I was recently sent a few dozen golf balls from a new German company. They are called Vice and the balls come in a variety of colors and compressions. And having tested them for the last couple months they are really, really good. These guys are very brave entering the US market and going up against Titleist, Callaway and Bridgestone in the worst retail golf market in memory. But, with awesome packaging and a quality product, priced to sell at way, way below the big boys, I wish them luck. Take a look at their website and you'll see pricing at around $25 a dozen and I defy you to tell the difference between Vice and Titleist if your handicap is north of 10. Even for the single digit player the Vice Pro is a great alternative to the $60 a dozen Titleist option. Give them a try by buying online here. (and no I'm not a paid spiffer - this is a great golf ball!)
Slow Play is a topic on which I have a lot to say. I grew up in England and learned to play 18 holes comfortably in three hours (often less), so it was a shock to the system playing on public and private golf courses in America where four hours and 30 minutes is more the norm.
It's actually been a while since I have blogged (sorry about that!). My clients have been keeping me busy! Although the retail golf business is tough, companies with cool, niche brands continue to do well.
As I said, I am passionate about pace of play and have recently started working with a cool new company, Golfswell, that addresses perhaps the hottest subject in the game right now - slow play. Despite some attempts by the governing bodies, namely the USGA with its "While We're Young" PSAs, the length of time it takes to play 18 holes in the US is a joke. You can point your finger at many organizations for the calamitous situation. Televised golf is in part responsible for the position we find ourselves in - pros consulting their yardage charts three times, backing off shots five times (yes, you Keegan Bradley) are all contributing to not only an awful viewing experience but encouraging amateurs that it is okay to play slowly. When is the Commish going to do something about it? That's right...never! He has hours of television pre-sold to fill. So, Webb Simpson has six practice swings. So what, says the Tour - not our problem.
The fact is that these Pros are part of the problem because kids are watching this nonsense, lining up the ball, backing off, checking their yardage book one more time - come on...hit it will you!
So what does Golfswell do to address slow play? Well, their iPhone App gives you a full GPS of the golf course you are playing PLUS it monitors your speed. The App helps you get around the golf course quicker and alerts those who are there to help with real time data and real facts. The massive advantage to the club is it frees up additional tee times so they can generate additional revenue.
So, your saying, I'll get around quicker? Yes, I am and there is amazing data from a well-known TPC course to confirm that round times fell a minimum of 15 minutes. The App is now moving from Beta to market because it works! Goodness knows we need something that speeds up play and helps to take away the major frustration ever present in today's game. Read more here on their website and download the free App here.
Our monthly news is out today. This month we feature a great new book by Dan Jenkins, our involvement in a wonderful charitable event on behalf of St. Jude's Children's Hospital to be played at The Greenbrier and you can see the fastest selling Tin Cup in history. Oh, and we have a special offer for our readers. You can read it here. If you would like to subscribe email Nick here.
The picture you see above is from Getty Images. No, I didn't steal it from the internet. I used Getty Images latest salvo against piracy of their pictures by giving them away and, in return, giving credit where credit is due. This picture of my good friend (and client for a dozen years), Per-Ulrik Johansson, was taken by Andrew Reddington and you can clearly see the credit underneath the picture. The free download service is not an option on some pictures, especially those that are current or newsworthy - who can blame them - it costs a small fortune to send a photographer to an event.
Getty have clearly observed what happened in the music business who were years behind the free downloaders and decided the better option is to give away certain images in the hope that people are more likely to want to pay for other images. It's smart thinking and one that will serve them well. Just look at the rise of the monthly music subscription services like Pandora and Spotify. 99.9% of people would rather pay for something than steal it and Getty are now testing this theory with their extensive photographic library. See it here - www.gettyimages.com
The marketing department at TaylorMade must have been drinking too much coffee! What on earth possessed them to take four of the most well known and photogenic players in golf (Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose) and turn them into poorly made models as if they are from Thunderbirds? It may have seemed a good idea at the time and we get it - it's supposed to be funny - but it's not! The accents are appalling and the story line is weak. TaylorMade has access to the actual players on a weekly basis and they come up with this mess. Watch it soon, because it is going to get pulled. Let me know if you agree or if I am missing something.
