Black Lake Golf Course Review – A Revisit
Black Lake Golf Course Grade: A+ Teacher’s Comments: One of the best public courses in … Read more.
The Club Report: Cleveland CG Black Driver
Attention lower swing speed golfers. Today we’ve got something just for you.
I know…it’s about time.
As participants in golf forums and other golf-related communities we’ve been conditioned to believe that the average golfer swings 110 MPH and carries the ball at least 300 yards (and that’s uphill, at sea level, and into a headwind).
Can you believe we had a reader question the validity of our Most Wanted Driver test because the average distance across all testers was below 290 yards? The unrealistic expectations and the quest for distance have gotten that far out of hand.
Let’s spend today getting real about some things. Let’s spend today talking about a driver for the guy who doesn’t hit the ball 250.
The golf companies have increasingly catered to the gearhead, and while average golfers like shiny things that move too, it means more, and often complex adjustability.
The trend towards low and forward CG positions does have the potential to create massive distance, but it offers little help to the guy who struggles to get the ball in the air or who like many of us, has a tendency to work the face rather than work the ball.
When you consider all of that, it’s actually ironic, though not surprising, that a club like Cleveland’s 2015 CG Black – a club actually designed for truly average golfers – occupies a space a bit outside of the mainstream. There’s just a hint of absurdity in that.
Slower swing speed guys, this one is really and truly for you.
When we compared CG Black to the majority of Speed-centric drivers on the market, we found that only Wilson’s D200 at 268 grams is in the same weight class. TaylorMade’s AeroBurner (300g), and even Callaway’s lightweight-ish V-Series (290g) aren’t really playing in exactly the same space.
The CG Black is for guys who want a lightweight driver…a really lightweight driver. At only 260g, the Cleveland CG Black is the lightest driver on the market right now.
On a comparative basis, it’s noteworthy that in the process of evolving the CG Black from 2012 to 2015, Cleveland’s engineers shifted the center of gravity lower and closer to the face. Now all of that happened within the relative vacuum of the Cleveland CG Black line, so a lower and more forward center of gravity doesn’t mean a low/forward CG. The new CG Black isn’t designed to compete with TaylorMade’s R15 or Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond. We’re still talking about a driver designed to help average golfers get the ball in the air.
Like many drivers on the market today, the CG Black features variable face thickness. The idea is make the face more responsive in the areas where average golfers tend to miss. Face design coupled with MOI is where forgiveness comes from.
Speed through weight reduction is gaining in popularity with most companies now offering something that either qualifies as ultralight or is designed to compete with ultralights. Cleveland’s CG black is on the extreme end of that ultralight range. Of the 260 grams of total weight, 187g of that is in the head, while the 44g Mitsubishi Bassara shaft accounts for the bulk of the rest. You can do the math yourself to figure out the grip weight.
The totality of the design contributes to what Cleveland calls Low Swing MOI. Now is a good time to make sure everyone understand the distinction between head MOI and Cleveland’s Swing MOI. High MOI in the head is desirable. It’s where forgiveness comes from. Lower Swing MOI, according to Cleveland, is desirable because it produces more speed with the same effort.
Everybody wants more speed…at least that’s what all the commercials say.
The CG Black offers a slightly rounded shape, a matte black crown, and absolutely no alignment aid. The only crown detail, blue accents on the trailing edge, is subtle-enough that most won’t notice it at address. While you might call CG Black a game-improvement driver, the overall design proves that game-improvement doesn’t need to be in your face. Much like the Classic line, CG Black reflects a modern take on a traditional aesthetic.
Other details include a slightly shallow face, and while difficult to explain in any meaningful way, the majority of golfers who sole driver at address will appreciate the way the heal-side edge contours hug the turf.
Cleveland put a fair amount of effort into refining the sound (and consequently the feel) of the CG Black driver. The addition of an internal rib creates a higher frequency sound at impact, which most will likely prefer over a deeper thud. The result is a club that feels more alive at impact.
Everything we’ve talked about is all well and good, but doesn’t it really boil down to how the driver performs?
Because of its specific and arguably narrower market focus, Cleveland declined to have CG Black included in our Most Wanted Test, but it did provide us with samples for testing. So while not specifically part of the test itself, a subset of our testers (those within CG Black’s target audience) did hit the CG Black driver during the test.
