What goes around, as they say, comes around. And around and around and around, it seems.
I was reminded of that fact yesterday when I received a press release from Powerbilt touting its new line of Air Foil irons. The heads of these irons are “nitrogen charged” – literally, pumped full of pressurized nitrogen. Powerbilt insists the technology will do wonders for your game.
This got me to reminiscing, as I’m wont to do. Powerbilt first introduced the Air Titanium driver at the 1996 PGA Show that was held during late summer in Las Vegas. At the time, I was covering the equipment industry for a New York trade magazine that, shortly thereafter, went out of business. (I’m relatively certain that fact was unrelated to my presence on the masthead.)
Anyway, Powerbilt had invited the golf media to one of the courses in town – Las Vegas CC, as I recall – to test the new club. The event attracted a big turnout of golf writers, some who were curious, others who were just hoping to score a free driver. It’s important to remember that this was the dawn of the Titanium Era. Manufacturers were flooding the market with product, trying hard to differentiate themselves.
At the time, Powerbilt was struggling to keep pace with competitors, particularly Callaway, which had rewritten the playbook on how to build and market metalwoods. My best recollection is that I arrived at the event with fairly low expectations. The notion of combining titanium and nitrogen sounded odd enough; I think the word “gimmick” might have been used once or twice after the invitation arrived in our office.
To be sure, the club looked different. My memory is that there was a small window so that you could see inside the clubhead, which contained an orange bag filled with nitrogen gas. Nike had raised the bar on visible technology in sporting goods, and this club was sort of the equipment industry’s answer to Air sneakers.
What I remember more than anything about that day, however, is this: The Air Titanium struck me as a startlingly good game-improvement product. That club was almost too easy to hit. (Quick, get the USGA on the phone!) It even was relatively easy to hit driver off the deck. That was easier in those days because of the smaller clubheads, but still no small accomplishment for a guy with decidedly limited skills.
I walked away thinking: I gotta get me one of those. But I never did. My impression was that not many other people did, either. Callaway and Cobra, both Wall Street darlings (boy, things really have changed), were dominating the metalwoods category at the time. Everyone else was fighting for scraps.
But Powerbilt never gave up on the idea, and its sister brand, Louisville Slugger, also used the technology in its aluminum bats. Next week the PGA Merchandise Show arrives in Orlando. Powerbilt will be on hand to promote its latest version of “nitrogen charged” metalwoods, and for the first time, it’s bringing the technology to its irons.
I think I’ll stop by Powerbilt’s booth to check ’em out. It will be good to reminisce.