Survey Results – What’s In YOUR Bag (Drivers and Fairway Woods)

Survey Results – What’s In YOUR Bag (Drivers and Fairway Woods)

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What’s In YOUR Bag?

A few weeks ago we asked you to tell us about the equipment in your bag. We already know what the pros play (because the brands they rep bombard us with press releases weekly), but what about the average golfer…or at least the average MyGolfSpy reader?

Golf equipment is a business, we get that. Certainly most of us would play just about anything if we were compensated for our trouble. We’re not, which is why we think it’s much more interesting to hear about the equipment you’ve spent your hard-earned money on.

It’s pay to play vs. paid to play.

Before we get to the first round of results, there are a few things to keep in the back of your minds. By the letter, the average MyGolfSpy reader does not fully represent the average golfer.

We believe our readers are more likely to:

  • Be gearheads, possibly even obsessed with golf equipment (we think that’s a good thing)
  • Be custom fit for his equipment
  • Replace equipment more frequently, and therefore your equipment will be, on average, newer than the gear of the golfing population as a whole
  • Play smaller or niche brands. Apart from the guys taken-in by Warrior Golf, you’re less likely to be brandwashed.
  • Be more familiar with emerging equipment trends

So with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the results.


Not surprisingly, TaylorMade leads our field with a 25.06% share. PING, Titleist, and Callaway are reasonably tightly grouped between 15.43% and 18.53%. After the 4 at the top, it’s a pretty steep drop-off to Cobra at 9.85% and another steep slide to to Nike at 5.48%.

We’re showing you only those companies with at least a 1% share of your bags. Excluding the Other option, the sum total of the remaining brands is 3.25%. That places Other between Adams (2.72%) and Nike.

Notables listed under Other: KZG, Nakshima, Nickent, Bobby Jones, Sinister, Bombtech, Geek, and I don’t carry a driver.


On average, golfers replace their drivers once every 3.7 years. I’d wager the average MyGolfSpy reader replaces his driver at a measurably higher rate.

39.81% of you are gaming drivers that are less than 1 year old, while 68.53% of you are playing drivers 2 years old or less.

On the other end of the spectrum, 8.30% of you are playing a driver that’s 4-years old or older.

I’d be curious to know why those guys haven’t upgraded. Are you comfortable with what you have? Is it cost? Is it the perception that USGA limits mean drivers can’t get any better?



Two observations here. 1) According to the previous chart, somebody is lying. Either that or 2) a bunch of you have already bought new drivers this year. Essentially, 40% of you either will or might buy a new driver this year. That’s a sizable chunk (huge actually), and no doubt some manufacturers believe an even newer model may provide all the enticement you need to pull the trigger.

Fairway Woods


Of little surprise, only the order of Top 5 changes. TaylorMade remains on top, but likely off the strength of the X(2) Hot, Callaway (21.85%) leaps ahead of both Ping(14.98%) and Titleist (16.56%). Two companies reasonably well-known for their fairway woods, Adams (9.19%) and Tour Edge (6.11%),  pull ahead of Nike (5.16%).

It may be interesting to some that while Nike’s percent share  is similar between drivers and fairways, it falls from 6 to 8 by rank.

Companies not shown account for a sum total of 1.95% of fairways in your bag. That number fits between Wishon (1.22%) and Wilson (1.67%)

Notables listed under Other: Dynacraft, Orlimar, Sonartec, XXIO, Yamaha, Harvey Penick, and I don’t carry one.


Compare this chart with the same chart for the driver category. The number of you with new fairway woods in your bag (21.79%) is nearly half as few as those with new drivers in the bag. Not surprisingly, the percentage of fairway woods older than 4 years (18.62%) is significantly higher than it is in the driver category.

While we don’t have the exact numbers, we know that golfers buy new fairway woods with less frequency than they do new drivers. Your responses suggest that a healthy percentage of you bought at least one new fairway wood within the last 1 to 3 years. That more or less brings us to the edge of the RocketBallz/XHot era when, for a brief window, fairway woods were sexy again.

Also of note, 3.42% of you don’t carry a fairway wood at all.


A full 64% of you report that you have no plans to buy a new fairway wood these. Obviously plans are subject to change (especially if you break something or what you have now stops working), but what you’ve told us suggests that consumer purchase cycles for fairway woods may be leveling off, or perhaps even returning to pre-RBZ levels.

Fairway woods aren’t the it club anymore, and could be on the verge of regaining their status as a barely-necessary evil, particularly among average to high handicap golfers.

