Tough Times at TaylorMade—Club Prices Cut

ToughTMaG

Following what can only be described as a dismal 2014 sales and profit performance accompanied by a dramatic drop in their share of the metal wood product category, TaylorMade-adidas Golf (a division of adidas AG– OTCMKTS:ADDYY) laid off six percent of their employees July 15 and has been quietly cutting retail prices of their leading models.

CEO David Abeles, in the top position for only six months, saiTMaG_DavidAbeles_Captiond in the company announcement:  “In light of the continued challenges TaylorMade is facing in the market place, we have to fundamentally rethink our business. We need to redesign our business with a more focused approach to product innovation, brand marketing, sales and customer service. We have now begun the process and rebalanced our workforce by six percent on Wednesday to increase operational efficiency. This measure is a difficult and necessary step in order to lead our organization into a successful future. At the same time, we will continue to analyze our business. The outcome will be a more nimble, more creative and more profitable company.”

This follows a restructuring and realignment done last year when Adams Golf division closed their Texas plant and moved to TaylorMade’s headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif. It was also reported TaylorMade laid off 15 percent of the golf division employees at that time.

Under former CEO Mark King, who left in the spring of 2014 to take over Adidas Group North America, TMaG had forged a commanding lead in metal wood sales for its drivers, fairway woods and Rescues further enhanced by the purchase of Adams Golf, a leader in game-improvement clubs. Sales in 2013 set a record of $1.4 billion strengthening its position as the world’s largest golf equipment company.

The 2014 restructuring and layoffs reflected TMaG running into trouble with the King strategy of market domination that saw three major product introductions in quick succession during 2013 forcing inventory on retailers and virtually blitzing competitors such as Callaway Golf with new technology particularly in drivers, typically the highest priced golf club. But in a market with intense competition and at best flat demand, consumers became confused when forced to make buying decisions in order to be playing the “latest-greatest-longest,” delaying purchases or even buying from competitors.

Unsold inventory at retail rapidly became a problem with a very public example being Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) in July 2014 dismissing over 500 PGA Professionals. Price cutting not just of TaylorMade clubs but other brands became the norm which, though giving golfers some great bargains, meant lower sales and profit numbers for both retailers and club companies continuing through the fourth quarter.

Ben Sharpe followed King to the top job and oversaw thTaylorMade-r15-driver-TaylorMade-AeroBurner-Drivere August 2014 Adams relocation and golf division layoffs while initiating talks with key retailers to address product cycle, inventory and pricing concerns. When Abeles took over from Sharpe, who ran TMaG for only 10 months, he was faced with sales having fallen from 2013 $1.4 billion to $1.0 billion in 2014 and poor results in the first half of 2015 as a result of a one-third drop in metal wood sales even with the introduction of the new R15 and AeroBurner models.

Competitor Callaway Golf (NYSE:ELY), who TaylorMade supplantedPING_G30Trio_400x300 as the top club company, has had a resurgence in metal wood sales and introduced three new models for 2015 while privately-held PING’s G30 Driver became the bestselling model so far this year.

To boost sales TaylorMade began cutting prices on both the R15 and AeroBurner model lines before mid-season and well in advance of new model announcements. Seemingly to keep pace, Callaway is matching and exceeding the TMaG price drops with reductions of $150 across the board for all their new driver lines. This has forced Cobra-Puma Golf (Puma AG–ETR:PUM) and others to allow retailers to cut prices pushing the general price level of all metal woods down an estimated 10 to 12 percent.

Some industry analysts see this as another round of fierce price competition with the company that can bring the products with the most innovative technology to market the quickest as the winner. However, it is also clear price differentiation will be difficult to maintain as has been seen so far this summer.

Global Golf Guide

GGolfGuide_Screen_400x300

Now available free of charge at the iTunes App Store is an app that will give you help finding courses anywhere in the world with course ratings to aid you make your choice.

Called the Global Golf Guide & Logbook it is was developed by Yves C. Ton-That author of the best-selling “Golf Rules Quick Reference” and creator of the iGolfrules app. 

“It’s very convenient to see so many great rounds of golf saved in one spot,” says Ton-That. “Recently I had a friend ask me the name of a course we played near Naples, FL. He was quite impressed when I looked it up in my logbook and found the course name within seconds. He was even more impressed when I tapped on his name in my logbook and five other rounds we’d played together that he had forgot about appeared on my screen”. 

