Dec 28

Iconic Golf Brand Origins

Where did Those Hallowed Brand Names Come From?

What Products Are Iconic Golf Brands?

I can well-remember the power of advertising when I was a kid.  When those Titleists appeared under the tree, I wondered how I could ever lose. If, by chance, they were MacGregors on a particular year, I thought “Well, I might have to work a little harder, but still, how could I lose?” When I arrived at the course and pulled out my Wilson Staff irons? Well, it might as well have been Arthur drawing Excalibur. Of course, the Spalding brand and I had been friends for years. I saw that name on every piece of sports equipment I tried. Of course, I never realized how far back some of these corporations went, or the stories that got them started. If I had, I would have realized that generations of kids before me saw the Titleists under the tree, and thought “How could I possibly lose?”

titleistActually, the famous Titleist golf ball, played by so many of the modern greats, began with a round of golf between Phillipe E. Young and his dentist. Somewhere in that round, Young missed a putt that seemed like a sure thing (I’ve never seen a putt like that, but oh well). Apparently, Young felt that the ball wobbled, and was responsible for the extra stroke. We blame the equipment all the time, but in this case, he was right. His dentist friend x-rayed the ball, and found it off-center. By 1920, the Titleist brand was involved in rubber processing, and ten years later, Young finally got his revenge on the missed putt. He invented a machine that could wind string around a rubber core to perfect dimensions. The core was never off-center again. In 1948, Titleist went a step further by inventing the “dynamite thread” that apparently reacted with extra zing off a club face. It just goes to prove that we should all have a good dentist in our lives.
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Albert Spalding established his company in 1876 in Chicago, later moving to Bowling Green, Kentucky. They eventually made everything, golf equipment included, but Spalding himself was a manager and pitcher for the Chicao White Stockings baseball team, presumably to become the Chicago White Sox. Along the way, they even made World War II rifles with Browning.

MacGregor goes all the way back tp 1829, and began as a wooden footwear model manufacturer for shoe manufacturing and repair. MacGregor showed up two years later, and with such a powerfully Scottish name, the brand had to steer toward golf sooner or later, even though it was owned at one time by Brunswick, the bowling pin people. Whew! Close call there. MacGregor’s fortunes waned in the 1990s, but got an 80% stake from Jack Nicklaus, and was for a time chaired by Greg Norman.

Then, of course, we have my sacred Wilson Staffs. They, too, go back a long ways as the golf division of Wilson Sporting goods.  However, their big golf year came in 1932, when member Gene Sarazen kept looking at airplane wings, and wishing he had a club that could glide through sand the way airplanes glide through air. In that year, the famous Wilson Staff sand wedge was born. It was a club so advanced that even I was able to hit it here and there. And don’t think for a moment that I don’t still carry it. The Wilson Staff brand had its next triumph with a golf ball that they claimed launched at 40% greater velocity then the club head speed. That should mean the addition of about 90 yards or more to one of my drives, but it never happened.

Still, these are a few of the brands that captured our hearts at Christmas, birthdays, or trips to the pro shops. They did a great job of it, too. I still think “How could I possibly lose,” and forget all the times I did.

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