Goliath vs …. Goliath

In the history of humankind, civilization has seen it’s fair share of “David vs Goliath” scenarios. In fact, the stories  from history are numerous. For example, during the Vietnam War in 1966 at the Battle of Long Tan 108 men (Australian Army) found themselves surrounded by over 2,500 Viet Cong forces. The Australian Army forced a retreat of the opposing force. In sports, it’s hard not to think about the UFC when it was “Open” with no weight classes. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Royce Gracie faced a competitor Chad “Akebono” Rowan (the first foreign-born Yokozuna) that outweighed him by a mere 300 pounds. I remember watching this fight in 2004 and I thought little Royce would get destroyed. I would be mistaken as after being under Rowan for the entire fight Gracie found an opening and one shoulder lock later…Gracie submitted the big man. Golf has had a number of these scenarios unfold as well but the one that sticks out for me is Francis Ouimet who in 1913 won the U.S. Open after winning a three-way playoff involving the legendary Harry Vardon. It was a win for the ages… David beat Goliath. But what about Goliath vs Goliath?

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Francis Ouimet (Photo Credit: boston.com)

Yes, we have seen many of those during history as well. Of course, there were the Allied and Axis forces of the World War’s. Who can forget the “Thrilla in Manila” between Smokin’ Joe Frazier and  Muhammad Ali in 1975? Heck even Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. As far as golf goes you can pick from dozens of Ryder Cup matches or many a Major tournament. But golf is on the cusp of a potential epic battle between two corporate “Goliath’s”.

For full dramatic effect you have to think of this next passage as if it were being called by a ring announcer.

Ladies and Gentlemen it’s time for the Main Event!

This “Goliath” saw third quarter revenues weigh-in at $332.35 million dollars. Wearing green trunks and fighting out of the green (grass) corner… Acushnet/Titleist.

The challenger. This “Goliath” saw third quarter revenues weighing in at an impressive $25.23 billion dollars. It’s the “King of the Samples”, the “Master of the Bulk” fighting out of the red (meat) corner wearing red trunks with Kirkland trim its Costco Wholesale Corporation.

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Ali/Frazier (Photo Credit: newsday.com)

I had no idea that this event was going to happen at the time that I wrote my Titleist 917 review. In the past, we have seen Acushnet (the parent company of Titleist) sue small independent golf ball company’s for patent infringement. In 2015 the golf giant gave several small company’s “cease and desist” orders. Back then Acushnet chased brands like Lightning Golf, Ariva Golf, 3 UP, Monsta Golf and others right out of the golf ball business. Either out of fear or a lack of finances these companies folded their tents and left the industry that they loved… behind. The reality is that Titleist seems to stand for everything that I personally don’t believe in. Titleist comes off as elitist and even a bully. In light of their previous actions I have gotten to the point where I almost feel guilty about feeling confident with their equipment in my hands and playing their equipment. They strong-armed all of those “smaller weaker children” and took their “lunch money” in the process. Now I will say that whether those company’s did their due diligence or not with the factory’s responsible for production I most certainly will never know. What I do know however, is that there were other balls that compared to the likes of Pro V1 and Pro V1x (for less) and they didn’t want their share of the pie to be taken. Which brings me to Costco.

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The lightning rod of controversy. (Photo Credit: forbes.com)

If you follow golf and happened to live under a rock you may not have heard that Costco was selling golf balls in their warehouse stores under the name Kirkland Signature. The golf ball which is a 4-piece Urethane-covered specimen was received by the golfing public with glowing reviews which in turn led to Costco not being able to keep them in stock. The following of the Kirkland Signature golf balls grew to what was viewed as cult-like. People knew the balls were a hot commodity and you could find them on Ebay (marked up) and that was about it as the golf ball was entirely sold out. It’s no wonder why considering that you could get 2-dozen Tour balls for $30 (well below the wholesale cost of a dozen Pro V1 golf balls).

