A few months ago, we posted the 2020 edition of our One Word Survey. This is now the third time we’ve played our favorite word association game.

If you don’t recall or are just stumbling onto this for the first time, the idea is for you to choose the golf equipment brand you most associate with each of the words we presented. Figuring some of you might have other brands in mind or that a given adjective wasn’t applicable to any brand, we also gave you a none of the above option. For the sake of consistency, we left the survey largely unchanged from the original. However, we did add a couple of new words to reflect recent industry trends.

We understand that the one-word approach doesn’t leave much room for nuance but that’s part of what makes this exercise so interesting. We don’t know what your second choice might have been; we only know the frequency at which each brand was chosen.

By looking at year-over-year changes, we can get a sense of how the market is shifting and how your perceptions of brands may be shifting with it. When big brands experience big shifts, it can be telling.

It’s also notable when a smaller brand moves the needle for a given word. We expect market-leading brands will be selected more often for both positive and negative words. Those are the names golfers know. They’re the brands golfers buy most often. So, when a challenger brand factors significantly in the results, it’s worth pointing out.

For each chart, I’ve included my general observations along with some of my interpretations. I would encourage you to do the same and share those thoughts in the comment section.

A Few Notes

Before we get to the charts, just a few quick notes.

  • For comparative purposes, we’ve included the results from 2019 (gold) along with our 2020 results (gray).
  • We’ve also included the year-over-year change which is, in places, eye-opening.
  • To keep charts clean, we’re only including the top five brands selected for 2020. Other notables will be covered in the text when warranted.
  • Last time around, we had just under 9,000 surveys completed. This year, 10,769 golfers completed the survey.

With that out of the way, let’s get to it. We start with the words with largely positive connotations.

Performance

PING again was most often the first choice for Performance. For the second year in a row, the company finished with exactly 21.69 percent of your votes.

While Titleist climbing 10 percent is noteworthy, the story here, I think, is the shift in the numbers for TaylorMade and Callaway, the industry leaders in the club category.

As you’ll see, this reversal is the prevailing theme of the survey results.

Other notables:

  • Mizuno consistently overperforms its market share with our readers.
  • While still in the low single digits, Bridgestone was selected almost 75 percent more often this year than last.
  • PXG was selected 25 percent less often than in 2019.

Innovation

Last year, Callaway finished ahead of TaylorMade by more than 10 percentage points for Innovation. This year, TaylorMade finished one point ahead. The big mover among the top five is COBRA which was selected 56 percent more often. Chalk that up to things like MIM’d irons, 3D-printed putters, and a general willingness to take a chance now and again.

Other Notables

  • Sixth on this list, Titleist was selected nearly 92 percent more often this year for Innovation.
  • Bridgestone again climbed significantly—89 percent year-over-year.
  • Wilson dipped by 51 percent.

Engineering

PING is synonymous with Engineering so it’s no surprise to see the company on top for the third time in three tries.

Once again, Callaway dipped and TaylorMade gained. PXG still finished in the top five while dropping by 20 percent year over year.

Other Notables

  • Mizuno, despite its comparably small size, again ranks in the top five, though it did dip slightly.
  • COBRA (sixth) climbed by 50 percent.
  • Bridgestone climbed by 61 percent to just under 3.5 percent.
  • Wilson fell by 45 percent.

Leader

Everyone tries to position themselves as the Leader. Not everyone is.

This time around, Titleist was chosen most often as THE leader. TaylorMade (up 68 percent) jumped into the second spot while Callaway dropped by 48 percent from first to third. The ebb and flow of those two brands is the trend here. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it (that’s why we have a comment section).

Other Notables:

  • Have I mentioned Mizuno?
  • COBRA climbed by nearly 33 points year-over-year
  • Bridgestone, while still a small portion of the overall share, jumped by 78 percentage points.

Integrity

I’d love to hear what this means to you. To me, Integrity in this context is about treating the golfing consumer with respect, making quality products, standing behind them and coating them with as little BS as necessary to make an impact in the market.

However you define the word, PING again finished on top while dipping slightly.  Titleist climbed by a healthy amount to nearly 28 percent of the total. Selections of TaylorMade and Callaway, once again, moved in opposite directions.

Other Notables

  • Mizuno, again
  • None of the Above (4 percent) was selected slightly more often than TaylorMade.
  • Though they finished second to last and last respectively, Tour Edge climbed by 40 percent while PXG was up 37 percent year-over-year.

 Quality

Who makes good stuff? Simple enough, I think.

Titleist was selected most often, eclipsing Mizuno, which had been your top choice for Quality in each of the previous two surveys. Still, a small brand being your selection for quality 26 percent of the time remains impressive.

Other Notables

  • Bridgestone was the biggest mover with a 59-percent increase year-over-year.
  • Tour Edge was also strong, improving by 51 percent.
  • PXG fell by 13 percent but was still ranked sixth overall.

Not entirely dissimilar from Integrity, the chart for Trustworthy doesn’t look much different. Mostly, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them both

Other Notables

  • Bridgestone is the outlier, climbing by 49 percent, compared to only 17 percent for Integrity.

Modern

For Modern, COBRA not only stayed on top, but was selected nine percent more often year-over-year.

TaylorMade made a huge move, up 47 percent year-over-year (SIM probably deserves most of the credit) while Callaway dipped 35 percent.

Other Notables:

  • Titleist, while still a long way from the leaders, was selected 48 percent more often than last year.
  • Bridgestone was selected 38 percent more often.

Humble

PING and Mizuno swap spots but comfortably lead the field. The former is the obvious outlier given that the rest of the chart is populated by smaller brands. Titleist, which was selected 4.43 percent of the time (a dip of 17.5 percent), is the next big manufacturer on the list, eight places below PING.

Other Notables

  • PXG was selected least often (.33 percent).
  • TaylorMade was selected 57 percent more often YOY (but still faired only slightly better than PXG).
  • None of the Above was selected 17 percent of the time.

Premium

One of our new words this year, the resurgence of Premium as a talking point likely traces back to PXG’s entry into the market. When PXG was positioned exclusively as a top-dollar brand, others sought to position their products as premium, extra-premium and maybe even super triple-dog uber premium. Ultimately, Premium is about being perceived as being on a different level than the competition.

Titleist narrowly edged out PXG which seems reasonable given that they’re the only mainstream brands currently playing in what still qualifies as a premium price bracket. PXG has lowered prices on a good bit of its lineup but GEN4 irons will still set you back $349. For its part, Titleist gets $500 a stick for CNCPT.

Other Notables

  • Callaway, which hasn’t followed up on its spendy Epic iron, missed the top five (it was sixth, about .05 percent behind TaylorMade).
  • Mizuno finished third. Perhaps because of the copper MP-20s.  Perhaps just because you guys highly regard the brand.
  • No other brand received more than .85 percent of your selections

Negative Words

With the positive stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the words which hold generally negative connotations. Keep in mind, that in this section, a year-over-year increase is probably bad (especially for a big brand) while a dip should likely be considered progress.

Hype

Hype is typically regarded as noise—very often unwarranted and without substance.

The big move here is PXG swapping places with TaylorMade. The latter, along with Callaway, dipped while the former was selected nearly 26 percent more often than last year.

Other Notables

  • While still a small percentage overall, Mizuno jumped by 151 percent year-over-year.
  • Bridgestone jumped by 96 percent.
  • Srixon climbed by 33 percent.

If you’re so inclined, I suppose you can choose to view those increases in a positive light. Call it, “small brands making some noise and starting to get some attention for it.” What do you think?

Gimmick

When you’ve got a good story and some visible tech but golfers don’t believe any of it actually does anything (or if they just don’t like you), you’ve got yourself a Gimmick.

The upside here is that not only was None of the Above selected most often, it was selected 50 percent more often than last year.

Among actual brands selected, PXG was selected most often (up 21 percent) from last year. I’d wager this stems from the belief that PXG isn’t in it for the long haul or that its products simply don’t measure up to the leading brands. Everyone gets to have an opinion but I’d point out that PXG staffer Austin Ernst has won twice in just a little more than six months and, on one of those occasions, PXG staffer Anna Nordqvist finished second.

The significant drop for TaylorMade, I believe, speaks to the changes made under KPS (private equity) ownership.

Other Notables

  • COBRA climbing by 54 percent is curious.
  • Srixon jumped by 84 percent but, again, that may speak to a rise in brand awareness.
  • Mizuno was chosen least often (only .3 percent).

Marketing

This one boils down to perception. Are we identifying brands that are good at marketing or brands whose popularity eclipses the actual performance of its products? What do you think?

TaylorMade still leads the league but dipped a bit. Callaway fell by 16 percent while PXG jumped by 77 percent. Is this increase being driven by awareness or disdain? It’s probably a mix of both.

Other Notables

  • Mizuno was selected 357 percent more often. No worries, that’s still only .64 percent.
  • Tour Edge jumped 110 percent to .46 percent.
  • Srixon/Cleveland climbed by 90 percent (.61 percent total).

Follower

To my mind, Follower describes a company short on original ideas and looking to its competitors for inspiration.

The top of the board is largely small brands and, unfair or not, I suppose the perception is that they’re small for a reason. Wilson was on top last year as well but the dip could suggest that the negative effects of launching Cortex (a driver that was inarguably TaylorMade-like in design) are waning.

With the two and three spots, I could probably still argue awareness. Callaway hitting the board could suggest that Jailbreak and AI stories have started to run their course. If you selected Callaway here, I’d love to hear why.

Other Notables

  • Titleist dipped by 27 percent.
  • Bridgestone fell by 17 percent.
  • PXG dropped by 16 percent.

Deceptive

The likely interpretation of Deceptive is that you’re not being entirely upfront about your products or you’re trying to put something over on your customers.

The bad news for TaylorMade is that it was still selected most often after None of the Above (44 percent). The good news is it was selected 54 percent less often. Conversely, Callaway was selected 66 percent more often than it was in last year’s survey.

