Thanks to reader Glenn for sending Michael Croley’s Bloomberg story suggesting a shift in how people buy golf balls.
Direct-to-consumer models without cumbersome pro-golf contracts is the name of the game, with elements lifted from other sectors that have bypassed retailers and other outdated approaches. Golf Datatech says golf balls account for $420 million of the $5 billion equipment selling industry (anyone else think that sounds low?).
Anyway, the headliner is Snell, at $33 a dozen to Pro V’s going for $52, though Bloomberg’s story also notes several others like Vice Golf and OnCore.
Instead, after seeing the success of Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, and other consumer brands, they set out to give golf-ball marketing a makeover with cheeky commercials you’d expect from Old Spice or Geico.Vice sells a dozen balls for anywhere from $34 down to $11, if you buy in bulk. They come in lime green, neon red, and traditional white, or you can mix and match all three. And you can pair the brand’s logo—which rides the line between edgy and gaudy—with a picture of your own or a rival’s face. The company also sells flat-bill caps, golf bags, and waffle-knit towels and has teamed up with the NBA so basketball fans can tout their favorite team on the fairway.
Another competitor, Buffalo-based OnCore Golf Technology Inc., is taking a more technological approach. Its first ball had a hollow metal core, which helps drives stay straighter, and eventually forced the U.S. Golf Association to rewrite its rulebook. Its Genius ball, making its debut in the second quarter of 2020, will have an internal GPS to measure shot velocity, spin rate, total distance, trajectory, and apex, all while telling you how far you are from the green. Brokerage founder Charles Schwab joined as a shareholder in January, and the brand was renewed in April as the official ball of the New York State Golf Association. Its premium Elixr sells for $35 per dozen, but buying in bulk can drop it to $30.
Presumably the subscription model is next and why not for a product no one needs to buy in person unless they’ve run out mid-round.
Just thinking out loud here, but if these companies are eating into the major brands that would mean they are doing so based on product quality, marketing and value.
Will they grow or succumb and get taken over?
There would seem to be major ramifications should they remain independent and undercut the current model of golf ball sales built on professional golfer endorsements, counts and usage.