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The golf business has been going through a rough patch lately. Perhaps, it's just a sign of the times. Nothing lasts forever, as they say. It only feels like it at the time! As we've learned over the past 30 days, Callaway's first quarter sales were down 19%, TaylorMade's off 9% (measured in currency neutrality) and Golf Galaxy's retail sales were lower by 11%. However, the Acushnet Company (Titleist and FootJoy) delivered a 1% increase in top line sales to start the year out. While its never going to be mistaken for hyperbolic growth, it nevertheless represents a positive move versus the alternative some of the competition has witnessed. Meanwhile, PING continues to outperform its peer group in what has to be considered miserable conditions.

The first quarter of the calendar year is the equivalent of setting the table. Most of the country isn't up and running since winter has been known to take its sweet time departing North America. Human nature dictates you buy something when you plan on using it. Some consider that instant gratification. Therefore, buying a new driver in February or March, when you live in the northeastern part of the United States, for example, is rarely going to be a high priority. Some manufacturers are more intent; historically it appears on selling in product to retailers than in seeing it sell through as first quarter sales have been known to trail off as the year progresses.

g30The Masters represents the start of the true selling season for golf and it shouldn't come as any surprise that it also represents the busiest month of the year for driver sales. PING reported it increased its leading market shares in units (13.95%, up 6%) and dollars (18.56%, up 6%) in the on- and off-course retail channels for the G30 driver, according to Golf Datatech LLC.

PING said it sold 56% more units of the G30 in April than the next-closest model. It marked the third consecutive month the G30 driver was #1 in units and the second-straight month it ranked #1 in driver revenue share. For the months of January through April combined, the G30 driver was #1 in units sold and by no small coincidence also in terms of dollars, with shares of 12.30% and 16.47%, respectively. In the nine months since its introduction in July last year, it's been the top-selling driver model as measured in terms of both units (10.27%) sold and revenues (14.64%) generated.

To offer some context of this accomplishment, consider that it achieved this at a time when its competition also launched several new products. For example, TaylorMade, which boasts being the #1 driver in golf based on combined 2014 wins and usage on the various worldwide tours came out with two new models. Callaway, which has yet to run out of ways to reinvent Big Bertha came with three new driver models. Titleist introduced the 915, in line with its disciplined two-year product cycles. However, Cobra added two new models and who can forget Nike Golf employing an over the top Jimmy Fallon (joined by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy) and the Tonight Show last August to introduce its new Vapor line, including two drivers! Stiff competition to say the least and a more aggressive marketing strategy, if not budgets deployed in an effort to attracted Mr. and Mrs. Havercamp to their respective product.

"To see momentum growing for the G30 driver in the heart of the golf season is very satisfying and a tribute to our engineering team," said John A. Solheim, PING Chairman & CEO. "When we launched it last summer, it was clear this driver was special. It was used by Angel Cabrera to win the first week it was on tour and it's been finding its way into golfers' bags ever since. It all comes down to performance and there's no question the technology of the G30 drivers helps golfers hit the ball longer, straighter and more consistently."

PING has been championing the cause for many years about custom fitting. The company offers the G30 driver in three options for this specific reason. The standard G30 is offered in 9° and 10.5° lofts. The G30 SF Tec, which helps produce a right-to-left shot bend (for right-handed golfers), is available in 10° and 12° lofts. The G30 LS Tec is engineered to provide low, stable spin for added control and comes in lofts of 9° and 10.5°. All options are adjustable +-1° and feature the company's proprietary Turbulator Technology.

"The three options of the G30 driver ensure we can custom-fit any golfer," added Solheim. "Our fitting specialists around the country are reporting a nice mix of fitting results. Their ability to match the head technology with the proper shaft is allowing golfers of all skill levels to see significant distance gains while finding more fairways g30ironsthan ever."

"We have a saying that we get a score card every day from our customers," said Randy Peitsch, VP of Merchandising/Hard Goods at PGA Tour Superstore. "The G30 has definitely been, week in and week out, our top 2 or 3 driver if not our top one. It's been the nature of our industry to see accelerated product launches and life cycles aren't what they used to be. But the customer responds to technology and products that represent an improvement over last year's models," he continued. "Its nice to see the G30 was launched last August and it's still going strong."

It isn't unusual for golfers, who are happy with a purchase to explore other opportunities within the same brand and or product family. "We are seeing a halo effect in metal woods and irons," Peitsch noted. "Frankly its the name. Customers have confidence in the G30 driver and it extends over to the G 30 irons."

PING has never been a company that shouts the loudest or most often in golf about its products or accomplishments. In turn its customers do that for it. While other companies focus on marketing strategies to woo customers, PING and its engineering background employ an alternative method. The ultimate test comes when someone is asked to pay for a product. Despite the rugged landscape and intense competition, PING is clearly winning the battle and still has some upside with its G30 micro-franchise. The numbers, after all, speak for themselves!