What happened to clubs named after players?
I was at a local thrift shop the other day pricing some filing cabinets and found a cache of old clubs: Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Patty Berg. Over the years, I’ve also encountered Palmers and Tony Lemas and many others. I always like seeing these castaways because they evoke the game’s history. If I had the room, I’d start a collection to see how many different players I could find.
You won’t find any Mickelsons or Dustin Johnsons (although a club named The Big Johnson likely would sell). Today’s clubs have names dreamed up by marketing departments: Amp, Speedblade, Covert, Speedline. Others just dump the names entirely for collections of letters and numbers: i25, g25, AP2714. The closest I’ve seen in recent years is Ping’s “Karsten,” which is of course named after the company’s founder.
Part of this, I suppose, is the current fickle nature of player and club endorsements. It is often hard to keep up with all the comings-and-goings of players. It is also probably the case that aside from the big two or three, no player packs enough media punch to draw customers on the basis of name alone.
Still, the reason players are signed to manufacturers’ “staffs” is to get hackers to buy clubs on the basis of name recognition. Quick, without looking: What’s in Matt Kuchar’s bag? If you saw a set of clubs in a bag at your home course, would you be able to identify the TOUR player who wields that brand? Other than Tiger, McIlroy, and particularly flamboyant players like Rickie Fowler, the average duffer probably can’t. Is Phil with Ping or Callaway? Is Jordan with Titleist or Ping? What does John Rahm play? And now that Adams is owned by TaylorMade, Titleist by Fila and Cobra by Puma, it gets even more confusing.
The one thing you could say about these old clubs is that there was no doubt whose sticks you were buying.
As a final note, I’ve long held the opinion that manufacturers are wasting their money signing any but the top couple of players. I have yet to meet an amateur who bought set of clubs because his favorite player uses that brand. No rational person buys a club because it is the “most played on TOUR.” Most know that the clubs they can buy off the rack in no way resemble the finely tuned, customized sticks used by the pros. Amateurs rely on recommendations from friends and blogs (my word-of-mouth advice has sold dozens of sets of clubs; the blog, numbers untold), their pros, the feel they get from demo days, and from data in clubfittings.
2 thoughts on “What Happened To Clubs Named After Players?”
My guess is that it would be hard to pin the pros you would want to a certain set. Phil and Tiger have a mixed bag, for example. John Daly of course did have his name attached to some Dunlops a few years ago, and I think he played with the set, at least for a time. I think that relationship probably wasn’t nearly as good as the MaxFli Fire association with Daly.
But given any pro who having some level of success, they will swap out equipment, and may not even stick in a single brand. Even someone one the moderate success side closely associated with a brand like Ricky Barnes with Wilson, plays a Taylormade driver (with a Wilson headcover).
It is surprising that Callaway didn’t release a “Phrankenwood” fairway driver, or even a whole set. You would think the way that Cally and Taylormade release clubs on a near quarterly basis, they might try putting something like a Dustin driver, or a Phrankenwood out, to see what happens.
Bubba did have a pink Ping driver released, very limited though.
As for why they sign multiple pros? They want the wins for their brand. You may not remember who won the tournaments last year, but Taylormade wants to put in their ads that they had 13 (or whatever) wins last year with their driver.
But agreed, you won’t buy a club based on who uses it, outside of that person being in the elite or big personality like Bubba, Dustin, Fowler, Phil, or Tiger.
Your post is right on target. I’ve found a way to up cycle these historic clubs. I turn them into golf club bottle openers, or coat/hat racks. Pretty much anything I can come up with. I’ll send you some pics.