Wilson plans January relaunch after USGA rules Triton driver noncomforming

Wilson plans January relaunch after USGA rules Triton driver noncomforming

Equipment

Wilson plans January relaunch after USGA rules Triton driver noncomforming

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The U.S. Golf Association has ruled that Wilson Golf’s new Triton driver, which has been on sale since Nov. 25, is nonconforming under the Rules of Golf, Golfweek has learned.

Wilson said it is working to correct several issues with the club.

“The Wilson Staff Triton DVD with the 9-degree loft is listed on the conforming list,” USGA spokeswoman Janeen Driscoll told Golfweek Monday. “All other submissions of the Triton clubs were determined to be nonconforming to the Rules of Golf.”

The Triton was the winning product in the Golf Channel reality series “Driver vs. Driver.” The series finale aired Nov. 22, with winning designer Eric Sillies of Cincinnati collecting the $500,000 first prize.

Wilson Golf said in a media release Monday that the company is working with the USGA to address the design elements that led to the club being rejected from the conforming list. Wilson said the USGA will review fixes to those elements this week. Wilson also said in the statement that it hopes a modified product could be ruled conforming as early as Monday, Dec. 19.

“We are making modifications and timeline plans with our customers and consumers as we speak,” Wilson Golf president Tim Clarke said.

The USGA would not specify the reason the club was ruled nonconforming. Wilson said there were two problems: an aesthetic issue involving the size of the sole plate and what is deemed a cavity, and the springiness of the face when the adjustable weights are used in a specific configuration with one of two optional soleplates.

“The second feature is related to the optional 12-gram weight in the 10.5-degree and 12-degree Triton driver accessory kits,” Wilson said in its release. “In testing the driver with the maximum total of 24-grams of weight, with the optional 12-gram weight in the toe of the club, the USGA observed a CT (characteristic time, a measure of springiness) that was slightly above their allowable limits and testing tolerance. It should be noted that this specific combination of the Titanium sole plate and this extreme weight configuration was not used in our evaluation of the Triton as it would have resulted in a heavy swing weight and a fade/slice bias.”

Monday, Clarke sent retailers a letter that was viewed by Golfweek. In the letter, Clarke said Wilson will deliver new soleplates to stores and retrieve the 12-gram weights. “We estimate this will take 30 to 45 days,” Clarke wrote.

Wilson asked retailers “to move the current inventory to the back room until the updates can be completed.”

The letter also said Wilson will provide a dedicated email address for consumers who have purchased the club so that they can return the 12-gram weight, get modified soleplates and receive a dozen Duo golf balls.

Clarke added that Wilson, which had hoped to sell through the product during the holiday season, now plans to relaunch the Triton at January’s PGA Merchandise Show with backing from Golf Channel. Wilson and Golf Channel are financial partners in the launch and are splitting the sales, according to Golf Channel’s website for “Driver vs. Driver.”

Clarke said some of the problems resulted from vague definitions in the rulebook, especially concerning what is a cavity in a clubhead and what Wilson said were small tabs in the Triton intended to help remove the adjustable sole plate.

“One of the questions that came up was on the multiple cavities and the lack of a definition of what a cavity is, which from where I sit, we are still disappointed with the decision,” Clarke said. “What they were saying is that there are two tabs, two functional tabs that are there to help remove the sole plate. What they are saying is that from above, they deem those two little tabs as cavities. That’s where the lack of clarity came and a lot of the discussion back and forth, hence it took so long to get the final ruling.”

On Dec. 5, the USGA placed one 9-degree Triton DVD driver on its list of conforming clubs, apparently for use by one of its PGA Tour players. In a TV ad for the Triton, Wilson endorser Kevin Streelman says, “It’s in my bag, and it should be in yours.” Streelman could not use the club in competition until it was placed on the USGA’s list of conforming equipment.

The USGA’s approval of that one driver did not extend to the thousands of Triton drivers available at retail for $450. As currently sold, those clubs remain nonconforming, meaning they cannot be played in rounds used for handicap purposes or in tournaments governed by USGA rules.

Wilson hoped the Triton would make a big splash during the holiday selling season and promoted the club with demo days that have run at dozens of shops and golf courses across the country. Retailers contacted by Golfweek in the days following the Triton’s retail launch were unaware the driver was not on the USGA’s list of conforming clubs. Had retailers and consumers been aware that the Triton is nonconforming, it effectively would have killed sales.

“While a traditional product submission process would afford Wilson Golf and the USGA the opportunity to review a product several months prior to its commercial launch, the timeline for testing, modifying, manufacturing and shipping a final, comprehensive Wilson Staff Triton driver was compressed,” Wilson said in the Dec. 12 news release. “This shortened timeline was due to the nature and confidential format of the show.”

Clarke said it was an imperfect process, but with no malice or intent to bend the rules.

“Anytime you try to do something that is unique and different, there is no roadmap,” Clarke said. “If you want to go back and do autopsies, there’re a lot of things that we would have done differently. But when you do something that is this big, with this much magnitude, with confidentiality agreements and a half-million dollar prize for the winning design … there were some constraints that if we had the opportunity to do it over again we would do it differently.”

– David Dusek contributed

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