This product actually won "Best in Show" and the honor was well deserved for a product conceived, designed and brought to market by surfers. I met with one of the owners, Star Faraon and he has never played golf, clearly never worn a blue blazer and is a cool west coast dude. He is also a smart guy and introducing the Golf Board at the show, he had few pre-conceived ideas about how it would be received by the traditionalists who frequent the massive convention center. When I met with him he was in shock, as his booth was swarming with golfers intrigued by the prospect of a new form of golf course transportation. The Golf Board is well engineered, looks like great fun and should be embraced by clubs as a new way to promote the game and perhaps even speed up play. www.golfboard.com
Callaway Apex irons
Callaway seem to have incurred the wrath of some people by using the Hogan Apex name on golf clubs. Who knows why that would be? And frankly who cares, especially when the clubs look and feel as good as they do. The top line on these irons is as good as I have seen since Callaway introduced the forged irons in 2007 and they are still in my bag! Callaway designer and all round good guy, Dr. Alan Hocknell talked me through the features of the clubs and they are a technological marvel as well as looking like the next set in my bag! www.callawaygolf.com
As some of you may know, I am closely involved with Tin Cup, but that doesn't stop me from telling you about the most amazing viral tweeting I have ever experienced. We introduced a new cup called "Incognito" a couple weeks ago. Both golf.com and Golf Channel picked up on the cup as resembling Walter White from Breaking Bad and tweeted it accordingly to their thousands of followers. And within 24 hours the image had been retweeted hundreds of times. Go take a look! www.tin-cup.com
Having had a couple of sun related questionable bits chopped off, I am now more wary of the damage the sun can do than ever. Golfers Skin has quickly become the skin protection chosen by players on the professional tours. And for good reason, it has a UV factor of 30, which studies show is about as high as protection goes, plus you put it on without the need to wash your hands to remove the slimy and sticky residue left by other brands. One more thing I like - the packaging is simple, clean and contemporary. www.golfersskin.com
Owned by fashion guru, Mossimo Giannulli, this company once again features in my faves. In previous years this was for their colored gloves, that have now been blatantly copied by Footjoy! This time they make the Top 5 for their new shoe that is available in July. You can see it below - a killer wool covered grey and purple shoe that will be my shoe of choice on sunny days. I'm not sure how they will do in the rain, but who cares when you look this good! www.gfore.com
I have been going to "the Show", as everyone calls it, since 1989 and yes, it is golf's Groundhog Day but I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's an opportunity to meet old friends, make new ones and see the latest and greatest equipment from the big manufacturers and from those one-man bands that just might strike gold with their latest product. This piece appeared last year, but I have added a few new thoughts here to round out the Top 10 Do and Don'ts for the PGA Merchandise Show. I'll be based on
Booth #2208, Tin Cup - swing on by and say hello!
1. Don't try and sell on other people's booths. They have spent thousands on the space and months preparing for the show. You would be amazed how many people try and do this - it is just not cool. There are plenty of other spaces and occasions to sell your wares.
2. Don't make meetings just for the sake of it. Everyone is busy and aren't impressed that you have appointments every 15 minutes! Take your time and everyone will benefit.
3. Drink plenty of water. The free Pepsi isn't going to help your hydration! There are water fountains and it may well be the only free thing in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC)!
4. Wear comfortable shoes...this is no time to break in your FootJoy teaching shoes.
5. If you want to do business, dress appropriately. Smart casual is perfect and don't dress like you are on Tour...you're not, or you would be in California or Abu Dhabi and not schlepping around the OCCC like the rest of us.
6. Eat a good breakfast at your hotel because the food in the OCCC is like a hot dog in a movie theater...overcooked and overpriced. It still beggars belief that there is no recognizable food brand represented.
