You may note one surprising omission from that list. Other than a re-release of an Apex Black CF16 Iron, Callaway has been quiet, but don’t expect that to last.
As the equipment biz’s current #1, it stands to reason that the company isn’t about to let its competitors have free rein in the marketplace, so it was only a matter of time before new Callaway gear would pop-up on the USGA’s conforming clubs list.
Two New Models
First up is the GBB Epic Forged. It’s the less compelling of the two, and that’s because we have reason to believe it will be a Japan-only release. The bonded hosel design features Sub Zero style weights that appear to support draw and neutral configurations. For now, expect this one to stay on the opposite side of the Pacific.
The 2nd and more interesting entry is Version 2 of the GBB Epic Star. You may recall that version 1 of the Epic Star landed on the USGA list at the same time as both the standard Epic and the Sub Zero, but unlike the others, the Japan-only Star never made it to shelves in the USA.
We believe that’s going to change, but the target audience may surprise you.
Designed for the Villages
Among the larger OEM’s Cobra has often had the senior space to itself with very few manufacturers offering performance products designed specifically for older, low swing speed golfers. It’s lower priced Baffler/Max products have traditionally sold well in the category.
On the premium end of the category Cleveland/Srixon’s sister brand, XXIO, has been a strong performer in custom fitting locations (both on the launch monitor and at the register) despite a sticker price above $700.
These are lighter clubs designed for high launch, and ultimately better performance for the slower end of the swing speed spectrum.
If nothing else, both cases suggest there’s plenty of opportunity within the space, and given golf’s aging population, it stands to reason there will be even more opportunities in the years to come. Your bottom line - expect to see a greater number of targeted offerings from the industry’s major players.
It appears Callaway’s Epic star will be the first of the new wave (and don’t be surprised if a full Star lineup eventually hits retail), but we have reason to believe that TaylorMade won’t be far behind.
I expect that Callaway will split the price difference between Cobra and XXIO, which would position it as the most mainstream of the senior product lines. That's the optimist in me talking. I wouldn't be surprised to see Star enter as a premium-priced offering. TaylorMade will almost certainly do the same, and then it's wait and see if PING and Titleist decide to jump in as well.
So why the sudden focus on the senior?
As prices rise and most of us struggle to find reasons to justify buying new equipment at the rate most OEMs would like, golf companies must find opportunities within untapped markets. Topgolf, while a positive for the game, isn’t exactly a boon for equipment sales, but the senior demographic; underserved, often affluent and…
While it doesn’t pad the total numbers, the reality is that the senior demographic is one of the few where participation is inarguably growing. Father time yields for no one; assuming we continue to play, eventually we become senior golfers. The line behind today’s senior is shorter than the line in front of them. You know the story…Millennials, participation, and the general decline of the game. The population of senior golfers is growing disproportionally.
While we can haggle about the numbers, the reality is that as senior golfers become a greater percentage of the total golfing popular, it will become more important than ever that golf companies design equipment for their specific needs and target them aggressively as consumers.
Sometimes new drivers are just new drivers, but I suspect we’re witnessing the beginning of a trend.