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The History and Decline of Spalding Golf(Barba Reports)


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https://mygolfspy.com/historys-mysteries-spalding-golfs-final-countdown/

We have the latest report on Spalding Golf from @GolfSpy Barbajo, featuring a quick cameo from our very own @BIG STU.  I have really enjoyed reading about the history of the old "big 3" of Wilson, MacGregor, and now Spalding.  What is crazy to me is how successful these companies were, and in Spalding's case, how quickly they went from top of the pyramid to not even producing golf equipment anymore. 

What are your favorite memories about Spalding?

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2020 MGS Hard Rock Challenge

 

SkyCaddie SX400
OGIO Silencer:  Followed by Arccos
:ping-small: G410+, Tensei Orange
:callaway-small:  Mavrik 3w, Evenflow Riptide
:nike-small: Covert 2.0 3H, Kuro Kage Black
:wilson-small:
Wilson D7 Irons 4-GW,  Dynamic Gold AMT
:ping-small: Glide  52, 56 ES
:EVNROLL: ER2
:titelist-small: -ProV1x (left dash)

Romans 10:9

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Back in my younger days growing up Spalding was kinda the Holy Grail in my area among the hustlers and better players. The 1953 Top Flites and Tournament blades were among them. Later on it was the 66 model Elite 333s and the 67 Bird on The Ball Top Flites ( 66 67). Later on they came out with the 1970 Elite irons that were slick and look like the famous Mizuno MP-33s before the 33s time. A few of the guys used the 66 thru 68 Executivies with steel shafts. There was a plethera among that crowd with the Old Cash In Putters and later on TP Mills. The 53 Top Flites had a special meaning around our place. This high schooler that lived across the road in his senior year in a school golf match shot the course record ( only a 9 hole course) of 28 ( -7 par 35) with a full set of 53 Top flites woods and all including a Cash In Putter. He also shot the record on the par 3 course of 19 with a Dynamiter wedge and that same Cash in Putter. None of the hustlers or Tour Golfers of the time that stopped by could break either one of his records. Bad thing with all his talent he did not really give two hoots about the game-- They moved away I do not know where when I was about 14. Never heard anything about him again.

A lot of the brands played had to do with demographics and the sales push of the Pro at the course--- My old man was a Macgregor dealer and then later on Wilson-- He did not stock but could order and sell Spalding which he did somewhat. And this was not to be misconstrued to say we were all Spalding far from it--- We had a mix of Mac and Wilson players too. 

Believe it or not I started out as a dyed in the wool Spalding man--- My first set of Spaldings were 66 Elite 333 customs with X-100 shafts. Later on I ordered and paid for a custom grind set of 71 Elite 333 customs. This is where fate stepped in. My 71s were stolen along with the Corvette they were in around 77 or so when I came back to Charlotte. Had a big arguement with the insurance company because they did not want to pay for my clubs and did not want to pay the reciept value of the Vette. I had all of that written in the policy. I sued them. In the meantime I grabbed the old mans set of FC-4000s that he had while on staff in 62. Paired them with an old 693 Mac driver and believe it or not Spalding RT Jones 4 wood. The rest was history--- The insurance company finally lost its case and had to pay off--- I played the FCs till about 80 when the old man suggested I might ought to buy me a set of clubs-- He was darn peculair about those FCs. I bought my first set of VIPs

Epitath of this story and this had to do with Spalding too. 20 years later when living in Gaffney SC I got a phone call from an FBI agent in South Florida about the Vette. What was left of it was recovered when they busted a chop shop near the Everglades. It was among 50 or so cars or hulks stripped and dumped in the swamp. I asked the agent about the clubs and he was a golfer himself and he said Trust me I looked when I read the CPD report. No clubs found I also had a custom Izette driver and 4 wood in that set and a Scottsdale Anser---- I figured they were running around Florida somewhere--- I have the SNs comitted to memory and will look sometimes but have never seen a set of 71 74 Elites to this day of any kind any where

