Travel broadens the soul, so they say. Here are some things I learned on a recent trip to the West Coast.
1.I did not see any flaming lumber trucks. I did, however, manage to be out of Los Angeles during two earthquakes. (Sure, Californians said they were small quakes. But to a Northeasterner, there is no such thing as a small quake.)
2.Golf retailers are worried. Its uncertainty, rather than an identifiable business condition, that has golf shop owners edgy. They know that golf equipment, especially in the premium end, is a big-ticket item nowadays. At a recent gathering held by Callaway Golf, retailers applauded their hosts efforts to find opportunity during a tough time. But many believe that in general, a lot of wallets seem stuck in consumer pockets because of the war. That interruption, and the calamity that preceded it, came at the beginning of a down cycle for the equipment industry.
3.Griffith Park in Los Angeles may be the busiest public golf facility Ive ever seen. On a recent Sunday afternoon, there was a solid two-hour wait to get on one of the two 18-hole courses, even for a single. The two-tiered range was jammed with practice buffs of all sizes and abilities. And from what I can see, Los Angeles Korean population loves to play and knows its stuff. A sample exchange: How do you like your new TaylorMade? Fine; hit it. [A hit] Wow. Howd you get it with that shaft? Ill bet these guys get more fired up about gear than birdies and bogeys.
4.Pings gold putter vault, where I had a chance to shoot some video for a future story, is a sight to see. The room itself is unostentatious, but the goods are magnificent. There are hundreds of beautiful putters in there, and three gold-plated replica wedges: the one that Bob Tway used to win the 1986 PGA Championship, the one Paul Azinger used to win the 1993 Memorial Tournament, and the one Jeff Maggert used to win the 1999 World Golf Championships-Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship. Why wedges? Because the last strokes of those tournaments were chip-ins, not putts.
5.The late Karsten Solheims office at Ping, a sanctum of orderliness with many photos of golf memories on the walls, has been left as it was on the day he died in February 2000. Theres even a basket of parts and small machines on the desk, evidence of the master engineers delight in tinkering and figuring things out.
6.Expect TaylorMade-adidas Golf to make a push in wedges in 2002.
7.Speaking of TaylorMade, what about their rumored plans to buy Maxfli? The parties have done a great job of keeping a lid on this one. Industry watchers say theyve heard that the pens are poised over the papers, but no one has signed yet.
8.Cobra Golf, under the leadership of new general manager (and Wilson Golf alum) Jeff Harmet is high on its new King Cobra SS 350 titanium driver, and not just because of the technology. The suggested retail price will be $369, which might cause the club to pick up some of the business scared off by higher-priced competitors.
9.To the golf partners who carried me and my woeful tee ball around the course this trip: Your coupons for free chiropractic treatment are in the mail.