7. Be very specific about where to meet your appointment. Pick a booth, preferably a small one so you can't miss the person you are meeting. Confirming your 1030 at the TaylorMade booth will almost certainly guarantee you'll still be looking for one another 20 minutes later. And remember there is nowhere to sit down in the Hall, so be prepared to stand and talk. (See no. 4!)
8. Give yourself time to move about the floor. It's a long way from the 1000 aisle to the 6000 aisle so don't make three appointments in 60 minutes in three locations. It's like trying to get from uptown to downtown in Manhattan at 4pm with no cabs - all the stars need to be aligned and it still takes twice as long as you think.
9. Be patient. Everyone is busy and often running a few minutes behind. Whether you are buying or selling they will come.
10. Take some time to wander the floor. Go see the New Products section and marvel at the craziness of this business of ours.
Are you looking for a cool and truly authentic golf gift? Then you have come to the right place. Yes, they are all clients and I make no excuses for promoting their terrific American made products. Hey, it's my blog! There are in alphabetical order, so here we go.
Josh Smith Golf Landscapes
Josh's day job is as a golf course superintendent at the wonderful California Club in San Francisco. By night he turns into golf landscape painter extraordinaire! Josh's much acclaimed work hangs in many Top 100 clubs and also in the offices of many of the great architects in the game today. His work includes the Bandon courses, Ballyneal, Pebble and many more. As well as private commissions, Josh has a series of limited edition giclees on canvas available of many of his paintings. They are $825 and this includes hand finishing by Josh, hand stretching onto stretcher bars, so they are ready for framing and also fedex. These limited editions of only 30 pieces are stunning! Take a look at his site here and if you like what you see email me and I can take your order!
It's been quite a year for Lee as he worked on all four major championships, including creating the official posters for the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. (At The Masters he painted a series of limited edition pen and ink drawings). There are a couple of great offerings in particular I wanted to bring to your attention. The first of these is a limited edition print of the U.S. Open poster personally signed by the champion, Justin Rose. A significant percentage of the proceeds benefits The Kate & Justin Rose Foundation, a charity created to "inspire children from the inside out: through nutrition, education and experiences." You can read more about the charity here. The 100 pieces in the limited edition are priced at $281 - the same number as Justin's winning score at Merion. You can reserve one of these unique pieces by emailing me here.
The other cool gift is the "Summer Slam" collection of 3 majors posters of Merion, Muirfield and Oak Hill. Available at a special package price and all signed by Lee, why not buy one for yourself and give the others as gifts. You can buy the collection here.
MacKenzie Walker Golf Bags
Todd Rohrer and his intrepid band of Portland craftsmen make the best leather golf bags in the world...bar none. Handmade from the finest leather and customized with initials, logos and more (including secret pockets) these golf bags make a statement. For me, they say I love golf, I want to walk and I am serious about the history and tradition of the game. MacKenzie has no need for useless double straps and ten pockets - these bags have what you need, where you want it. They are available in many colors and finishes and they will last you a lifetime and then some. You can read more here.
Another Portland based company is Seamus Golf. They have created a cool niche by making authentic woolen head covers crafted from the finest fabrics from Scottish and American wool mills. And I love them! Seamus covers are now in many of the country's best pro shops and the full range is available online. At MacDuff, we commissioned our own tartan covers from MacDuff fabric (see below) and they make perfect gifts. Can you see that little leather tab with our logo? - love it! Buy them here.
Stitch makes gorgeous leather head covers - plain and simple. These instant classics made in Cary, North Carolina have garnered high praise across the country as well as on Tour and I can attest to the cool good looks and admiring glances from fellow golfers. This month Stitch has launched the Italian Collection and those green ones have my name written on them! But be quick, because they are a limited edition and will go fast. You can see all the new covers here.
