In a memorable moment in the recent golf movie “Tin Cup,” Kevin Costner’s character, Roy McAvoy, uses a baseball bat, an Army surplus shovel, a rake and a long-handled hoe (hitting out of a bunker, no less) to hustle $400 from a better-equipped, albeit higher handicapped, golfer. This probably wasn’t intended as a jab at the equipment manufacturers, but perhaps it had a few executives cringing in their theater seats.
The scene is amusing, but not exactly what the golf equipment manufacturers want the purchasing audience to see. They’d prefer to leave the golfing public with the image of a 20-handicapper switching to a titanium driver (price tag roughly $250-$450), and that driver adding yards to the player’s game. The scratch golfer with the shovel may beat you every time, but that does not mean that the titanium driver won’t add the 20 yards. As they say, “the game is hard enough, why make it harder with the wrong equipment.”
In the 1960s, Karsten Solheim answered that proverbial question with his cavity-backed Ping irons. Ping’s new clubs were the most dramatic innovation to hit golf. In the late 1980s, innovation struck again carrying the name, Big Bertha. Ely Callaway introduced his oversized metal woods that revolutionized the golf industry. Callaway used Wall Street as a very effective marketing tool. The more the clubs sold, the more the stock went up, and the more the stock went up, the more exposure the clubs were given.