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Where there’s a club and a ball there’s hope

By ED TRAVIS

This column was originally published in 2012 and reproduced today with sadness and a sense of deep loss at Palmer’s passing and expresses the effect this remarkable man had on his millions of fans.

The King is 11 over, today Arnold Palmer turns 83. He has arthritis, survived cancer, lost his wife of more than four decades and plays only occasionally in front of fans but still he is The King.

Though he may be on the back nine of life and his golf game isn’t up to the lofty standards to which he formerly played, he is thoroughly loved by fans. He practices or plays almost every day whether at his Bay Hill club in suburban Orlando or the course in Latrobe, Pa. where he grew up and now owns or his other winter venue in Palm Springs, Calif. where his current wife has a home.

To give an idea of his magnetism, charisma or whatever you want to call it; a few years ago some visitors from California were driving past the eighteenth tee at Bay Hill as Palmer’s foursome were hitting their tee shots. The Californians screeched to a stop, stuck a camera out the window and gawked (“My God, there’s Arnold Palmer”). After hitting his drive he walked to the edge of the tee box nearest the street and waved so they would have a good picture plus a great memory…I won’t even speculate how many other touring professionals, past or present, would do that.

Everyone who’s been writing about golf for a while has a personal story about Palmer and I have several such as an interview session a number of years ago when he was seriously considering no longer playing in the Masters. (He said he would stop any number of times usually following a poor round when the walking scorers no longer showed a number after his name).

The occasion of the interview was the inauguration of another of his golf course designs. In this case it was evident he wasn’t very enthusiastic about the course; the routing was hemmed in by large homes and contoured around ponds excavated to satisfy the environmentalists. However, as was his style, he was enthusiastic (cynically, if only about the fee the owners paid him) and put on a mini-clinic while warming up with pithy commentary from his course design partner the late Ed Seay. Then it was off to race around the front nine.

There was no back nine. Along with three of us writers, who I’m positive would not have bothered to show up if it hadn’t been the King, Palmer repaired to the men’s grill for liquid refreshment. Sitting there relaxed he joked, told a few stories then started pumping us for the questions we would ask in the subsequent press conference, so “he could be prepared.”

There were the obligatory inquiries into his design philosophy and how it was employed on this newest of his creations plus several other equally yawn-provoking exchanges. After a while the conversation turned to the state of his game and his competitive plans. His answers were human and truthful without the use of the royal “we,” the affectation of so many of today’s toursters.

I asked a couple of more questions concerning what he was working on to improve his swing and then he gave me the quote which became one of the best leads I ever had.

Palmer said in a steady voice, “Well, you know, where there’s a club and a ball there’s hope.”

Not only is this a wonderful memory of time spent with Palmer and a pretty good story, it also expresses his love of the game and is one of the reasons fans love him.

Maybe next year to commemorate his 84th I’ll tell you another of my Palmer memories…a true one about the men’s room at Bay Hill Club.

Tiger’s In – Nike’s Out

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He hasn’t put his game on display for over a year and his last PGA Tour win was in August of 2013 but the soon to be 41-year old has created lots of attention by saying he will play in a charity event October 10-11 followed by the Safeway Open October 13-16.

And the company whose clubs he has played since 2002 is getting out, out of the club, bag and ball business to concentrate on shoes and apparel.

Tiger Woods and Nike, inseparable in the minds of many, have had an amazing run together. Woods currently has 79 Tour wins with 14 majors (not all using Nike equipment) ranking second all-time in both categories. Nike though, was never able to come up with a category-defining club in spite of having on the payroll Tom Stites, one of the most respected club designers in the business. What they did however, with Woods under the most lucrative contract in golf, was become the number one golf apparel brand.

It’s no wonder, with the equipment business having at best a minimal-growth future, the decision to leave that arena was made.

Woods and other staff members, most notably Rory McIlroy and Michelle Wie, will continue to wear Nike Swoosh apparel so they will still have a huge presence in the minds of consumers. Golfers just won’t be able to purchase Nike clubs.

The effect the Nike withdrawal from selling equipment is uncertain but a good estimate is it probably won’t be very large. The golf division never had more than $800 million (last year $706 million) in sales but since the breakdown between hard goods and soft goods was not reported, actual club sales are unknown. They never approached a 10% market share in hard goods.

Some in the media are saying Nike’s problems are because Woods hasn’t been playing and that’s incorrect. Nike didn’t have market leadership or even contend for leadership when Woods was at his best, winning multiple times in a season. His presence on Tour alone never could generate the amount of business Nike wanted to dominant the golf hard goods sector but did help push soft goods to the number one spot.

