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NPG Episode 34: Wilson's Identity Crisis

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Duration: 01:01:50

What was your WORST golf purchase you've ever made? Also, Wilson may be better off than they have been, but are they still suffering from an identity crisis in their golf department? Later, we talk tour contract shake-ups with Justin Rose and Chez Reavie, and we check out what's in Harry's bag for his first pro tournament outing. Let's get it!

1:01 - We asked twitter what people's worst golf purchases were
10:46 - Wilson's ongoing identity crisis in golf
30:50 - Justin Rose is caught with Taylormade clubs under his Honma contract
43:22 - Chez Reavie leaves PXG following the departure of Matt Rollins
49:14 - Harry's got his first pro even this Saturday, we take a peek at what's in his bag.

Listen Here


:callaway-small: Epic Flash Sub Zero, 9°, Aldila Rogue White 70 X
:taylormade-small: M4 3HL 16.5°, Atmos Red 60
:cobra-small: F6 5-6W, 19.5°, Fujikura Motore 6.3
:755178188_TourEdge: CBX 20°, Project X HZRDUS 85 5.5
Currently testing: :Sub70: 699 Pro, Modus3 105, 5–PW
:cleveland-small: CBX 48°
:cleveland-small: RTX-3 CB 54° and 60°
:odyssey-small: Stroke Lab EXO Seven Mini, 34"
:srixon-small: Z-Star XV

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Despite it's small market share today, Wilson,

with the demise of Spalding and MacGregor,

predates all the other major manufacturers--Callaway, Cleveland, Cobra, Ping, TaylorMade--even Titleist--by a long, long margin.

It differs from all of these I just mentioned because like Mizuno, it's a general sporting goods company, not just a golf company.

 

Younger players probably don't realize just how big Wilson was in golf just a few decades ago.

Back when there were fair trade laws, pro line equipment could only be sold at green grass pro shops, and only at full manufacturer's listed price.  

A golf professional would lose his franchise to sell a brand if he discounted them before the model was replaced with something else.

 

During this period, however, when pro line clubs were only sold in golf course pro shops, there were "store models" as well that could be sold in sporting goods stores and department stores and were not "fair traded."  Wilson, a major player in pro line clubs, was by far the biggest manufacturer of store line clubs. I believe that the Wilson Sam Snead Blue Ridge was the biggest selling model golf club of all time.

Now pro line clubs are not fair traded, are sold in stores, and the line between pro line clubs and store clubs has been blurred. They're all store line clubs now. 

And Wilson, once a giant, .seems to be on the margin of surviving as a golf company.  I never thought I'd see MacGregor or Spalding go, but they did.

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I'm old enough to remember when Wilson was the dominant club on Tour and MacGregor was still a common site on tour. And I still play MacGregor irons.

My sense on their mutual decline was a perception of them as pro-only clubs combined with a different retail strategy for game improvement competitors.

When Callaway and Taylor made came on the scene, their focus was clear on game improvement. I remember MacGregor's CG1800 (gamed by Zinger and Chi Chi) but their focus as a company was on equipment for the better player. Think Jack was very much driving that direction back then.

PING had created a created a game improvement niche, but in my memory, they didn't market a stock set (black dot) in retail - either on or off course. It was all custom. Plus Callaway and Taylor Made started with woods, right?  I don't recall anyone ever being enamored with Ping woods going back to the early 70s.

So, you capitalize on the fact that everyone wants to hit it longer AND you stock game improvement gear at on and off course outlets.


:cobra-small: F9 9* Atmos Tour Spec Black 6s 45"

:nickent-small:  17* and 20* Hybrids Aldila NVS

:macgregor-small:  VIP V-foil 1025c 4-P True Temper 120g ProPel Lite 2* flat, 1* strong

:cleveland-small:  CG10 52* (bent 50*) and 56 (bent 55*)

:mizuno-small:   MpTseries 60* Raw Haze

:ping-small:   Faith Wack-E 32"

:taylormade-small:TP5 ball

:titelist-small: Stand bag

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It seems they are still suffering. The new baller box is a bit of a head scratcher to me. 

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Driver: SIM 9 Motore X F1 7X tipped 1 inch

Utility Iron: Cobra King Utility irons 18 degree Aldila rogue 90 X

Irons: Cobra King forged CB 4-PW KBS $ Taper 130 X

Wedges: Cleveland 49,52.58.64

Putter: Kronos Release.