When we look at key metrics like swing speed, ball speed, and distance (total and carry) it’s not surprising that for our golfers within its target audience, the CG Black outperformed low/forward CG designs like the TaylorMade R15, Callaway Double Black Diamond, Cobra FLY-Z+, as well as a majority of the sub-460cc drivers.
Those drivers are generally designed for lower launching, lower spin players. They’re not designed to produce higher club head speeds or help the golfer get the ball in the air.
Among the drivers in our test, and likely across the entire market, the closest comparison to the Cleveland CG Black is the Wilson D200, and so we thought it could be interesting to take a look at a direct comparison.
As you can see, the two drivers performed quite similarly and depending on what exactly it is you’re looking for in a driver, you could probably make a case for either.
When we take a deeper dive into our data we find a bit clearer of a dividing line. For the subset of testers who swing above 85 MPH (the range was roughly 86-91 MPH), the Wilson D200 put up better numbers (nearly across the board), while for our testers under 85 MPH (roughly 78-84 MPH), the results were better – again, nearly across the board – with the Cleveland CG Black.
While the results of our larger tests suggest the D200, and other fast drivers like AeroBurner and V-Series should have wider reach within the market, for lower swing speed players, particularly those below 85 MPH, Cleveland’s CG Black is an intriguing option.
If you swing more than 90 MPH, the Cleveland CG Black probably isn’t for you. If you’re happily playing a TaylorMade SLDR or something else of that ilk, it’s probably not for you either, and that’s okay…at least it should be.
Much to Cleveland’s credit the company isn’t taking the usual this driver is for anyone who wants more distance route. Instead the company is being specific and honest about who is most likely to benefit for the CG Black.
Unfortunately that probably also means the CG Black won’t grab the same level of attention as the marketplace juggernauts. All things to all people is what the market likes. Still, if you’re a slow to moderate swing speed player looking for help getting the ball in the air, and who wants to have fun hitting the driver again, then take a look at Cleveland’s CG Black.
The 2015 Cleveland CG Black driver is available in 9°, 10.5°, and 12°. Retail price is $349.99.
Black Mountain Golf Club, Thailand
Add Thailand to the list of places where I’d love to play golf. The
Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond Golf Driver
Callaway Men’s Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond Golf Driver
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Community Review – Bobby Jones Black Driver, Fairway, and Hybrid
by GolfSpy WD
As mentioned in this forum post, we look for testers who are forum members in good standing, who have contributed quality posts in the past, and who are able to take the time it takes to write one of our rigorous community reviews. We keep a list of our active forum members and encourage everyone to post without fear of censorship and we do read everything.
From our pool we selected members wbealsd, mudfish, and txstcatman because of their history contributing to the forums, and because each fits into the Bobby Jones target market. As a quick aside, our community reviews test clubs within the intended market segment for the club. We’re not looking to put blades in the hands of a 36 capper or send someone clubs history shows they won’t like. Beyond that though, our community testers are asked to speak their mind and write exactly what they think of the clubs after careful testing over a four week period.
After we selected our testers and sent their specs to the Bobby Jones rep, Jesse Ortiz, the lead designer for Bobby Jones, contacted us saying he wanted to make sure our testers were properly fit and worked with Graphite Designs to fit each of our testers the best they could via email.
As is the case with all MyGolfSpy Community Member Testing, the selected golfers are provided with a review template and some general guidelines for testing. Depending on the access of each individual, testing may or may not involve the use of a launch monitor. The procedures and protocols used to collect and analyze data differ significantly from those used in MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted Testing. As such, the opinions and views expressed in this review are those of the author and may not reflect the opinions or views of MyGolfspy and its staff.
Written by: Txstcatman
Photos By: wbealsd, mudfish, and txstcatman
Letter from Jesse Ortiz
Since I use Graphite Design shafts for all of my offerings, I sent your specs to Bill McPherson at GDI for his recommendations for you. Looking at what you currently are using, he came up with:
Tour AD MT7 – for the driver
GT8 – for the fairway wood
AD Di-85 – for the hybrid
I didn’t have Pure Grips, so I went with Tour Velvets figuring you could change them out. The driver is loud but that is common with cup-face design drivers. Put aside the sound and focus on performance. The drivers & fairway woods are FACE ANGLE adjustable. The hybrid is LIE ANGLE adjustable.