Other Notables:

  • Mizuno jumped by 73 percent. Still a small percentage overall but a curiosity nonetheless.
  • Cleveland/Srixon was chosen 60 percent more often than last year.

Inferior

Your stuff isn’t as good as the other guy’s. It’s that simple. Fair or not (often not), we’d expect to see smaller brands fill the chart.

The good news again is that None of the Above was the top selection (31 percent). Among actual brands, Tour Edge and Wilson finished .05 percent apart while swapping positions year-over-year.

Srixon/Cleveland factoring heavily again makes me wonder if some of you are fixated on the Q-Star Tour Ball Lab report while overlooking its stellar iron products entirely.

Other Notables:

  • While only chosen 2.6 percent of the time, Callaway jumped 111 percent year-over-year.
  • Titleist and TaylorMade both dipped by 36 percent.

Dishonest

The more sinister version of Deceptive, Dishonest suggests a brand is just lying.

The results are actually good news for the industry as a whole. None of the Above was far and away the most popular selection. It was chosen 63 percent of the time.

Among actual brands, TaylorMade was chosen most often. However, it was selected 56 percent less often than last year.

Our theme of divergence continues. Callaway was the first choice: 108 percent more often than it was in our 2019 survey.

Other Notables:

  • Cobra was up 62 percent.
  • Titleist fell by 46 percent.
  • Of the big OEMs, PING was selected least often, only .37 percent of the time.

Uninspired

I view Uninspired as a gauge of which brands are failing to capture your attention or at least failing to recapture your attention.

None of the Above (16 percent) was selected second most often after Wilson. Of the small brands that fill the chart, most were selected less often than last year, which is certainly a positive.

Callaway was selected nearly six percent of the time. That’s a year-over-year increase of 182 percent. It’s a relatively small number overall but still quite possibly the most eye-popping number in the survey.

Other Notables

  • Titleist was selected 41 percent less often (4.5 percent of the total).
  • TaylorMade dipped by 36 percent and was the least-chosen (2.4 percent of selections) brand in the survey for this question.

Arrogant

The Engineering of our negative words, this one is perhaps the most predictable in the survey, though a slight drop (2.25 percent) suggests maybe some of you are softening on PXG just a bit.

None of the Above was selected with the fourth greatest frequency (10 percent) of the time but the top four brands in golf plus PXG is about what I’d expect. I’d also wager folks inside PXG believe they’re a top-five brand so this just all came together perfectly, I’d say.

Other Notables

  • Mizuno jumped by 115 percent year-over-year.
  • Srixon/Cleveland was up 100 percent.
  • Tour Edge’s share increased by 88 percent.

Cheap

Is cheap synonymous with low price or does it speak to quality as well?

Not surprising given its pricing strategy, Tour Edge bested (or worst-ed) the field by plenty. None of the Above (not shown on the chart) was good for an easy third (19.39 percent) while no other brand received more than four percent of selections.

Other Notables:

  • PXG (.24 percent) finished with a  slightly higher total than PING, Mizuno or Titleist.

Positive Words

This chart looks at the total share of selections across all words with positive connotations.

While down a bit from last year’s survey, PING was the most often selected brand for our positive words.

Titleist gained a bit, which I’m going to attribute to its steady ball business coupled with the improvements to its club lineup over the past several years.

As the only small brand in the top five, Mizuno is an obvious outlier but we also know the brand is extremely popular with our readers.

Callaway dropped from second to fifth this year. It was leapfrogged by TaylorMade which made significant gains.

Other Notables

  • Bridgestone was selected for words with positive connotations 29 percent more often year-over-year.
  • PXG jumped by 25 percent.
  • Wilson fell by 11 percent.

Negative Words

This chart looks at the total share of selections for words with negative connotations.

If you’re going to finish behind only None of the Above (not shown, 22 percent) for the highest percentage of negative responses, a drop of 44 percent from last year is the silver lining. It’s notable that of the five brands on the chart, four of them actually fared better year-over-year.

Tour Edge’s spike (plus 44 percent) was far and away the biggest leap for words with negative connotations.

Other Notables:

  • PING was selected only 1.32 percent of the time for words with negative connotations (down 11.71 percent from last year).
  • Titleist dropped by 27 percent.
  • Bridgestone fell by 26 percent.
  • Despite being up nine percent from last year, Mizuno was still selected the least for negative words (one percent).

The Takeaway

There’s plenty we can take away from the results of our annual one-word survey. PING and Mizuno continue to be steady and held in high regard by MyGolfSpy readers. The same is true for Titleist which seems to be gaining some traction on the positive side of our equation. Better products paired with better messaging tend to have that effect.

Among smaller brands, Bridgestone was the biggest gainer, suggesting that with Tiger, Bryson and some of the best balls in golf working to its advantage, it could find some momentum in the marketplace.

That’s all good stuff but the massive elephant in the room is the divergent results for TaylorMade and Callaway.  To some extent, that’s always been true for the two brands. Whatever the context, with few exceptions, when one is up, the other is almost invariably down.

That said, I think there’s quite a bit more to the story than you may realize. A deeper dive is warranted.

Look for that soon. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the results and why you selected the brands you did.