Written By: Tony Covey
Despite having not yet reached the halfway mark of calendar year 2014, the golf equipment industry’s version of the hot stove is heating up. People are starting to talk.
2015 rumors bubbling over
Round up the usual suspects. There are murmurs about Callaway and TaylorMade. I know the Nike Golf team is excited (like crazy excited), and everyone believes Titleist is going to be its steady, reliable self.
Predictable, and I suppose interesting as the status quo may be, the loudest whispers in the golf equipment industry right are coming from the most unexpected of places.
That’s right, tire/golf ball/occasional equipment manufacturer, Bridgestone Golf is planning a wooly mammoth sized push in 2015.
For the 2015 season Bridgestone will launch their first full club line in more than 3 years. That, coupled with an internal belief that at least of their competitors won’t survive the current market conditions, could open the door for Bridgestone to become a major force in the golf industry.
Here’s What You Can Expect
If release models hold, 2015 will be an off year for Bridgestone’s signature 330-series ball. That apparently has freed the company up to make their most series foray ever into the hard goods (that’s anything with a grip) market.
Sources are telling us that Bridgestone will release:
- 3-5 sets of new irons
- 2-3 New Driver Models (and that means fairways and hybrids too)
- …and we’re just going to go ahead and assume new wedges as well
While we don’t have any specifics yet, it’s been suggested to us that Bridgestone will introduce what they believe is game-changing technology in the metalwoods lineup. And yes…nearly everyone offers up their own form of game-changing technology on an annual basis, but Bridgestone could actually be different.
No doubt golfers already familiar with Bridgestone clubs will be excited. We’re certainly intrigued ourselves.
The J40 line performed very well for us (the driver was particularly outstanding), and we can appreciate a company that’s willing to keep the message simple (we added water to the golf ball), and buck the trends (True Balance counter-counterbalanced putters) all while making a quality product that golfers (at least those who can get their hands on it) love.
Recent Trademark Filings
While we haven’t found any patents, or heard any product specifics yet, a slew of Trademark applications that were filed last week (June 18, 2014) provide some slight bit of insight into the upcoming products. At the very least we’ve got a few product names, and a hint or two about the new technology. Those Trademarks include:
- VARIABLE ADJUST SYSTEM
- DUAL POCKET FORGED
- POWER MILLING
Let’s be honest here. Despite tremendous success in the Asian market and near omnipresence on the LPGA Tour under the Tour Stage label, in the US Bridgestone is still known more for its tires than its golf clubs.
Even if we concede that most golfers are familiar with their golf balls, there are large numbers of golfers who still have no idea Bridgestone is already in the hardgoods market.
Bridgestone isn’t exactly oblivious to any of this.
While the company has typical avoided demo days in the past (when your newest club is 3 years old, what’s the point?), we’re hearing that Bridgestone will be out full-force supporting the full line while making every reasonable attempt to put the new technology (whatever it turns out to be) into golfer’s hands.
The bigger obstacle for Bridgestone is distribution and floor space. While nearly everybody stocks the balls, almost nobody stocks the clubs.
No matter how good the technology, Bridgestone can only be successful if they’re able to capture some rack space during a time when major sporting goods retailers like Dick’s and Sports Authority are cannibalizing golf departments to make more room for Yoga mats and stretchy pants.
It won’t be easy.
Market conditions within the golf industry aren’t exactly favorable right now. That said, Bridgestone has the cash (they’re ALWAYS on the potential buyers list whenever any golf company is rumored to be on the block). They could make a run…if they actually want to.
Readers, and some insiders too, tell us that they believe the industry has grown stale. If that’s the case, Bridgestone is one of just a few companies that could actually infuse some freshness into the industry, but it’s going to take more than a stellar 2015 lineup. They’ll need to commit for the long haul.
Whether this is a one-year push, or rededication to golf for the duration is the larger question for which I don’t have an answer.