Please feel free to call me with any questions. My cell is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thanks for your time to test these.
So my unboxing post had a bit of the child-like wonder and awe associated with being selected for such an opportunity. Afterwards, I started to think about what exactly I knew about the Bobby Jones golf brand. Aside from watching a movie or two about the man, my only knowledge was from some infomercials about wedges that were on TV a long time ago. I could tell you that I knew about the little copper medallion used in marking the clubs produced by Bobby Jones Golf, but that is about all I knew.
Thanks to this chance to review a driver, fairway, and hybrid, I am more likely to pay attention to the direction of this brand. Bobby Jones isn’t a big player in the big box stores, but I don’t think you necessarily have to be in order to be successful.
As a set, I’ve been very comfortable putting these clubs in play. From the very beginning, I liked the gaps in lofts, and went with the three as my non-iron setup in the bag. I feel that the fairway and hybrid travel through the turf especially well, even in thick rough. It’s easy to make contact with the ball in most lies. The driver is a club I’ve always struggled with for consistency, yet I finally think I have a tool in the bag that can allow for consistency.
I love the shape of the fairway and hybrid clubs. The driver looks a bit odd at first, reminding me of the 2009 TM Burner when looking down at it. The odd curvature behind the toe is funky, but easy to get used to. The graphics on the crown and sole of the clubs are simple, understated, and pretty pleasing given the latest trends of having words and stripes on available clubs. I really liked the “power button” alignment aid as I am a bit geeky about computers. The matte black and red graphics look really good to my eye, and the sole graphics being simple make the club look very streamlined.
After a half dozen rounds and several range sessions, I’d say these clubs wear just as well as any other black faced club on the market. The driver still looks like new, while the fairway and hybrid have shown more wear due to ground contact.
Compared to other brands’ offerings in these club categories, I’d have to say that Bobby Jones Golf is definitely on the right track to providing quality products. The use of Graphite Design shafts is a huge plus, and instills a sense of confidence when putting the clubs in play. I’d definitely say that these clubs are on par, if not better, than others available now in terms of looks. You should definitely take a look at them if the opportunity presents itself.
Both the fairway and hybrid clubs provide a nice, muted “tink” sound that I really enjoy hearing upon impact. The driver, however, took a little while to get used to. The best way I could describe it is a comparison to the Nike SQ Sumo drivers.
The Bobby Jones model doesn’t sound nearly as loud as its yellow predecessor, but it still gives me flashbacks to playing little league baseball with metal bats. I definitely saw heads turn my way on the range and even had playing partners comment on the sound during the rounds I played. It passes after a few swings, especially when you catch one really good and just smile when you get to your second shot AFTER everyone else.
The sound really translates to how the ball feels coming off the face. The cup face design provides a lot of spring that can be felt on impact. I will say that shots on different parts of the face of all three clubs sounds pretty consistent, with only the driver providing a really discernible difference in contact areas.
If the driver could sound more like the fairway and hybrid, we’d have the best sounding clubs I’d ever experienced.
I would definitely consider a purchase of the hybrid in this set. Being a poor fairway club player, I have a hard time with most 3 and 5 woods. However, if Bobby Jones offered a stronger lofted hybrid I’d consider it in an instant. The driver would be a strong consideration compared to other clubs I’ve tried, only because I’ve experienced how, when set up correctly, it can provide consistent performance.
I love the way these clubs look, sound, and feel. Looking at them almost makes me forget that I don’t hit fairways well, or that I struggle with driver consistency. The clubs look the way clubs should, simple in design and graphics, and with the right colors. The fairway and hybrid sound amazing enough to forgive that of the driver, making it easy to put all three clubs into play in the bag.
As an avid golfer who doesn’t take lessons, doesn’t put any stock into what the wannabe teaching pro hitting balls at the range has to say, and tinkers more than he practices, I finally feel like I’ve received the “golden ticket” to getting my metal play on track. I have enjoyed my time with the clubs thus far, and look forward to their continued use on the course. I think I’m on the right track, and look forward to seeing improved scoring chances with them. I am already used to the sound of the driver, and I suggest to anyone who has a chance to try these clubs to look past that particular aspect of performance, just as Jesse asked us to do.