Golf for Nike was a tiny part of their overall business, less than two percent, and several factors virtually preordained their decision. The small market share plus an industry where product lifecycles are measured often in months with relatively large development costs meant staying just didn’t make sense. It was obvious golf equipment had to go.

With Nike paying more attention to golf performance and lifestyle soft goods, the biggest impact could be seen by competing shoe and apparel brands Acushnet’s FootJoy, adidas and Under Armour. Adidas is also leaving equipment and selling its golf brands TaylorMade Golf and Adams. The other major player Acushnet, owner of Titleist, is in the process of going public which typically can create uncertainly in corporate decision making.

This could mean Callaway picks up the major portion of Nike club sales however large it was and undeniably Callaway has been on an upwards trend since Chip Brewer took over as CEO. Privately-owned Ping and others potentially could see a bump in sales as well.

With all that in mind, which clubs will Woods switch to now that he plans to compete and again chase Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors?

Well, it’s not clear he will switch at all and for sure not right away though Woods has said companies are sending lots of clubs to try out. He hasn’t played a Tour event since August 2015 and it’s unlikely he will make a club change soon. Additionally any equipment company paying the amount of money Woods can demand will want their logo prominently display on his cap and shirt so there’s an immediate conflict with his Nike apparel contract. Nike is worth several millions each year to Woods and the contract doesn’t renew until the end of 2018 so he’s not going to put it in jeopardy.

One thing is for sure, fan interest will continue as will the speculation about Woods as he tries to get back to being top of the Tour.

The Mistake Jason Didn’t Make

day_tmagJason Day is the world’s number one ranked golfer though Dustin Johnson with his superlative play this summer is gaining on him and a lot depends on the outcome at East Lake Country Club in two weeks at the Tour Championship.

However, that not the point of this column.

The point is to congratulate Day for not making the same mistake numerous other stars have made (including Payne Stewart after he won his first major) of switching equipment companies. Often what happens is though the star is being paid lots of money to play the new clubs, they don’t perform like the old clubs.

Many struggle for months if not an entire season trying to recapture the winning magic they had found in the old sticks.

Of course, as soon as winning a few tournaments or a major pushes a player higher in the golf consumer’s consciousness equipment makers line up offering significant monetary inducements to drop the clubs that made them famous and take on new ones.

Day hasn’t done that, in fact he had already re-upped with his club company TaylorMade Golf several months ago in advance of the contract renewal date at the end of the year.

What he didn’t continue was his contract with TMaG’s parent company adidas to wear their shoes and apparel.

Therefore the announcement he had signed with Nike to endorse shoes and apparel for a reported $10 million annually was not a huge surprise. Day not only will continue with TMaG for his clubs he can’t play Nike clubs since they dropped out of that part of the business last month.

So congratulations to Jason Day for not making a potentially disastrous choice.

SUPERMETAL & Kevlar – The Exotics XJ1 Driver

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Tour Edge Golf rolled out the Exotics brand in 2008 with the express purpose of utilizing technologies and materials that might not make economic sense for large club manufacturers since the need for higher pricing would limit sales. This idea has pushed the 30 year old company to an enviable positon of producing clubs of outstanding performance often pioneering manufacturing processes such as combo-brazing, a chemical bonding of the face to the club body rather than welding.

The new Exotics XJ1 driver brings together materials and construction techniques that Tour Edge says are designed to help the average golfer. Quoting President David Glod, “Most technologies of the past decade have benefitted players with higher swing speeds eliminating the majority of golfers. We have been developing the XJ1 driver for over four years, working on each characteristic of the club, moving critical amounts to weight around for the best results and waiting for the technology to catch up to our goal of bringing this extremely lightweight driver to the market which will benefit golfers with real swing speeds.”

The basic idea then, is a very lightweight driver that gives the average player the opportunity to create more clubhead speed along with the launch characteristics to produce more yardage.

Tour Edge first breaks new ground in the XJ1 by making the club body from a titanium alloy they have tagged as SUPERMETAL. This 9-1-1 titanium is significantly lighter than titanium used previously but with very high strength, two properties allowing the metal to be thinner and effect a 10 percent weight savings.

Glod made the point, “…no one has the SUPERMETAL, which allows us to shift a huge amount of the weight to the sole. The SUPERMETAL is also more elastic at normal swing speeds, which translates into greater spring from the whole body while keeping the CT [Characteristic Time, a measure of flexibility] normal.”

