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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Retailers continue to wait for the next big thing in golf

Over the coming weeks, we can expect to see several announcements from the major golf equipment manufacturers. Already, we're seeing initial looks at Callaway's new Rogue and Rogue Sub Zero line of drivers. Not long ago, Cobra announced their new F8 line of drivers, fairway, hybrids, and irons. We can certainly expect many more announcements to come soon. All of this is leading up to the all-important 2018 PGA Merchandise Show to be held in Orlando, Florida from January 23rd through 28th.

Will any of this equipment be revolutionary? Will there be any equipment that will move the needle to allow the average player to significantly improve their game? The manufacturers will certainly work to make you believe that their clubs will do exactly that. The USGA and R&A will work hard to make sure that they do not.

Those in golf retail continue to struggle with the constant turn-over of product lines from the major manufacturers. This year's miracle becomes last year's dead stock. This dead stock then needs to be moved out at a steep discount to make room for next year's miracle. Golfers who play the latest shiny offering love this system because there's always something new to experiment with. Bargain-seeking golfers love this system because there's always something in the discount bin that's nearly as shiny to experiment with. Testing by the USGA and R&A is meant to ensure that in terms of real performance, many of these clubs are basically the same.

All of the premium offerings from the major equipment manufacturers are engineered to push right up against the limits set by the ruling bodies of golf. You can certainly buy a bad club. It's strictly regulated to make it impossible for you to buy a club that is significantly better than the premium clubs from last year. Or, put more simply, testing results will prove whether a particular club is inferior but it will not be certified as legal if it performs better than the maximum set by rule.

Yes, it may be possible to engineer a club that performs more consistently. It may have a larger sweet spot or be more forgiving when the strike finds the heel or toe. But, when hit from the center of the face, a club is restricted to only perform so well for any given swing speed.

Golf YouTuber Randy Smith recently posted the following video to his Fried Eggs Golf channel discussing the struggle that golf retailers are facing waiting for the next big thing to come along in golf and golf equipment:


His thesis is very telling. Ultimately, there really hasn't been a significant change in the quality of golf equipment in a long time and they're concerned that there isn't anything new on the horizon. Custom fitting has helped golfers make sure that they're playing equipment that allows them to maximize their performance, but, which club they choose is becoming a zero-sum game.

Yes, technology has improved incrementally over the years. If the clubs in your bag are a decade old you'll likely see improvement from a new set of premium sticks. If you purchased your last set of clubs off of the rack, you may see an improvement in performance following a quality custom fitting session and customization of either those clubs or a game-matched set of new equipment. But, if you currently play a set of custom fit clubs from just a year or two ago, don't expect to find any significant improvements from this year's offerings.

As the average golfer becomes more aware of that reality it's putting club manufacturers and golf retailers like Bobick's in a tough spot. Most golfers want more than just a new look. They want improved performance. Maybe this year we'll see a company that finds a way to do it within the rules. Maybe we won't.
Image courtesy of Cobra Golf
Video link courtesy of Fried Eggs Golf

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