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Driver ---- TM M-6 Evenflow 65 G R flex---- 3 wood TM V-Steel Aldila 65G R Flex--- 7 Wood TM V-Steel UST Pro Force 65 R flex---  Irons 5 thru PW 2016 TM TP CBs Steelfiber 95 R--- GW Callaway Mack Daddy2 52* Stock regular shaft--- SW Callaway Mack Daddy PM grind modified to 10* bounce KBS wedge shaft R---- Putter Scotty Sante Fe fluted Bulls Eye shaft you seriously think it was going anywhere? Bag Old School Burton Mini Staff non demontional no advertising

 

 

 

 

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Fun fact: Wright and Ditson is featured prominently in "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Both the book and the movie. It's the retail store where Francis Ouimet worked. It can be seen on the side of the delivery carriage when Ouimet delivers irons to The Country Club. It's a commonly known "secret" that George Wright had Ouimet on the sporting goods store payroll for the purposes of branding and brand awareness. Wright fully funded Ouimet's amateur golf career leading up to and during the 1913 US Open. In exchange, Ouimet would bring brand awareness to the golf equipment Spalding (and Wright and Ditson) were selling. 

 

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Another excellent historical lookback from Barbajo. Well done, as always!

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In my  :wilson_staff_small:  carry bag:
:wilson_staff_small:  D7 
:callaway-small:  GBB 3W (lofted to 4W)
:callaway-small: V-Series Heavenwood
:cobra-small: Baffler XL 5i-PW
:cleveland-small: CBX 54*
:ping-small: iWedge 58*
:cleveland-small: #10
Whatever ball I have 3 dozen of that my kids got me as a gift

Twitter: @russtopherb

 

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20 hours ago, sixcat said:

Fun fact: Wright and Ditson is featured prominently in "The Greatest Game Ever Played." Both the book and the movie. It's the retail store where Francis Ouimet worked. It can be seen on the side of the delivery carriage when Ouimet delivers irons to The Country Club. It's a commonly known "secret" that George Wright had Ouimet on the sporting goods store payroll for the purposes of branding and brand awareness. Wright fully funded Ouimet's amateur golf career leading up to and during the 1913 US Open. In exchange, Ouimet would bring brand awareness to the golf equipment Spalding (and Wright and Ditson) were selling. 

 

Thank you for all the kind words gents. This was another fun one to research and write, with a TON of info left on the cutting room floor. I found it fascinating the two Hall of Fame baseball players - Spalding and Wright - were such huge influences in turn of the century golf.  And I played the George Wright course in Boston dozens of times without having a clue as to who he was.

Also uncovered an interesting tidbit about Mark O'Meara playing a practice round with Tiger in 99 or so. Tiger couldn't get his ball to spin around the green like O'Meara did, and kept asking O'Meara how he did it. O'Meara basically said "watch and learn, youngster," and that he'd tell Tiger the secret if he couldn't figure it out. About a half dozen holes later Tiger looked at O'Meara and said, "it's the ball."  Soon Tiger was playing the NIke Tour Accuracy (made by Bridgestone but designed by NIke) and won 4 majors in a row. 

And I didn't realize how involved Bobby Jones was in the business and product development end of Spalding. I knew he was a spokesman and had his name on clubs, but didn't realize he was also a VP and director of research. Also didn't realize just how big the Spalding ball empire was - Scott White was there when Spalding was making 25 to 26 million DOZEN balls a year - they were really good at it. No wonder both Callaway and TaylorMade wanted in. Callaway was given last look in the bankruptcy proceedings in no small part to their commitment to keep the factory open and the jobs in Chicopee. TaylorMade would not make that promise. 

I also thought White's description of the KKR management was very honest and on point. He still has the greatest amount of respect for Jim Craigie and Ed Arztz - but he did admit they didn't know the golf business the way the Spalding rank and file did. They wanted to make the Spalding business more sophisticated - which leads to, gulp, meetings - and White admitted the Spalding team wasn't ready for that. 

And the $1 billion pricetag KKR paid? In 1996? That's just crazy. One source, who asked not to be named or directly quoted, told me KKR really didn't do their homework and thought the purchase was done more because it was a golf company than because it was a good business opportunity. Apparently a relative of one of KKR's principals, or perhaps it was KKR itself, owned a golf resort in Southern California - I think La Quinta -  and they thought there would be some synergy there. 

