Saving Par

To break par you don’t have to bust your wallet.

December, 2001

It seems never-ending. The latest and greatest golf equipment comes with the biggest price tags, until recently, that is. Golf equipment releases this fall feature not only high-tech innovations, but value.

Ready for Takeoff

A club from Cleveland Golf that you can’t use out of a bunker? Yep, it’s true. The little company that could, whose wedges have dominated the golf world gobbling up a 34 percent market share, has created a big driver that can.

The Cleveland Launcher driver was introduced in October, but, long before that, players on and off the tour were buzzing about the club’s combination of length and control. According to Cleveland’s Hawaii representative George Krason, the Launcher was tested for a full year on the PGA TOUR. Former Masters champ Vijay Singh was one of the first to start swinging the club and won twice overseas. Andrew Magee used a Launcher to score the tour’s first-ever hole-in-one on a par 4. However, things really started to take off after journeyman pro Bob Estes won for the second time on tour using a Launcher.

The driver features a 330cc club head with a thin beta titanium face that produces the fabled “spring-like effect.” Cleveland attached the head to a custom-crafted graphite shaft from Fujikura Composites, a favorite on tour. However, the real kicker may be that the Launcher costs about $100 less than similar pro-line drivers. The retail price for a Launcher is $399 but the actual street price is somewhere in the neighborhood of $299.

The result is the most successful launch of a club in the company’s history. For Krason, demand for the Launcher has been so great that he has had difficulty supplying his vendors. With no inventory, he hasn’t been able to secure any demo clubs for himself. “We haven’t seen anything quite like this before,” says Krason. “We sold about 1,200 of last year’s driver. This year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we sell four times that many.”

Sounding Off

The name may sound more like a high-tech startup or a program on the Discovery Channel. But Sonartec makes golf clubs, very good golf clubs.

Sonartec is the American subsidiary of a company called Royal Collection, the No. 1 maker of woods in Japan. The American company was originally called
Excedo, but officials discovered that the name had already been taken. They then changed the name to Sonartec even though the hollow club sounds similar to most other clubs on the market.

According to Keith Tanaka, owner of downtown golf shop Roots & Relics, Royal Collection is known for making high-end woods (priced from $400-$600) but the American version, with slightly different shaft options, sells for approximately $250. Its most distinguishing feature is a channel carved into the sole, which enables the club to cut through deep rough.

Tanaka says that even though the company doesn’t advertise, word started to spread after Sonartecs were spotted in the bags of Bernhard Langer and Nick Price. Earlier this summer, David Duval used a Sonartec to win the British Open and sales took off. “It’s solid and long. It has a trajectory that bores through the wind and it is great out of the rough,” says Tanaka.

On the Ball

The Titleist Pro V1 was all the rage last year and is still the most coveted golf ball in the clubhouse. You’ll be lucky to pay $50 per dozen, if you can find them at all.

However, the Maxfli A-10, which was released about two months ago, has been mentioned in the same breath as the Titleist.

Like the V1, the A-10 has a large, solid core and a thin outer covering. The result is low spin and a high-launch angle. Translation: It’s long off the tee and lands softly on the green. Many discriminating golfers prefer the A-10’s feel and distance to the VI but the ball’s best selling point may be that golfers can actually walk into a golf shop and buy a box for around $40.

Steve Morishige of Aloha Golf Shop says that sales have been steadily increasing since he got the ball in September, with a spike in demand after Se Ri Pak used an A-10 to win the Women’s British Open. “The demand for the A-10 nowhere near the V1,” says Morishige. “But it is catching on. If you want V1 performance, this is about as close as you can get without getting one.”


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