So Acushnet sends a letter to Costco stating that the Kirkland Signature golf ball violates 11 patent infringements and cites false advertising to Costco’s claim that the Kirkland Signature golf ball “meets or exceeds the quality standards of leading national brands.” Very brazen Costco… and I like it.Some of the patent infringements had to do with but were not limited to the cover hardness, core hardness and the percentage of dimples on the cover of the golf ball. In response, Costco filed a complaint against Acushnet looking for a judgement that they did not partake in any patent infringements nor are they guilty of false advertising. I applaud Costco for countering. Whether this case reaches court or not is going to be interesting to watch unfold. More often than not these sorts of cases do not make it to court and see some form of an out of court judgement. Other than the lawsuit in 2007 when Callaway Golf won a case against Acushnet when a jury ruled in their favor

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Photo Credit: ebay.com

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Acushnet remember one thing. Sometimes a new kid, a bigger kid that’s tougher than you moves into town and goes to a new school which happens to be yours. Suddenly, you are no longer the “big kid” in the schoolyard that everyone “fears”. Now the hunter becomes the hunted. When that happens all of the other kids rally in the schoolyard and stand behind the “new kid”. Stay tuned folks.

Until The Next Tee!

 

Review – Titleist 917 D2 and D3

One of the many things that I like about Titleist is the fact that they have a product cycle that last two years.  A cycle that they are adamant about observing. Golf consumers know that when Titleist releases a product it is definitely worth a look.

If you were to go back and look at the previous generations of Titleist drivers a few things come to mind. One constant of Titleist products is that they’ve always been had a feel that can be best described as “solid”. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the classic 983K or the venerable 905R the older generations exuded that quality. More recently the 915 followed suit with a couple of “bells and whistles” thrown in for good measure. The other quality that Titleist has been committed to is their retention of maintaining a classic pear shape (907 series notwithstanding). These are aesthetics that  have always appealed to players. Having brought up the 915 series I was at their National Fitting Centre (Canada) during a Team Titleist outing for the launch of the 915 range of metalwoods. I left Eagle’s Nest Golf Club (Toronto)  that cold October day very impressed and to be honest I thought that the 915 D3 would end up in my bag… it didn’t. As the 917 series was launched this past fall I couldn’t help but wonder what they would be like in comparison. How would the 917 compare to the 915 or even 910 (which still remains my favorite driver from Titleist)?

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I had the opportunity to attend a launch event similar to what I did for the previous two generations however I couldn’t attend. Prior to attending the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show (Demo Day) I had never visited the Titleist demonstration area. Mostly because I had already manged to swing their new products well in advance of the show. 2017 would be much different. After swinging various manufacturers throughout the morning I made my way over to Titleist. Much to my surprise, I had no issue getting in some swings right away with product and quickly directed my attention towards the 917 D2 and D3 drivers.

For 2017, Titleist re-introduced new and improved versions of their most recent technological advances. First seen in the 915 metalwoods,their Active Recoil Channel and Radial Speed Face (Version 2.0) were front and center. In case you’ve forgotten the Active Recoil Channel is what Titleist R&D engineers did to address spin reduction while increasing ball speeds through more trampoline effect. However this time (Active Recoil Channel 2.0) the channel has been more refined. Radial Speed Face 2.0 is what Titleist did in an effort to construct thinner face walls along the perimeter of the face. This also aids in increasing ball speeds in particular to when strikes haven’t been struck off of the center of the face. New to the 917 is the SureFit CG which “allows the CG to be moved from a back, heel position to a forward, toe position through interchangeable weights, optimizing spin and launch conditions for every player”. The SureFit Hosel returns and offers 16 independent loft and lie settings to enable golfers the luxury of finding their optimum setup. Make no mistake about it the 917 D2 and D3 are the most adjustable drivers that Titleist has ever offered.