The Cisneros group was also interesting to learn about. That is one HUGE outfit. They had the rights to run Sears Roebuck, Pepsi and other huge brands in Latin America, and have eventually - thanks to that $1 billion from KKR - developed into a ginormous telecommunications powerhouse. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway - from White and others - is the fact the friendships among Spalding employees from the 90s and early 2000s last to this day. They have a Facebook group and group text chats going on, they have reunions (the most recent was a COVID casualty), and the celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. They were all about the same age when they started and have watched each other, and their children, grow up and it was obvious there's still a strong bond. Got me to thinking - the loyalty you have is to people more so than a company and while companies come and go, those bonds don't really go away.  

And one question for @BIG STU - someone asked in the comments section and I couldn't remember. The Spalding Bird on Ball irons are #3onyour pure forged blade list. What are the Top 2? If I had to guess, it's a MacGregor VIP model and either the Wilson FG17 or a Mizuno model. Inquiring minds want to know...

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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

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29 minutes ago, GolfSpy Barbajo said:

Thank you for all the kind words gents. This was another fun one to research and write, with a TON of info left on the cutting room floor. I found it fascinating the two Hall of Fame baseball players - Spalding and Wright - were such huge influences in turn of the century golf.  And I played the George Wright course in Boston dozens of times without having a clue as to who he was.

Also uncovered an interesting tidbit about Mark O'Meara playing a practice round with Tiger in 99 or so. Tiger couldn't get his ball to spin around the green like O'Meara did, and kept asking O'Meara how he did it. O'Meara basically said "watch and learn, youngster," and that he'd tell Tiger the secret if he couldn't figure it out. About a half dozen holes later Tiger looked at O'Meara and said, "it's the ball."  Soon Tiger was playing the NIke Tour Accuracy (made by Bridgestone but designed by NIke) and won 4 majors in a row. 

And I didn't realize how involved Bobby Jones was in the business and product development end of Spalding. I knew he was a spokesman and had his name on clubs, but didn't realize he was also a VP and director of research. Also didn't realize just how big the Spalding ball empire was - Scott White was there when Spalding was making 25 to 26 million DOZEN balls a year - they were really good at it. No wonder both Callaway and TaylorMade wanted in. Callaway was given last look in the bankruptcy proceedings in no small part to their commitment to keep the factory open and the jobs in Chicopee. TaylorMade would not make that promise. 

I also thought White's description of the KKR management was very honest and on point. He still has the greatest amount of respect for Jim Craigie and Ed Arztz - but he did admit they didn't know the golf business the way the Spalding rank and file did. They wanted to make the Spalding business more sophisticated - which leads to, gulp, meetings - and White admitted the Spalding team wasn't ready for that. 

And the $1 billion pricetag KKR paid? In 1996? That's just crazy. One source, who asked not to be named or directly quoted, told me KKR really didn't do their homework and thought the purchase was done more because it was a golf company than because it was a good business opportunity. Apparently a relative of one of KKR's principals, or perhaps it was KKR itself, owned a golf resort in Southern California - I think La Quinta -  and they thought there would be some synergy there. 

The Cisneros group was also interesting to learn about. That is one HUGE outfit. They had the rights to run Sears Roebuck, Pepsi and other huge brands in Latin America, and have eventually - thanks to that $1 billion from KKR - developed into a ginormous telecommunications powerhouse. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway - from White and others - is the fact the friendships among Spalding employees from the 90s and early 2000s last to this day. They have a Facebook group and group text chats going on, they have reunions (the most recent was a COVID casualty), and the celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. They were all about the same age when they started and have watched each other, and their children, grow up and it was obvious there's still a strong bond. Got me to thinking - the loyalty you have is to people more so than a company and while companies come and go, those bonds don't really go away.  

And one question for @BIG STU - someone asked in the comments section and I couldn't remember. The Spalding Bird on Ball irons are #3onyour pure forged blade list. What are the Top 2? If I had to guess, it's a MacGregor VIP model and either the Wilson FG17 or a Mizuno model. Inquiring minds want to know...

