In many ways, this is a sad day for me because my old Nike irons were the best-feeling clubs I've ever had.
I remember getting one of the original sets of Nike Pro Combo irons and absolutely falling in love with them. (I believe that was back in 2003.) The clubs felt solid all the way through the bag -- the forged short irons had a really sweet feel to them, and the longer perimeter-weighted irons (which were also forged, if memory serves) felt just as solid. I used them for years until the groove rules changed again. And every reviewer whose posts I can remember reading seemed just as happy with them as I was.
Simply put, Nike made great equipment. So why were they unable to grab less than a tenth of Callaway and TaylorMade's sales numbers?
The problem, as Golf Digest reported in their article, was simple:
Said one current Nike staff player, "I really love their equipment, but I'll tell you this: In all the pro-ams I've played, I've never once seen one of my partners using a Nike club."Perhaps Nike had too much product and released it too frequently. Perhaps Tiger's major drought was a bigger drag on sales than anyone would have expected, even with Rory on staff. Perhaps Nike just never developed the prestige of the other manufacturers.
In any case, if you can't penetrate the amateur market, you won't be profitable. And in a cutthroat business environment, if you aren't profitable you won't survive.
Isn't that what often happens to good products in many markets, not just golf? Solid products simply don't find a profitable niche, and they go out of production. And it may point out something that modern marketers simply haven't considered -- namely, that having a big name or two attached to your products simply may not be enough anymore.
After all, if Tiger and Rory can't lock up a decent market share, can anybody do it? You have to wonder...
You can read about the announcement in this article at golfdigest.com and this article at golf.com, as well as at some of the financial news sites. How this will shake out is yet to be seen; surely somebody will buy rights to their tech and incorporate some of it in their own prototypes, if for no reason beyond making sure it isn't better than what they already have.
But in the meantime there will be pros in search of new sponsors, including Rory, Tiger and Michelle Wie. I never thought I'd see the day...