By Mike Mazur
Color sells,” says Greg McKenzie of The GolfWorks, underscoring a sentiment golf manufacturers have come to embrace.
Recent years have brought green NV shafts from Aldila, a rainbow of Mojo balls from Nike Golf and a technicolor explosion from J. Lindeberg and other apparel companies.
Now grip companies are getting in on the act, jazzing up what traditionally has been a staid, function-first category.
Advanced manufacturing processes have allowed grip makers like Winn Inc. and Lamkin Corp. to facilitate the use of fashion-forward colors in thermoplastic materials. At the same time, they have improved function by creating varying levels of firmness and tackiness in specific areas of each grip. In coming months, Winn and Lamkin are preparing to roll out an array of colorful new offerings.
“I’ve seen them both, and I can tell you that both are going to do really well,” says Darron Mauldin, director of clubmaking at Golfsmith International. “They’re both unique in technology and unique in look, and those are the two things that golf consumers are looking for today.”
Lamkin’s Torsion Control grips, which will be at retail in January, are the second generation of the company’s Dual Density category, which features a soft outer layer and a firm inner layer. The new Torsion Control product incorporates 20 “stabilizing bars” in the base layer that protrude to the grip’s surface and help firm up feel and reduce torque.
The bars also allowed Lamkin to create a blue and black pattern in the grip. The company plans to expand its color offerings in mid-2006, but for those who prefer the more conservative styling, the company is about to release the Tour Series Torsion Control, a firmer grip that reverses the color patterns: More black and less blue.
“We wanted to differentiate this new technology,” says company president Bob Lamkin. “Colors are in and they’re more accepted today than they were in years past. It was the perfect time and opportunity.”
Retailers say this is the right kind of thinking to target today’s consumer.
“There are definitely some manufacturers that (add color) for fluff and the marketing, but there’s a lot of technology in that new Lamkin grip,” says McKenzie, product manager for grips and shafts at The GolfWorks, a retailer of golf components. “Maybe by adding the colors you can bring out some of that technology.”
Winn, meanwhile, is hoping to capitalize with its December launch of a new technology called Advanced Integration (AI) that will be offered in its G8, Excel-AVS and Excel-AVS putter grips. Five color combinations will be available in the AI G8 line; four in the AI Excel-AVS line; and three in the AI Excel-AVS putter line.
AI ultimately will allow for the combination of different materials in the same grip, says Jeff Shepherd, Winn’s marketing manager. But for now, only the grips’ patterns and embossing will vary in the new lines; the base material will be the same throughout.
But even the subtle differences should produce different feel in various areas of the new grips, says Shepherd. Mauldin notes that Golfsmith and Winn already have developed a proprietary Snake Eyes AI G8 grip that will be released this month.
Mauldin says all of these multicolored grips reflect an industry that has “become half fashion and half function.” The fashion, says Mauldin and others, is the eye candy that lures consumers to pick up product off store shelves.
“The idea is to get it to stand out, isn’t it?” says Scott Peters, owner of Golf & Ski Warehouse in West Lebanon, N.H. “I think that’s probably more of a marketing tool than a playability tool . . . but it’s absolutely effective (for generating sales).”