While the golf industry as a whole isn’t doing as well as in years past, 2014 is shaping up to be a decent year for new golf products. While many were underwhelmed with the new product launches at the PGA Show, that doesn’t mean there is nothing worth watching in the coming months. Here are 5 companies we are keeping an eye on, as we expect them to have an impact on the market in the next twelve months…
5 Golf Companies to Watch in 2014
- Hopkins Golf – Greg Hopkins knows all about wedges. After all, he was CEO of Cleveland Golf for 16 years. With his new company Hopkins Golf, he’s combining his knowledge of the golf industry with fresh ideas to market high quality, custom made wedges direct to the consumer. Cutting out the middle man allows Hopkins to charge less than his competitors. There are seven different grinds to choose from, and all kinds of shafts, grips and custom stamping options to help you design a true one-of-a-kind wedge. I’ve bought a Hopkins 60 degree “channel” grind wedge and put it in the bag almost immediately. They are that good. Plus, we’ve struck a deal with Hopkins to get readers a free custom grind on their next order by using promo code ITG20! Check them out, they will be the fastest growing wedge in golf this year.
- Wolsey - Wolsey is a British apparel company that has been around since 1755. Once a very popular golf brand in the U.K. with stars like Peter Alliss and Tony Jacklin, Wolsey is relaunching their golf line and coming to the US. The era of bright colors and flashy patterns in golf fashion isn’t for everyone. For those who aren’t fans of that style, Wolsey is a perfect fit. I’m starting to see a shift from golf specific fashion to more of a “wear every day” style that works both on and off the golf course. Wolsey’s entire line is representative of that philosophy. You’ll feel just as comfortable on the course or in the office wearing Wolsey’s classic designs while taking advantage of modern technical fabrics and performance. I predict that Wolsey will be one of the fastest growing apparel brands in 2014.
- Golfboard - “Surf the Earth” is the best way to describe the hottest new product at the 2014 PGA Show. Golfboard is basically a cross between a golf cart and a surfboard. The Golfboard allows a rider to “surf” along the golf course while having less impact on the turf than a golf cart. The golfboard weights 600 pounds less than a golf cart and uses the same tires as most common mowing equipment. The four wheel drive golfboard can handle 18 holes on any course while giving the rider two options for riding. You can get one with a bag stand for stability or free ride with the bag on your back. While the $4000 price tag may not be right for you, Golfboard is hoping that many progressive golf course operators will soon offer these for rent instead of a traditional golf cart. I for one, can’t wait!
- Ernest Sports - Until recently, expensive doppler radar launch monitors have been reserved for high-end club fitters and tour pros because of their huge price tags. Those same systems also required a laptop, special cabling and AC power, making them inconvenient for quick sessions on the run. Of all the technology in golf these days, launch monitors and swing analyzers have made the biggest leap forward. While the typical setup for a Trackman costs about $20,000, Ernest sports is launching their new ES14 launch monitor for under $500. It’s also portable (1.5 lbs), uses AC or battery power and connects wirelessly to your phone or tablet with a custom app to display all the data. The much more expensive Trackman is able to track more info and the ES14 derives some values (like spin rate) rather than measuring them like the Trackman, but for the price difference that is understandable. The Ernest Sports ES14 can show the golfer their club speed, launch angle, ball speed, smash factor, spin rate and carry distance, which is more than enough for most people wanting to get fit for new clubs or help them improve their game. The price point makes it affordable and the compact size make it practical to carry in your bag every day.
- Hack Golf – Hack Golf is not a company, but a movement led my industry leaders to make the game more fun, affordable and accessible, Hack Golf was introduced at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show by TaylorMade CEO Mark King. We’ve seen many of these so-called growth initiatives in the past and none of them had much impact, so our skepticism is only natural. Nevertheless, Hack Golf has potential to make a real impact by crowdsourcing the movement and with ideas to grow the game like tournaments with 15″ diameter holes and non-conforming oversize clubs and balls for beginners to learn the game. I recently wrote about the state of the game and presented some of my ideas on how to make the game more fun. Hack Golf shares some of these ideas and invites people to make their voices heard, which I applaud. Head on over to Hackgolf.org and join in the movement!