putter configuration can have on their game, while also finding just the right set-up.