Golf Guide & Logbook app for the iPhone documents rounds played so rather than buying another logoed golf ball or crested shirt as commemoratives of the day users can keep a log of the experience and store the information on their iPhone. The app also gives them the chance to rate the courses adding to the overall pool of knowledge all users can access and it may be shared directly with friends.

The Golf Guide portion of the app contains every golf course in the world with GGolfGuide_Screen2contact data, route planning and ratings making it easy to book a tee time while the personal Logbook stores a variety of information such as photos, scorecards, players and results. The amount of information stored is determined by the user who can then display golfing history chronologically or on a map and sort entries by rating, frequency, countries, playing partners, etc. They can also share rounds they’ve played with friends via email, Twitter or Facebook.

The app stores all the user’s rounds in one place, accessible at any time so all of the great on-course moments are never forgotten. And it’s all free of charge.

Success at Golf

SUGC2_400x300For the best players in the world golf is not easy which is odd since the concept is so simple—start here and hit a ball into a hole over there. But as even casual golfers know that’s really hard to do.

So accepting the difficulty of the pastime we call golf (they were going to call it something else but all the other four-letter words were being used), recognize we only add to the frustration by playing courses set up so we have no chance of success. That doesn’t mean everyone but pros and scratch handicaps should play putt-putt layouts but suppose we define golfing success as having an enjoyable time with friends and a reasonable opportunity to make a few pars during a round? How about an occasional birdie on the card?

You get my point. The game is a lot less fun and certainly we feel a lot less successful if, on a par-4, after hitting our best drive and a pretty darn good second shot we still must hit a mid-iron (or more) to reach the green. Sound familiar? It’s the idea behind the PGA’s program “Tee It Forward” which encourages golfers to play from a tee set ahead of where they usually play. Less distance, a chance to reach most if not all of the par-4s in two and maybe even have something less than a wood for the third shot on the par-5s.

It’s more fun too. Certainly a win-win for golfers and golf because if it’s more fun people will play more often and bring their friends. women-golfers-400x300

But what if you’re already playing the most forward set of tees and still can’t reach any of the par-4s in less than three or four shots? Or that you must hit driver on every par-3 (and are still short of the green)? And forget about the par-5s which are more like par-7s or par-9s. Players in this category have slower swing speeds and are effectively playing courses approaching 8,000-yards based on the relative distance they can hit the ball.

PGA Tour professionals don’t even play courses that long so we are asking these shorter hitting usually less skilled players to sacrifice fun, enjoyment and the thrill of making a birdie for someone else’s idea of golf.

By and large these players are women, who along with juniors are the segments of the population where golf can find new players…its chance for growth.

This notion shorter hitting women should tee it up on a course that for them is a 1,000-yards longer than the guys on Tour play is not a great way to keep anyone playing golf much less make it attractive to take it up. Then there’s the issue of holes with long forced carries or cross hazards in front of greens or bunkers placed so there’s no way to run a ball on to the green and one of my favorites—putting surfaces management has decided should emulate the contours and speeds of Augusta National during the Masters.

Boy, talk about a formula to back up play and drive all but the most fervent out of the game…you couldn’t plan it any better, even if you tried.

Put another way, our game has intellectual and emotional rewards that attract and keep people playing. It is also endlessly frustrating and a test of character like almost no other. So if we want to push people out—particularly ladies with the capability to hit their drives maybe 150-yards—making courses long and difficult is a sure to accomplish the goal. Plus playing from tees that are too long is a primary cause of slow play so the proper course set up goes a long way to solving the “I don’t have the time, it takes too long” reason why people don’t play or play less. Put everyone on a set of tees commensurate with how far they hit the ball and play is much faster.

SUGCWhat brought this all into focus for me was a booklet done by the PGA America for its members entitled, “Setting Up Golf Courses For Success-A Critical Factor in Attracting More Women to Golf.”

It’s filled with interesting solutions targeted at making courses more enjoyable for women. There’s some obvious concepts (though the vast majority of courses still don’t get it) such as a set of tees so women can hit short and middle irons into par-4s just like men rather than a fairway wood. Or how about setting up the course figuring out the correct set up to leave approach shots over cross hazards that can be hit with a lofted club so there’s some chance it will stay on the green rather than run over as it probably would if a fairway wood had to be used.