For more information visit the Bobby Jones Golf Website.
Nike Joins Limited Edition Paint Craze with VRS Covert 2.0 Black
Written By: Tony Covey
In a move that further supports my contention that Nike is finally starting to get golf, the company today announced the impending availability of a Limited Edition (Here. We. Go. Again.), Matte Black version of their VRS Covert 2.0 Driver.
At least they managed to keep the word innovation out of the discussion.
Whoops…never mind. I see it now.
Given what the industry as a whole as produced for us over the last several weeks, I hope everyone will forgive me for having a little fun with the latest bit of limitedness to be dropped in the consumer’s lap, but all kidding aside, this is actually a pretty brilliant (though admittedly simple) idea on Nike’s part.
And, by the way, if you think that little tie-in to the college football market is really as matter a fact as it sounds, it’s time for you to start paying attention to the really big picture.
The Covert 2.0 is one of my favorite new drivers of the 2014 season. Actually, why sell my own feelings short? Nike’s VRS Covert 2.0 is my absolute favorite driver of 2014. I don’t just love the way it looks; it moves me.
I love the damn thing.
But…I’m not like everybody else. The near-constant stream of feedback raises my following statement to the level of absolute and indisputable fact.
Some people don’t like red.
Whoa. Mind blown, right?
Seriously…they hate it. And because they hate it, they won’t try. And if you follow the breadcrumbs to the eventual outcome what you have is a potential customer who’s buying somebody else’s product.
That’s going to happen, but when the root cause can be as simple as paint, it makes sense to do something about it.
I suppose it would have been easy for Nike to completely change course with the Matte Black version.
They could have painted the driver black (they did), and they could have removed the giant swoosh from the crown (they didn’t), and they could have removed the swoosh from the toe (they didn’t), or the sole (didn’t do that either), and they could have even removed the 2.0 alignment aid (they didn’t…kinda wish they had).
All of the above would almost certainly go over better with the ultra-traditionalists, but whether you’ve noticed or not, Nike Golf has entered a new phase, and part of what’s core to that is a refocused and unyielding approach to the golf industry.
Nike Golf is authentic Nike now, and if that means something fundamentally different than what some believe an authentic golf company looks like, everything I’ve heard and seen suggests the company is more comfortable with that than ever before.
The Covert 2.0 Matte Black Edition driver will be available on Nike.com and at select retailers May 15, 2014 for $399. Available in right hand only.
Does the introduction of a black version of the Covert 2.0 driver make you any more inclined to give this or other Nike Golf products a try?
Review – Matrix MFS (Black, Red, and White Tie) Hybrid Shafts
We obsess over our driver shafts. Which is the highest launching? Which is the lowest spinning?
We all have our favorites.
We all think we know what’s best.
We obsess over irons shafts too. What will give me tour trajectory? What’s going fly high and land soft?
Am I too much of a man for graphite in my irons?
These questions demand answers. We have to know. We have to get fit (or self fit). We need 10 more yards, or 5 yards better dispersion, or maybe just something with really cool graphics.
Some would say the shaft is EVERYTHING. No way you don’t put some serious thought into it.
Do you do the same with your hybrids?
I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that for most of you, a hybrid shaft is an afterthought, if it’s even a thought at all.
Full disclosure I’m actually playing the stock shaft in my hybrids right now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t often think about putting something else in there.
Fortunately, for those of you who are curious about the possibility of finding a better fitting hybrid shaft, or at least a shaft that delivers the performance you’re looking for, Matrix makes it easy.
By now most of you should be plenty familiar with the Matrix MFS (Matrix Flight System) series of shafts.
MFS originated with the m3. More commonly known as the Black Tie, the m3 was an immediate hit with aggressive swingers looking to take off some spin and lower their ball flight. Any rational discussion about the lowest spinning shaft on the market likely includes the black tie.
Next came the X3 (White Tie) which filled the high launch (and reportedly lowish spin) role within the expanding MFS lineup.
In early 2013 Matrix rounded out their MFS with the introduction of the Q3. Billed as mid-launch and mid-spin, the Red Tie, which Matrix says will fit the highest percentage of the bell curve, has become 2014’s Kuro Kage; an immensely popular shaft among OEMs as their stock offering (in both real and made for varieties).