Tin Cup continues to grow and more and more people are "making their mark" before teeing it up. With over 140 designs as well as the opportunity to create a unique custom cup, everyone should be marking their ball with this great little American made product. A great way to buy Cups is the Foursome Package - you get four cups, clips, leather valuables pouches and pens - so choose your favorite and give the others as gifts. Three presents solved in one go...perfect! Buy the Foursome Package here.
Final the worst phrase associated with a golf tournament is done. Allegedly following pressure from Tour head honcho, (and G5 frequent flyer) Tim Finchem, the PGA of America has made the wise decision to drop the clunky phrase "Glory's Last Shot."
So, with a little luck, the commentators from TNT and CBS will have read the memo and it will be a "GLS" free telecast. We will still of course have to put up with a zillion CBS promos and filler that will ensure that the 4th major will also continue its position as the 4th placed telecast. And please don't tell me it has the best field of all the majors based on the spurious World Ranking - because that has nothing to do with the quality of the tournament or the lousy TV production.
Now, if only we can lose "The Green Mile" and the "Bear Trap"! Another project for another day.
Any political pundit worth their salt will tell you that running a campaign is all about staying on message. Having sat through countless PSAs by the USGA during the U.S. Open telecasts, someone needs to remind the American governing body of the game this fact. With the game of golf losing players hand over fist over the last ten years, they (along with a number of the other alphabet soup governing bodies in golf, namely The PGA, PGA Tour, RandA) have seen fit to spend tens of millions of dollars on consultants who continue to massage their egos by convincing them that golf and growth should be in the same sentence.
During the NBC broadcast we were pummeled with three campaigns - Tee it Forward, Get Golf Ready and While We're Young. There were too many confusing messages and one of these blue blood consultants should stop hanging out at the Merion clubhouse, earn their pay and tell the USGA that one of these campaigns is enough. So, let's take a look at the campaigns and their effectiveness - or not!
Tee it Forward.
Featuring Jack Nicklaus, the concept is that all of us should move forward one set of tees and make the game more enjoyable. No argument here and something we do in our group regularly.
Outcome - Good ad, good execution, clear message.
Get Golf Ready
Featuring Tom Watson, this one encourages new players to pay $99 for a series of five lessons and have fun, fun fun! There is no mention really of how it all works and the feedback from many clubs is average at best. The program is often managed by the assistant pro, players come for one or two lessons and then what do they do? Where do they play?
Outcome - Poor ad, average execution, unclear message.
While We're Young
Who doesn't love CaddyShack and the thought of the blue blazers actually watching the movie is hilarious enough. But, and it's a huge but, on the week that the USGA rolled out the ads to everyone to encourage us to get moving on the golf course, their own tournament rounds averaged 5 hours and 15 minutes. And this in two and three balls...no slow play penalties, just the odd warning thrown around for affect.
And the ads themselves featuring Golf's "A" List throw up many questions.
1. Why do agencies continue to employ actors, not golfers? Just watch the actors (not the celebs) - they don't know how to hold a club, address a ball, even walk like a golfer. One would think that the USGA would do authenticity well....wrong! Clearly, they were led up the garden path by an ad agency that knew nothing about golf.
2. Ah, Clint Eastwood and Arnie. This one will be good! Nope, they are never in frame together and it's no wonder that Clint is playing slowly, he is using a Tour Pro's bag at Pebble - where you can't actually carry your own bag. Again, just appalling in its lack of details and credibility.
3. Annika does a great acting job in hers but be honest, the first time you saw it did you know what she was doing with her hand? It's not until the Butch and Paula ad, which has a sub title explaining the Rodney Dangerfield "move" that you can understand what Annika is doing. Only then can you go back to Annika and say, oh I see!
4. The other Arnie ad features the (non golfer) actors pretending to be golfers...badly! The guy is thirsty and looking for refreshments? Who says that on a golf course? And, once again it's blindingly obvious that Arnie's piece to camera was shot with no other actors present. Having been told by Arnie "While we're young" the actor walks onto the tee holding his club only as non-golfers do. I know, I'm a nit picking, pedantic, old sod - but credibility and authenticity are key here and these ad fails on both counts.