All eyes will clearly be focused on the return of Tiger Woods this week. How many of them will be looking down at his feet? Nike Golf is hoping there will be more than a few that do as ETW will debut a new set of kicks at his Hero World Challenge. His first tournament since the Fall of 2015 will see Woods wear a prototype of his latest signature golf shoe, the Nike TW '17.
“This shoe is an absolutely integral part of my return to the sport I love and have missed so much,” Woods says. “Nike really got in the zone with me. I knew Tobie (Hatfield, Nike Senior Director of Athlete Innovation) and I were on to something special back when I tried on the first prototype. I feel supreme support from this shoe which leads to the utmost confidence when I step onto the course."
Nike reported Woods and Hatfield meet over dinner during the Greenbrier Classic (July of 2015). During the discussion, Woods revealed his new swing has shifted his dominance from his left leg to his right. By October 2015, Hatfield reportedly delivered four options of an initial prototype shoe to Woods at his home in Florida. The prototypes addressed the need of keeping his feet more secure and locked down in his shoe. Woods selected one of the concepts to then move forward with. In February of 2016, Hatfield and Carl Madore, Innovation Design Lead for Nike Golf footwear, shared four variations of the prototype Woods had selected to assess. Nike said Tiger hit some shots on a simulator and was intrigued by the duo’s strapping system concept that is found in the new TW ’17. It’s purpose is to help keep him secure through his swing and a full day of golf. In April, Nike said it delivered the finished product to Woods, who began his own wear testing on the course. Since returning from surgery, Nike said it’s the only golf shoe Woods has worn.
The Nike TW '17 will be available in Spring 2017. No word yet on price.
Troon has announced a new division – True Club Solutions – specializing in advisory services for the club and hospitality industries. "We formed this new division to have a greater reach into the golf and club industries, and outside of our normal activities at Troon,” said Dana Garmany, chairman and CEO, Troon. “In Rich Carter we have the ideal leader with his entrepreneurial spirit and over twenty years of service and club operations experience.”
“I welcome the opportunity to build the True Club Solutions team and help shape the future of this new division,” said Rich Carter, division president, True Club Solutions. “Our team of professionals will strategically guide clubs and golf/resort destinations through today’s competitive landscape offering advisory services in a variety of disciplines, including operations, sales and marketing, agronomy and more.”
The advisory services offered by True Club Solutions include, but are not limited to, the following disciplines:
• Customer Service
• Sales and Marketing
• Private Club Sales and Marketing
• Golf Course Agronomy
• Retail Operations
• Food and Beverage Operations
• Facility Design and Development
• Golf Course Redevelopment
• Finance and Accounting
• Information Technology
• Compliance and Risk Management
• Caddie Services
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Anser putter, PING has introduced a limited-edition version of the iconic model made from the original molds, assembled with components made in the U.S.A., and supplied by the vendors used in 1966. Each putter’s sole is also hand ground by PING Chairman & CEO John Solheim, just as he did 50 years ago in his family’s garage.
The limited-edition high-tensile manganese bronze putters are available at authorized PING golf shops worldwide. Each putter comes in a commemorative presentation box with a leather putter cover and a certificate of authenticity personally signed by John Solheim. U.S. MSRP is $900.
“This has been a fun project and to be able to make it entirely in the United States is extra special,” said Solheim. “It brought back a lot of great memories from the days in our garage near Scottsdale. The Anser is the most successful putter design ever and its place in history is unquestioned. Who could have imagined 50 years after its invention it would still be the most dominant design on tour? It seems like golfers of all abilities have used an Anser putter at some point. This limited-edition version is a tribute to that success and a look to the future with some of the technology we’ve added in the form of tungsten in the heel and toe to bring it to modern-day weights.”
The original concept for the Anser putter was sketched on a 78-rpm record sleeve by PING founder Karsten Solheim in early 1966. It was patented the next year. The name was inspired by his desire to find an “answer” to the popular putter at the time. His wife, Louise, suggested he call it “Answer” but Karsten was concerned it was too long to fit on the toe. She told him to leave out the “w” and the rest is history. It went on to become the winningest (and most copied) putter model in golf, with more than 500 tour titles to its credit, including 19 men’s major championships. Its first win came in 1966 at the Florida Citrus Open. The Anser’s first major victory was at the 1969 Masters.
