The unauthorized manufacturing variance, as Nike called it, resulted in driver faces that had a coefficient of restitution higher than that allowed by the rules. The variance may result in a distance increase of perhaps a yard or two, Nike said.
Only the Sumo2 , known to many as Nikes square-head driver, was affected, Nike said. The company emphasized that no driver being used by a professional or college player has failed to conform to the rules; those clubs are tested at Nikes tour headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
Nike discovered the problem in late February, said Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf, and the company immediately set about correcting the manufacturing problem. The U.S. Golf Association alerted Nike to the possibility that some of its Sumo2 driver heads might have failed the so-called Characteristic Time test, in which a pendulum drops a metal ball onto a clubface and measures the time during which the ball is in contact with the face. The limit under the Rules of Golf is 257 microseconds.
A competitor told the USGA that some Nike drivers might be non-compliant, Wood said. But he declined to name the competitor.
Nike believes a manufacturing mistake or variance at an overseas foundry (which it would not name) led to the problem, which Nike says affects a very small number of clubs. The foundry does work for as many as 20 club companies, Wood said, but he would not say whether that foundry also serves the company who told the USGA about the problems with the Nike drivers.
Nike has instituted an exchange program to accept Sumo2 drivers from consumers who want to return them for a new one. The driver they get back will bear a small circle stamp on the sole to show that it conforms with the Rules of Golf. Details of the program can be found on Nikes golf website, www.nikegolf.com. There will also be a program to handle inventory now in stores.
Also, Nike plans to begin 100 percent product inspection at its overseas manufacturing facility and at its Memphis distribution center.
Nike is starting these programs voluntarily, Wood said, and not because of any USGA mandate.
They cant mandate what we do, Wood said during the conference call. We are choosing out own path on this, and it so happens we choose to do what they would wish. Wood added that he hopes Nikes actions will become an industry standard when other such issues arise, and that he hopes other companies products will be inspected.
Dick Rugge, senior technical director for the USGA, quoted in a Nike press release, said, The USGA always places the golfer as its number one priority. We appreciate Nike Golfs cooperation in this process and its plan for exchanging product.
The program doesnt apply to regular Sumo drivers and Sasquatch drivers, both of which conform to the rules, Nike says. The Sumo2 driver used by PGA TOUR player and Nike staffer K.J. Choi to win the 2006 Chrysler Championship last fall was also conforming, Nike said.
Wood acknowledged that such hiccups can cause image problems in golfs highly competitive equipment market, but was quick to differentiate Nikes situation from that of other club manufacturers who have run afoul of the rules. Nikes variance was completely unintentional, Wood said, unlike Callaway Golf, whose ERC II driver was briefly marketed as a higher-COR alternative for golfers outside the jurisdiction of the USGA. The proactive solutions Nike plans to offer for consumers, retail partners and in its manufacturing process are the bigger story, Nike executives said.
[These programs], in our estimation, are the essence of putting the customers first,' said Cindy Davis, U.S. general manager for Nike Golf. And our customers are the people who use our clubs and who sell them at retail.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr