In business, there’s a lot to like about big. Big means, well, big.
Big companies have big reach. If you want to buy a product from a big company, you don’t have to work very hard to do it.
Big companies also have big budgets for things like R&D and marketing. They have the money to create new, cool things with new, cool features, and they have the money to tell you all about those new, cool things with all the new, cool features.
Small, on the other hand, has none of those things. You have to put in some effort to even see a small company’s product, let alone buy it. And while we love to wax poetic about the little guy with the big idea that knocks the establishment on its ass, the reality is research and development costs a lot money.
(PXG is the unicorn in all of this: small in terms of market share, but with deep pockets).
It’s rare – but possible – for small to come up game-changing, industry-revolutionizing tech, but big usually winds up borrowing or even buying that tech, putting their own spin and name on it and making it mainstream.
When it comes to small, you’d be hard-pressed to find an OEM smaller – at least in North America – than Lynx. Beyond small, Lynx simply isn’t on anyone’s radar. This week’s release of a new iron set and a new utility iron isn’t going to change that equation much, but if you’re the type who doesn’t follow the crowd, doesn’t need a big name, and actually likes being a bit, uhhh, different when it comes to your equipment, what follows is worth a read.
Figuring Out North America
Establishing a new brand in North America isn’t easy, and it’s immeasurably tougher for an overseas company. In addition to cultural differences, there’s a heavily entrenched retail chain, very little green grass business and – above all – North America is really, really big. Long-established Japanese OEMs with deep pockets and high-end forgings struggle to gain a foothold, and Lynx – quite literally a Mom-and-Pop outfit from the south of England – faces the kind of uphill battle you’d usually hire a Sherpa for.
Some quick background on the brand is needed. The original and iconic Lynx enjoyed a nice run from the early 70’s through the late ’90s, with staffers Ernie Els and Fred Couples winning majors. Golfsmith bought Lynx out of bankruptcy, eventually turning it into a non-descript house brand. Dick’s acquired the name when Golfsmith went belly-up.
Steve Elford and Stephanie Zinser – the Mom-and-Pop ownership team – have owned Lynx-Europe since 2013, and secured the rights for Lynx worldwide (save for Japan and Canada) from Dick’s in 2017. Lynx has had an outsized presence at the PGA Show the last two years, but the brand is still on the outside looking in with virtually no retail presence other than a limited offering through Dallas Golf. This past September, Lynx decided to go the Direct-To-Consumer route.
With the foreplay out of the way, let’s take a look at the new Lynx offerings.
Prowler Forged Irons
Okay, okay, you might as well get the pitchforks out now. Yes, the Prowler Forged does look like the offspring of an unholy mating between PXG and a TaylorMade RAC and yes, beauty most definitely is in the eye of the beholder.
The Prowler Forged is marketed as a better player’s cavity back iron with category-appropriate lofts (32-degree 7-iron). Lynx says it’s aimed at the low- to mid-handicapper who wants the feel of a 1020 carbon steel forging with a fair amount of forgiveness added in.
Those PXG-like screws are tungsten (non-adjustable) and do what they’re supposed to do: move the CG as low and as far back as possible in a cavity back for easier launch and greater MOI. In addition, the blade is on the longish side for the category, which also helps with forgiveness. Your best comps might be the Wilson C300 Forged or the Callaway Apex Pro.
Lynx supplied us with a set with the stock KBS Tour 90 shaft. The Tour 90 is a lightweight shaft KBS places in the higher launch, higher spin spectrum. When combined with the low CG in the Prowler head you’d expect balloon shots scraping the stratosphere, but driving range and Trackman sessions proved that not to be the case.
Our range session showed the Prowler to be plenty forgiving with the kind of feel you’d want from a 1020 forging. While the PW did launch high (as wedges often do), you can manipulate a lower launch if that shot’s in your tool bag. Both the 8- and 6-irons provided a high, yet penetrating ball flight with no ballooning.
The launch monitor provided some interesting insight. With an average 84.5 MPH 6-iron swing speed, the Prowler produced ball speed averages of 114.5 MPH, carry of 164 yards, and total distance of 173 with a 19-degree launch angle.
6-iron spin was acceptable (around 5000 RPM), and the descent angle of 47-degrees was ample. There was nothing eye-popping or game-changing about the numbers, but we did find the Prowler very easy to hit and the feel was outstanding. Most Wanted Testing, of course, will determine how well the Prowler compares to the field.
The Prowler Forged don’t come cheap: the standard set is 5-PW and will run you $999 with the stock KBS Tour 90 shaft. Lynx is offering the UST Mamiya Recoil as the graphite option for $1,169. 3- and 4-irons are sold separately. The Lamkin Crossline grip is standard. They’re available now on the Lynx website.
VT Stinger Driving Iron
Kudos to Lynx for calling the VT Stinger what it is – a driving iron. While everyone else is going the Utility or Crossover route, the VT Stinger is a true driving iron in all its 12.5- and 16-degree glory.
The VT Stinger features variable face technology, hollow-body construction, and a muscleback-ish look that complements Lynx’s hollow-body VT Prowler iron set. The Stinger is a shorter, stouter Barney Rubble-looking iron when compared to, say, the new Wilson Staff Model utility, but it’s even more of a niche product. We found the 16-degree model a useful option off the tee, and if you need to hit a low stinger from a half-decent lie it does the job. The VT Stinger’s sole doesn’t taper towards the heel nearly as much as other utility irons do, which in theory should help when hitting out of the rough, but at 16-degrees you’ll need some clubhead speed to get the shot up in the air.
We didn’t try the 12.5-degree model, but one can imagine its usefulness limited to tee shots, clean fairway lies, and punch outs. It probably wouldn’t warrant a permanent spot in your bag, but could be useful on short, narrow courses that place a premium on staying out of the trees.
In the world of utility/driving irons, you will find the VT Stinger a relative bargain at $129 with a KBS Tour 90 steel shaft, and at $149 with a UST Mamiya Recoil graphite shaft. The Lamkin Crossline grip is standard. It’s also available now on Lynx’s website.
A Place for Lynx?
Does North America really need another OEM? The easy answer is, of course, no, but it’s also an answer that doesn’t matter because market share and profitability are mutually exclusive; having one doesn’t mean you’ll have the other.
The Big 5, of course, dominate retail, with Mizuno, Srixon-Cleveland, Wilson Staff, Tour Edge, Honma, and others lurking – fighting to keep their share while grabbing a bit from someone else. There’s precious little bandwidth in retail for anyone else, meaning the Direct-to-Consumer channel is the only viable opportunity for brands such as Hogan, Sub 70, and Lynx.
There’s also a question of R&D and who has the latest and greatest technology. As we wrote in an article on the reality of Chinese manufacturing, the smaller the OEM, the more the OEM relies on its Chinese suppliers to help design its products. Lynx has an R&D consultant, Kevin Woolgar, on staff who works with Chinese manufacturers to come up with Lynx products. Lynx’s lineup ranges from actual open models bearing the Lynx name to Lynx patented products to products somewhere in the middle, designed by a Chinese manufacturer with a dash or more of input from Woolgar.
If you demand the latest and greatest AI created, Twist/Screw-Faced, Speed Foam and Urethane Microsphere injected technology in your gear, you won’t find it at Lynx. What you will find is solid gear for those of you who don’t like following the rest of the herd.
And if walking into a Golf Galaxy or Golfer’s Warehouse and whacking a few shots into a screen is the only way you’ll buy golf equipment, the DTC option is not for you. Ditto if you wish to be custom-fit, although both Hogan and Sub 70 will build to your specs. Lynx does have a complete fitting studio in England and provides fitting services all over the UK, but the brand isn’t ready for that here in the U.S. Like we said, it’s literally a Mom-and-Pop operation.
The advantage the DTC group offers is, of course, price. Both Hogan and Sub 70 offer what each considers premium products at attractive price points. From that standpoint, Lynx finds itself in a bit of a bind. While its Black Cat and VT Prowler irons are competitively priced at $630 and $799 respectively (both received strong reviews in a MyGolfSpy Community Review), and while the VT Stinger is a tremendous bargain, the Prowler Forged at $999, as well as Lynx’s Black Cat driver, fairway and hybrid, and the Prowler wedges are priced closer to retail levels.
That pricing, no doubt, reflects a considerable amount of retail business Lynx supports in the UK and Europe – and selling the same products in one market for a hell of a lot less than you sell them for in another market is a sure-fire way to piss off both retail partners and consumers. Add the fact Lynx is selling six-club sets (5-PW) while most of North America offers seven-club sets, well, like I said, it’s a bind.
So, who is Lynx for? It’s a sliver-thin niche of golfers who believe the following:
- It’s NEVER the arrow, it’s ALWAYS the archer.
- The big OEMs charge outrageous prices for incremental tech advances.
- Paying similar prices for a little-known brand isn’t a problem.
- Having said little-known in the bag is a badge of honor.
- Winning money from buddies with said little-known brand is a source of pride.
Do any of these sound like you, or anyone you know?