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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Will the limits of golf only be available to the luxury market?

Callaway Enters Premium Market with Epic Irons Toney Covey for MyGolfSpy.com
Prices start at $250 per iron, leaving little doubt that Callaway intends on entering, and if all goes well, impacting in the growing performance at a price segment of the golf equipment market. PXG may be chipping away at the mainstream, but that market's biggest player is ready to chip back.

Creating a premium product to reflect well on the balance of your offerings is nothing new. The auto industry has done this from the beginning. General Motors can build a 220mph Corvette. Along with serving a premium market it also adds a performance image to their entire Chevy line. You can buy that 220mph beast and drive it on the public roads as long as you are willing to obey the speed limits. Take it to a track and you can enjoy everything the car has to offer. However, every other Chevy they sell will also allow you to drive to the legal limit. Maybe not with the same level of luxury, but, it gets the job done. All of their products will meet the maximum speed allowed by law.

You cannot manufacture a golf club with extreme performance. The USGA and R&A will rule the club non-conforming. Clubs must be limited to the speed limit at the factory so to speak. But, what is stopping manufacturers from taking their premium products up to that limit and then limiting their mid-level clubs even more?

Club manufacturers have been pushing up against the regulated limits of the game for years. Recent improvements in performance have been as much snake oil as technology. That new 7-iron flies farther because it's essentially the same as the 6-iron in your current set.

Could manufacturers decide to further limit their mid-level products? Could premium clubs continue to push against the limits of the USGA and R&A with mid-level products allowed to fall behind? Would this encourage golfers to spend more on the premium product?

What if you have to start buying that Corvette just to be able to drive the speed limit?

The market for premium equipment is so small right now that it's unlikely that a manufacturer would risk their mid-level sales with such a move. But, as golf continues to recover from recent contractions we may see a day that a premium product does begin to buy you significantly better performance. Innovations may come to the premium product lines first and then trickle down through the other product lines in coming years. Just like in the auto industry.

Playing with the highest performing equipment the rules of golf allow may be about to get really expensive.


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