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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Is Feel the Future of Golf Tech?

Feel means so many different things to a golfer. That cheap golf ball “feels” like a rock off the tee. A great short game is as much about “feel” as anything else. We love how soft a forged blade “feels” when we catch the sweet spot. We were really “feeling” it out there after a great round.

I took the liberty of typing “golf feel” into Google for you. Here are the top 10 results:

  1. Bubba Watson is one of many feel players on PGA Tour

  2. Top 10 Feel Tips

  3. Are you a feel or mechanical golfer?

  4. Mechanics Are Important, But You Play by Feel

  5. Feel Vs Real Golf Lesson

  6. Feel the Weight of the Golf Swing 

  7. Feel the clubhead (golf lesson)

  8. How to Feel a Real Golf Swing

  9. Easy Method to Master the Mental Game and Play by Feel

  10. How Does a Perfect Golf Downswing Feel Like?

So, feel isn't anything new to the game. Most marketing blurbs contain some statement on how great a club, ball, or putter feels. But, as technology continues to bump up against the regulated limited in golf, is feel the next great battleground? Can manufacturers improve how their equipment feels? Will they be able to produce, and will the player realize, that new equipment gives better feedback or at least feels better to play than other gear? Will players spend their money to get it?

Forged irons have long held the claim of better feel over their cast competitors. The cost plus the challenge of getting forged to perform for the average player have been limiting factors. But what if a manufacturer engineers a process that gives you the performance of forged with the forgiveness and price of cast? Some already claim to be there.

We’re already the battle for feel fought in the golf ball space. Costco has turned the premium ball market on its head with their Kirkland Signature balls. Nearly if not the exact same performance and feel characteristics of other premium balls at 1/3 the price. Costco can’t make enough of them and competitors can’t get similar mid-priced balls on the market fast enough.

The premium wedge market is also becoming hot. It isn’t enough to promote spin and playability. Players want a wedge that gives them feel as well. The answer for feel has been forged wedges. The downside has been that a forged wedge will wear faster than a harder (and usually less expensive) cast competitor. But what if a manufacture can figure out how to give you the performance and feel of forged with the durability and price of cast?  Not just because they say so, but, because it performs as advertised. Most players carry at least 2 and sometimes 4 wedges. A nice market to win.

Then we get to the holy grail of clubs: the driver. Distance and accuracy at a price we can live with. The clubs at the high end of the market are about maxed out right now. They are the most regulated club in the bag and the top manufacturers are scrambling to come up with new engineering solutions to make them perform better and still be legal. But what if they begin to promote feel? A club that performs at the limit but is best at providing you that feel and feedback you need to perform at your limit. Could be a game changer.

None of this matter if players don’t embrace the idea of wanting better feel from their equipment. In the age of the launch monitor many players have become addicted to stats instead of feel. Plus, who’s to argue that if a club performs better than what we have in the bag that we may not care that it feels like hitting a stone with a brick taped to the end of an iron bar. But with the right technology and price, what if they can put a club in your hand that performs and feels great doing it? It may be about the only place left for golf and its equipment manufacturers to go.

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