2002: TaylorMade adds wedges, with new irons to follow

TaylorMade-Adidas Golf became the latest major golf equipment maker to dive into the $70 million wedge business with the introduction of its Tour Preferred line, which began showing up in pro shops and retail outlets in June.

Priced at $129, the clubs, cast in 860 carbon steel, utilize a proprietary technology called RAC (Relative Amplitude Coefficient). According to John Hoeflich, senior director of product marketing at TaylorMade, the technology allows the company to precisely quantify and predict the feel of a wedge and therefore produce a consistent feel across each club’s face.

It also is something the company will employ in a new line of irons scheduled to be introduced this fall, Hoeflich said.

“We will have three models using the RAC technology,” he said. “One will be a forged muscle-back, and two will be cast muscle-backs, and we will go all the way up to a 2-iron. They will have the same top-of-the-line look as the wedges and the same milled-out pockets in the back, which are designed to improve both feel and playability.”

Hoeflich believes the Tour Preferred wedges, which come in seven different combinations of lie and loft, should do well.

“What we have done here is added technology,” he said. “For years, the whole category has been driven by shape, and while the shapes have been very good, there were still inconsistencies in the product. And that can cause problems. You see, a difference of 2 millimeters in the thickness of the top line can be like a key in a piano being two octaves off. RAC allows us to fine-tune these clubs the way you would a piano and make sure it does what it is supposed to.”

Though the wedges are only now getting into the hands of consumers, tour professionals have been using the clubs since last winter, some with good results. Ernie Els put them into play for the first time at a PGA Tour event in late February en route to winning the Genuity Championship at Doral. Then Els captured the Dubai Desert Classic the following week. Fellow South African Retief Goosen captured the Bell South Classic roughly a month later when he first put the Tour Preferreds in his bag.

“Right now, we have perhaps 20 wedges a week in play on the Tour,” Hoeflich said. “And after the British Open, we will begin to make a much bigger push with them.”

TaylorMade officials say sales to retailers have been very strong. But are golfers buying the new wedges?

“It’s early, but we’ve found that they are not selling all that well at the moment,” said Jerry Whalen, manager of Fiddler’s Green Golf Center in Eugene, Ore. “I don’t think that is a result of the product, which is well-designed and feels very good, but rather a case of people not really associating wedges with TaylorMade-Adidas. At least not right now. When they think wedges, they think Cleveland or (Titleist) Vokey, and consequently, those are the ones they are most likely to try.”

One solution, Whalen said, is TaylorMade’s planned introduction of irons that utilize the same technology.

“That will help attract golfers and perhaps induce them to give the wedges as well as the irons a try,” Whalen said. “People are always interested in what TaylorMade comes out with when it comes to woods and irons. They have a good following and a very large presence, and that could carry over into wedges if they become part of a larger line.”





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