Nike Takes Big Step Toward Entering Golf Club Business

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NIKE HAS IMPACT: In a major step closer to entering the golf club business, Nike Golf has bought Impact Golf Technologies of Fort Worth, Texas, the development company run by noted club designer Tom Stites. In recent months, Stites had been working with Nike to design prototype irons, one version of which showed up temporarily in the bag of David Duval. Stites, who has designed clubs for Nicklaus Equipment, Ram and other companies, will maintain the operation in Fort Worth.
 
The irons Stites has been developing for Nike so far are forged blades 'that have a very pure feel going through the dirt,' Stites said Feb. 6. 'We design a golf club from the ground up, and that feel is where we're starting here.'
 
Nike also plans an investment cast game-improvement club after the forged product is further along. Nike officials have said they have no set schedule for releasing a club. But they're confident in Stites' abilities.
 
'Having gotten to know Tom over the past year, I can say that if he's not the best in the world at what he does, he's at least in the top five,' said Bob Wood, president of Nike Golf. 'He's a great fit for us.'
 
Stites, who learned his trade under the exacting eye of legendary player and golf businessman Ben Hogan, usually serves more than one client. Now he will serve one master, but the other clients on his rolls now need not worry.
 
'There will be a transition period of a number of months,' Stites said after the Feb. 9 announcement of the Nike deal. 'That was a point of honor that was very important to me, and Nike completely understood.' The non-Nike projects will be wrapped up or farmed out to other consultants during the transition period, Stites said.
 
Impact has five employees, but is ready to add staff to meet any demand Nike might have, Stites said.
 
Manufacturing whatever Stites develops is still an open question. But Stites has connections with a Taiwanese manufacturing agent, Aurora Enterprises, which might have a leg up on getting the Nike business.