Two-year life cycles for irons make a ton of sense. It gives an OEM time to work on what we hope would be significant upgrades, and those second-year sales tend to be a tad more profitable due to accounting things like design and tooling amortization, plus a lower marketing investment for that particular line. While sales volume in Year 2 almost always takes a hit, those second-year sales are often the determining factor of whether the ink on the bottom line is red or black.
And speaking of black, you’ve no doubt noticed OEMs jazzing up their more popular iron lines to give second-year sales a little kick in the hindquarters. Callaway, Titleist, and TaylorMade all released limited edition black versions of their better sellers in year two, charging a premium for what amounts to putting a new dress on an old girl (to be fair, Titleist’s upcharge is minimal). Wilson Staff is joining the limited edition party this weekend by releasing a special C300 Forged iron set in what it’s calling Mirrored Gun Metal.
The Y2 Boost
“One of the nice things the C300 Forged has brought to us is a small amount of sustainability,” says Jon Pergande, Wilson Golf’s Global Innovation Manager. “For the better player, it has some longevity, and we’re seeing sell-through in our Custom Order group in numbers that almost equal what we had in the first year as a sell-in.”
In other words, Wilson says it’s selling nearly as many C300 Forged sets through its Custom department so far this year as they sold into retail channels last year. Depending on your level of cynicism you could read that statement a couple of ways, but the bottom line is as Q2 2019 winds down, Wilson is giving the C300 Forged line a jolt by adding a Gun Metal PVD finish.
“We mess around with finishes all the time, and this just gives us something to boost and highlight the success we’ve had with C300 Forged,” says Pergande. “It keeps it alive and adds some excitement to what’s been a great product for us.”
In case you missed it, the C300 Forged is a pretty good iron. It performed very well in last year’s MyGolfSpy Player’s Distance Most Wanted testing – finishing 4th overall behind the TaylorMade P790, the Mizuno JPX 900 Forged and the Fourteen TC788, and outperforming irons such as the Titleist AP3, Ping i500, and Callaway Rogue Pro. What the C300 Forged lacked in overall distance due to its more traditional (for its segment) loft structure, it more than made up for in accuracy, especially in the mid-irons.
“Part of the success of the C300 Forged is that it’s a forgiving distance-based club for people who haven’t been playing clubs in this category,” says Pergande. “They’ve been playing blades or other forged clubs, and they’re looking for a little bit more distance and a little bit more forgiveness. They can get that in a Game Improvement iron, but those may not fit their expectation of what a club should look like, feel like, and perform like. The C300 Forged bridges that gap.”
Shadows and Lights
For the record, there are no structural or tech changes to the Gun Metal C300 Forged. It’s the same club, only with a smooth, glossy, black PVD finish you can’t really call a midnight black. In this case, Gun Metal is an accurate term – inside, it’s an obvious black. But once you get the clubs outside, the finish takes on a very different look.
“With black, you get to really accentuate the subtleties of shape,” says Pergande. “It helps you see the lines of the club in a different light.”
Wilson’s signature Power Holes – the C300’s key distance technology – stand out in the chrome version, but the Gun Metal finish does a decent job of masking them. You know they’re there, but they don’t stand out.
PVD is the finish of choice for most brands when it comes to their limited editions. While not as durable (or as pricey) as the Diamond Black Metal used by Hogan, Cobra, and Maltby, it’s considerably more durable than Black Oxide – which starts showing wear once you take the plastic off – or Black Nickel.
“There’s always wear concerns when you put PVD or other finishes on metal,” says Pergande. “The PVD will hold up better on a club like this because of the metal plating inherent to the designs, but it will wear.”
Whether you view those wear marks as proud battle scars or as unacceptable scratching is, of course, entirely up to you and your tastes.
Specs, Price, and Availability
Going Gun Metal does come at a premium: an 8-piece 4-GW stock set is priced at $999.99. That’s a $100 upcharge from the standard chrome set but is still $500 less than the black AP3’s and $600 less than the black P790’s.
The stock shaft is the same KBS Tour 105 as in the standard models, and the stock grip is a Wilson Staff branded Lamkin Crossline White. As is it’s a terrific looking iron, but a black shaft would have added to the appeal.
The Gun Metal C300 Forged will be available at select retail partners and online starting today, but Wilson says it’s primarily looking to sell these through its Custom Order department, which would allow you to select from Wilson’s full shaft and grip portfolio.
Wilson’s Custom Order department is becoming one of the company’s key growth areas. According to Pergande, the past two months are the biggest they’ve ever seen in terms of both volume and dollars.
“The golf consumer has become much more knowledgeable,” says Pergande. “More and more retail outlets are relying on multiple shaft options, multiple head options, and offering a better comparison from one company to the next. There’s Trackman info so we can show the consumer what it truly means to be a better performing product, and as a result, we’re reacting to that in terms of the custom order department and how we’re selling product.”
Most surprising, according to Wilson, is the amount of custom orders it’s getting for its GI and SGI iron sets, particularly the new D7 irons. Four years ago, only 25% of Wilson’s GI/SGI sales came through the Custom Order department, with 75% being off the rack. Today Wilson says custom fit/build sales in that category are approaching 40% of total sales, with 60% off the rack. If you’re scoring at home, that’s a 62.5% increase over four years.
“Because you have all that custom fitting ability, golfers are aware of the things that can truly help their game,” says Pergande. “There’s more information out there, and the consumer is better educated. You have to play where the consumer wants to be, and if consumers are knowledgeable and know what they’re trying to do, we have to provide the products for them.”