To be surprised that Nike Golf is getting out of the club, golf ball and bag business is to be surprised that there are concerns at the Rio Olympics about the Zika virus, water quality, security and unpreparedness.
In both cases, the signs have been there for months, if not years, so there should be no shock when these events actually take place.
We will see over the next couple of weeks what the consequences of the Rio mess will be, but in the case of Nike Golf, once we look past the unfortunate reality of job losses, it looks to be a sound business decision, with the Swoosh playing to its strengths by continuing on in apparel and footwear.
The reality is that Nike could never establish a niche in the hard goods side of golf.
While having a history in golf before that, Nike didn’t really get into golf hardcore until early in the last decade, but it never could find an identity in a world dominated by more traditional names such as PING, TaylorMade, Titleist and Callaway.
Give it credit, however. NIke made a good go of it nonetheless, using players such as Tiger Woods, Michelle Wie and Rory McIlroy, just to use a few of its marquee names, to scream its message in typical Swoosh fashion.
There were gala affairs in places such as New York, Fort Worth, Tx., Beaverton, Ore., and Las Vegas, to name just a few, but despite the belief in the media that big names alone can sell golf equipment, it didn’t happen as Nike’s sales were steady, but still well behind the established players in the game.
When the beginning of the end actually took place is arguable, but I suspect it took place in October, 2014 when Cindy Davis “retired” at the age of 52 after six years as president of Nike Golf.
At the end of last year, Nike Golf Canada, taking its orders from head office in the U.S., pulled pretty much all of its advertising in very unNike-like fashion.
Earlier this year, names that played such a role in the development of Nike Golf Canada – Mike Francis, Vity Gomes, John Sibley and Mike Kelly to name a few – departed the company.
I spoke with Francis, who was GM in the United States when he left the company earlier this year, who says there were a lot of changes going on at Nike Golf when he departed. You can listed to that conversation here.
Then, just before the British Open, 2011 Masters champ Charl Schwartzel made the switch from Nike to PXG clubs in an unusual mid-season move.
Then came Wednesday’s announcement, leaving a lot of uncertainty out there, arguably even more than before the announcement was made.
What happens now with patents? What clubs/balls will longtime Nike players be using? Early reports were that Tiger Woods will continue to wear Nike apparel and shoes, but take his time in deciding which clubs to play.
Obviously, there will be movement in the golf industry and the assumption is that some of Nike’s better-known names will land on their feet, but will they in an industry that just got considerably smaller with Wednesday’s announcement?
The definition of what’s normal has changed once again in an uncertain and shrinking industry and who’s to say what will happen?
Certainly, not those who were surprised by Wednesday’s announcement.