My favorite section though is “Tee Nomenclature” which tackles the traditional black, blue, white and red tee names, holdovers from a bygone era when gender and age somehow were the determinants of where you could play. How about dropping these preconceptions and naming tee sets after local landmarks, people or even just different colors than the “sacred” four. We need to change the negative connotation some men seem to have from playing “the ladies tees” or the inane testosterone-dripping “taking it back to the tips” or whatever else gets in the way of everyone playing the set of tees most suited for their skill level.

Presuming of course there are a set of tees meeting criterion.

Which brings us back to “Setting Up Golf Courses for Success” and the basic idea if women can’t hit the ball over 150-yards there should be tees they can play to get the satisfaction and enjoyment inherent in the game.

Images courtesy of the PGA of America

“Setting Up Golf Courses for Success” by Arthur D. Little, senior trustee of the Royal Little Family Foundation with support from golf industry organizations is available online at PGA.com

Gary Player – “Don’t Choke”

51ukXZ9AMvLTo a golfer, other than “shank,” “choke” is the most detested word in the English language. It’s that terrible state of mind that robs players of their touch, their swing and seemingly their mental prowess.

Nine time major champion Gary Player knows about all the possible ways a golfer can “mess up” and in the second edition of Don’t Choke: A Champion’s Guide to Winning Under Pressure he offers his advice of how to cope and indeed win in competitive situations in golf, business and life in general.

Younger persons may only have a vague idea of the peripatetic Player and what they do know coming mostly from his appearances promoting his ideas on what to eat and staying in shape.

But 50 years ago he was one of the “Big Three” competing against and beating fellow World Golf Hall of Fame members Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Both have great respect for Player competitiveness and success with Palmer being quoted saying, “Gary is one of the greatest competitors who ever played the game.”

Chapters describe his experiences and thinking while winning his majors on the regular Tour plus his nine majors on the Senior/Champions Tour. Most revealing are his accounts of how he controlled his emotions or at least attempted to control them. Player then goes further, taking what he learned in the pressure cooker of championship golf and applying it to his personal life. Additionally the application of these principles in business helped Player in his very successful golf course design company plus several other endeavors.

Player is enthusiastic, intense and some say even a little over the top in person and those characteristics certainly come across in his book as he promotes his philosophy of physical fitness, nutrition and life. Sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, author of the classic Golf Is Not A Game Of Perfect, wrote the forward citing Player’s insights as vital to winning as a super-hot putter.

However, perhaps the important thing to take away from reading Don’t Choke is no matter how well you control yourself and play the shots it’s still good to remember it’s possible someone can still beat you. The real challenge is not to beat yourself.

Don’t Choke — A Champion’s Guide to Winning Under Pressure

By Gary Player with a foreword by Dr. Bob Rotella

Skyhorse Publishing hardcover, also available as an ebook

Price: $22.99

TMaG & Microsoft Partnership

TaylorMade Golf Company and Microsoft using the Microsoft Band have come together and created new performance technology for golfers.

“Digital technology is playing a bigger part in peoples’ lives today,” said David Abeles, CEO of TaylorMade Golf Company. “This is no different in the golf space, so it was a natural fit to partner with Microsoft in developing this innovative platform, aimed at enhancing the golfers experience through a series of unprecedented smart technologies.”

MicrosoftBand

MicrosoftBand

“We are excited to bring the golf experience to the Microsoft Band,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president, Microsoft Devices and Services. “The combination of walking several miles with the physical rigor that goes into playing a round provides a great opportunity for Microsoft Health and Microsoft Band to track our golf customers’ fitness and provide observations to help take their game to the next level.”

Microsoft Band, the first by Microsoft Health, helps the user reach wellness goals by tracking heart rate, steps, calorie burn and sleep quality as well as email previews and calendar alerts.

Applications on the Microsoft Band will provide shot tracking and analysis capabilities beginning with the Golf Tile app which has shot tracking, GPS yardages to front, middle and back of the green and a digital scorecard. Plus biometrics such as calories burned, steps taken, heart rate and duration of the round will be captured. Data shows on the Microsoft Band throughout the round but a summary can also be found on the Microsoft Health phone application (iOS, Android and Windows Phone) or Microsoft Health web dashboard afterwards.

TMaG will soon launch a new app named myRoundPro, a standalone analytics platform that is enhanced when used in conjunction with the Golf Tile and Microsoft Health. myRoundPro will analyze golfers’ statistics in greater detail such as strokes gained, proximity to the hole, fairways hit and greens in regulation.

The Microsoft Band is sold for $199 by Microsoft Stores, at Amazon, Best Buy and Target and online at microsoftstore.com.