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Photo Credit: titleist.com

The 917 D2 driver is a 460 CC pear-shaped head that offers distance and forgiveness. Meanwhile, the 917 D3 offers a classic pear-shaped profile but it’s a head that is “Tour inspired” as it’s slightly smaller coming with a head volume of 440 CC. The 917 D3 head offers distance with more workability than the 917 D2 while having lower spin rates and a slightly lower launch. Whether it’s the D2 or the D3 both models have a standard length of 45″and the stock shaft options are premium. Models of premium shafts available include the Aldila Rogue M*AX 65, Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74, Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana LTD. White 70 and the Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana LTD. Blue. All four are terrific options.

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One of the shaft options. Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74. The only one I tried.

Dispensing with some of the technical information I thought that it would be time to talk about my observations. First, I have to point out that I never spoke to anyone at Demo Day as I was more or less ignored by representatives at the booth. Secondly, I will say that I never tried the SureFit CG technology because no representatives took the time to approach and/or assist me and I couldn’t find a wrench. Honestly, I was a little put off by the lack of their attentiveness. Something I found a little disheartening seeing that 12 out of 13 of my clubs are Titleist and I am proud to play Titleist. They are a brand that I have always felt confident holding in my hands and that confidence goes right to my head. In the past, Titleist has been looked at in golf circles as being “elitist” and maybe in this instance they figured that I didn’t have the appearance to be worth their time. I really don’t know why it happened but it did. Either way, this review isn’t about their “customer service” which I would score a perfectly rounded “0” out of 10. If there was a review that could truly live up to the moniker of “The Home Of Organic Golf Reviews” then this would be the one.

In the address position both drivers are so eye-pleasing that it’s almost not fair. I love the charcoal crown on the black face and when you look down at the crown you want to make a swing. I would end up swinging two drivers and the D2 and D3 were shafted with the same Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74 in X-Stiff and had lofts of 9.5*. All of the settings were stock. Generally, I swing a Stiff flex but this was the shaft that I  just happened to grab. In the past, I have seriously considered going to X-Stiff based on my tempo and aggression and decided to not to bother to look for a softer flex. Recent launch monitor numbers indicated that making a switch to X-Stiff might be the right choice as I saw 105 mph 7 iron clubhead speeds. Working out has seen me get stronger so the time might be right for such a switch. Anyways, I made the first pass with the 917 D2 and my swing was rewarded with a ball flight that was long and straight. I chose a spot at their hitting area that was to their extreme right. This location afforded me the opportunity to make swings both downwind and with a slight change at address (aiming to my right) I could see what the ball would do with a knockdown crosswind. I loved the launch and ballflight that I witnessed. The ball showed no signs of ballooning and upon landing there was rollout adding to the already impressive carry distance. I teed up several more balls with the D2 and each was the same result. Every swing yielded shot patterns that were straight or a slight draw. The launch looked about as good if not better than I have seen with any driver. Something can be said for the Active Recoil  Channel 2.0 because the ball really jumped off of the face which reminded me of when I was at the product launch for the 915… but better. Switching over to the 917 D3 I looked down at that classic 440 CC Titleist charcoal head and immediately I grew extremely fond of it. I made several confident swings and to be totally honest… if the 917 D3 launched lower and had lower spin I couldn’t pick up on it with the naked eye. I would suggest that the carry and overall distance looked to be about the same. I’m all for making observations using my senses (prefer real-time flight over launch monitors) but when it comes to comparing two similar heads from the same manufacturer with one claiming lower spin and launch… I want to see hard evidence. I think that with all things being equal they were in fact… equal with the exception of my love affair with the smaller head of the D3.