And the new ideas don’t stop there. The XJ1 crown is made of a Kevlar-carbon combination that weighs only 12-grams, saving more weight and lowering the center of gravity. Also since this material is stiffer it aids in producing more ball speed. Significantly, according to Glod, the center of gravity is below a line running perpendicular to the clubface producing a higher launch with lower spin.

In response to the question, is the advantage of Kevlar-carbon because it is lighter than the carbon fiber, Glod responded, “No, the Kevlar-Carbon in the XJ1 allows better stiffness producing a better sound.”

The face plate of thin flexible titanium is robotically laser bonded to the body giving two nice benefits, additional weight saving and a higher trampoline effect or C.O.R for more forgiveness. The sole has three tungsten weights and because of the weight saved in the body and crown, heel and toe bars for more stability and better resistance to twisting have been added. A draw ball flight tendency is enhanced by a replaceable tungsten screw near the heel of the sole with additional weights available.

With a 45-gram Fujikura Air Speeder R-flex shaft the total weight of the XJ1 is only 275-grams placing it in the ultra-light category so average golfers can swing it faster which means more distance. Even going to a stiff flex the weigh only increases by 10-grams.

The Exotics XJ1 will be in stores Nov. 1 with a choice of 9, 10.5 or 12 degrees loft for $700.

A Fearless Ryder Cup Prediction

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OK, here it is right at the top…the USA will win the Ryder Cup going away thus restoring both team pride and the Cup to these shores after what, as my English friend says, has been “a very rough patch.”

We are all familiar with the history–American dominance ended in 1983 and since Europe has won 10 matches and USA 4 with one tie.

The American team still has to choose four members making it very early for predictions but there are some significant things which lead to the conclusion Team USA will do the job for Captain Davis Love III.

First the players. Team USA so far has one rookie (Bruce Koepka) and Team Europe has six, half of Captain Darren Clarke’s squad. Though in the past some first timers have risen to the occasion, having so many on the team multiplies the odds the intense pressure will be a problem for the Euros.

Next is the American players desire to win on top of all those losses and after what can only be called a humiliation in 2014. Only Phil Mickelson has been on winning U.S. teams, 1999 and 2008, meaning the six veterans on the 2016 team have never hoisted the Cup. As an aside, Jim Furyk (Mr. 58) was also on the 1999 and 2008 teams so he may be a possible pick this year.

Thirdly is home field advantage. Not only will the greatest number of fans be cheering for the Americans but Hazeltine National Golf Club, this year’s venue in Chaska, Minn., is a quintessential American parkland design by Robert Trent Jones in 1962 with updates beginning 1991 by Rees Jones. The Euros are used to playing on this style course so the home field advantage is not the site but the enthusiastic thousands outside the ropes.

Finally, the secret (which really is no secret) to winning a Ryder Cup is making putts and by any measure the eight Americans on the team so far are much better on the greens than the 12 Euros. Considering the most likely four players that could be added to the U.S. team—Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar—Kuchar is 21st and Fowler 46th in strokes gained putting on Tour and both Watson and Holmes though ranked in the 130s have the reputation of being able to go low. So putting for a change will be a strength for Team USA.

We all know however, regardless of dressing it up with facts, predictions like this one are really from the heart not the head but like millions of other fans I will be glued to my television the end of September.

Wintergreen Golf – Love at First Sight

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By ED TRAVIS

Some may think “Virginia Is For Lovers” is just another marketing slogan but at least in the case of Virginia’s Wintergreen Resort and from a golfer’s perspective there’s a lot to like if not love.

Wintergreen has a well-deserved reputation as a family-oriented ski resort but the rest of the year it’s a destination where the same mountains offer visitors the chance to play some really memorable golf. The 11,000-acre Resort is located in the jaw-droppingly-beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains which if you have never been there should be immediately put on your list of places to visit. Near the Blue Ridge Parkway on the eastern side of the mountains southwest of Charlottesville, Virginia, Wintergreen is about a two hour drive from Richmond and three hours from Washington, D.C.

Wintergreen’s two courses, Devils Knob for resort guests and Stoney Creek open to the public, are very different and each is worth playing.

Describing Devils Knob the first and most important thing (you will thank me for this) is bring your camera and don’t think you can get by with the one in your smartphone. The 1976 Ellis and Dan Maples design has views and vistas deserving the best pictures you can take.