According to Matrix, each MFS shaft is designed with a specific ball flight in mind (that low, mid, high thing we just talked about). With MFS it’s not necessarily about fitting a guy with a specific swing characteristic, instead MFS seeks to to modify the launch and spin characteristics of what the player already does in order to achieve the desired result.
The short of it…within MFS…low, middle, high, it’s all relative.
Last fall Matrix expanded their hybrid offerings, putting Q3 and X3 options alongside the existing M3 offerings. With the exception of the Black Tie, which is available in 85g, 95g, and 105g, Altus MFS Hybrid shafts are only available in 95 grams (a full selection of flexes is available in each).
Matrix already has a full compliment of hybrid shafts to choose from, so for now they feel like they’ve got the market well-covered. If, however, the demand arises, Matrix will consider adding additional weights for both the Q3 and X3.
As with the driver shafts, Matrix Flight System hybrid fitting is designed to be easy. While generally a guy who fits well into a particular MFS driver shaft will probably find similarly good results in the complementary hybrid model, it really boils down to your desired ball flight.
It’s entirely possible you might want to lower launch with your driver, but increase it with your hybrid. The MFS hybrid shaft that fits best depends on what flight characteristics you’re trying to achieve with a particular hybrid.
Apart from forming a general picture of how the Matrix MFS Hybrid shafts perform, we were most interested in finding out if our testers would get the launch conditions that Matrix suggests they we should.
To do that we rounded up a handful of testers who would generally fit well into stiff shafted clubs. We installed TaylorMade tips on each shaft, cut them to identical lengths, installed the same model grip on each shaft, and popped them into a TaylorMade SLDR #3 hybrid for testing. During the testing itself we used the same protocols we use for our Most Wanted Testing.
To maintain consistency, we will use the same hybrid for any additional hybrid shaft tests.
As you can see from the above, carry distances were relatively consistent between all 3 models, with barely 4 yards separating the shafts. Differences in total yards can likely be attributed to two factors.
Firstly, our testers produced the most spin with the Red Tie (see below), and more spin often means less distance. Secondly, if the shots hit with the Red Tie had been on average closer to the center line, those differences in distances would presumably be narrower.
As you might expect given the distance numbers, ball speeds were very close across the 3 MFS shafts, and while the extra pop of the X3 is intriguing, we’re likely within the margin of error here.
For us this is really the most interesting (and important) part of this test. The beauty of MFS is that it’s supposed to greatly simplify shaft fitting. For that to actually work, the shafts need to basically perform as advertised. While each individual golfer is different, when it comes to the launch conditions, you really hope the shafts deliver what they’re supposed to.
As you can see from the chart above, the Matrix MFS Shafts did just that. As expected, the Black Tie produced the lowest launch angle. The White Tie launched highest, and just like it’s supposed to, the Red Tie produced the comparative mid launch condition.
As we usually do, we observed a correlation between launch angle and apex (height). The Black Tie produced the lowest ball flight, the X3 the highest, and as we’d expect, the Red Tie flew through a window between them.
Equally as reaffirming, the low spinning Black Tie did in fact produce the lowest spin rates for our testers. The high launch, low spin White Tie – while not as low spinning as the Black Tie, did spin less (421 RPM) than the mid-spin Red Tie.
My recommendation is that you take feel for what it is. Each of us is different, and consequently we each perceive feel differently. That said, the 3 shafts in the Matrix MFS gave our testers the full Goldilocks experience.
As you might expect given its performance characteristics, the Black Tie was rated as the firmest feeling of the bunch. Pick your adjective…stout, boardy; most of our testers told us that this shaft is too stiff.
While our testers generally liked the softer-tipped White Tie, it was described as “whippy, but in a good way”. I’m not sure what that really means (I like the boardy Black Tie), but for the sake of maintaining this Goldilocks analogy, let’s go with this shaft is too soft.
Overwhelmingly, on feel alone, the Red Tie was the favorite of our testers. Not too soft, not too hard…this shaft is just right.
Granted, that’s all pretty ambiguous stuff, but the takeaway is this: For most the black tie will feel the firmest (you’ll feel every bit of the flex), the white tie will feel the softest, and the red tie will occupy the smooth sweet spot right in the middle.
While we always recommend getting properly fit, we’re not delusional enough to think that most of you are going to do that…not with your hybrid shafts anyway. So with necessary deference to reality, we can appreciate the simplicity of the MFS Hybrid series.
