It was a relatively slow spring for new products, but things are looking up golf gearheads as summer begins. Heres the skinny:
WHAT: Spalding Ben Hogan Apex Tour golf ball
WHEN: Shipping July 1
HOW MUCH: Suggested retail is $58 per dozen, but the street price will probably settle in at just above $40.
WHATS UP: Ben Hogan golf balls rivaled Titleist for PGA Tour dominance in the 1970s, but the brand declined in the early 90s after the Hogan Co. endured a number of ownership changes. Spalding took over in 1997 and concentrated on clubs first. Now Spalding is ready to extend the brand again to golf balls with a better-player entry to compliment its Strata and Top-Flite sub-brands.
The construction is four-piece: A soft inner core about the size of a pea transfers energy, Spalding says. A slightly harder rubber core material surrounds that. Then comes a hard inner cover to add distance, all wrapped in a soft and very thin urethane outer cover, which is supposed to add spin for greenside control. As many manufacturers have done in recent years, Spalding claims this ball marries distance and feel, properties once thought to be mutually exclusive in golf balls.
Spalding, which has been struggling in the market the past couple of years, is pinning a lot of hopes on this new ball ' and a lot of money. Now that Spaldings debt is restructured, the company is free to launch a $20 million marketing and advertising effort to support the new product.
Len Mattiace, Bernhard Langer, Hal Sutton, Dennis Paulson and Mark Brooks are among the tour players who have already put the new Hogan ball into play.
WHAT: FootJoy GelFusion golf shoes
HOW MUCH: Suggested retail is $185.
WHATS UP: FootJoy calls its new outsole independent suspension for your feet. The iSuspension mechanism ties a titanium midsole stability bridge to a plastic key that in turn links to the forefoot, so the foot can move medially and laterally as well as fore and aft, FootJoy says. Theres also a special flexibility channel across the bend point under the ball of the foot.
Gel in the heel and the ankle collar help the fit, FootJoy claims, and a special in-shoe foam controls foot temperature and moisture.
FootJoys market dominance is solid, but its premium shoe ($100+) market share of 55.3 percent is flat versus last year. No. 2 Nike is far away at 18 percent, but gained 5 percent last year. On top of all this, the world shoe market is down about 6 percent in the United States, Europe and the Pacific Basin.
The GelFusion is the first new premium model for FootJoy since the Dry I.C.E in 1999. The GelFusion is $15 cheaper than Dry I.C.E. was.
In other shoe segments, FootJoy is replacing its Fit Dogs 2-year waterproof guarantee product with the new X-Dimension, which features an X-shaped stability bridge in the outsole. That shoe will cost $120, versus the old $130 asking price for the Fit Dogs.
In between X-Dimension and the top lines are FootJoys bedrock DryJoys product. In its 13-year history, DryJoys have been through eight design iterations, and they have been consistently popular: If DryJoys were its own company, it would be the No. 3 shoe brand all by itself. To keep the retail price from inflating, FootJoy reengineered some features (without affecting quality, the company promises) and dropped the price from $160 to $145.
FootJoys eComfort entry-level brand will replace the Sierra Treks; retail will be $85 versus the Sierra price of $100. And at the very top remain FootJoy Classics, the leather-soled standby, which is $300 in the Dry Premiere waterproof line and $250 in the simpler water resistant model.
WHAT: Adams Golf GT 363R high-COR driver
WHEN: Shipping July 1
HOW MUCH: Suggested retail price not yet released
WHATS UP: This driver carries the .860 coefficient of restitution that will be legal for recreational players from Jan. 1, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2007. It has a 363 cc titanium face, with a strong, flexible SP-700 beta titanium face, Adams says. Special heel weighting helps the club get square at impact.