Adams Golf is back!
Well, back insomuch as the Adams Golf Twitter account posted two tweets in a span of five days. That’s not prodigious by any measure but given that Adams hadn’t tweeted in nearly five years, the reemergence is notable.
Is Adams Golf poised to make a comeback?
Adams Golf Rewind
If you’ve forgotten about the Adams Golf brand, the summary goes like this …
Adams was the awesome little golf company that could, though, based on what sources told us about its financial situation, it couldn’t have much longer. And so, in 2012, TaylorMade purchased Adams Golf, its intellectual property and, for better or worse, its market share.
At the time, there were rumors that the acquisition was a means to resolve a patent dispute over the slot in the original Rocketballz. Whether that’s true doesn’t much matter anymore.
It is what it was. Bygones.
The Adams Golf Legacy
At the time of the acquisition, Adams wasn’t a massive retail player. It did OK in the iron category. It had a significant enough share of the metalwoods market to get TaylorMade’s attention. Its hybrids set the standard. The company enjoyed a solid run as the No. 1 hybrid on the PGA TOUR and it’s hard to argue there isn’t still some Adams influence in TaylorMade’s hybrid designs – and everybody else’s, too.
Everyone has a favorite Adams hybrid. If you don’t, we have nothing to talk about.
From time to time, the company cranked out something special in the driver category (the 9064LS is a MyGolfspy Classic), and the iron line … just a steady stream of solid performers that spanned everything from the Hogan-esque blade-on-blade MB2 to functional SGI irons.
For a run, I’d argue Adams was as good as anyone and better than plenty. To this day, there exists a loyal cult following that would fight you to the death if you said otherwise.
The Beginning of the End
Not surprisingly, those same fans feared the worst when TaylorMade bought Adams … and the worst is exactly what we got. In its eight-plus years of ownership, the only thing of consequence TaylorMade has done with the Adams brand is to change the logo.
At the time of the acquisition, the assumption was that TaylorMade was more interested in the Adams intellectual property than anything else. That’s almost certainly true and, over the years, several purported Adams insiders who swear some of TaylorMade’s work in the years following the acquisition era was pulled from the Adams catalog.
All fair. They bought it. They own it.
On the retail side of things, TaylorMade never quite knew what to do with Adams. Team TaylorMade struggled to reconcile with the idea of a sister brand that had the potential to steal sales from a primary brand that was completely obsessed with its market share.
Back in Texas, the Adams designers hoped to continue making products for the better player but that was TaylorMade’s domain – nearly to the point of exclusivity. At the time, the TaylorMade was so focused on better golfers that a single-digit handicap was a prerequisite for most new hires.
And Then Came Adams Blue
The particulars of the actual timeline are inconsequential. The wheel-spinning of the Adams brand felt like it went on forever until April of 2015 when the Adams launched the Blue line.
Blue was an unapologetic, almost over-the-top line of clubs aimed at the recreational golfer. It wasn’t at all what Adams fans wanted.
Sidebar: Adams previewed the line at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show with the most amazingly honest golf commercial ever. It never aired and the copy we posted disappeared from YouTube, but trust me. IT WAS AWESOME.
Coinciding with the release of Blue was the Adams Red, a “last of its kind” innovative hybrid that carried the true Adams spirit. In retrospect, it was our parting gift.
Let’s all pause in remembrance.
TaylorMade’s Adams Golf Plan
The upside was that there was finally a plan. TaylorMade would cater to serious golfers. Adams was going to be the fun, recreational line that didn’t step on Big Brother’s toes.
In reality, Adams Blue never had a chance.
Before Blue even hit shelves, then TaylorMade CEO Ben Sharpe, “resigned for personal reasons.”
Semantics. He was fired. Some would say scapegoated.
The Adams plan was his and without his influence, support from within the company for the Adams brand faded.
The End of the End
There’s not much else to tell about Adams after that. When adidas sold TaylorMade to KPS Capital Partners, Adams and Ashworth were part of the deal. Neither has been heard from since. In fact, before the tweet flurry of the past week or so, the last we heard from the Adams Golf account was in November 2015.