Our test results suggest that if you know what it is you’re hoping to achieve from your hybrids, there’s very little guess work here. Relative launch characteristics are as advertised, which means between the Black, Red, and White Tie shafts, Matrix is going to be able to give you the ball flight you’re looking for from your hybrid.
Matrix MFS Hybrid Shafts retail for $150 each.
For more information visit the Matrix Shafts Website.
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TaylorMade’s New Driver is Back in Black
Written by: Tony Covey
Today TaylorMade, in introducing the R1 Black Driver, made what some will see as as one of the least significant announcements in company history.
The R1 Black isn’t a new driver. It’s the R1, except it’s black, and…and…well, that’s basically it.
It’s the same damn club.
The performance of the head is the same. The shaft is the same. The price ($399/$499 TP) is the same.
The difference…the only difference is that it’s black. And for what it’s worth, so is the wrench.
I should probably also mention that while TaylorMade isn’t calling the R1 Black a Limited Edition model, they certainly aren’t doing a full production run either. It seems pretty clear the intent is to all but guarantee there will be more demand than supply.
At least it has its own predictable, hashtag (#backinblack). I guess that’s better than #black-IER.
In fairness, the R1 Black (available June 10th) is exceptionally well done. While I’m sure some would have preferred a matte finish, PING more or less owns that right now, and integrating TaylorMade’s classic high-gloss finish with highly muted R1 graphics strikes a perfect balance that pays deferential respect to the traditional without compromising TaylorMade’s modern approach to crown graphics.
The truth is it’s beautiful.
It would be easy, at least it should be easy, to be mostly dismissive of the R1 Black. Check out the paint, and move along. There’s nothing to see here.
I’m a cynical bastard by nature, but I’ll cop to feeling a little nostalgic when I saw the white TaylorMade logo set against glossy black paint. It’s practically impossible not to think about your first TaylorMade driver, or at least the last one you loved..the 580, the SuperQuad, or the SuperDeep. You know…before all this white nonsense started.
But this is still just paint. Some would call it lipstick on a pig.
If this were anybody else in any other year, painting what was once black, white… and then painting it black again, wouldn’t be any kind of story, but this isn’t anybody else, it’s TaylorMade and it’s 2013, which why all of this is worth discussing further.
It’s almost comical that the golf industry has reached the point where we have to ask why any company would make a black driver, but we do. So at this risk of making a horrible, yet obvious pun, I’ll start by saying that over the last three years TaylorMade has basically painted themselves into a corner.
When the release the R11, TaylorMade put a lot of effort into selling the consumer on the idea that a white driver was better than a black one. They called it The Science of White.
If it’s science it must be real, right?
The story of white wasn’t in the paint itself, it was about the contrast between black and white, the illusion of a larger head leading to more confidence, and that confidence translating to faster ballspeeds.
White is better. It’s that simple. Ditch your Titleist, and your Callaway, and your PING, and your everything else. White is where it’s at. There’s no reason to ever play a black driver again.
If you don’t have white, you don’t have white.
So if white performs better… if white really is, as we’ve been told for 3 seasons now, better, why the hell would TaylorMade release a black version of the R1?
The answer, as I see it anyway, is actually pretty interesting.
It’s reasonable to assume that TaylorMade has kept the black driver in their back pocket since the R11 was released. If it doesn’t work we can always paint it black. And if R11s didn’t work, paint was an option then too. And if R1 – the riskiest of all TaylorMade flagship designs – didn’t work, yup…we’ve still got that bucket of paint in the corner.
And so here we are. The R1 Black is officially scheduled for release, and the natural assumption is that some of what you’ve read in the golf forums is true; The R1 was an unmitigated failure. The graphics didn’t work, and TaylorMade is desperately scrambling to fix the biggest disaster in company history.
For those what have been (im)patiently waiting for TaylorMade to jump the shark, this is the absolute fantastic, feel-good story of the year.
The problem is it’s only half true.
I have it on pretty good authority that the black option has been on the table since before R11s. That’s almost certainly 100% accurate. That other stuff…R1 being a failure, a giant disaster for TaylorMade…it’s a great story, particularly if you’re not a fan of TaylorMade, but it’s not one that’s even loosely supported by reality.