I know a lot has to get left out from time/article constraints but man I bet it was so much fun learning what you did from interviews and in your research.  I said it before and I'll say it again, I love these looks at the various golf companies.  The PING article from a few years ago got me hooked on MGS, and the subsequent Wilson, Mac, and now Spalding articles are my favorite publications through the year.  John, if you ever get the time or green light please publish more of what gets left out of these articles! 

I've had the top irons discussion with the big fella before and there is a VIP model in the top three.  I can't remember what the other iron is though.   Part of me wants to say it's another Mac, but I'm drawing a blank.

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2020 MGS Hard Rock Challenge

 

SkyCaddie SX400
OGIO Silencer:  Followed by Arccos
:ping-small: G410+, Tensei Orange
:callaway-small:  Mavrik 3w, Evenflow Riptide
:nike-small: Covert 2.0 3H, Kuro Kage Black
:wilson-small:
Wilson D7 Irons 4-GW,  Dynamic Gold AMT
:ping-small: Glide  52, 56 ES
:EVNROLL: ER2
:titelist-small: -ProV1x (left dash)

Romans 10:9

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2 hours ago, GolfSpy Barbajo said:

Thank you for all the kind words gents. This was another fun one to research and write, with a TON of info left on the cutting room floor. I found it fascinating the two Hall of Fame baseball players - Spalding and Wright - were such huge influences in turn of the century golf.  And I played the George Wright course in Boston dozens of times without having a clue as to who he was.

Also uncovered an interesting tidbit about Mark O'Meara playing a practice round with Tiger in 99 or so. Tiger couldn't get his ball to spin around the green like O'Meara did, and kept asking O'Meara how he did it. O'Meara basically said "watch and learn, youngster," and that he'd tell Tiger the secret if he couldn't figure it out. About a half dozen holes later Tiger looked at O'Meara and said, "it's the ball."  Soon Tiger was playing the NIke Tour Accuracy (made by Bridgestone but designed by NIke) and won 4 majors in a row. 

And I didn't realize how involved Bobby Jones was in the business and product development end of Spalding. I knew he was a spokesman and had his name on clubs, but didn't realize he was also a VP and director of research. Also didn't realize just how big the Spalding ball empire was - Scott White was there when Spalding was making 25 to 26 million DOZEN balls a year - they were really good at it. No wonder both Callaway and TaylorMade wanted in. Callaway was given last look in the bankruptcy proceedings in no small part to their commitment to keep the factory open and the jobs in Chicopee. TaylorMade would not make that promise. 

I also thought White's description of the KKR management was very honest and on point. He still has the greatest amount of respect for Jim Craigie and Ed Arztz - but he did admit they didn't know the golf business the way the Spalding rank and file did. They wanted to make the Spalding business more sophisticated - which leads to, gulp, meetings - and White admitted the Spalding team wasn't ready for that. 

And the $1 billion pricetag KKR paid? In 1996? That's just crazy. One source, who asked not to be named or directly quoted, told me KKR really didn't do their homework and thought the purchase was done more because it was a golf company than because it was a good business opportunity. Apparently a relative of one of KKR's principals, or perhaps it was KKR itself, owned a golf resort in Southern California - I think La Quinta -  and they thought there would be some synergy there. 

The Cisneros group was also interesting to learn about. That is one HUGE outfit. They had the rights to run Sears Roebuck, Pepsi and other huge brands in Latin America, and have eventually - thanks to that $1 billion from KKR - developed into a ginormous telecommunications powerhouse. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway - from White and others - is the fact the friendships among Spalding employees from the 90s and early 2000s last to this day. They have a Facebook group and group text chats going on, they have reunions (the most recent was a COVID casualty), and the celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. They were all about the same age when they started and have watched each other, and their children, grow up and it was obvious there's still a strong bond. Got me to thinking - the loyalty you have is to people more so than a company and while companies come and go, those bonds don't really go away.  

And one question for @BIG STU - someone asked in the comments section and I couldn't remember. The Spalding Bird on Ball irons are #3onyour pure forged blade list. What are the Top 2? If I had to guess, it's a MacGregor VIP model and either the Wilson FG17 or a Mizuno model. Inquiring minds want to know...

It was an interesting read. Excellent work @GolfSpy Barbajo.