Staying true to the manufacturing process from 1966, the limited-edition model is sand-cast using both of the original tools (one machined by Karsten and one by his son, Allan) at East Bay Brass Foundry, the Richmond, Calif., company that also sand-cast the original Anser. True Temper (Emory, Miss.) supplied the high-step shaft, and Golf Pride (Southern Pines, N.C., now a division of Eaton Corp.) molded the PING PP58 grip, both of which were designs used in the original model. 3M (St. Paul, Minn.), which supplied the grip tape in 1966, is the manufacturer of the grip tape in the new model.
The limited-edition Anser is finished and assembled at PING’s headquarters in Phoenix. Tungsten heel and toe weights are inserted and precisely milled with other key surfaces in the company’s machine shop. Solheim is hand grinding the sole of every head before they are lightly tumbled and aged prior to assembly.
“Most people don’t realize the amount of hand work that went into the original Anser putters 50 years ago,” added Solheim. “The radiuses on both of the hand-machined tools were finished with a file and sandpaper by Karsten. I built most of the original Ansers in the garage, starting with machining and grinding the raw castings and continuing on through final assembly. My brother Allan machined the second mold, which is slightly different and often referred to as the ‘slope-side’ mold. We wanted to bring that hand crafted approach back as part of the Anser’s 50-year celebration and its remarkable contribution to golf.”
PING will produce and serialize 1,550 right-handed 50th anniversary Ansers, 775 from each mold. The putters will be distinguished by either a “K” (Karsten’s mold) or “A” (Allan’s mold) in the serial number on the inside of the hosel. Left-handed models are also available.
Its been said perception is reality. Maybe, maybe not. On Wall Street where buy on the rumor, sell on the news is a tried and trusted strategy, perception is an important element. Financial markets have been known to be manipulated, more than once, for a buck or two.
On Friday, Acushnet began trading on the New York Stock Exchange. It represents a historic moment for the company as well as a necessary one. In some ways it’s a back to the future moment as well. It was once owned by Fortune Brands (FO: NYSE) and therefore public life is not foreign to it. However, the golf business was somewhat sheltered under the shadow of a large entity.
Fortune Brands sold Acushnet in 2011 to South Korea's Fila and some private equity investors for $1.23 billion. Fast forward to 2016 and based on the $17 initial public offering price, the company’s market capitalization was placed at $1.3 billion. It implies the company’s value hasn’t changed since 2011. Keep in mind the concept of perception versus reality.
The IPO pricing was more a function of market conditions and public perception of the golf business. Only 94 IPOs have been priced in the U.S. so far this year, down 46 percent from the last year, according to Renaissance Capital, which manages an IPO-based Exchange Traded Fund. When Acushnet was sold in 2011 it started the clock ticking. The investment group’s strategy was to hold on to the assets for five years and then look to sell it off. However, only a portion of the group decided to sell. In order to facilitate the transaction the New York Stock Exchange was enlisted. In many instances an IPO is used to generate funds back to a company that has a purpose for it. In the early 90’s Callaway Golf (ELY: NYSE) went to Wall Street to help fund its growth, for example. It also spawned a wave of other golf companies to join it, as golf was considered somewhat of a hot commodity, believe it or not. It’s a much different world today than it was back then (perception vs reality). Acushnet didn’t receive any of the funds from its 2016 IPO.
While Tiger Woods was taking the PGA TOUR by storm in the 90’s, he helped to make golf cool and in turn generated higher television ratings. He still does today, except he hasn’t played in more than a year! In the 90’s the notion was populated that golf needed a new course to open every day in order to satisfy demand. adidas bought Solomon, which owned TaylorMade at the time and Nike Golf came to the party with its big reputation. No one ever anticipated a financial crisis in 2008/2009 that would nearly cripple the United States.
While the general U.S. economy has taken its time to find it’s footing, the golf industry has gone through some of its own corrections. An over supply of courses implied an unlimited upside for golf yet the opposite has been the case. Dicks Sporting Goods doubled down when it acquired Golf Galaxy and PGA TOUR Superstores arrived on the scene and began its own expansion phase. It was only a couple of years ago that retailer Edwin Watts went into bankruptcy protection. This year it’s been Golfsmith. Dicks Sporting Goods appears to have successfully outbid the competition for Golfsmith and so history repeats itself yet again. In hindsight the industry was clearly overbuilt, yet few have recognized it.
