Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Golf Ball Wars

It just got serious. I was intrigued last year when Costco introduced its Kirkland Signature golf ball. I’ve always played Titleist balls, mostly their Velocity brand. Quite frankly, I’m not a good enough golfer to shell out almost $50 for a dozen Pro V1’s when I’m a 17 index. In truth, I’ve played with ProV’s and didn’t see much difference with my swing and ability to notice so opted to save 50%. I love the Velocity ball and it’s almost always in my bag. I could also play just as well with a Callaway or Bridgestone .

The Kirkland Signature ball was a sellout last year. It will soon be back in stores and is expected to sell out again. At $15.99 a dozen (or $29.99 for two dozen), it is easy to see why the average golfer would grab multiple dozens if offered the chance to purchase them. With a premium golf ball costing up to $5 a ball and many golfers losing up to a ball a hole, this is serious money. Golfers who want to spend less to get equivalent or almost equivalent quality are flocking to the ball. That is Kirkland’s promise. To deliver a product that is “equal or better to the national brands while offering a savings to its members.”

Sure, there is the whole, “I play ProV1” caché, but for the majority of golfers who aren’t out there to impress anyone with what ball they play, but rather with how well they play, does it really matter? Well, it does to Acushnet, the parent to Titleist, it matters. They have 11 patents on their design.
According to a recent test by MyGolfSpy, Kirkland’s Signature Performance golf ball did exceedingly well across all tests in which the Kirkland ball was compared with the Pro-V1. https://www.mygolfspy.com/kirkland-vs-titleist-pro-v1/

So now what? Kirkland’s suit is a pre-emptive strike; emphatically stating that they are not in violation of any of Acushnet’s patents.  They seek a declaratory judgment against Acushnet with the idea that they will prevent the reverse from happening, ie – Acushnet suing them for violating their patents. Bold move.

Especially bold given Acushnet’s history of navigating challenging similar threats. In 2015 they took on 17 different balls from ten different companies due to the dimple patterns on the balls. Acushnet also battled Callaway in the courts for six years – with the end result being completely confidential; no money was changed between the parties; however, each company ended up with specified rights to make ball and club products under patents owned by the other.

Costco is no shrinking violet and no stranger to the big fight. It won a long fought legal battle to sell gray-market Omega watches purchased overseas. But Acushnet is not one to back down either. It’s a battle that is likely to get pretty ugly before it’s resolved. It’s all about money, market share , an interloper, and, I suppose Costco would say, giving their customers the best product at the lowest price.

I like my golf friendly. There’s enough strife in the world without golf equipment manufacturers duking it out over dimples. I do respect patent protection and understand how serious it is with respect to competitive corporate positions. However, on the other hand, I also have serious doubts that the 1-10 index level players who are loyal Titleist ProV1 players going to switch from the Titleist to Kirkland balls to save a few dollars. There is the whole notion of pride, status and wanting to be just like the pros that will keep them forever shelling out the big bucks for their Titleist balls. On the otherhand, the hackers out there are just trying to save themselves a few bucks on the gazillions of balls they lose every year. Just sayin. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Late to the Golf Passion Party

I grew up on the first fairway of a beautiful private golf course in upper Westchester. It was a dream home for my parents who loved both golf and antiques. When we moved I was 7 and my brother was 5. My father, an avid golfer and 6 handicap, teed it up with friends every weekend after working hard at his executive job at Nestle all week. My mother started playing golf with the women, too. She was never a long ball hitter, but we used to call her “Straight Down the Middle, Betty.” She enjoyed playing with my father and later with my step-dad. Mostly she enjoyed antiques and our quirky 1870 antique home. Legend had it that our home had once been the servants’ quarters for the estate in front of us – that estate was now the country club.

After dinner my brother Dave and I used to go out with Mom and Dad and play the first and ninth holes, and then trot back across the first fairway to our back deck where the ‘rents would sit with their after dinner drinks and watch the sun go down. We took advantage of the club’s Day Camp and Lakefront in the summer time, which was one of the best parts of my childhood. My younger, tall and lean brother – with the perfect golf physique, was a quick golf study and became runner up junior club champion one year. He still has that easy swing that will let him shoot in the 80’s even if he plays once a year.

I remember waking up weekend summer mornings to the sounds of the caddy barn through the open windows; young boys chattering and laughing, waiting for the various members to come around so they could pick up a loop. In those days, my brother and I would sit near the fairway with a pitcher of lemonade, doling it out for a quarter a cup. My Dad’s and his buddies would walk up ask when we would be dishing up Bloody Marys, laughing as golfers do. On warm summer nights, Brother Dave and I would also sneak over and hide in the bushes in our pajamas and watch our parents dancing and reminiscing to the bands on the patio at country club dances.

I wasn’t much interested in golf when I was young, but enjoyed our family golf outings together. That was more important than the golf – doing something with my mom and dad. I often daydream now about what trajectory my life might have taken had I found my passion for golf back then. The LPGA? One of the Waccabuc girls, Julie Larsen (now Piers), actually did make it to the tour for a while. As a teenager, I was too busy cheerleading and watching football players to give up four hours for golf. There were few women golfers to emulate back then. Had I only known then what I know now: that I would develop a consuming passion for the game (play it, watch it, talk about it, read about it, and write about it) and that playing golf would become a prerequisite for anyone I dated.