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23 hours ago, Quigleyd said:

It seems they are still suffering. The new baller box is a bit of a head scratcher to me. 

Quoting myself here. It appears they are ditching already the subscription idea.. Wilson really has no idea what they are doing. The swing in a solid direction with some club releases that are top notch. Then completely botch a ball release. Now they want $50/dzn.. Do they really think anyone will pay that?? 

Sorry, another huge swing and miss. 

  • Like 1

Driver: SIM 9 Motore X F1 7X tipped 1 inch

Utility Iron: Cobra King Utility irons 18 degree Aldila rogue 90 X

Irons: Cobra King forged CB 4-PW KBS $ Taper 130 X

Wedges: Cleveland 49,52.58.64

Putter: Kronos Release.

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I think they need to keep focusing on brand recognition/visibility. Sign more top tier professionals and ensure the weekend golfer/higher hndcper has a solid club offering (I think they do). I still have a D200 fw that can keep up with anything newer I have bought or custom built. I remember the 70's/80's when they were common and well thought of (absolutely loved their persimmon woods/fluid feel blade irons). But how many times since the 70/80'S has that company been sold or leadership change? Competition is tough, todays markets are a challenge. Ping is a model of consistency but again same family/ownership, top quality products and business models. Wilson has an iconic W/S emblem/logo and should really continue creating brand recognition for todays generation of golfers >> having shows on Golf Channel, get their image out in front of consumers all the while producing top quality club offerings. MGS testing I think shows they have a committment to producing quality clubs.  I think they are on the right path, its just going take more time. 

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Here's a look at what happened to Wilson and how it went from dominant market leader to virtual non-entity. It was a long, slow slide, but it happened. 

https://mygolfspy.com/how-the-wilson-staff-empire-crumbled/     (Links to Parts 2 and 3 are in the blog post itself). 

Wilson stabilized starting in 2007 when  Tim Clarke took over. One of the things I like about Tim - and Wilson - is they have a very closely knit team and they're very loyal to their people and their Pro Staff. They also own their mistakes -- the Baller Box in theory is a very good idea IMO. They screwed up the math and tried to get a little too cute, but the idea is sound. They'd have been better off going the Seed route with subscriptions - same price no matter how many you buy, set your own delivery frequency and length of subscription, cancel at any time. Their other mistake was to not come out with a standard package and a standard price at the same time. $44.99 is the standard price for a dozen premium balls - why not start there? 

I wrote this in another thread, but if you compare the pricing of the Baller Box - $50 with custom 40-digit player numbers or 3 lines of text and shipping included - is a bargain compared the similar offer from Titleist (two digit numbers, shipping not included - approximately $62/dozen). The lack of a standard package/price option has led to the general assumption that Wilson thinks its going to get $50/dozen for their balls when in fact, for what you're getting, it's a deal compared to Titleist. All this, of course, presumes you give a crap about customization. If you don't, then the lack of a standard option is all the more glaring.  

Wilson did tell me the plan was to come out with the standard option later this year. In retrospect, they'll admit that decision was a mistake. But they'll take the hit and keep moving forward. And not for nothing, it's a really good ball - I'd put it on par with anything else out there save for the new Bridgestone Tour B X. 

People have said to me Wilson would sell more of these if they priced them at, say, $39.99 or less. I don't think so. Most serious golfers don't bat an eye at spending $44.99 for a dozen ProV's, Tour B's or whatever your premium ball of choice is - so undercutting by $5 isn't going to get it done. If it did, Srixon would be the top-selling ball in golf. It's performance - as reported in our ball test - is every bit the equal of ProV, and they're priced to move at $39.99.  If Wilson priced them at $34.99, no one would consider them premium.

Pricing is a funny game. 

Retail pricing is the other trap - Wilson can't offer a deal online that undercuts their retail partner's pricing. It's one of the problems of dealing with retail. If someone can buy the product for less directly from the manufacturer than from a retail partner, the retail partner gets pissed. Small-ish companies like Hogan, Snell and Sub-70 can exist going to Direct To Consumer because the business is small enough to be manageable. For larger OEMs, the most cost-effective way to get their product to market is the retail route. It's not perfect, but it is what it is.  If you've ever been to an OEM's facility you won't find much in the way of finished product in stock. Those that build their general stock in North America build and ship to their retailers, who will warehouse product for them. Those that have their products assembled overseas do essentially the same thing with a few minor logistical adjustments. Custom orders are built in their NA facilities and shipped directly to customers. 