ThDevils Knob Elevation signe sign near the practice green lets you know this is mountain golf and in fact Devils Knob is the highest course in Virginia at 3,523 feet. Laid out before you is the panorama of the Rockfish and Shenandoah Valleys with some of the furthest mountain peaks 50 miles away.

Devils Knob is a very playable 6,712 yards par-70 from the back tees but to have the most fun be sure to select the proper tees for your game. There are three additional sets from which to choose allowing golfers of all skill levels the opportunity for an enjoyable round: white 6,123 yards, gold 5,625-yards and red 4,443-yards.

As you might expect many of the holes play either up thWintergreen Devils Knob #16_640x425e mountain or down the mountain and the routing traverses through tall stands of oaks and maples. There’s also the opportunity to see lots of wildlife including both deer and bears since the 6,000-acre Shamokin Springs Nature Preserve adjoins the course. Run by the Wintergreen Nature Foundation, the Preserve’s Nature Center can be seen near Devils Knob’s 17th hole.

The greens of mountain have the tendency to break towards the valley and though we found them to be receptive to a well struck iron shot, mishits had the annoying habit of running down into greenside chipping areas or one of the many bunkers. There are also lots of granite outcroppings, mostly out of the line of play, but some very odd bounces into some unfortunate places can be the result of ball-rock contact.

The very first hole shows what to expect during your round at Devils Knob. The par-4 (411-yards from the blue tees) bends slightly to the right around a bunker and with a drive in the fairway the green should be easily reachable. But be cautious with your second shot. The putting surface is not very large, only 27 paces deep, and from the fairway looks like there’s a bit of a false front but that’s an illusion created by the elevation change. Number one however does offer you the opportunity to get your round started with a par or even a birdie.

The strength of Devils Knob is in the par-4s and 16 is one you will enjoy. Again downhill from the tee but your attention will be challenged by the spectacular view of the valley below. And speaking of views, on fourteen before hitting your drive through the chute of trees leading to the fairway, look behind you. The miles and miles of mountains you see are worth a second or even third look and are a real photo opportunity.Wintergreen Devils Knob #4_320x480

The other course at Wintergreen is Stoney Creek and it’s not on the mountain but below in Rockfish Valley. The difference in elevation, almost 3,000 feet, and topography makes a totally different experience than Devils Knob. There are three nines here; the original 18 holes, now the Shamokin and Monocan nines, and the Tuckahoe nine. All are Rees Jones creations with Shamokin and Monocan opening in 1988 and Tuckahoe in 1998.

Jones is often called “The Open Doctor” because of the many times the United States Golf Association has called in him to overhaul courses in preparation for holding our national championship. Seven times in all Jones has worked his magic on Open venues including Congressional Country Club and Bethpage Black plus his talents haven’t been missed by the PGA of America since he has redone eight PGA Championship venues including Baltusrol for this year’s PGA Championship.

His talent and inventiveness are apparent at Stoney Creek with each of the nines having a distinctive character. Perhaps the one of the best memories visitors will take away from a day of golf at Stoney Creek (aside of the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains rising above you) is that there is something for every skill level of player.

The 8th hole at Tuckahoe for instance plays 165-yards over water from the back tees but is only 100-yards from the forward tee which is positioned so the water does not need to be carried. Or number 4 on the Monocan nine which plays downhill with mounds on the right and bunkers on the left from the tee. Playing the tips from 420-yards necessitates a long straight drive however the most forward tees are 80-yards less, setting up a chance for a drive that could roll all the way to the bottom of the slope.

Completing the Wintergreen golf experience is the Golf Academy which is located at Stoney Creek and there are several one-day and multiple day packages to get your game the fix it needs.

Not matter how you look at it both Devils Knob and Stoney Creek are fun to play and best of all will provide a challenge to every player.

Wintergreen was purchased in 2012 by coal billionaire Jim Justice for $16.5 million and, before reselling it in 2015, invested a reported $12 million in capital improvements. Justice, who is currently running for Governor of West Virginia, is also owner of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The present owner of Wintergreen is the publicly traded EPR Properties, a real estate investment trust (NYSE: EPR), and Pacific Group Resorts, Inc. operates Wintergreen under a long term lease.

So, Wintergreen Resort is not just for skiers. The rest of the year it’s a mecca for outdoors activity with lots of stay and play packages plus an extensive tennis program, the Wintergreen Spa, hiking trails not to mention several restaurants. The one we liked the best is the Copper Mine Bistro with the menu alternating some really interesting choices. Visitors also like the Edge Restaurant with its casual atmosphere and what can only be labelled as a spectacular mountain view.