On a more positive note, 9.42% of you told us you are planning to buy a new fairway wood this season, while 26.58 say you might.

Aftermarket Shafts


I suppose we shouldn’t find this surprising given what we know about our readership, but nevertheless, I do.

At a club with roughly 300 members I can count on one hand the number of guys I’ve played with who have something other than stock in their drivers. Even among the best players, the percentages are almost certainly lower in the real world than they are with gearheads such as ourselves.

More than 45% (46.53%) of you told us that you play an aftermarket shaft in your driver. Even here, I would have guessed 30%…tops.

It would interesting to better understand the split between those of you who were fit (and stick to a single shaft), and those of you who are compulsive dabblers.



It can be argued that when golf companies run out of ideas, they simply re-invent old ones. That which was once called the 2-wood has evolved into the Mini Driver.

TaylorMade introduced the first of the new breed last year with the SLDR S Mini. That was followed by this season’s AeroBurner Mini, which will soon be followed by Callaway’s Big Bertha Mini, and eventually, I suspect, other Mini-like clubs.

As of this moment, more than 55% of you are telling us you are not interested in the category, while another 5.69% of you told us you’re unfamiliar with the category entirely. I’d be willing to wager that both of those numbers will have changed substantially by this time next year.

TaylorMade hasn’t done any significant marketing around either of its Mini products (it’s little more than a word of mouth club at this point), but I suspect once competition hits shelves we’ll hear quite a bit more about the benefits of the various Minis, and that  should pique curiosity.

More to Come

We’ll be posting your responses in the hybrid, iron, wedge, and putter categories in the coming weeks.



First Look – 2014 Cobra BiO Cell (Woods and Irons)

First Look – 2014 Cobra BiO Cell (Woods and Irons)

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You’ve seen their new Tour Trusty wedges. You’ve seen the super game-improvement Baffler XL series, and yeah, some of you have seen some of Cobra’s New BiO Cell Lineup as well. While we’re still a couple weeks away from the Official release, somebody (I swear it wasn’t us) took the liberty of posting the entire 2014 Cobra catalog online.

For Cobra the early leak a bit of a gasoline enema; an uncomfortable surprise as they gear up for the official launch of what I can tell you is a pretty big (and important release for them). Last year was a bit of a proof on concept for Cobra. While white worked (for TaylorMade anyway), for a company the size of Cobra, releasing an entire flagship line with red, blue, silver, and orange crowns (while not offering traditional black), was definitely a bit of a gamble.

While I’m not going to lie and tell you that Cobra was a dominating force at retail, the AMP Cell sold reasonably well, and more importantly, what I saw anyway, was that golfers off all ages were receptive to Cobra’s unique take on aesthetics.

The goal for Cobra golf in 2014 is to build on whatever momentum carries over from 2013, and to further convince golfers that the cool stuff they make really does work. The team at Cobra is anything but delusional. They know that competing with TaylorMade, and Titleist, and Callaway isn’t as simple as painting a driver blue, but the Cobra team strongly believes that if they can be part of the discussion…if theirs is one of the 3 drivers you take with you into the hitting bay…if golfers are willing to give their products a serious look, Cobra believes they’re going to win more often than they loose.

BiO Cell Driver


BiO Cell Driver Notes

Taking the bold colors out of the discussion for a moment, BiO Cell is a relatively traditional-looking driver. The BiO Cell pattern is visible towards the rear of the crown (some golfers do love visible technology). The hosel adapter has been updated with a new 8 position cog (sorry, not backward compatible), and SmartPad technology is a holdover from the AMP Cell.

For those who don’t love bold colors, BiO Cell Driver is also available in glossy black.


Street Price: $299

BiO Cell + Driver


BiO Cell + Driver Notes

While BiO Cell + is the replacement for the AMP Cell Pro, this time around it’s fundamentally different from the standard model. The 440cc model features a Venollum alloy crown. What we’re talking about here is really next generation composite, which I suppose could make BiO Cell + the next generation ZL (which is going to make a lot of Cobra fans very happy).

Golfers are obviously going to notice the unique crown design. It’s slightly reminiscent of our own Callaway Versa Driver mock-up. The idea is to call attention to that Venollum crown. My gut tells me it’s going to be a polarizing feature, but thus far, among the golfers I know who have seen it, the response to the design is largely positive. It’s grown on me, but I’m interested to hear what you think.

This year’s model is adjustable from 8° to 11° (AMP Cell is adjustable from 7.5° to 10.5°) and  AMP Cell’s Fade settings have been replaced with draw options. 8.5° is very intriguing for me. The shaft is a “real” Matrix 6Q3 (Red Tie), however the custom white graphics are a Cobra exclusive designed to better match the 5 different crown colors.

