Can you recall anyone selling a packaged golf set made up of high-end 1020 forged irons and wedges and Tour-level metal woods – all with premium shafts – along with a top quality stand bag, travel bag, and a stiff arm?
I can’t either.
Bridgestone’s new Tour B ADF package isn’t your typical beginners boxed set – we’re talking Bridgestone’s latest front-line equipment here, much of which has previously only been available in Asia. It’s an innovative idea, but when it comes to innovation, there’s a fine line between a creative, new, oh-wow type of idea and there being a very good reason why no one has tried it before.
Zack Kupperbush, Bridgestone’s Golf Club Product Manager, says the idea for the Tour B ADF set (ADF stands for Accuracy, Distance and Feel) came from 18 months of extensive market and consumer research.
“As far as we know, I don’t think anyone has ever done this,” he says. “But our research shows there is a market for it.”
Do NOT Call This a “Boxed Set”
There are two ways to look the Tour B ADF packaged set. It’s either a concept-busting packaging-and-sales innovation, or it’s another stab at relevance by a brand that, despite its array of high-performing equipment, is still struggling to find its place in the sun.
It could quite possibly be both. Or neither.
But whatever it is, don’t call it a boxed set.
“The extent of it being a boxed set is that we ship it to you in a box,” says Kupperbush. “After that…”
Bridgestone is packing a lot of premium equipment into that box. To wit:
- Tour B XD5 driver with the Project X HZRDUS Red shaft
- Tour B XDF 3-wood, also with HZRDUS Red
- Tour B XDH 2 hybrid, with the KBS Tour Prototype hybrid shaft
- Tour B-HI 3 & 4 driving irons, also with the KBS Tour Prototype
- Tour B X-CBP 1020 forged irons, 5-PW with black KBS $ Taper shafts
- Tour B XW-1 forged wedges in black oxide, also with black KBS $ Taper shafts
The set also includes Bridgestone’s lightweight stand bag and a logoed Bag Boy T-10 travel bag, with a stiff arm for added protection.
What makes the set somewhat compelling is, other than the wedges, none of the clubs are part of Bridgestone’s current US mainline offering, but are part of the Japanese Domestic Market and Asian offerings.
“When we started the whole process, we were surprised to learn how many people knew about product that existed in the Japanese or Asian markets,” says Kupperbush. “We’re a much bigger company overseas that we are in the US, and we have a large catalog of clubs that haven’t been released here that we can pick through and figure out how to use here.”
Bridgestone is importing the components and assembling them here in the USA. The shafts are for the golfer looking for mid-to-high launch, with the full set falling on the better player side of game-improvement.
The driver and fairway heads, when combined with the HZRDUS Red shafts, are designed to be high launching weapons, with the driver featuring a slight draw bias. The CBP irons feature a cavity back pocket design (hence the CBP), and are an update to Bridgestone’s previous J-15 Dual Pocket Forged irons. They’re 1020 forged and feature a little more offset and a bit wider sole than the existing Tour B X-CB irons. They’re reasonably comparable to the Callaway Apex or the Wilson C-300 Forged in terms of playability.
You can get any grip you’d like on the set, as long as it’s the Golf Pride MCC in red/platinum. The set will be available on both regular and stiff flexes, and you can choose between a 9.5° or a 10.5° driver. Bought individually, the items in the set would cost around $3,600.00, but Bridgestone is selling the package for $2,799.99.
Oh yeah, it will only be available online via Bridgestone’s website, which brings us to…
The $2,800 Question
Actually, there are several questions.
First, does the golf market need, or even want, a premium-grade, direct-to-consumer packaged set, even if it is priced to move at $2,800? Is this a solution in search of a problem?
Second, will golfers shell out $2,800 for premium clubs that can’t be demoed or custom fitted?
And third, if there are any doubts about questions 1 and 2, why the hell do this?
That last question is an easy one to answer: If you’re Bridgestone, why the hell not?
“We’re still fighting the battle of making people aware that Bridgestone makes clubs,” says Kupperbush, who adds there will be an aggressive paid digital marketing campaign for the ADF set – a first for Bridgestone. “Even if someone isn’t going to get into this set, even if they hate the idea, at least they’ll know we make golf clubs.”
As for the second question – we can hear Pitchfork Nation already readying the torches. No, there will be no demo program for this set and no, there will be no custom fitting or shaft options for this set. Bridgestone will customize for lie angle, length, and other specifics, but the set is the set is the set. And to further piss off Pitchfork Nation, it’s right-handed only, at least at launch.
“By no means are we saying don’t go get fit, or that we know better than you,” says Kupperbush. The mid- to high-launch, game improvement configuration does fit the big old meaty part of the golfing public, and Kupperbush adds there are people out there who may be intimidated by the fitting process.
“For whatever reason, they may not want to get fit, or they’re uncomfortable with the process. We want to provide an option for someone who understands they want better clubs than a $200 set from a department store.”
If you’re adamantly pro-fitting, that explanation does sound a little weak, but it is undeniable that the majority of golfers, even semi-serious ones, have never been fitted for their equipment. It’s also important to note that Bridgestone is not doing away with its Tour B X equipment line, which can be custom fit through retailers and specialty fitters. And not for nothing, Kupperbush tells MyGolfSpy to expect two new full product lines – updates to both the JGR and Tour B X – within the next six to eight months.
To take some of the risks out of buying sight unseen, Bridgestone is offering a full 30-day money back guarantee on the ADF set. If you game it and don't like it, send it back, and they'll refund your money.
As for the direct-to-consumer approach? Bridgestone has been testing the waters for more online marketing and the direct-to-consumer model for its equipment business. Already this year we’ve seen online only test-marketing for the Tour B X-HI driving irons as well as the Tiger Tour B golf balls. With the relative success Hogan is having selling premium equipment online only, this could be a trial balloon of sorts for Bridgestone, to see what happens.
While its golf balls are everywhere, Bridgestone is – to put it kindly – a Challenger equipment brand. Outside of PGA Tour SuperStores and a handful of other outlets, you’ll have a hard time finding Bridgestone clubs on the shelves due to the Catch 22 of golf retail: to sell stuff you have to be on the shelves, and to get on the shelves you have to have demand. To be in demand you have to market, and to market, you have to have marketing money.
How do you get marketing money? You have to sell stuff.
I’m not saying Bridgestone doesn’t have money – it has more money than Nike, and Bridgestone remains a leading golf equipment company in Japan and throughout Asia. North America, however, has been a struggle, and the old business adage says if you keep doing what you’ve been doing you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.
And if what you’ve been getting is bupkis, it may very well be time to try some new ideas.
For more information on the Tour B ADF Packaged set, visit BridgestoneGolf.com.