Over the last few years, direct to consumer golf ball brands have become more popular than ever. Five years ago, we saw an influx in the marketplace, but most did not last long once IP issues started to surface. Fast forward to last year and once again a number of these products have come to market, promising performance without the price tag, but this got us wonder is that really the case? Can a company go direct to consumer at low prices and still have a product in place that meets or exceeds expectations? Maybe.
There is no shortage of brands for those that want to test the waters such as Cut, Aris, Snell, Vice, Wyre, OnCore, Bixtar, Zen and many others. Each promising to deliver performance without a high price tag. For those that believe all golf balls are created equal, and that only the number of layers and the cover material matter, this is great news for you. You can pick up any number of products for a fraction of the cost of others and jump right in. You probably won’t even have to mark your ball in your regular game, because being different has its perks.
Each time one of these companies launches and the conversation on the THP Forum begins, quality and performance are equally discussed along with price and sacrifice. Is there a research and development team/person in place? Is testing of the product done? Are there quality control checks? If yes, you might have found yourself something awesome for less money. If there isn’t, or the information is not available, testing and research from other golfers might help give you the information you are looking for.
One of the interesting elements when searching for all products (golf or otherwise) revolves around sourcing. When products are made overseas, one of the elements in question is a factory that has some awareness and expertise in manufacturing (hopefully). None of the direct to consumer golf ball companies own their own manufacturing plants, so with that said, where are the golf balls coming from? This is the differentiator in products and the main source of question that core golfers have for a lot of the smaller brands.
If you buy a Chrome Soft, you know it is being made by Callaway at their plant in Massachusetts. If you buy a Pro V1, you know the same is true. If you buy Tiger Woods’ latest golf ball, you know Bridgestone is manufacturing it at their plant in Georgia. What does that mean for the direct to consumer golf balls? Are they all made at the same plant and as they come down the conveyor belt, a different logo is stamped on there? No…With an asterisk.
There is golf equipment that is considered “open” and is made at a factory where someone can look through the specifications, find a product that fits what they are looking for, and order along with having their logo stamped on the side of it. Then an order for packaging later, a quick website setup and you are now a golf ball company. This exists. In fact it might be more common than you imagine. Does that make the product inferior?
The question then begs, what is a golfer to do if they want to buy direct to consumer? While we won’t go into every brand, we can say that Snell Golf is a direct to consumer company that is not buying open, catalogued golf balls and stamping MTB on the side of it. Dean Snell has a long pedigree in the world of golf, including being a part of the original Pro V1 design for Titleist and designing many golf balls at TaylorMade for nearly two decades. The products have engineering as well as thorough testing that takes place prior to release. You can read the reviews of both the MTB Red and MTB Black right here on The Hackers Paradise.
Are all of the others done the same way? Some are, some aren’t. To add a further wrinkle into the mix, does buying an “open” golf ball and stamping a logo on it make it a bad product? Online forums went crazy over the Kirkland Signature golf ball last year. Does anybody believe that Costco all of the sudden hired a golf team and started research and development on the products to sell at a deep discount? Yet they were loved mostly due to price and the idea that generally the Kirkland brand had been viewed as a less expensive alternative without a sacrifice in quality.
There is another item to consider. Buying from a direct to consumer company like Cut Golf will save you money vs the top tier golf balls. Their Cut Grey golf ball has been well received and comes in at $20 a dozen. Do they have a large team of engineers creating the products? No, they don’t, but they have a fairly deep lineup of offerings.
One question, if the golf ball company is marketing online and to the core golfer, through sites like this one and others like it, they have to expect a level of knowledge to exist from the user base, right? Taking a look at the newest birth, the Aris Golf Ball Company, their website offers little technical information or data. My personal take is if the target is the core golfer, that information is downright crucial to get someone to take the plunge. Combine that shared knowledge, with a great engagement presence through digital outlets and you could really tap into a nice core group of users.
Circling back a bit to the beginning of the article. Can a company go direct to consumer at low prices and still have a product in place that meets or exceeds expectations? After reading this, you tell us in the comments section below or join us in the THP Forum here, and jump into the conversation on this article.