We’ll tell you more about Cobra’s own CG story when BiO Cell is official and everything.  Stay Tuned.


Street Price: $399

BiO Cell Fairway


BiO Cell Fairway Notes

As they did last year, Cobra is releasing two models, a 3-4 and a 5-7. The MyFly8 adapter allows for 8 settings for each model, which gives the AMP Cell fairway the capability to cover what we’d call a strong 3 wood, all the way up to what some would consider a 9 wood.

While we have to hold the specifics for a little while longer, sufficed to say, Cobra is confident they can hold their own with the other big name fairway woods on the market.


BiO Cell Hybrid


BiO Cell Hybrid Notes

What can you really say about a hybrid? The models (2-3, 3-4, and 4-5) are available. There is some overlap in the loft range which will allow more savvy golfers the freedom to choose their model based on things like shaft length and ideal face angle.

The design is reasonably compact (it won’t easily be mistaken for a short-shafted fairway wood), and looks really sweet. What can I say…I love the idea of blue hybrid to match my driver.

Like the drivers and the fairway woods, BiO Cell hybrids are available in red, blue, silver, orange, and black.


Street Price: $189

BiO Cell Irons


BiO Cell Iron Notes

What we’re really talking about is Cobra’s answer to SpeedBladez and XHot/X2Hot, and whatever else you want to throw into the emerging distance iron category. The key for Cobra is the perimeter undercut that allows for BiO Cell’s unsupported (fast) face. There’s actually quite a bit of interesting technology built into the BiO Cell iron design (check back after we’re official), but we’re not sure how they’ll fair up against more streamlined designs.

Like everything else in the Cobra lineup, color is a part of the BiO Cell iron story. You can order these game-improvement irons with orange, red, blue, or silver cavity badges.


Street Price:  $699 steel/$840 (give or take)

BiO Cell Irons Combo Set


BiO Cell Combo Notes

For those who prefer hybrids over long irons (and I think most of us do these days), Cobra’s BiO Cell irons will also be available in a combo set. “Real” BiO Cell hybrids can replace 3,  4 and/or 5 irons.


Street Price: $799 Steel/$899 graphite

Jesper’s Hat


Up Bill Cap Notes

I might be the only one who cares, but Jesper’s signature Up Bill Cap has made its way into the Cobra accessories lineup. The one-size fits all cap is available in white, black, and tradewinds (how Cobra and PUMA will say “grey” in 2014). Retail price is $26.00

Womens Clubs & Carry Overs

For the ladies out there, Women’s versions of the BiO Cell Driver, Fairway, Hybrids, and Irons are available in more female-friendly colors.

Two year life-cycles are the norm for forged player designs, so not surprisingly, the more player-centric AMP Cell Pro iron will carryover for the duration of the 2014 season.

Have Your Say

Tell us (and anyone who happens to be reading) what you think of what you’ve seen so far. We know Cobra’s clubs will perform, but as far as the designs are concerned, what works for you, what doesn’t?

Most importantly, what will it take for Cobra to become part of your own internal discussion when it comes time to buy your next driver, fairway, hybrid, or iron set?

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Spy Pics! – 2014 Wilson FG Tour M3 Woods and Irons

Spy Pics! – 2014 Wilson FG Tour M3 Woods and Irons

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Written By: Tony Covey

Wilson Staff is Back

Maybe not back in black, or even all the way back, but 2013 has been nothing short of a monster year for Wilson, and if the 2014 lineup is any indication, they’re just getting started.

Given Wilson’s reputation (both real and imagined), one might assume that whatever success Wilson has enjoyed in 2013 is the result of strong iron sales. That’s partly true, the D-100 irons has helped propel Wilson to a 119% increase in irons sales over last year.

That’s pretty good…especially if you’re Wilson, but %119, it turns out, is relatively nothing.

The real story of Wilson’s 2013 turnaround is the unexpected (to me anyway) success of the D-100 series of woods. Admittedly some, including myself, found the D-100 line to be a curious offering from a company struggling to become relevant.

Wilson staffers have won more majors than any company in golf. For a serious stretch of time, Wilson was THE company for serious golfers. And yet, despite the company’s tour and elite player pedigree, every single club in the D-100 line of metalwoods falls solidly in the game-improvement category.

This is how you wage a comeback (shakes head, rolls eyes)?

Take the driver for example. It’s an ultralight model with no x-flex offering, and nothing below 9°. Despite being infinitely fun to hit, the D-100 was never a real option for higher swing speed players who need a little help keeping the ball down and keeping spin under control. It was never going to appeal to 100% of the potential market.

If anything, the D-100 line was created almost to the exclusion of the better player, and Wilson knew it. As much as anything, the D-100 was a proof of concept designed to prove to the corporate overloads that the new blood at Wilson Staff was capable of not only creating golf clubs that performed; they could create clubs that people actually wanted to buy.

And they did.

Retail Buyers Took Notice

Flying home from this year’s PGA show I ended up on the same flight (and consequently in the same airport bar) as my local Wilson Sales guy (shout out to my man Adam). While I was admittedly less than thrilled by the D-100 series, he was understandably excited and optimistic. Sell-Through (orders from retail shops) were way up. The early signs suggested it could be a big year for Wilson Staff.

It has been.

I already told you about that 119% increase in iron sales. Pffft…119%. Check this out. Compared to the previous season:

  • Hybrid Sales: Up 269%
  • Fairway Sales: Up 344%
  • Driver Sales: Up 294%

I could probably do the math, but even the simplest among us doesn’t need a calculator to realize that Wilson Staff sales are up a shitload on average.

Those are awesome numbers, and that’s without digging into the success of the Duo Golf Ball (for a time it was outselling everything other than the ProV1 at the PGA Superstore). And, from a performance standpoint at least, it’s without digging into what quite possibly is the best wedge you’ve never hit; the Wilson FG Tour TC.

2013 has been a year of epic resurgence for Wilson Staff, but as I said at the onset, they’re just getting started.

2014 Wilson M3 Series

Yesterday we posted a pic of the upcoming FG Tour 100 Blade. While everyone loves a pretty blade, those types of offerings will never be your top sellers. To be successful you need to feed the middle without watering things down to the extent that the better player (or the guy who thinks he’s a better player) loses interest. That’s exactly the challenge Wilson has struggled to overcome for the last several years.

2014 is different. Fresh off the success of the D-100 series, a reinvigorated Wilson Staff finally looks poised to deliver a metalwoods lineup that will not only appeal to better players, but one that is also every bit worthy of the Wilson Staff tradition.

I think you’re going to like it.

FG Tour M3 Driver

While recent anomalies like Xhot and RocketBallz have proven you can sell woods with a fairway-first approach, for most companies, it’s the driver that powers the lineup. That’s been a problem for Wilson. Seriously, when was the last time you got excited about a Wilson driver?

How about today?

As they did with the D-100, Wilson is taking a lightweight approach to driver design with the FG Tour M3.  Wilson calls their philosophy “The Right Light”. The idea is that while lighter can be better (Wilson’s research shows that for 50% of players, swing speed increases as head weight decreases), you still need to serve those players for whom lighter isn’t better (that same research found that for 15% of players, swing speed increases as head weight also increases).

The FG Tour M3 Driver offers the versatility needed to better fit a wide range of golfers.

With head weights starting at 198 grams and total weights beginning at 294 grams, the Wilson FG Tour M3, though heavier than the D-100, could be one of the lightest offerings on the market in 2014.

Take notice…I said “starting” and “could”. There’s nothing definitive in my statements, and that’s because the Wilson FG Tour M3 driver can be as heavy as 206 grams (head) and 312 grams overall.

Apart from the hosel adjustability (we’ll cover that next), the biggest performance feature of the FG Tour M3 is an interchangeable sole weight (3g, 7g, and 11g) that allows the golfer to tune his driver to reach the desired swing weight and/or optimize performance. It’s those sole weights, along with the differing weights in the stock shaft offerings, that account for the range of both head and total weight options.

Unlike some others, Wilson includes all 3 weights with your driver purchase. No need to hit eBay first,  from day 1 you’ll be free to either set it and forget it, or mess around to whatever degree your compulsion drives you. Like most other aspects of adjustability, the reality is most golfers won’t take advantage of the options, but for the tinkerer, it’s one of many features of the M3 series that makes it more compelling than anything Wilson has released in years.

Seriously. I think you’re going to like it.

Other key features of the FG Tour M3 design include an adjustable hosel that allows loft to be adjusted from 8.5° to 11.5° in 1/2° increments and Wilson’s Neutral Sole Design (NSD) which, like Cobra’s Smart Pad, ensures the club sits square and stable when grounded.

Each degree of loft changes launch angle by .6° and alters spin by 270-300RPM.

Finally, from a cosmetic perspective, the M3 driver is engineered to look the part of a better player’s driver. The pear shaped head is 460ccs, has a deep face for a more compact look at address, and what Wilson is calling an “iced” matte crown with black PVD finish.

Stock shaft offerings will be the Aldila RIP Phenom which has quickly become one of the go-to standards for mid-launch/mid-spin performance, and the Aldila Phenon NL which Aldila lists at the lowest launching shaft in their current lineup.

Additional shafts will be available through custom.

FG Tour M3 Fairways and Hybrids

As you might expect the FG Tour M3 Fairways and Hybrids feature much of the same technology as big brother. While additional weights aren’t included, the same weight-based adjustments are available in both lines.

The fairway will be available in lofts of 13.5°, 15°, and 17°. Each can be adjusted 1° down and 2° up, also in 1/2° increments.  Each degree of loft change alters launch angle by .8° and spin by ~200RPM.

Hybrids will be available in lofts of 17°, 19°, 21°, and 23°. Each hybrid can be adjusted 1° up or down from the stated loft. The M3 hybrid’s hosel also allows for an upright setting at each loft.

FG Tour M3 Irons

We’ve been telling you for years that you need to be looking at Wilson irons. Sure, the Ci-11s (game-improvement) performed very well for us, but it’s the original FG Tour, and last season’s FG Tour V2 that have left the lasting impressions.

The V2s proved particularly awesome because they offered the forgiveness of a game-improvement…arguably a super-game-improvement iron, in packaging that was every bit that of a better player’s iron.

Our testers love them. Our readers love them, and if you never hit them, you should.

I think you’ll love them too.

Forged from 8620 carbon steel, the new for 2014 FG Tour M3 is the direct replacement for the original FG Tour. The V2 will remain a current offering (and it damn sure should). The new model is slightly larger (longer and taller with a wider sole) and more forgiving than the design it replaces. It has more offset – though it’s progressive, and a more modern, rounded shape with more sole radius and camber (the original FG Tours are fairly blunt).

While the description suggests more of a game-improvement design, Wilson maintains that the FG Tour M3 iron falls solidly in the game-improvement category. While I know some of us would like that everything on the market be a true player’s club, adding some forgiveness while adding some needed differentiation from the FG Tour V2 makes solid sense.

What we’re really talking about is an iron that fits well in the emerging transitional iron category; forged irons for the guy transitioning from a traditional GI design. In that space, the FG Tour M3 isn’t just interesting…it’s dead sexy.

Wilson Staff is Back in the Big Leagues

Look, I don’t have an illusions…delusions really about Wilson’s 2014 lineup powering the brand to the #1 spot in golf. Wilson isn’t going to unseat TaylorMade tomorrow, and they know that. And 2013, no matter how good of a year it’s been, it’s still just 1 year, and I think Wilson knows that too.

What Wilson did in 2013 is kick the tires of relevancy. They apparently liked what they saw and that’s reflected in the 2014 FT Tour M3 lineup. It’s not going to happen overnight, but what I’ve seen in the last year suggests that Wilson is serious about reclaiming their place in the golf equipment world.

Wilson was stagnant for so long that there’s an entire generation of golfers…let’s call it what it is…the Nike generation, who’ve never know Wilson Staff as a top-tier golf company. For those guys, Wilson has never played on the same level as TaylorMade, or Callaway, or even Nike.

It’s going to take time for that lost generation to discover the the revitalized Wilson Staff.

As with anything…you have to start somewhere, and that’s what Wilson did in 2013. With the D-100 series they laid the ground work…they proved they could make clubs that golfers want. In 2014 they’re going to dedicate the same type of effort towards the seriously player, and based on what I’ve read, and what I’ve seen, I’m all but certain he’s going to like it.

You can expect to see the Wilson FG Tour M3 lineup hit retail sometime in January of 2014.

FG Tour FW Shop
FG Tour M3 4
FG Tour M3 Driver Face
fg tour m3 group
FG Tour M3 Heads 3
FG Tour M3 Hybrid 3
FG Tour M3 Hybrid Heads
FG Tour M3 Hybrid
FG Tour M3 Iron 3
FG Tour M3 Iron 4
FG TOUR M3 Iron 5
FG TOUR M3 Iron 6
FG Tour M3 Iron 7
Wilson FG Tour FW Crown
Wilson FG Tour M3 crown
Wilson FG Tour M3 Drive Sole
Wilson FG Tour M3 Driver2
Wilsong FG Tour FW Crown
Wilsong FG Tour M3 Hybrid
Wilsong FG Tour M3 Hyrid2

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Tiger Woods is Killing Nike Golf

Tiger Woods is Killing Nike Golf

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Written By: Tony Covey

In the history of Nike Golf there was Duval (and now Duval again), and Glover, and Cink, and now Rory, and Stanley, and Watney too, but before there were any of them, there was Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods isn’t simply synonymous with Nike Golf, Tiger Woods is Nike Golf. He put them on the map, and while it has taken some time, Tiger is the reason why most view Nike as a legitimate player on the golf equipment scene.

2013 should be a banner year for Nike. Most of the world has moved on from the scandal, Josyln James, and whatever mostly nameless Perkins waitress you want to throw in the mix. The Sergio mess aside, Tiger is healthy, he seems happy (as happy as Tiger ever seems), and most importantly for Nike, he’s not only winning again, one could make a legitimate argument that he’s playing the best golf of his life.

In any other sport this kind of success would be a slam dunk for the company in Nike’s position, but this isn’t any other sport, it’s golf, and while I’m hard-pressed to explain exactly how it’s different, I’m certain that it is.

If Nike is serious about becoming the #1 Company in Golf, and they’ve told me as much on a few occasions now, they need to realize they’ve outgrown Tiger Woods. He’s not only taken them as far as any one man could have, the company’s apparent continued reliance on him to take them even further is killing Nike Golf.

I’m not suggesting they dump him. He’s absolutely a key piece to any future success, but you can’t build the #1 Company in Golf around a single athlete, not even when that athlete is Tiger Woods. To get to #1 Nike needs more than Tiger Woods. They need more than Rory McIlroy too. A whole lot more.

What they must do is fundamentally change their approach to the golf business.

Maybe I’m wrong, but as a guy on the outside with a little bit of inside knowledge, it sure looks like the engine powering Nike Golf’s breakout season has stalled.

To get things moving in the right direction again, I respectfully (as respectfully as I’m capable of anyway) submit this list of 5 Things Nike Golf needs to do if they’re serious about being #1:

1. Get the New Gear In Tiger’s Bag

I know…easier said than done. It’s Tiger, he’s the best in the world, and he’s not going to play anything he doesn’t want too, but Tiger’s gear is a big problem for Nike.

Tiger isn’t just good, Tiger is too good. Nike is always going to have to fight the perception that Tiger could win with absolutely anything in his bag.

Most knowledgeable consumers already believe that Tiger would still win if you forced him to play with 3 croquet mallets, a hockey stick, and a tennis ball (USGA Rules not withstanding), but it still doesn’t look good for Nike when Tiger is winning at a better than 50% clip with a 2 year old driver and a golf ball that’s been off the shelf for just as long.

Michael Jordan never wore last year’s shoes.

Every Tiger win is a missed opportunity to promote the new gear. Worse yet, it’s actually bad for business. If the new stuff isn’t good enough for Tiger, why the hell should the average golfer put it in his bag?

The Covert should have been the biggest driver story of the year, but it’s not. That’s in no small part due to Tiger’s continued use of what for the rest of us is supposed to be obsolete technology.

Like I said…I get it. Equipment changes for guys at Tiger’s level are kind of a big deal, and Tiger is notoriously precise. It takes time, effort, and a whole lot of trial and error (which is why the USGA’s Conforming Driver list is about 6 versions of the Covert deep at this point), but I gotta be honest with you, it doesn’t look good when red is on the shelves and black is in Tiger’s bag.

When Tiger wins the US Open, and I’m pretty sure he will, if he does it without the signature red club in the bag (sorry, a fairway wood barely counts), you can close the book on the Covert. Whatever story Nike had left to tell… forget about it. It’s over. The same is true for RZN 2.0. You might as well bring back the Tour D.

The smart play is to take a page out of TaylorMade’s book on this one. When they release a new driver, the biggest names on their staff play it. Immediately. The brand is bigger than the athlete, and it should be.

Who’s paying whom?

Granted, TaylorMade doesn’t have a Tiger Woods on the roster, but they do have a lot of other guys. And those others guys…within a month of release, they made the R1 the #1 Driver on Tour, which is a big part of the reason the R1, even with a $400 price tag, and a questionable paint job, is one of the best selling drivers on the market right now.

If you can’t get Tiger to make the switch, at least paint the damn thing red.

2. Get More Guys

Nike needs more tour spread. Yeah, it’s stupid how much value the average consumer places on what the tour guys have in their bags, but that’s how it goes. It’s Pyramid of Influence 101.

Nike knows this. It’s why they pay Tiger, Rory, and Schwartzel, Watney, and those other guys (and women) stupid amounts of money to wear the swoosh. To be a serious player at retail, you gotta have guys on tour.

The problem for Nike is that their top guy only plays 1/3 of the time and the #2 guy plays only slightly more often. If you can force Tiger and Rory to play twice as often – and even if you can –  you’re going to need a lot more guys. A lot more than the handful you added this season.

Golf isn’t like the other sports where having the most popular guy in the game all but guarantees you’ll outsell the competition.

Case in point:  Nike has Tiger Woods, TaylorMade has Sergio Garcia.

We all know who the more successful (and the more popular) golfer is, but who’s #1 in drivers? Who’s #1 in irons. Who’s the #1 company in golf right now?

TaylorMade is #1, not because they have the best player…or the two best players. They don’t win the most majors.  They’re #1 because they have more guys playing their gear. More guys means more sales. It’s a numbers game, and  a pretty easy one at that.

Let me drop some circular logic on you. You know why Titleist is the #1 Ball in Golf? It’s not because any single golfer plays the Pro V1, it’s because just about everyone who isn’t (and some who are) on staff with TaylorMade, Nike, Callaway or Cleveland has the Pro V1 in their bag. Titleist has the #1 Ball in Golf because Titleist has the #1 Ball in Golf. The numbers are self-perpetuating.

To get to #1, you’re going to need more guys.

3. Put the Social Back in Your Social Media

Nike sucks at social media. Sorry, there’s no point in tap dancing around it. It’s easy to look at the raw numbers (Nike has the largest social media following in all of golf) and interpret the count as a measure of success. It’s not. It speaks to the popularity of the Nike brand, and the popularity of Tiger Woods, but please believe me when I tell you you’re doing it wrong.

Social Media presents the most direct opportunity for a company to have a real conversation with potential customers and fans, and given their reach, Nike Golf has the biggest opportunity in all of golf. And thus far, Nike Golf has completely squandered it.

Tiger Woods…he has 3.3 million followers and he’s equally as awful.

In Tiger’s defense, he’s got better things to do than tweet, and so from what I can tell, he doesn’t.

Tiger’s every tweeted word…hell every syllable is clearly scripted, scrutinized, and sanitized. There’s barely an ounce of actual genuine humanity in the entire feed. It’s not @TigerWoods it’s @TigerWoodsPRMachine. It’s disingenuous and it’s painfully obvious. That’s fine…for Tiger.

Unfortunately, where Social Media is concerned Nike Golf appears to be to following Tiger’s lead.

While I am unbiased in my assessment of the industry, on a human level, I’m anything but. The people I know at Nike from President Cindy Davis to the R&D  guys to the PR team are some of my favorites. They’re brilliant, they’re insightful. They’re good people, and most importantly, they’re genuine. They have personality, and that’s where the tremendous disconnect is.

Nike’s Tweets and Facebook posts are a formulaic mix of What Would You Do photos, tour news, product shots, mad libs (Nike Golf _____ at Social Media), and what can best be described as motivational posters (Just Do It). Actual interaction is tossed aside in favor of a steady stream of one-way conversations. We talk, then you talk, but we don’t converse. There’s no back-and-forth. It’s not compelling, it’s not fun, and there’s no real engagement. At least the pictures are cool.

The Nike is Social Media experience is 180 degrees away from my experience with the actual people at Nike Golf.

Just Interact, dammit.

Trust your people to kill it, and they will. I’m sure of it.

Contrast Nike’s approach with that of Callaway.

This time last year, Callaway was pretty horrible at Social Media too (they sucked), but they’ve transformed themselves – almost overnight. The new Callaway has been aggressive, but very genuine in its approach to Social media. They’ve got people at all levels of the company actively involved and interacting with the consumer. Most importantly they’ve embraced their humanity.  You know there’s a real person on the other end of the wire.

Callaway’s Social Media success is a large part of the reason why thee company turnaround is happening faster than anyone could have imagined.

Nike’s Social Media approach isn’t simply bland, it’s robotic. It’s the voice that asks you to speak or input your credit card account number using your touch-tone phone.

4. Never Mind the Athlete, Believe in the 40 Year Old Fat Guy

It’s great that you believe in the athlete, and it does make for one hell of a tagline. It looks great in those motivational-style graphics that keep popping up on Twitter and Facebook.

That kind of approach has clearly worked well in football, and metric football (soccer), basketball and running. I’m fairly certain it’d be a hit in hockey too, but this is golf, and like I said at the beginning, golf is different.