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Titleist doesn’t mention anything about forgiveness when talking about the 917 D3 but this isn’t to say that the 917 D3 isn’t forgiving. I firmly believe that to a degree there is in fact some forgiveness. After all ,the D3 also boasts the same Radial Speed Face technology to help with off-center hits that’s found in the 917 D2. Forgiveness was something that I did not test because I just wasn’t missing the sweet spot. Or perhaps, that fact speaks volumes about the forgiveness found in both models. Titleist says that the acoustics and sound are Tour validated “to inspire confidence and feel”. I don’t know what that means exactly but what I do know is that the sound and feel was “perfect”. The sound was typical of Titleist and the feel at impact was solid. It was everything that Titleist aficionados have come to expect from the brand. Bear in mind that my perfect may not be your perfect and the term is relative and intimate to each person.

In closing, If you’re in the market for a new driver you may want to give the Titleist 917 D2 and 917 D3 a look. Performance, great aesthetics and even better sound and feel with premium stock shafts. What’s not to like? The 917 D2 and D3 retails at $649.99 CAD or $499 USDVisit the Titleist website for more information.

Until The Next Tee!

 

 

Without Arnie – The API

Often in our lives we have heard the term  “gone but not forgotten”. This is definitely the way I feel about the man who really got me into golf… Arnold Palmer.

This week the PGA Tour makes its stop in Orlando, Florida the home of Bay Hill Golf Club which is simply the place that Arnie built. A golf course that I have wanted to visit in the past every year that I have gone to Florida for the PGA Merchandise Show but never did. I guess I had some sort of Augusta National type of security to it and “riff-raff” like me were not permitted. Honestly, my main reason for wanting to go into Bay Hill was to maybe catch a glimpse of the man who made me want to take up golf in the first place, maybe get close enough to absorb a firm handshake (like when I first met him) and to just say two little words… thank-you. My cowardice prevented it from happening. Speaking of cowardice and saying thanks.

I know this week is going to be about celebrating Mr. Palmer’s legacy and life as the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard is going to be played for the first time since we lost “our King” right before the last Ryder Cup in September. Hearts were heavy but it’s hard not to think that the victorious team from the U.S.A. had a little help from Mr. Palmer along the way. But getting back to the present, it’s just going to be tough to watch this week knowing that his physical presence is no longer among us. Spiritually however, you know he will be watching and look for a rainbow to rise over the course at some point this weekend. While there will be a lot of positives (and celebrations) discussed about what Mr. Palmer did for golf there are negatives to discuss as well. No… not from Mr. Palmer but more from some of the current crop of PGA Tour players.

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New 13 foot statue erected at Bay Hill of Mr. Palmer (Photo Credit: FOX 35 News Orlando)

As it turns out many of the world’s top-ranked golfers are not playing this week. Some of the names playing this week include Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, and Henrik Stenson. Big names and all of which are in the Top 10 Official World Golf Rankings. Yes there is star power aplenty as there is every year but who isn’t playing? Where are World #1 Dustin Johnson, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth? Scheduling conflicts because of the weeks prior? Cowardice, because some players simply do not like the course as suggested by Ian Poulter (who is playing this week). Seriously guys… don’t like the course? There is a list miles long of golfers from around the world that would love to play a round at Arnie’s golf course. I would love to go around Bay Hill with my clubs and take everything in. For the love of God, Buddha, Allah or whichever deity you follow sitting out for that reason is weak and wrong. Billy Horschel came out last week and blasted the guys that aren’t playing and admittedly I am no Horschel fan for whatever reason (actually I don’t know why) but I agree with him. If there was a year to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational than this had to be the year. the first after his passing.

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All of the players have a right to pick and choose their own schedules as there is no player’s union stating that they have to play. It’s a right that (I suppose) they’ve earned… although I look at it in a way that is a bit prima donna which translates loosely to entitlement. This is the one year however where the guys SHOULD be playing and not balking at an event because of a dislike for a golf course. Honor the man. Honor “The King”. Without him, the likelihood of you being on television and making millions wouldn’t be likely (yes purses increased as the Tiger phenomenon took hold).

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Mr. Palmer epitomized what the game was… or is. He epitomized the love of the game. He epitomized class. I know that if the roles were reversed he would have played in their event because that’s what Mr. Palmer was.

Until The Next Tee!