My first foray into solid core golf balls was with the Strata Tour something. Maybe the Professional? I believe the Ace came along a few years later. They were light years ahead of the old wound balls. Took some getting used to with the sound/feel of the solid core versus the wound balatas. Well worth the time to get used to though. Those things were far more consistent than the wound balls. About a year or so after beginning to use the Strata, I fell in love with the Hogan Apex ball. Used it exclusively for several years until Acushnet came out with some fad ball that took over the world.

 

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11 hours ago, GolfSpy Barbajo said:

Thank you for all the kind words gents. This was another fun one to research and write, with a TON of info left on the cutting room floor. I found it fascinating the two Hall of Fame baseball players - Spalding and Wright - were such huge influences in turn of the century golf.  And I played the George Wright course in Boston dozens of times without having a clue as to who he was.

Also uncovered an interesting tidbit about Mark O'Meara playing a practice round with Tiger in 99 or so. Tiger couldn't get his ball to spin around the green like O'Meara did, and kept asking O'Meara how he did it. O'Meara basically said "watch and learn, youngster," and that he'd tell Tiger the secret if he couldn't figure it out. About a half dozen holes later Tiger looked at O'Meara and said, "it's the ball."  Soon Tiger was playing the NIke Tour Accuracy (made by Bridgestone but designed by NIke) and won 4 majors in a row. 

And I didn't realize how involved Bobby Jones was in the business and product development end of Spalding. I knew he was a spokesman and had his name on clubs, but didn't realize he was also a VP and director of research. Also didn't realize just how big the Spalding ball empire was - Scott White was there when Spalding was making 25 to 26 million DOZEN balls a year - they were really good at it. No wonder both Callaway and TaylorMade wanted in. Callaway was given last look in the bankruptcy proceedings in no small part to their commitment to keep the factory open and the jobs in Chicopee. TaylorMade would not make that promise. 

I also thought White's description of the KKR management was very honest and on point. He still has the greatest amount of respect for Jim Craigie and Ed Arztz - but he did admit they didn't know the golf business the way the Spalding rank and file did. They wanted to make the Spalding business more sophisticated - which leads to, gulp, meetings - and White admitted the Spalding team wasn't ready for that. 

And the $1 billion pricetag KKR paid? In 1996? That's just crazy. One source, who asked not to be named or directly quoted, told me KKR really didn't do their homework and thought the purchase was done more because it was a golf company than because it was a good business opportunity. Apparently a relative of one of KKR's principals, or perhaps it was KKR itself, owned a golf resort in Southern California - I think La Quinta -  and they thought there would be some synergy there. 

The Cisneros group was also interesting to learn about. That is one HUGE outfit. They had the rights to run Sears Roebuck, Pepsi and other huge brands in Latin America, and have eventually - thanks to that $1 billion from KKR - developed into a ginormous telecommunications powerhouse. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway - from White and others - is the fact the friendships among Spalding employees from the 90s and early 2000s last to this day. They have a Facebook group and group text chats going on, they have reunions (the most recent was a COVID casualty), and the celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. They were all about the same age when they started and have watched each other, and their children, grow up and it was obvious there's still a strong bond. Got me to thinking - the loyalty you have is to people more so than a company and while companies come and go, those bonds don't really go away.  

And one question for @BIG STU - someone asked in the comments section and I couldn't remember. The Spalding Bird on Ball irons are #3onyour pure forged blade list. What are the Top 2? If I had to guess, it's a MacGregor VIP model and either the Wilson FG17 or a Mizuno model. Inquiring minds want to know...

To answer the question yep you nailed it Mac VIP #1  Mac FC 4000 #2

  • Like 2

Driver ---- TM M-6 Evenflow 65 G R flex---- 3 wood TM V-Steel Aldila 65G R Flex--- 7 Wood TM V-Steel UST Pro Force 65 R flex---  Irons 5 thru PW 2016 TM TP CBs Steelfiber 95 R--- GW Callaway Mack Daddy2 52* Stock regular shaft--- SW Callaway Mack Daddy PM grind modified to 10* bounce KBS wedge shaft R---- Putter Scotty Sante Fe fluted Bulls Eye shaft you seriously think it was going anywhere? Bag Old School Burton Mini Staff non demontional no advertising

 

 

 

 

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