Athletes don’t play golf…well some do, but the point is golf is not the exclusive domain of athletes. Golf is one of the few sports that allows non-athletes to play…and even play competitively at some level into our 80s. Hell, I’ve got a 90 something year-old at my club who still manages to hit balls on the range. They don’t go very far, but the old man is swinging.

He’s awesome, but he’s not an athlete, and majority of us who play golf, we’re not athletes either…at least not anymore.

You want to kill it in golf? You really want to be #1? To hell with the athlete, believe in the 40 year old fat guy. Believe in him, and all the other non-athletes and former athletes who live and breathe the game of golf every day.

Recreational golfers are only partly delusional. We’re willing to believe that your driver will give us 10 more yards, and your irons will make us better ballstrikers. We’re all but certain that new gear and new gear alone will absolutely lower our scores, but when pressed, most of us aren’t deluded enough that we actually think of ourselves as athletes.

The problem with believing in the athlete is that it conveys the message that Nike Golf’s gear has nothing to do with success on the golf course. It’s the athlete not the equipment.

And you’re right, it is the athlete…or at the very least, it’s the golfer, but that doesn’t mean you print it. To get to the top, you absolutely need us to believe it’s the gear.

You can still believe in the athlete, but if  the 40 year old fat guy doesn’t believe your gear will make him better, 100 red clubs (or just 14) in Tiger’s bag won’t get him to buy a single one of them.

5. Take Some of Your Balls Out of Tiger’s Bucket

That’s right…diversify. Everything I’ve said so far has led to this. Rely less on Tiger Woods. Keep him in the family, but pick your spots. As absurd as it might sound, let him be just another guy on the Nike roster.

Wait for him to give you something brilliant on the golf course to use. And I think everyone reading this is certain he will. Celebrate his every accomplishment, but stop forcing it. Nike Golf is bigger than Tiger Woods…at least it should be.

We loved the initial Tiger and Rory spot. It was brilliant. It was funny, and it presented one of those rare moments when Tiger came across as genuine and likable. That matters.

The other Tiger stuff you’ve done…the “Winning Takes Care of Everything”, the Earl Woods spot after the scandal; one is smug, the other is distasteful, and neither did anything to bring people to the Nike Golf Brand. Both made me think less of Nike Golf, and I’m certain I’m not alone.

Nike is bigger and better than that. I’m certain of that too.

Oh sure…predictably some people ate it up, because they love Tiger, they loved you for it, but that’s what politicians call playing to your base. It gets your crowd fired up, but when the dust settles you’re nowhere, but where you started.

Let’s be honest, even Tiger’s biggest fans would likely concede that he’s not the most charismatic athlete Nike has ever had on the roster. He’s not Michael Jordan. He’s not Bo Jackson. He’s probably not Lance Armstrong either, and even if he was, when applied to golf, the model is flawed.

Finding the guy – or even the guys (if you want to throw Rory in there too) – and building your brand around him, is never going to work in golf.  You’ll sell a lot of shirts, and some shoes too, but filling a golf bag with 2 grand worth of gear, it’s never going to happen. It takes more than one guy…more than two guys to do that. It takes a smart company and a diversified marketing strategy.

Michael Jordan won 72 games over the 1995-1996 season. 1 season, 72 wins. It has taken Tiger 17 years to win 78 times on the PGA Tour. I know…that’s a stupid comparison. Basketball isn’t golf. It’s apples and oranges.

It’s not the same, and that’s exactly my point.

If Nike is going to be the #1 Company in golf, they’re going to have do a lot of things differently.

None of this is on Tiger

This isn’t a statement on who Tiger Woods is as a golfer, a person, or a pitchman. I’m not drinking any hater-aid. Nobody is arguing that Tiger isn’t the greatest golfer on the planet right now. Any brand in golf should be a stronger retail force with Tiger on the roster.

I’ll say it again, Nike Golf is what it is today because of Tiger Woods. He put them on the map.

Rhode Island is on the map too, and it’s not getting any bigger.

As a company, and a brand, Nike Golf has simply become too dependent on Tiger Woods.

He’s not the face of the brand, he’s the shoulders of the brand. He and he alone carries them – and that’s no model for long-term success in the golf industry, especially for a company that aspires to be #1.

Until Nike Golf figures out how to climb off of Tiger’s shoulders and adopts a strategy that focuses on the equipment and not the athlete, and does so in a way that’s genuine-enough to resonate with the consumer, they’ll only go as far as Tiger can carry them…and he’s already carried them about as far as any one man can.

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