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About The List—Golf manufacturers bounce back with fresh ideas

This year has been a good one for many of San Diego’s golf manufacturers as they continue to bounce back from the recession that hit the industry two years ago. With higher revenues, new products and an increase in employee numbers, local manufacturers are finding innovative ways to keep the ball rolling.

“The market is very, very competitive right now, which is good for everyone,” said Mike Pinckes, marketing manager for Carbite Golf, No. 7 on the San Diego Business Journal’s List of Largest Golf Manufacturers.

There is higher demand for customer service which means, “Companies will stick around and work on providing quality products for the consumer,” he said.

In January, Carbite Golf will launch full distribution of its new product, Polar Balanced wedges. Bonded with tungsten, a dense metal twice as heavy as lead, and aluminum, the wedge is designed to prevent twisting on off-center hits.

Consumer demand has been positive for Carbite Golf, with an expected 5 percent to 10 percent increase in revenue this year, according to Pinckes.

“With increase in play, we are trying to keep up with consumer demand by manufacturing accurate and forgiving golf clubs,” he said.


– Stability Of Sport Presents Challenges

Playing time on the greens may have increased, but the number of golfers has remained pretty stable, which presents a challenge for some golf manufacturers. According to a recent report by the National Golf Foundation, the average number of rounds per player in 1999 was 21.3, up by 6.5 percent in 1998, while the number of players remained virtually unchanged at 26.4 million nationwide.

“This is one of the biggest challenges that is facing the industry,” said Mike Rossi, vice president of sales and marketing for Aldila Inc., No. 4 on The List. “The number of players has not been increasing, but we are hopeful that more players will enter the game.”

With the release of its HM 2000-graphite shaft in June and a new premium product being released next month, Rossi said Aldila is continuing to take care of its customer base and focus on innovative ways to show the public that golf is a game that can “be enjoyed your whole life.”

Zack Smith, public relations manager for TaylorMade-adidas Golf, No. 2 on The List, said that as more people play the sport and improve their game skills, the popularity will increase and lead to more business for manufacturers.


– Annual Events Promote Sport

Keeping this in mind, TaylorMade recently created a partnership with the Professional Golf Association, which includes annually sponsoring national teaching and coaching conventions aimed at promoting the sport.

Along with its new partnership, TaylorMade unveiled in August its new 300 series of metalwoods that ranked as the No. 1 club on the 2000 PGA Tour.

“We were the first company to come out with the metalwood over the last two decades and we still see ourselves as one of the most innovative companies out there,” Smith said. “We see our 300 series as a rebirth of our vision with the metalwood.”

The golf manufacturer is also planning to hire more employees, increasing its current staff of 700 to 800 employees.

“Compared to fallouts other places, we are building up armory for a very talented and technical staff, specifically in research and development and manufacturing,” he said.

Besides competition in searching for talented staff, manufacturers are also facing competition in finding creative and innovative ways to market and sell their products.


– Internet Showcases Retailers, Courses

TaylorMade uses the Internet as a source to show and educate the public about its different products and showcase retailers and golf courses where its products can be purchased.

“We feel golf is a game you want to test out its products-hands on. So we encourage going out and doing so,” Smith said.

Though the Internet is a proven, effective communication tool, with the folding of many retail dot-coms, some manufacturers are wary of using Internet retailers to sell their products.

Carbite Golf used Internet retailers early on, but after a couple of the big retailers crumbled, this prompted the company to take a closer look to see if this was a viable source for it.

“The Internet was a good channel, it moved a lot of product for us. But now we’re just taking a more cautious approach,” Pinckes said.


– Marketing Through Traditional Formats

Carbite Golf is sticking with a more traditional approach to marketing and selling by supporting retail distribution, commercials and the infomercial, which Pinckes said allows Carbite to tell its story in a longer, more effective format.

Pinckes said with bigger name companies, such as Nike joining the manufacturing race, smaller companies, such as Carbite, will need to scramble to come out with new creative ways to compete.

But the competition is healthy. “That’s what business is all about,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with competition, we thrive on it here.”

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