Guilt by association has become a recurring theme in describing the golf industry. Acushnet has been caught in this dilemma only to the extent of its public offering. TaylorMade has been for sale for an extended period of time and on the surface, it appears there are no takers. That is likely a function of price, which is something Acushnet found it in its IPO. With any offering, price is a case of simple economics: demand versus supply. It’s determined between the investment bankers and investors when it comes to Wall Street.
Most transactions often take on a life of their own. Initial price talks for Acushnet were set between $21 and $24/share. It ultimately came in at $17, yet finished the first day of trading at $17.95. It implies the deal was fairly priced and demand helped to propel it higher on its first day of availability. Life on Wall Street is a marathon and rarely if ever is there a finish line. No one remembers the IPO price set for Callaway Golf or any other company for that matter. What happens from here is what really counts.
In order to survive, if not excel in the world of bulls and bears it comes down to sustainable financial performance. Short terms price fluctuations are typically a matter of perception. For businesses that can deliver growth and exceed analyst expectations (perception again) the rewards represent a higher valuation due to soaring stock prices.
In the instance of Acushnet it will be compared and contrasted to its nearest rival, Callaway Golf, which will report its third quarter operating results this Thursday. Some analysts have already recognized that Acushnet’s valuation is more attractive than Callaway’s, which has seen its stock price improve since the start of 2016 thanks to its financial interest in Topgolf. Many are also aware that Acushnet enjoys a healthier bottom line. Many also associate Acushnet with its Titleist brand and specifically its ProV1 golf ball franchise. Less attention is paid to FootJoy, Pinnacle, Vokey and Scotty Cameron brands.
While its golf ball business is the envy of its competition, the company believes its future opportunities are still plentiful. “Its a difficult landscape and is it what it is,” noted Wall Uilhein, Acushnet’s CEO. “The game has been losing players and those that have been dropping out are in the 1-7 rounds a year category. That isn’t Acushnet’s sweet spot,” he continued. So under the heading of perception is reality, how many believe the casual player is teeing up a ProV1 each time? Uilhein remains confident in his company’s ability to achieve growth and it will come from the remaining baby boomers and Gen X crowd. The serious player, estimated to be 7.5 million worldwide, remains committed, if not hopelessly addicted to the game and if nothing else this has been proven over the past eight years. The dedicated/serious players continue to play as well as spend, which is often an overlooked fact. The under 30 crowd (millennials) is a focal point for many industries. Golf is still waiting to see what it will bring to its party. Yet for Acushnet, it’s never really been its focus.
"Our sticky target audience is the dedicated, serious golfer," Uihlein said. "Go back to the origins of the company, that was our primary target audience. We think that's the high-quality consumer in the space. And for us, as a result, we're really focused on that golfer and that's why we're positive about the future.
“People know we have great golf balls but they have been slow to recognize we have great wedges, for example. We are in an enviable position in that we are a multiple brand leader and we are looking to build ourselves out by categories. We have a proven, yet different model that is targeted to dedicated golfers who have proven to be resilient. We are in a good position.”
Uilhein is considered one of, if not the, smartest in the golf industry. He has successfully navigated Acushnet through good times and bad since 1995. His record speaks for itself. In terms of the future, he remains optimistic for the sake of his company’s prospects. Uilhein sees a 5-7 year window remaining for Baby boomers that enjoy the game and 10-25 years for Gen-Xers. His task will be educating and convincing Wall Street. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Just keep in mind perception versus reality can often mask what really is happening. Where the rubber meets the road is often determined by the bottom line.
Jonathan Smart admitted his hands were shaking as he stood over the four foot putt that was to earn him and Masters champion Danny Willett the US$50,000 first prize in the Alfred Dunhill Links Team Championship at St Andrews.
Willett, who usually has Smart as his caddie in every other week of the golfing year, raised his arms in triumph when the putt dropped and then hugged him, saying later: “Jon rose to the occasion and carried me all week. I invited him to have a taste of what it’s like on my side of things and he’s won his first event. He played some great golf.”
Smart, a six-handicapper from Sheffield’s Hallamshire Golf Club, holed the decisive putt on the Old Course’s 9th green for a birdie three and said: “That’s the best golf I’ve ever played today and Danny is over the moon for me. But I won’t be getting any percentage of the winnings – he’s already done more than enough for me this week by giving me this treat of playing in such a great event as his amateur partner. It’s been an unbelievable experience.”
