Open-minded fellow though I am, there are some things that should not be messed with. Stuffed-crust pizza threatened to shred like mozzarella my long-held conviction that cheese belongs on top of the pie, and nowhere else. Instead of oregano, I smelled gimmick. With respect to pizza, my wallet closed as tight as my mind. My wife hit upon the perfect homemade crust recipe, and she knows where to put the cheese. Friday nights are joyous at the Barr house.
I wonder if similar thoughts might not occur to consumers of premium golf equipment.
Even though golf may be the most gearheaded of sports that dont involve wheels, skepticism about equipment companies annual claims of newer and better is an always-audible mutter.
Driver heads expand (the mid-1990s), contract (1998), and expand again (2000 to present). Golf balls lose their windings and go solid-core throughout the market. Putters faces go soft (Odyssey, mid-1990s), hard (Never Compromise, with Odysseys former marketing guy in charge, late 1990s) and semi-soft again (Odyssey by Callaway, 2001). The national average handicap continues to flatline. The good player with rusty irons and delaminated persimmon can still beat the mediocre player outfitted with the latest.
So whats the delivery guy bringing? Are all these pumped-up, new equipment features and benefit claims nothing more than stuffed crust? Meat lovers? Chicago style? Cinnamon thingies? Justdough?
Maybe yes. After all, how much more can you do to the head of a golf club that hasnt been tried? How much better can recreational players hit a golf ball? Can shafts get much lighter, and would it make a lot of difference it they did?
On the other hand, there may well be a lot that can be done with golf balls, according to the cooks who guard the rubber-core recipes. And arguably the product most energizing to the industry in recent memory was a golf ball. Thanks to a stunning publicity blitz and delivery on its promises both on tour and for recreational players, the Pro V1 woke up a sleepy segment, and may have saved Titleist in the bargain.
Another product that consumers say lived up to its billing was the Odyssey 2-Ball putter, which has become ubiquitous on and off tour.
And its encouraging to see innovations that represent fine-tuning. Lamkin is touting a corded grip that offers the benefit of a rough finish, but places it where it wont chew up the skin on the ungloved hand.
So its not all cinnamon sticks. But still, golfers I meet often pull me aside, glance around for spies, and ask in a whisper whether the latest and greatest isnt all marketing hooey. Or worse yet, they simply assume it must be. Like me, they are nagged by the thought that golf companies underestimate our appetite for solid, reliable golf gear we can pass on to our children. They believe the golf companies are simply trying to churn profits. Dont embellish the pizza, just give me a driver I can love for years.
There may indeed be some of that going on. The generational business model doesnt sell many clubs year-to-year in a sport whose participation is static. Desperate to fortify the bottom line, some manufacturers may prop up our golf egos with vaporous claims.
But the mozzarella seems to rise to the top, as did the Pro V1 and the 2-Ball. If consumers can sublimate their golf egos enough to avoid buying because of foursome envy (you know, you see it in one guys bag, he bangs a few good ones, etc.) or fear of being passed by, manufacturers will have to respond.
Getting more people to play should be the industrys goal. Next-big-thingism hasnt worked. Consistent quality might.
And at least until my wife can pour a good titanium driver head, thats what Ill be looking for.