Here’s what is real…
Talk to anybody at almost any golf company and they’ll tell you what TaylorMade and others have told me. The unusually long winter took a huge chunk out of the retail market. A good portion of the country got a late start, guys in Minnesota and New York’s Adirondacks are still shoveling snow, and even those of us who have it pretty good, are still dealing with 50 degree temps and occasional frost delays. Did I mention it’s almost June?
Somebody get Al Gore on the phone. Global warming, my ass.
So yeah…everybody, including TaylorMade got off to a slow start at retail.
This time last year TaylorMade owned more than 52 percent of the metalwoods (drivers, fairways, hybrids) category.
FIFTY TWO FREAKIN PERCENT
Think about that for just a second. Titleist, Callaway, PING, TourEdge, Mizuno, Nike, Adams, Bridgestone, Cobra, and everybody else…these are all companies that make a perfectly good metalwood, and despite quality products, and the whole strength in numbers thing, TaylorMade sold more metalwoods than all of those companies…COMBINED.
That my friend is the very definition of unsustainable, and I can assure you that there’s not enough Kool-Aid in in all of Carlsbad for the guys at TaylorMade to think that FIFTY TWO FREAKIN PERCENT would be the long term reality.
R11s more than held its own, the Rocketballz fairway wood was a retail juggernaut, and the rest of the TaylorMade lineup (RBZ driver and RBZ hybrid) rode its coattails to phenomenal, and let’s be honest, unrepeatable success.
This year, predictably, TaylorMade’s share of the metalwoods market is down. That’s not in dispute. And it’s not just down; TaylorMade is double-digit down in the category. It sounds bad, really, really, bad right?
Let me be really definitive about this: It is bad…and it isn’t.
If it had been my call to make, I wouldn’t have gone all-in with crown graphics. Go crazy with one, but diversify – leave the other normal. That said, I’m probably not as smart as I think I am, and it probably wasn’t paint that hurt TaylorMade this season.
The reality is that 2013 is an absolute banner year for metalwoods. It’s almost certainly the best I’ve ever seen.
Callaway gained ground with Xhot, Cobra made a statement with AMP Cell, PING and Titleist are steady as ever, and even Nike made some early season noise with Covert. And that’s just the beginning of what’s out there this year. Basically everyone took a page out of the TaylorMade playbook, and actually finally built some product buzz of their own.
It’s not that TaylorMade has bad product, or is performing poorly. As one highly-placed industry insider explained it to me, “Everybody’s stuff is just a shitload better this year”.
For the first time in recent memory, TaylorMade is being challenged – and according to TaylorMade’s Product Evangelist, Tom Kroll, that’s actually a good thing.
While I’m sure there were some uncomfortable days, nobody at TaylorMade is going to use the term desperate, (I tried…they didn’t bite), or convey that there was any sense of panic inside the walls at HQ when metalwood sales got off to a slow start.
What TaylorMade has been upfront about is that in the interest of jump-starting sales, they did some things they would have preferred they not have to do.
They went absolutely full Wal-Mart in April; rolling-back prices on the entire RBZ Stage 2 lineup. We’re talking about a brand new club line with less than 2 months of shelf time. Everybody cuts prices…eventually. Nobody does it in April.
You never go full Wal-Mart…not when you’re the biggest name in golf…and definitely not in April.
But that’s exactly what TaylorMade did. And sure, there was plenty of forum chatter about both R1 and RBZ Stage 2 not selling. Desperation was the buzzword and the story we heard from retailers is that TaylorMade was doing some very un-TaylorMade-like things (larger sales incentives, discounts on wholesale pricing, relaxing new product pricing policy, and not forcing retailers to take on more inventory to offset price drops) to hopefully get their 2013 product moving.
It’s certainly not the position you want to be in when you’re the number one company in golf – not in April (did I mention it was only April?).
It’s bad, but, it’s not.
Whatever early ground TaylorMade gave up with metalwoods, they’ve mostly made up for in other places. The big picture includes tremendous success in the iron category (up 35% on the strength of RocketBladez), gains in the ball category (up 21%), and the best-selling shoe (adizero) in the history of adidas golf.
