I love golf equipment so much that I started a marketing company that helps golf businesses sell more of it. But before that, I was very fortunate to lead the GolfWRX editorial team.
At GolfWRX, I’ve covered countless product launches and learned more about the physics and chemistry of golf than any of my science teachers ever thought.
It was incredibly fun and eye-opening to learn from the people who designed the golf clubs. By learning what they do and why they do it, they have earned my endless respect for what goes into a day’s work in the golf industry.
These days, I participate in my own product launches for the brands we support. And when I’m working on these launches, I always think back to my favorites from my media days to tap into the things that really got me excited.
Before I dive into the list, I want to share the three factors I look for in a successful product launch. The launches I’ve selected answer a resounding “yes” to each of the questions below:
- Does the product strongly represent the values of a brand?
- Does the product add something new that solves a real problem?
- Is the product really influential?
Here is my list.
4. Ping G30 Driver
Do you remember the first time you saw Turbulators? Ping was making some really good drivers around 2013, but they weren’t considered the longest. When they launched the G30, everything changed.
On the science side, Ping’s challenge was that he was committed to making ultra-forgiving pilots. The problem was that making ultra-forgiving pilots meant using an unaerodynamic, slow-moving pilot head shape. So if you were playing a Ping driver back then, you weren’t playing him for distance. You played it for accuracy.
Other brands were pushing CG drivers as the way to go at the time, but the folks at Ping thought there was a better way. So they went in another direction.
Ping’s research into aerodynamics led them to “turbulators,” which were bumps they added to the front of the driver’s crown to help reduce drag so golfers could swing faster.
There was a lot of chatter from other golf equipment companies that Turbulators were “just marketing” and didn’t actually work. Several people told me that they tested the clubs after shaving the Turbulators and saw no difference.
But when golfers put the G30 on a launch monitor, the results were clear. Not only was the G30 the most forgiving rider in its class, it was also one of the fastest. And that was all that mattered.
3. TaylorMade RocketBallz Fairway Wood
The claim was 17 more yards. And for most golfers, they delivered that and more. TaylorMade RocketBallz fairway woods ushered in a new era of metal wood design that made the previous generation of fairway woods disappear overnight, at least for high spin players.
In hindsight, it made perfect sense. Fairway woods back then threw too low and turned too much…at least compared to today. But what if you could increase launch, decrease spin, and add more ball speed? That’s what RocketBallz did.
TaylorMade cited its “Speed Pocket” – a slot in the front of the sole – as the reason the RocketBallz fairway woods were so long. The lunge helped, but the RocketBallz performance was just as much about pushing the weight down and forward—far beyond the point that had ever been attempted on a fairway wood.
Looking back, RocketBallz was probably too successful for TaylorMade’s good. The company carried the low CG history down to a product line called SLDR, which had such a low and forward CG that it was unreliable for most golfers. Hank Haney told me bluntly that TaylorMade “should never have released this driver”.
I have a soft spot for the launch, because TaylorMade has always been known for pushing boundaries. After all, TaylorMade was the first to popularize adjustable weights, adjustable hosels, and several other technologies that were unthinkable at the time.
2. Irons PXG 0311
We thought we were going to get another Miura, but PXG turned out to be something completely different. The company run by Bob Parsons has hired some of the best and brightest people in the industry and then given them a blank check to make the best gear possible. And the project succeeded…especially with the 0311 irons that forever changed the category of players’ irons.
You’ll remember all the screws on the outside, but what mattered was the polymer foam on the inside. This allowed the 0311 iron faces to be thinner and push more weight to the perimeter. As a result, the 0311 offered a combination of distance, feel and forgiveness that no one had experienced before.
Sure, they cost nearly $3,000 a set, but golfers who could afford them didn’t care. They were new. They were sexy. And you could argue that they were the best irons on the market at that time.
It’s hard to imagine a more successful launch of a new brand of golf equipment than what PXG was able to accomplish with the 0311 irons. The company put its money where its mouth was. They hired the team. They recruited the tour players. And they created a buzz that we haven’t really seen since.
1. Callaway Chrome Soft Golf Balls
After a full day of learning about Callaway Chrome Soft golf balls, marketed as “The ball that changed the ball,” I walked into a manager’s office for a brief interview. The goal was to get some quotes for a story I was going to write.
The executive was wrapping up some stuff, and being a curious reporter, I looked around the office and noticed two boxes of golf balls. One box was red and looked like the ball I had been learning about all day. The other box was blue. And they both said Chrome Soft.
I had to say something like “What’s in the blue box?” He could have avoided the question, but he didn’t. “We were going to throw two different Chrome Soft balls, but we found one was better for everyone,” he said. “So we’ll just throw one.”
The other bullet, he told me, had higher compression. It would have been safer to throw both balls. If Callaway had released both versions, I’m willing to bet Chrome Soft would never have been what it was. It was an all-in bet on a low-compression concept that was pretty much unproven.
It was also a different Callaway. Callaway had no OGIO, TravisMathew or Topgolf to rely on. He lived and died with durable goods, and if the Chrome Soft had failed, it would have been a big deal for the company.
Connoisseurs will point out that the original Chrome Soft never took off with touring players, and they’re right. But Callaway knew Chrome Soft had something for the rest of the golf world.
Chrome Soft was about $10 a dozen cheaper than Callaway’s touring balls at the time, and nothing else really matched that. It was buttery soft, it was really straight and it always checked around the greens.
In the years since, we’ve seen all the major ball manufacturers talk more about compression and come up with a more nuanced product line. There is no doubt that Chrome Soft was one of them.
What did I miss or mess up? Leave a comment below or email me at [email protected].