10/28/2016

Golf is a tricky industry to navigate, whether you’re a player or a businessman. It’s why we scoffed when GoDaddy.com founder Bob Parsons entered the fray last winter with a new line of irons.

It’s why TaylorMade, and others, have co-branded even if it brings the company away from golf. For example, hockey equipment manufacturer CCM—which, like TaylorMade until this year, falls under the Adidas umbrella—used “TaylorMade” technology on its hockey sticks. Based in Montreal, CCM also draped rally towels advertising TaylorMade’s latest driver in the “R” series over seats at the Bell Centre for Canadiens’ home games.

In other words, golf companies, and the overlords that control them, have been forced to get creative as the industry fluctuates with the ever-changing economy. Still, life at the top is pretty good for Titleist. The equipment brand of Jordan Spieth, perhaps the most marketable American golfer since Tiger Woods, is set to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. Titleist’s parent company Acushnet made an IPO filing with the SEC back in June.

The stock is expected to open between $21 and $24 per share according to Golfweek. (Ed. note: The stock opened Friday at a disappointing $17)

Acushnet’s filing was always going to be a gamble for reasons stated above. Consider that Adidas put TaylorMade up for sale to start 2016, this just a few years after the company was being lauded as an example of how to make golf work.

Just four years apart, these headlines hint at the volatility of the golf market. The top one ends with "Get (TaylorMade) out of the Rough."

Just four years apart, these headlines hint at the volatility of the golf market. The top one ends with “Get (TaylorMade) out of the Rough.”

Then there’s Nike. Even with Woods and Rory McIlroy, or perhaps because of the sponsorship money allocated towards them, the world’s most famous sports brand left golf equipment entirely. That was in August when rumors of a Tiger return and momentum to a Ryder Cup, which also included Nike client Brooks Koepka, hinted that golf was hot again. Not so.

It’s unpredictable if anything, and maybe that’s why Acushnet joined the market: Allow the public to determine at least a portion of the sales (19.3 million will be made available).

But Titleist appears to be somewhat recession-proof so-to-speak. In the ProV1 and ProV1X, the company produces the most popular balls in the game. This is important. Golf clubs are one- or two-time purchases for amateur players. They buy a set of irons and they last for years at a time. However, golfers reload on balls multiple times a year.

Acushnet can also rely on FootJoy. The shoe company remains a favorite among players. The neat “FJ” logo looks good on the side of hats as well.

In other words, there are things in place to ensure this won’t be a failure. Whether it will be a success is yet to be determined and maybe not in the immediate future. We are entering the offseason for most of the United States, after all.

But the goal for Acushnet is fairly obvious. It wants to retain its spot atop the industry, while driving sales. One only needs to look at the listing on the NYSE: GOLF.