The debate now that we're dealing with COVID 19 is will that retail channel change? In one way, OEMs use the retail channel as an extension of their warehouse. They book preorders in the late fall/early winter with retail customers, then build and ship those orders. That's the sell-in. The speed of the sell-out dictates when and how big the re-orders will be. The Big 5 aren't in any position to really change that model - if they decided to go DTC they'd have to triple their assembly team, triple their warehouse space, triple - at least - their order entry and customer service teams, triple their accounts receivable team, triple their shipping and receiving team and ultimately would wind up selling the product at close to the same price as you'd pay at Golf Galaxy. Wilson is in a similar position - it needs to be in retail shops for visibility and branding - and sales - to make its business possible. 

Do you see the retail model changing any time soon? I don't - it's too much a part of how we buy gear. Brand agnostic fitting centers are growing, but if you're price sensitive, those can be challenging. I do like what Honma's doing with mobile fitting vans working with club pros. They'll bring the fitting experience to you and give the club pro a commission on sales. 

Sorry for the lengthy and rambling response, but you caught me on a nimble finger morning. If you read the whole thing, let me know your thoughts...

 


 

What's in the bag:
 
Driver:  Sub 70 639D - 9.5; :cleveland-small: Launcher HB Turbo; :mizuno-small: ST 190 
FW Wood: :tour-edge: Tour Edge EXS 220 - 15*; :mizuno-small: ST 180 14*
Hybrids:  PXG 0311 22
Utility Irons: :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model Utilities 18, 21, 24*;  Lynx VT Stinger - 16*
Irons::wilson_staff_small: D7 Forged; :benhogan-small:PTx Pro, :macgregor-small: VIP 1025 V-Foil MB/CB; :wilson_staff_small: Progressives (circa 1993)

Wedges:  :cleveland-small: CBX -2, :benhogan-small:Riviera 52-56-60; :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model
Putter:   :edel-golf-1:  Willamette,  :bettinardi-small: BB8,  :benhogan-small:Baby Ben

Ball: :bridgestone-small: Tour B X (2020); :srixon-small: Z-STAR XV

Stat Tracker/GPS Watch: :ShotScope:


 
Follow @golfspybarbajo

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And not for nothing, here's a like to the 2020 Wilson update (pre COVID 19)

https://mygolfspy.com/wilson-staff-2020/

 


 

What's in the bag:
 
Driver:  Sub 70 639D - 9.5; :cleveland-small: Launcher HB Turbo; :mizuno-small: ST 190 
FW Wood: :tour-edge: Tour Edge EXS 220 - 15*; :mizuno-small: ST 180 14*
Hybrids:  PXG 0311 22
Utility Irons: :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model Utilities 18, 21, 24*;  Lynx VT Stinger - 16*
Irons::wilson_staff_small: D7 Forged; :benhogan-small:PTx Pro, :macgregor-small: VIP 1025 V-Foil MB/CB; :wilson_staff_small: Progressives (circa 1993)

Wedges:  :cleveland-small: CBX -2, :benhogan-small:Riviera 52-56-60; :wilson_staff_small: Staff Model
Putter:   :edel-golf-1:  Willamette,  :bettinardi-small: BB8,  :benhogan-small:Baby Ben

Ball: :bridgestone-small: Tour B X (2020); :srixon-small: Z-STAR XV

Stat Tracker/GPS Watch: :ShotScope:


 
Follow @golfspybarbajo

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Posted (edited)

I have always liked Wilson, as evidenced by the C200's and FG Tour F5 irons which vie for space in my bag, and I continue to rock the D100 hybrids because they're so easy to hit and so damn effective. Was sad to see Corey go, but glad to hear W/S is still trending upward. I wondered if that would be the case once Vrska left.

Edited by Deuce

What's in My Bag?

Driver: Cobra F6

Fairway: Cobra F6 3/4

Hybrids: Wilson Staff D100ES (4 & 5)

Irons: Wilson Staff C200 (6i to GW)

Wedges: Cleveland CBX (52, 56, and 60°)

Putter: Happy Putter Blade

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