Companies Hope Game Improvement Products Will Improve Equipment Market

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The latest:
 
GAME IMPROVEMENT HOGAN: Despite a history that includes several popular models for mortals, the Ben Hogan brand sometimes suffers from the misconception that its irons, though beautiful, have microscopic sweet spots. Therefore, the myth continues they are only for low handicappers.
 
Ben Hogan CFT IronNot so, says Spalding Sports Worldwide, Hogans owner for the last few years. The new Ben Hogan CFT (for compressed forged titanium) irons, which will reach stores as early as next week, are Spaldings offer of proof.
 
The titanium is in the face; the rest of the clubhead is stainless steel. Spalding says this helps with weight placement, always an issue in clubs for players who are looking for a little extra vertical lift. The clubs also feature the companys proprietary Apex shaft, which helps with a higher launch angle.
 
The clubs are expected to retail at about $600 for an eight-club set in steel shafts and $750 with graphite shafts. Left-handed models will be available in February.
 
SPEAKING OF IMPROVEMENT: Some brands have chosen to make getting better a company-wide theme. Kasco Corp. of America, the U.S. version of a Japanese brand that has been around since 1964, is aggressively pursuing game improvement customers with big drivers and corresponding fairway woods. The 103 series features a driver with a 340 cc head and a very thin face, Kasco says. The driver and the fairways woods are available now at $499 suggested retail for the driver, $450 for each fairway wood. (Matching irons are due in February.) Wood buyers in 2003 will get a free lesson with a local pro, and will be entered in a sweepstakes for a week at Kasco endorser Jim McLeans golf school at Doral.
 
NIKE GOES LOW, AND LOW: Thanks to Precepts Lady ball, the low-compression distance ball segment appears to be here to stay. Latest entry: Nikes Power Distance Super-Soft (hows that for getting the keywords into the product name?), which the worlds largest sporting goods company touts as a ball for the masses. But so far, its appeal has expanded to encompass distance-loving, skilled players as well, Nike execs say.
 
The 70-compression ball has also been positioned as a low-cost option at $20 per dozen suggested retail. One could almost believe the marketplace has spoken ' and been listened to.