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TwoSolitudes

Cleveland and Missed Opportunities

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Maybe it is just me, but I feel like Cleveland Golf was on the edge of something really great and just missed that opportunity completely.

 

I came to Cleveland around the time of the Hibore. There was nothing out there that looked like it and it preformed really really well. The Hibore XL is still (I think) one of the best drivers ever made and it remains iconic and unique in its design. The FWs were also tremendous and the release of the Hibore irons created whole new category of clubs. Hate it or love it, you knew it was a Cleveland. It must have brought lots of people in to look at the rest of the line.

 

Fast forward a few years and Cleveland goes through a middling phase of the DSTs and XLs with frankly boring designs.  They still have the wedges sure, but the woods were way out of the spotlight. I thought the drivers stunk. The woods were OK, but there was nothing high profile in that line up that really stood out. They looked like a million other drivers and woods.  

 

Then came the CG Black. Suddenly you had a very cool looking driver for slower swingers. The thing looked great and performed extremely well. It stood out in the crowd of ‘white'. Get an extra-stiff shaft on that and even 100+ swingers were loving it. The follow up woods were also great and they extended the CG Black line down through Irons. They had something really solid and easily identifiable. Then they had the throw-back Classic. Again the design was love it or hate – but everyone knew it was a Cleveland right away. And the thing really performed. There was demand for a wood line in the same style. And hey how about some classic hybrids.

 

So they were sitting on two distinct, terrific looking and performing lines. The CG Black could have been the younger super cool long distance performance line. The Classic line could have been targeted to the over 40 crowd (who wouldn't want to be considered a classic? If John Wayne was alive he would play a set of classics.). Yes they had a problem with the look of Mashie woods and Hybrids, but a redesign of those into Classics (Think along the lines of the Bobby Jones Players series- not just a paint job) and they would have been looking at a really iconic line that could have easily lasted several seasons and made Cleveland a standout looking brand on the tour and on the public courses.

 

But what happened? The CG Black was faded away. The Classic was painted black and then it was faded away. And not we have. The Altitude and Altitude Classic. Both are seriously boring looking club designs. There is nothing about them that stands out. Instead of standing in a unique position, they are again lost in crowd of similar looking and similar performing clubs.

 

To me it seemed like someone over at Cleveland had identified segments of the market where very few were playing and created two lines that were directly appealing to those two audiences. They had what they needed to be dominant in that space (not everywhere- just in that space). And then they immediately gave it up.

 

TM ran the white trend for many seasons. They stood out. Nike is running the Red cavity for the second season now and I am sure they will be a 3rd. Cobra is running the multi-colour thing for the 3rd or 4th  season.  They all saw a way to make themselves unique. They all gave the lines a few seasons to build.

 

You can't create new ideas and then drop them every year and expect to build customers. Today. especially in woods and drivers, the majors are all pretty even when it comes to performance.So they need to stand out in some other way. The Altitude line will perform, but I don't think enough will care or notice.  

 

I like Cleveland, I really do. I think they are well made and perform well.

 

But I also think that for the second time this decade they had something special and this time they just let it slip away…..

Am I too hard on them? Maybe. Maybe I don't know what I am talking about.  But I will be getting anther Classic XL Custom driver head (or two) so I can keep playing that club as long gas I can.

 

If it's good enough for John Wayne….

 

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Cleveland has put out some nice products, but seemed to struggle to get the word out about them.

There is an absolute equipment glut out there, but as far as offering clubs from GI up to players options, Cleveland has a nice lineup. Especially with a great ball in their stable too.

 

I think the ownership switch to SSI wasn't all that smooth, and its always interesting to see how Japanese firms will market their wares. Bridgestone, for instance, has had an odd marketing angle with a lot of what they have done.

Couple that with the previous CEO turned "custom wedge guy" and the job he did, or didn't do, and they definitely have an uphill climb. But I could play an all Cleveland bag this year and be pretty content. I wouldn't put them at the top echelon of what's out there right now, but everyone is making pretty darn good stuff for the most part. It's a crowded playing field.

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Seems to me (and I'm just guessing) there has been some high turnover and product lines were just dropped before they could take hold.

 

And Chuck Norris would play classics too!

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Seems to me (and I'm just guessing) there has been some high turnover and product lines were just dropped before they could take hold.

 

And Chuck Norris would play classics too!

Got an e-mail today already discounting the newest lineup. (Kind of.)

Buy the 588 Classic driver and a Classic FW, get another FW or the hybrid for free.

Not bad, but dang, these just came out. I can't really make heads or tails of what they're doing at Cleveland right now. They seem impatient. Which is odd, considering most Japanese firms are fairly measured in what they do.

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Trouble getting the word out is the key phrase. It's a tough market place and Cleveland is stuck in a middle of the pack position plain and simple.

 

TMag is TMag, Titleist has the balls (pun intended), Nike has Tiger with Rory in the on deck circle (temporary set back my prove to be great move) and Callaway has Phil.

 

So long as those four make quality enough stuff is hard sledding on the others. Sure Mizuno has traction among players and Adams or Cobra have their place and part of it is to protect the name brand.

 

It's a fascinating study in marketing. Reminds me of when I was in the beer business. That was 25 years ago. Since then things have changed and things will change in the golf equipment arena as well. Companies like Hopkins and SCOR May well be the Sam Adams of yesterday that take the big boys down a notch or maybe it will be Cleveland.

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I just looked at the driver shoot out results. Strong showing for Cleveland. Not bad. Classic XL Custom was THE nice surprise of 2013 for me. Yeah, it's just a hard time to do business for a lot of companies. I still think they have a strong lineup. But when one yard is pretty much the difference between a lot of clubs, it is getting harder to move them for all these companies.

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I just took a quick look at Cleveland's site. All I can say is they have some beautiful irons and drivers. However, those "Smart Sole" wedges are just down right ugly. I've bagged 2 Cleveland wedges for a number of years I like them. The sand wedge probably needs replacing as the grooves are rather worn. I just hate taking it out. I like Cleveland and wish them the best.

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Yeah, they're a bit of a strange company.  I've gamed several Cleveland products over the years, drivers, irons, hybrids and wedges and I've liked them all.  I currently have no Cleveland products in the bag and I always give thier stuff a look.  I think they make a quality product, they just haven't done quite enough lately.  

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