Wintergreen Resort should be on your short list for golf especially if you’re looking to for a break from summer heat or the opportunity to see the autumn colors along the Blue Ridge.

New From New Balance

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New Balance is known primarily for their high quality running shoes but they also make top notch golf shoes that have been tested and worn by this writer since their introduction. The company is based in Boston and among their worldwide manufacturing facilities are five plants in the U.S. that make more than 4 million pairs of shoes each year. This allows them to use the “Made in the U.S.A.”  label when over 70% of a shoe is domestically produced.

Golf shoes from New Balance were first seen at the PGA Merchandise Show in 2014 with six styles for men and women and since then the new player in the market has been able to effectively compete with the more established brands.

The latest from New Balance are the NBG2004 due to be at retail Sept. 15. These are good looking athletic-style golf shoes that don’t weight a lot (11.6 oz.) and have seven low profile cleats using the Champ Slim-Lok Zarma Tour system. The upper is waterproof microfiber and the NBG2004 makes use of New Balance’s REVLite midsole for comfort.

Designed with a wider forefoot that lets the wearer’s toes spread out for better balance, the instep is slightly lower to promote feeling of being “connected” with the ground to help with a more powerful swing. The PW-1 last also has a narrower heel for stability and a shallower toe area to lock in the front part of the foot. The upper is waterproof microfiber leather with plenty of support and a form-fitted tongue.

The REVLite midsole was first created as lightweight cushioning for runners and works similarly for golfers. There’s also a two year waterproof warranty.

The NBG2004 will be offered in three color combinations: White/Red, Grey/Blue and Black/Green. Suggested retail price is $119.95.

Olympic Golf – A Big Success…But

Park&Rose_Gold_640x480Olympic golf was a smash hit but will that success help to accomplish the goal of those who believe the inclusion in the XXXI Olympiad summer games could result in significant numbers of people taking up the game? Will the Olympics reverse golf’s decline in participation?

There is no question how much being on the Olympic stage meant to each of the 120 who played. It was an experience of a lifetime and each felt some of the magic of being on the world stage.

Got it. Understand it.

However, the cynic in me doesn’t get how the hoped for mystique surrounding golf returning to the Olympics will somehow solve the steady leakage of players from the game. All that was missing from the Golf Channel’s coverage was the shot of a kilted bagpiper marching over a dune into the mist at sunset playing “Scotland the Brave.”

One of the primary reasons, indeed the biggest reason, the push was made to again have Olympic golf was the worldwide exposure would somehow help “grow the game.” Well, golf is already a worldwide sport with a history of championship play older than the Olympics so if you’re looking to showcase the game an Olympic field of just 60 players is ridiculous.

If its exposure we’re after let’s have the best in the world playing, a Team USA and a Team Great Britain and a Team China competing together not as individuals. Excepting the final round, individual play turned both events into just one more 72-hole march. Hasn’t anyone heard of a two player scramble or alternate shot? Both could be done with the total score counting for four rounds maybe with one round of individual play.

Regardless even if those changes are made we are left with the sobering question. Will any of those who watched Olympic golf, perhaps seeing the game for the first time, take up the game?

It might happen but in any appreciable numbers is inconceivable. One interesting outcome worth watching though is the effect Shanshan Feng winning the Bronze will have in her home country of China where the population is more than four times the U.S.

Developing countries with their large number of non-golfers are said to have a great potential for new players but generally they struggle to feed and house their people. They certainly don’t have the money to create programs for newbies to say nothing of building golf courses. This would seem to make an insurmountable problem for all the “grow the game” folks.

By now we should have figured out people play golf for a variety of motivations stemming from their own character, social needs and culture plus of course that’s assuming they have the time and can afford it.

Golf in the Olympics changes none of those things.

Millions of us golf nuts were thrilled to see the competition and hope in four years it will be even better but thinking that Olympic golf is going to somehow cure the industry’s participation ills is unrealistic. It’s not going to happen.

 

10 Rounds with Exotics DG Tour Series Putter

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There are lots of reasons to pick a particular putter from “it looks good” to of course, “it works…at least for now.” There’s even settling on a new flat stick because of the designer has a reputation for making putters used by Tour pros regardless of whether it’s suitable for you.

