The Pellucid Perspective - November 2010 - (Page 12)

WEDGE ISSUES Feel Golf head defies new wedge rules “I may end up being a second Karsten,” Miller says By Jim Dunlap G olfers, retailers and, in varying degrees, club manufacturers have been puzzled or downright upset at the advisory issued by the USGA and the R&A earlier this year that will eventually ban the use in competition of the current deeper, more “aggressive” groove designs on wedges. One industry maverick, Dr. Lee Miller, the CEO of Feel Golf Company, is so upset with the policy that he has chosen to defy it. The prohibition, currently in effect only on the PGA and other professional Tours, doesn’t take full effect for most amateur players until 2024, but golf ’s two rule-making bodies have told manufacturers to stop manufacturing the older wedge designs by the end of this year. As Miller told a GolfWeek writer earlier this fall, and reiterated to The Pellucid Perspective recently, he has informed both the USGA and the Royal & Ancient that Feel will continue to manufacture the older wedge designs for as long as customers show up to purchase them. While Miller, a professional engineer, is obviously displeased by the broader issue of being told how to run his business by the USGA and R&A, he is also upset by the timing of the dictate. “We [manufacturers] were given eight months notice on this thing,” Miller said angrily. “We have to develop new tooling [to make the new grooves], and in this economy, that just doesn’t make sense,” Miller said. “I’ve talked to some of the other smaller companies, and several of them have told me Wedge sales booming C leveland Golf termed 2010 “The Year of the Wedge” earlier this year, and probably in large part due to the new USGA-R&A groove policy, it is proving to be just that for all wedge manufacturers. According to Golf Datatech’s On and Off Course Retail Market Share Reports, through September wedge sales were up 12.9 percent in unit sales over 2009 and slightly more than that percentage in dollars. The report did not break down “new groove” and “old groove” wedge sales, but Golf Datatech CEO Tom Stine speculated that some golfers bought the “new grooves” simply because they were new or they wanted to play in USGA-sanctioned events next year, while others merely wanted to stockpile two or three of the “old grooves” in their garage for the next 14 years until the rule is expanded to include all players in 2024. they don’t know what they’ll do.” As for the larger companies, Miller said they have the resources to make the tooling conversion and, according to Miller, are less concerned with any impact the new groove designs may have on their customers’ golf games than whether customers retain their brand loyalty regardless of the grooves. “Branding is the name of the game for those [major] companies,” Miller said. “Their attitude is ‘If you can’t hit my sticks, you need to go see your local PGA professional and get some lessons. Besides, the big companies use [wedges] as bartering tools. They say [to retailers], ‘Take this big order and we’ll send you 50 free wedges.” Miller agrees with many people, including this author, that rolling back groove dimensions will have little effect on the touring professionals it currently impacts, but could help to negate what little backspin and stop action the vast majority of amateur golfers are able to generate. “There are a lot of things happening around this issue,” Miller said. “For one thing, grooves don’t do a damn thing for spin, and nobody has ever proved to me that they do. It’s like throwing the baby out with the bath water to sacrifice 65 or 70 million golfers for the sake of a few [professionals].” Miller said he has heard from both the USGA and the R&A about his position, but he is holding firm. On the other hand, he said his stance has not been without penalty. He believes those organizations have been stonewalling his requests for rulings on some of his other club designs in the pipeline since he voiced his refusal to comply with the new wedge guidelines. “It’s a bit of a sticky wicket with both sanctioning bodies,” he said. “I’m still waiting for rulings with some of our clubs. I’ve contacted them a number of times but it’s been more than 45 days and nobody is calling me back. If this keeps up, I may end up being another Karsten,” Miller said, referring to PING founder Karsten Solheim and the suit PING filed over 20 years ago against the USGA’s ban on PING’s Eye-2 model U-grooves. (That $100 million suit was subsequently dropped by Karsten’s son John Solheim with the stipulation that PING could continue to sell its remaining PING Eye-2 clubs made before March of the following year, and they would be legal in competition. The controversy reappeared earlier this year when Phil Mickelson, among others, located an older PING wedge that had been grandfathered into legality and played it in several TOUR events with legal impunity, if not the approval of many of his peers). In the end, paraphrasing a famous but often misquoted 1920 statement from President Calvin Coolidge, Miller said, “Business is business.” And, he added, it’s his company’s business and he, not the USGA, will run it as he sees fit. n November 2010 12 The Pellucid PersPecTive

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - November 2010

The Pellucid Perspective - November 2010
Examining the Third Party Tee Time Marketing Issue
A Primer on Third Party Tee Time Marketers
Some Cities Willing to Buck Declining Golf Trend
Feel Golf Head Defies New Wedge Rules
Washington DC/Northern VA Profile
Oct YtD Weather Impact Sep YtD Utilization
Mixed Financial Results for Q3 and September YtD
Heard it Through the Grapevine

The Pellucid Perspective - November 2010