Willett and Smart started the final day on 26-under-par and shot a 12-under-par round of 60 to clinch the title by one stroke from Polish professional Adrian Meronk and his Swedish amateur partner John Eliasch.
Meronk and Eliasch had started out with a three-shot lead over Willett and Smart but were gradually hauled in by the English pair, who sported matching beige trousers with maroon tops. Playing together in a four-ball, the two teams were tied on 37-under-par when they teed off at their final hole, the 9th. Smart’s birdie blow then decided a titanic struggle.
“It was a real matchplay situation for 18 holes,” added Smart. “Those guys kept coming at us. It has been an amazing week for me and I cannot believe that we’ve won. But I’ve definitely experienced a little of the nerves that Danny has to cope with in every tournament. Now I’ll appreciate what he’s got to go through a little bit more. It’s been a real insight and so enjoyable.
“On that last hole my hands were shaking when I was trying to line the ball up. When you're telling someone what to do, it's a lot simpler than having to do it yourself. It has all been just very surreal. I could not believe how nervous I was coming down those last few holes. And to win an event with Dan, here, has just been unreal.”
Willett, who missed the cut in the individual tournament, added: “It's been great fun. I've obviously not played great golf myself. I showed a few bits every now and again but luckily that's what this format is for us as a team, dovetailing well, which we did.”
Cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, playing with English professional David Horsey, and Fifty Shades of Grey actor Jamie Dornan, who played with individual winner Tyrrell Hatton, were among the three teams who shared fourth place in the team competition.
Tyrrell Hatton showed the world he is going to be the next big name in British golf with an emphatic win in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.
Playing with a maturity and panache that belied his 24 years, Hatton added a 66 on the Old Course to his record-equaling third round 62 for a four-shot victory over England’s Ross Fisher and South Africa’s Richard Sterne.
Hatton said: “It feels amazing. I've wanted this moment since I was a six-year-old. It’s a dream come true and to do it here at the Home of Golf is fantastic. I’m just happy I got over the line.
“It’s been a fantastic week, I had my girlfriend Emily with me and my management team. And to come away with a trophy, just makes it even more special.
“I was pretty nervous going out there, but I'm really happy with how I dealt with that, and my caddie, Chris Rice, was a big influence. He just told me to try and stay patient. He’s done a fantastic job this week and this year.”
It was Hatton’s first win on the European Tour and his score of 23-under-par tied the lowest total in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, achieved by David Howell and Peter Uihlein in 2013. He wins US$800,000 and moves up to fourth in the Race to Dubai. It continues an excellent year for him in which he has had a fifth place in the Open Championship and a tenth place finish in the USPGA.
Hatton now seems likely to go on and become a significant force in British golf, but he refuses to get carried away. He said: “Time will tell. I'll keep trying to do my thing and play as good as I can. One of my goals was to get inside the top 50 in the world. I think I was 53rd coming into this week, and I am looking forward to Monday morning, when the world rankings come out and see what position I am.”
In a near faultless round in calm conditions, Hatton had seven birdies, the only bogey coming at the tricky 17th Road Hole. But by then he was home and dry and none of the chasing pack was able to eat into his lead. Sterne also managed a 66 and Fisher a 67, but there was an inevitability to Hatton’s victory.
Hatton played with actor Jamie Dornan in the Team Championship, finishing four shots behind the winners Danny Willett and Jonathan Smart. He said: “Jamie is a really nice guy. We had a lot of fun out there over the last four days and we did pretty well. Hopefully we can team up again next year.”
The tournament, conceived as a celebration of links golf, is played over three of the world’s best known and respected links courses - the Old Course at St Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and Kingsbarns Golf Links – and raises substantial sums for charity.
With a prize fund of US$5 million, the championship incorporates two separate competitions - an individual professional tournament for the world's leading golfers and a team event in which the professionals are paired with some of the most celebrated amateur golfers which creates a unique atmosphere.
In June 2011 the Alfred Dunhill Links Foundation was established as the official Foundation of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, formalising years of charitable giving from which a variety of causes have benefitted. Since 2001, playing spots have been donated to more than 50 different charities to help them to raise funds.
The Foundation is committed to developing young amateur golfers in Scotland and South Africa and also supports the University of St Andrews and the St Andrews Pilgrim Foundation, which refurbishes and preserves historical monuments in the town.