So while stiff competition and declining market share in the metalwoods category does suggest a down year for TaylorMade, the fact of the matter is that right now, TaylorMade still enjoys a comfortable lead. The R1 driver is the best-selling driver in golf, and the RBZ Stage 2 is right behind it at #2. All that and they’re diversifying. The beast might actually be getting stronger.
It’s enough to make a TaylorMade hater give himself a swirly.
More importantly as the season has progressed, the numbers suggests that going full Wal-Mart (FYI, in case there is any doubt, that’s my phrase, not TaylorMade’s) absolutely paid off. They now have the two best-selling drivers in golf, and the anecdotal evidence suggests that while TaylorMade’s competition is losing momentum, TaylorMade is actually gaining steam.
When Callaway announces a $50 price drop on 2013 drivers, you’ll have all the proof you need that TaylorMade has rebounded but good.
I know what you’re thinking…if everything is really rainbows and unicorns at TaylorMade, why would they go against their own science and release a black driver? It looks desperate.
TaylorMade isn’t oblivious. They do market research. They read things. They know there’s a pent-up demand for a black driver – and TaylorMade believes that demand will produce an over-sway of sorts to the black model.
Simply put, the damn thing is going to sell…and sell fast.
We can talk about science, and performance, and one-hundred other things, but regardless of anything that’s quantifiable, golfers simply want what they want, and there’s a segment of the market that just wants a black driver. There’s no need to go super-special limited edition, paint it black, and it’s gold.
When we put up our Black vs. White post, a staggering 87% of people who voted told us they prefer black over white. Now granted…the R1 Black we used wasn’t the actual TaylorMade version (that one was matte black, the real TaylorMade is traditional high-gloss). Nevertheless, the results are compelling.
TaylorMade’s Tom Kroll told me that the company “spends a great deal of our time with our finger on the pulse of the 0 to 4 golfer”. TaylorMade’s own research has shown that a measurable percentage of that group is never going to play anything other than a black driver.
TaylorMade isn’t about to abandon those guys. Kroll made it clear that TaylorMade wants all golfers to experience the performance of R1.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t continue to point out the ongoing disconnect between some of what TaylorMade says and some of what TaylorMade does. We continue to hear about TaylorMade’s focus on the 0 to 4 market, and yet the huge majority of their products are clearly designed with the average golfer in mind. The R1 Black is no different.
You can’t fault them for it. Zero to four is the performance story nearly every golfer wants to hear, but the money will always be in the middle.
If you look at what has happened with the golf equipment market so far this season; a brutally long winter and stronger competition leading to a double-digit drop in metalwood market share, it’s easy to look at the R1 Black and see it as TaylorMade’s desperate (there’s that word again) attempt to right the ship.
They’re getting killed, right?
Like I said, it’s a good story, but the latest retail sales data suggests that TaylorMade has weathered the worst of it. While some of its competitors remain strong in areas where they traditionally perform well (Titleist, for example, continues to dominate the ball market), amazing as it may be considering the slow start, TaylorMade has perhaps the industry’s only real momentum right now.
The R1 Black isn’t about saving TaylorMade’s season, or even getting them back to where they were. The R1 Black is the lead foot on the accelerator. It’s TaylorMade full-steam getting back to the business of being TaylorMade.
The bail-out worked, and now they’re refocusing on growing their lead..again.
As simple as the concept is (paint it black), the TaylorMade R1 Black driver is almost without question the most compelling product that any manufacturer has in its near-term pipeline.
The demand is certain. It’s a guaranteed can’t miss.
What’s coming next is a full-on price war. TaylorMade’s biggest competitors are going to cut prices too, and they’re going to do it very soon. They’re going to do whatever they can to steal back the momentum from TaylorMade.
It’s not going to work. It might have before the R1 Black was announced, but it won’t now. Unfortunately for the industry it is going to take a bloodbath to prove it.
We wondered how TaylorMade would respond when somebody finally stepped up to challenge them. This time around the response was swift, effective, and plenty strong-enough keep TaylorMade comfortably in the number one spot for at least another season.
For those looking for the competitive upside, the proverbial chink in the armor; the difficult start to the season forced TaylorMade to use the biggest weapon in their arsenal. They can do black again next year…maybe even as an out-of-the-gate alternative to white, but the impact will never again be what it is today.
This year, as it was 3 years ago, paint will be the story. Next year they’re going to have to innovate.