Company will no longer produce clubs, golf balls or golf bags
August 03, 2016
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Nike will continue to produce golf shoes and apparel.
CROMWELL, CT — Nike will no longer have a footprint in the equipment industry after announcing in a press release that it would cease creating clubs, balls and bags in the future. The company will instead shift its focus on TOUR and at retail to "its golf footwear and apparel business and will partner with more of the world’s best golfers."
The news came as a shock to every member of Nike's Tour staff on Wednesday, including those playing the Travelers Championship. Brooks Koepka, who left Titleist to sign with Nike at the beginning of the year, was at a tournament function when he received the news from his agent.
"We were doing a thing for Travelers last night," Koepka said. "Paul Casey and Kevin Chappell were there, and everybody was on their phones so you knew the agents had [received the news from Nike]."
Koepka was one of 14 new players Nike signed at the beginning of the year, along with Puerto Rico Open winner Tony Finau.
When asked what he thought about the possibility of switching equipment, Koepka said he wasn't concerned about the possibility of having to use something else next season.
"I feel like I'm good enough that I can play with just about anything, to be honest with you," Koepka said. "I grew up my whole career playing with a different company (Titleist) before switching to Nike. It was easy [to switch]."
Like Koepka, Russell Henley and Patrick Rodgers confirmed they found out about Nike's hard goods departure directly from their agents just prior to the announcement being made.
"I'm a little surprised," said Henley, who switched to a full bag of Nike equipment during his junior year at the University of Georgia. "Right now is the most comfortable that I've felt with all of the [Nike] stuff. I feel like I'm really starting to understand and know what all my clubs are starting to do and get them dialed in. It's a shock. I just don't know all of the details right now."
While many of the contractual details are still murky, Henley confirmed he'll continue to wear Nike apparel. The club and ball part of the equation, however, are very much up in the air for Henley and the rest of the players on Nike's staff.
"I definitely know I'm going to be wearing Nike apparel, contractually," Henley said. "I'm with them for a little while longer. In terms of the clubs, I don't know if there's a set date that I can start changing. I guess I'm just going to have to get through this week and find out."
Patrick Rodgers is taking the same approach and plans to stick with the Nike equipment he's been using this season and leave the discussions about his equipment future until after the tournament.
"Everything is happening so fast," Rodgers said. "The prudent thing is to focus on this event. I'm really happy with what's in my bag, so I'm going to use that this week. Then I'm going to have a good meeting with my manager, swing coach and team and just come up with a plan."
This week at the Travelers Championship, it was business as usual for Nike Golf. The Tour van and support staff was on site for the first three days, and a prototype wedge was spotted on the range for players to test. The announcement comes just three weeks before the start of the FedExCup Playoffs.
When reached for comment, Nike representatives would not confirm how the move would affect Tour operations and the current staff going forward.
Nike Golf was established in 1998 with the company releasing its first golf ball line later that year. In 2001, Nike hired Tom Stites from the Ben Hogan Company to design its first set of clubs, which launched in 2002.
In recent years, Nike has built an impressive Tour staff that currently boasts Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Paul Casey and Michelle Wie.
Just last month, Charl Schwartzel departed Nike for PXG on the eve of the Open Championship in a surprising midseason move. So far, Schwartzel has been the only departure from Nike's staff.
Nike recently reported $706 million in annual sales (which includes shoes and apparel) for the fiscal year ending in May — an 8.2 percent drop — making it the lowest performing segment within the company. Its sales in 2013 and 2014 approached $800 million.
Below is the full press release from Nike.
NIKE, Inc. announced today that it will accelerate innovation in its Golf footwear and apparel business and will partner with more of the world’s best golfers. With this new focus, Nike Golf will transition out of equipment — including clubs, balls and bags.
“We’re committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel,” says Trevor Edwards, President, Nike Brand. “We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike Golf.”
“Athletes like Tiger, Rory and Michelle drive tremendous energy for the game and inspire consumers worldwide,” says Daric Ashford, President of Nike Golf. “Over the past year the MM Fly Blade Polo, the Flyknit Chukka and Air Zoom 90 have all connected strongly with golfers. We’ll continue to ignite excitement with our athletes and deliver the best of Nike for the game.”