BANNED IN BRITAIN: And anywhere else where the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews administers the Rules of Golf, which is to say everywhere but the United States and Mexico: Thats the word on the Titleist Futura putter, designed by flatstick guru Scotty Cameron. The putters space-age looks have drawn TV cameras to the prototype, which is in the bags of several tour players, including Phil Mickelson.
The putter contravenes the traditional and customary language of Appendix II(1)(a) of the Rules, the R&A said. Claire Bates, head of the R&As Implement & Ball Committee, said the club is not plain in shape, referring to the requirement in Appendix II(4)(a) that clubs be so designed.
The Futura will remain legal in the U.S. Golf Associations jurisdiction. Authorities there confirmed that the putter has already been submitted and approved as conforming.
The club is not yet available to consumers.
TOP-FLITE CLUB BRAND REENERGIZES: With all the hoopla over its Ben Hogan premium club brand, Spalding Sports Worldwide hasnt been spending as much PR time on its Top-Flite line. Thats about to change with the introduction of the latest line of Top-Flite Tour irons. The Titan steel clubs feature very thin faces, which of course allows for more weight around the perimeter of the club, where its needed for forgiveness, Spalding says. To reinforce the face, designers placed rib supports behind the face where the score lines fall, which Spalding says increases stability.
The clubs, available now, offer a Spalding option to customers who may have suffered sticker shock when pricing the Hogan brand. The new Top-Flites will cost about $350 at retail for a standard set. Custom options are available.
The new clubs are still considered part of the premium segment, though. Spalding plans a separate introduction of value line, recreational clubs in 2003.
NIKE SCORES ENGINEER: Golf ball and club engineers and designers are hot properties in this industry. How hot? Well, more than one manufacturer has refused to let me put any of its research and development people on camera, for fear competitors will raid the talent pool.
So if you see bodyguards following Hideyuki Rock Ishii around, dont be surprised. Ishii, a 13-year veteran of Bridgestone Sports, which owns the Precept brand and has a design and manufacturing alliance with Nike, will now work as a Nike employee. Hell be product development director for golf balls, with the express job of making Nikes weapons for the planned big offensive in the war to grab golf ball market share.
For the last four years, he was Bridgestones golf ball liaison with Nike. Nike claims that Rock and his team have a dozen new products ready to load in the heavy artillery that will be aimed at Titleist and others.
Dont think for a second, though, that Titleist has forsaken its Bring it on stance. The market leaders golf ball research chief, Bill Morgan, was seen at the Disney event last month walking around with blank boxes and clandestinely testing prototypes with players such as Scott Hoch. And for some reason, a burly man stepped right in my way when I approached. (Just kidding, folks.)