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TaylorMade appears to be banking on those that bought the M1, M2, M3 or M4 to buy the new M5 or M6. Will they? But if you didn’t buy the original M1, M2, M3 or M4 then will you be inclined to buy the M5 or M6? TaylorMade’s answer to Callaway’s Epic Flash or Titleist’s TS2 and TS3 is the M5 and M6. Typically, companies will extend a product name when it has inherent equity in it. In recent years, as pointed out previously, Callaway has distanced itself from the competition inside the metal woods category. Given TaylorMade’s once strong popularity within the category, it doesn’t take a leap of faith to suggest Callaway’s gain, in part, has been thanks to TaylorMade’s loss. So decide for yourself if the name M5 or M6 will get it done in terms of retail curb appeal. So what’s the different in M5 or M6 from previous generations? 

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2018 was another good year for Callaway Golf. The company has seen strong support for its products by recreational golfers. Jailbreak technology was followed by Epic and Callaway has boasted its market share has been higher than any other brand in golf. In the last two years alone, Callaway’s metal woods business has increased from $216 million at the end of 2016 to $308 million in 2017. Final numbers for 2018 will be released in early February and its expected to surpass last year’s levels. The metal woods category is important for several reasons. It offers the greatest profit margin but it also creates momentum that often spills into other equipment categories, which leads to additional sales. Going into 2019, Callaway has added a new technology called Flash Face to help golfers produce more ball speed for more distance. 

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2018 was another good year for Callaway Golf. The company has seen strong support for its products by recreational golfers. Jailbreak technology was followed by Epic and Callaway has boasted its market share has been higher than any other brand in golf. In the last two years alone, Callaway’s metal woods business has increased from $216 million at the end of 2016 to $308 million in 2017. Final numbers for 2018 will be released in early February and its expected to surpass last year’s levels. The metal woods category is important for several reasons. It offers the greatest profit margin but it also creates momentum that often spills into other equipment categories, which leads to additional sales. Going into 2019, Callaway has added a new technology called Flash Face to help golfers produce more ball speed for more distance. 

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Anyone remember Golf 20/20? It was an initiative back in 2000 that was endorsed and blessed by then PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. It was intended to grow the game and drive golf’s popularity into the same stratosphere as the NFL and Nascar by 2020. Like it or not but 2020 isn’t that far away anymore! So for those of us that still have a memory, consider these facts. NBC Sports Group reported the final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:15 p.m. ET) earned a 5.21 overnight rating. The telecast was up 206% vs. 2017 (1.70). It also represents the highest-rated telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-’18) and the highest-rated PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excluding majors). Now consider this, in the same broadcast window, the Seahawks versus Cowboys game drew a 15.3 overnight rating. Later that evening, the Lions versus Patriots game drew a 13.6.

Back in 2000, Finchem reported the following: “The fan base continued to grow. Our television ratings are up. We did do some very exciting research at Golf 20/20 this year and are learning more about our fan base. Just to give you one example, we've seen an increase in 400 percent in the size of the Hispanic interest in our fan base over the last three years and the Latino press and media has created a fairly significant boost in Hispanic interest, to go along with the very strong increase in interest of African Americans. All of our key indicators were up in 2000. Our ratings, our on-site attendance, our charity donations, all of these indicators were up, whether Tiger was playing or not, interestingly enough.”

In last Thursday’s issue, Martin Ayers of Northbound Golf stated, “They talk about growing the game, what they mean is growing the business. The game is devouring itself.” His words take on greater meaning in the context of the networks/Tour touting the ratings bonanza Tiger Woods represents. History has proven that professional golf has struggled to generated consistent rating improvements that suggest it has delivered on its promise to grow the game’s popularity with non-golfers. Meanwhile, it’s been incredible at driving its sponsorship rates sky high! Isn’t it ironic that Nike Golf decided two years ago to abandon the equipment business purely for financial reasons?

 

Einstein believed the definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over again expecting or anticipating different results. It’s a paraphrase, yet many would agree it aptly describes golf. Handicaps haven’t changed throughout the years or decades. It’s a fact that many can sadly attest to despite game changing equipment introductions year over year! Yet there is a growing sentiment that golf has a problem with distance. Ah, but that’s a story for another time.

Recreational players aspire to be professionals. They dress like them. Equip their bags as if they were one. Its big business, which generates plenty of revenue back to the industry. Golf is extremely aspirational. But pros are pros for a reason. They can often make the game look easy. We all know it isn’t.

Instruction has made some feeble efforts to try and improve the masses. Once upon a time, ‘How to cure your slice’ was the best selling cover for a leading magazine. Golf.com recently sent an email out with the subject: 11 reasons why you still stink at golf. Maybe you clicked on it, which was the purpose of the exercise after all. Golf remains a hard game. But an alternative source is looking to help those with an open mind and the courage to go down a different path than everyone else. As Donald Trump once said, “What do you have to lose?”

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The USGA and The R&A finalized golf’s new Rules this month after an extensive review that included a request for feedback from the global golf community on the proposed changes. Golfers can now access the official 2019 Rules of Golf by visiting RandA.org or usga.org/rules

The process to modernize the Rules began in 2012 and was initiated to ensure that the Rules are easier to understand and apply for all golfers and to make the game more attractive and accessible for newcomers.  

While the majority of proposed Rules remain intact in the final version, several important changes to the initial proposals and further clarification of many Rules were incorporated. The most significant adjustments made following review of the feedback received from golfers around the world include:

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In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he turns to his mother and asks her, "Madam, how like you this play?" to which she replies, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Queen Gertrude’s response was to the insincere overacting of a character in the play, created by Prince Hamlet to prove his uncle's guilt in the murder of his father, the King of Denmark. This analogy can be used to compare golf’s ongoing love/hate relationship with distance.

Some can’t get enough of it and others believe it will be end of the game, as we once knew it. This bipolar view has been in existence for a long, long time. The ruling bodies of golf, stewards of the game, are tasked with viewing the topic from a 30,000 feet perspective both from the past but also with an eye to the future. It’s a complicated matter. It also invokes plenty of passion.

The R&A and the USGA released its proprietary research regarding distance. Introduced in 2015, the annual report examines driving distance data from seven of the major worldwide professional golf tours, based on nearly 300,000 drives per year. The data from studies of male and female amateur golfers is also included. Previously the information drew very little attention, however leading up to the most recent findings it came into the spotlight by comments made by the CEO of the R&A, Martin Slumbers as well as Jack Nicklaus at the Honda Classic.

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The USGA held its annual meeting last month. Mike Davis, CEO, addressed the audience on a variety of topics. Given the recent comments made by Jack Nicklaus, it is interesting to revisit some of what Davis said last month. Nicklaus indicated through his private conversation with Davis that changes could be coming. However, if accurate, this appears to be a shift from Davis’ own words.

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