Fittingly, it was an image of Bernhard Langer walking off into the sunset.
An Adams Golf Rebirth?
Fast forward to right about now and two tweets have given golf Twitter one hell of a double-rainbow moment. What does it all mean?
Is Adams coming back?
Hell if I know. TaylorMade isn’t saying but let’s consider some possibilities.
I could be way off but the way I see it, the Adams tweets mean one of three things.
Adams has been sold. This is tinfoil hat stuff but in a world where every “like” is interpreted as meaning something, the Dick’s Sporting Goods account liking an Adams tweet is a thing that makes you go hmm.
On the one hand, Dick’s buying Adams would make sense. Dick’s likes making money, golf is hot and, seriously, how much could the Adams brand cost nearly six years removed from its last product line?
Of course, sometimes a like is just a like. Dick’s has put considerable effort into revitalizing and re-legitimizing the Tommy Armour brand. So it strikes me as unlikely that DSG would bring in another house brand to compete with itself. That’s what TaylorMade did when it bought Adams and we know how that worked out.
That’s not to say there aren’t other potential suitors. About a year and a half ago, I spoke to a man who earnestly believes the Adam brand still has legs and was actively trying to acquire it. As far as I know, that never went anywhere.
Maybe a deal is in the works. Probably not.
Hey, we still own Adams, right? – Some guy at TaylorMade (maybe)
Kicking Tires, Assessing Value, etc.
Dismissing the idea that somebody at Adams scheduled a pair of tweets five years in advance, the explanation could be as simple as routine tire-kicking at TaylorMade.
Things come up in meetings all the time. Maybe somebody remembered that TaylorMade owns Adams and decided to spend the cost of a couple of tweets to find out if anyone still cares.
Call it a light lifting exploration to determine if there should be a plan. Future TBD.
Execute Ben Sharpe’s Plan (five years after the fact)
The third option isn’t new – but the timing couldn’t be better.
My best guess (and it’s just that and nothing more) is that TaylorMade is thinking about revisiting Ben Sharpe’s original Adams plan.
Adams Golf could be poised to make a comeback as a brand exclusively in the SGI and beginner space. If you want to call that recreational or fun, that’s cool.
Fingers crossed for a vaccine but it doesn’t look like we’re going to be done with COVID any time soon. I hate to call it an upside but much of the golf world has benefited from COVID and if not much changes, the golf biz will likely stay hot. That means continued growth driven by first-time and lapsed golfers whose skills maybe aren’t as sharp as they were when the Adams Tight Lies was a thing.
The market is right for Adams Golf to return as the no-nonsense, easy-to-hit, “make golf fun”brand Sharpe envisioned.
No Innovation Necessary
Not for anything, there’s probably a folder full of designs at TaylorMade HQ that hasn’t been touched since Blue bit the dust. For the target golfer, a tweak here or there and those designs are likely every bit as relevant as they were in 2015.
It’s not a stretch to think somebody has given serious thought to bundling 14 of those designs together. That’s right; I’m putting my money on an Adams boxed set.
Yeah, that escalated quickly.
As one of my industry contacts joked last week, “The two things you can’t buy in Southern California right now are a boxed set of golf clubs and a mountain bike.”
And since I don’t expect TaylorMade/Adams to start making bikes anytime soon, a boxed set with a recognizable name, designed for the hottest segment of golf retail makes a ton of sense – especially if it allows the TaylorMade brand to socially distance itself from the stigma of the category.
When COVID blows over, there will still be money to be made in a category where simplicity is valued above all else. One club or 14, the money is still green.
Toss in an Ashworth shirt and you’ve got one hell of a deal!
Adams is Never Coming Back
To reiterate, this is all speculative. And even if a pair of tweets somehow prove a signal that the Adams Golf brand has been revived, it’s unlikely it will ever truly be back.
The designers that made Adams great have scattered. TaylorMade owns all of the IP and it’s unlikely any of it is cutting-edge these days. In short, all that’s left of Adams is fond memories and a logo. Even that isn’t what it used to be.
All of that sucks but, in a way, that makes a new Adams Golf the perfect brand for 2020.