But I think my reason for interest in the new putters from Tour Edge Golf, the Exotics David Glod Tour Series, may be a first. The company’s chief designer David Glod (who is also the owner) creates quality woods and irons that are top performers when compared to clubs from much larger club companies and usually at a much more pocketbook-friendly price. I have sung the praises of his clubs for several years, especially the fairway woods and hybrids.

I like them so much they are in my bag even after numerous head-to-head comparisons with the latest from just about every other maker. It was because of the performance of the long clubs from Tour Edge I was looking forward to giving the DG Tour Series putters a thorough try over 10 rounds.

I wasn’t disappointed.DG_2345_250x370

The model tested was the 5.1, a face balanced small mallet head with a Superstroke Mid Slim 2.0 grip and from the first putt the overwhelming impression was the solid feel of the impact with the ball. Alignment is easy aided by the white line and the edges of the cavity that takes up more than half the top of the head.

Did it fix all my putting problems? No, but it wasn’t too long to have my confidence rise and all questions about the performance of the putter in my hands disappeared.

Glod talked about his designs in the DG series which include two modern blades and three mallets. All have a distinctive face milling, a weight of 350 grams and offer a choice of black PVD or silver bead finish. Each is CNC milled from a single block of carbon steel and priced at $249.99 or $279.99 with a Superstroke grip.

According to Glod the main idea behind the design of the DG Tour Series was, “To improve on popular models with special nuances and create all new versions like V4.1 and V5.1.”

He produced the DG Tour Series putters with a distinctive milled “X” pattern rather than an insert in the face because, [an] “X pattern grips ball better with sharp diagonal edges for less skid,” and the head being milled from a single steel block since, “A block of steel is more pure for best the feel.”

Which it does without question.

Negatives: You may have heard this before but that doesn’t make it less true—get fitted properly. Even though the cost of a fitting session with a competent professional adds to the cost of any putter, if you rely on pure chance the odds is getting a putter that fits your stroke are slim. For example, do you know if a face balanced putter or one with toe hang or how much toe hang is best for you? I thought so.

Recommendation: The Exotics David Glod Tour Series putters are of the highest quality and though they may not cure all your putting woes at least you’ll know it’s not the putter.

A short video from Tour Edge may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NeYmZ2Nai50

One Less Slice to the Pie

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The golf equipment industry is evaluating the potential effects of Nike Golf announcing Aug. 3 it would getting out of the club, ball and bag business to concentrate on its golf apparel lines including ones under the Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Michelle Wie brand names. Club manufacturers have spent the last several years trying to find ways to increase sales and now the slice of the pie that belonged to Nike is up for grabs.

The question is what the remaining club companies will do to take over Nike’s share of the market and if the strategy involves reduction in the prices of clubs to attract sales the golf consumer could benefit.

Nike is the smallest of the big four by a significant margin with sales of $706 million this past fiscal year trailing Callaway Golf ($844 million sales in 2015), TaylorMade-adidas Golf ($989 million) and Acushnet ($1.5 billion).

However the scrum for the sales that had been going to Nike will take place in a muddy field.

There is uncertainty surrounding the two largest companies. Acushnet, the parent of Titleist and FootJoy, has registered with the Security and Exchange Commission to make an offering of stock to the public. Adidas has put its TaylorMade Golf division with the Adams Golf and Ashworth brands up for sale though details of any potential deal are unknown.

Smaller companies are also making moves that add to the list of possible outcomes such as Srixon’s Cleveland brand changing focus to wedges and putters while Srixon and their upscale XXIO lines market woods and irons. Tour Edge Golf has increased efforts to further penetrate the market for irons with well received new models.

Undecided for now is the fate of Tour players who endorse the Swoosh clubs and the list starts with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Michelle Wie but also includes veteran Paul Casey and rising stars Tony Finau and Bruce Koepka. Woods has said he is actively looking for a new relationship with a club company with the mostly likely candidate could be Acushnet-Titleist since longtime rival Phil Mickelson is the chief spokesman for Callaway and the question marks surrounding the sale of TaylorMade.

Jordan Spieth endorses Titleist clubs and golf balls but is contracted with Under Armour for apparel.

Additionally, money paid to endorse a given club line has been put under close scrutiny by every manufacturer as profits have shrunk. The huge sums Nike has paid in the past for marquee stars are most likely not part of the equation. It has been reported Woods earns $50 million annually from Upper Deck, Rolex and Nike endorsements even though he has not played a single event in the past year. Woods’ Nike deal includes both equipment and apparel.

Three years ago McIlroy signed a 10-year deal for between $200 and $250 million according to published stories including apparel as well as equipment.