My dad passed away when I was 25, so unfortunately, those summer evenings on the first and ninth were the only times I got to play with my Dad. We never got to play golf real golf together. He wasn’t playing as much just prior to his death due a heart condition. I always talk to him when I’m on the course, though, and I know he is there with me. I did get to play a lot of golf with my mom while she was still alive, especially after she moved to Florida with my step-father, and we had more fun and more laughs than I can remember. My favorite memory is of her standing on the putting green as I was about to hit a very long putt. I overshot it. She stood behind the hole with her feet in a “vee” and ricocheted my ball into the hole. We couldn’t stop giggling. I took the stroke as if. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The PGA at Baltusrol

I'm a little behind in my reminiscing but this event was so much fun.

This past summer I had the chance to attend my first PGA tournament for the first round on Thursday, July 28th. I’ve been to see the LPGA before, but this was a whole different scene.
I couldn’t have been more excited. Or hot. Holy mackerel – we had tickets for what had to be the hottest day of the summer. Although we were only standing there, desperately trying to find a bit of shade here and there, I couldn’t help but think about what it must have been like to play – let alone walk (those caddies deserved medals) in that heat. 

We arrived in time to see Phil, Rory and Jason coming up the 16th fairway, where on his approach shot, Phil had tucked his ball to the left of the green, behind the traps and behind one of the barriers erected as part of the tournament. We watched as Phil, exhibiting full flop-shot finery at its best, came up and over all to land in a supreme spot on the green….and then miss the putt. Gosh I love watching that man’s short game.

We found a great spot by the 5th green, where golfers were challenged all day by a pin placement in the back left corner. This hole required precision firing on second shots. If they missed slightly long, they went into the “collection area” and had to putt back up to the pin from below – an almost impossible hole out. We were so close to the players from our spot here, it was really fun to watch them.

Afterward, we moved to the middle of the 6th fairway – finding a spot in what we expected to be the landing zone for most of the drives. We guessed pretty well and were treated to up close and personal fairway shots by all of our favorite players as they sought the green. There were also very large maple trees lining the right side of this fairway so this helped get us out of the unbelievably hot 90 degree plus sun.

Although it’s fun to watch the long ball blasters like Dustin Johnson (I could watch him wind up and swing all day long) and Bubba Watson, what I enjoyed most was watching the around the green mastery by my favorites: Mickelson, Day, Stenson, Fowler. It was a great day, despite the heat!

Thursday, February 16, 2017


The LPGA  - or the Ladies Professional Golf Association - was founded in 1950 by a group of 13 women golfers. and is  an American organization for female professional golfers. It is best known for running the LPGA Tour – which is a series of golf tournaments for the best of the best women golfers from around the world. It is the oldest continuing women’s professional sports organization in the United States.

What I find particularly ironic is that the LPGA succeeded the WPGA (Women’s Professional Golf Association). The WPGA was founded in 1944, but only lasted four years and officially ceased operations in December 1949 due to lack of capital.

Maybe it’s semantics, but in this day and age, I find the term Women’s Professional Golf Association so much more meaningful and attractive than Ladies Professional Golf Association. “Women” is a term of gender, whereas “Ladies” seems to define character or behavior – as in “act like a lady.” It isn’t as if there is a Men’s Professional Golf Association, right? There is just the PGA; period. If I were among the elite women of professional golf today, I would much rather be part of a WPGA than an LPGA. But hey, that’s just me. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

One down, one to go...[update!]

My partner Kelly and I made it through the first round of the MetNet MGA Women's Fourball Championship, playing at the Milbrook Club in lovely Greenwich, CT. We came in -5 under par with a 67 and were the first place finishers on the day among 16 teams.  I have to tell you we were shocked. There were women playing in another qualifying round in New a jersey who shot -15 under par net 55. We were worried our score wouldn't qualify when we saw that!

Our next round, and the finals is to be played on October 14 (postponed from October1) at Hampshire Country Club in Mamaroneck, NY. We are praying that the golf Gods shine down upon us that day with good scores. My plan is to play a little smarter, and anticipate that, especially with all the recent rain, that shots won't travel as far. We will for sure have a lot of fun. [Update - we unfortunately had to back out of the finals due to Kelly's mom having a heart attack and her departing to Florida to provide moral support and be a caregiver. We will try again next year!]

Wildlife and golf on a Friday

One beautiful Friday after work I had just enough light and time to play the first two holes on the course before heading back to the clubhouse for dinner with friends. The second green is only a short walk to the parking lot so it makes a great quick stop to keep your swing loose. Between the 2nd tee box and the dense woods are a few trees after which there is about 125 yards' width of open fairway and rough. As I stood on the 2nd tee box The squeals and yips of what sounded like a very large pack of coyotes erupted out of the woods behind me. I know that sound. Really loud and eerie. Clearly they had something and it was dinner time for the pack. It was a little unnerving to hit a golf ball with all that going on only at most 250 yards behind me in the woods. I was praying I didn't look like a tasty dessert. I hit my drive and high-tailed it down the fairway (yes walking) with lots of speed. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Quaker Cup

This year I was asked to captain the women's New York's Quaker Cup team in the annual tournament pitting NY and CT women's and men's teams in a Ryder Cup format tournament for annual honors in the quest for the cup.

My co-captain and I had a tight roster of 8 women who fought hard against CT in three rounds of 6 hole matches in Best Ball, Alternate Shot and Singles competitions. For the third year in a row, New York held fast and retained the cup, 5 points to 3, with the singles matches determining the fate of the teams, as the scores were all square going into the individual competitions. 

Pitted against the dual club champion in singles, I held on until the last two holes, as were were dormie. I had to win them or go home. I lost on the next hole when my opponent birdied the par 3 and my drive went into the bunker. Despite my gorgeous bunker shot out to within 5 feet of the pin, (my sand shot lessons are so paying off!) my friend and opponent sank her 10 footer for birdie.

All was fun and the New York girls performed extremely well and everyone had a great time.