On Wednesday, the PGA Golf world learned it would soon lose one of its iconic brands, Nike Golf. The company announced it would discontinue its production of golf clubs, balls and bags in the near future. Although no date has been set when Nike will officially end their manufacturing of new equipment, the announcement signals the end of an era.
Since the emergence of Tiger Woods, Nike has been a leading competitor in the golf equipment industry. Along with Tiger, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and Michelle Wie cemented Nike as one of golf’s premier modern brands. With the PGA’s elite endorsing Nike Golf, players of all ages and skill levels bought the equipment. Golfers wanted to use the same drivers, irons and balls as their favorite pros. As a result, Nike Golf’s sales rose throughout the 2000s. However, the downfall of Tiger, their biggest star, coupled with the rise of other Nike brands, like Jordan, left Nike Golf in a frail state in recent years.
In fact, Nike’s worst selling division in the 2015 fiscal year was their golf sector, generating a mere 706 million dollars in revenue for the company. To put this number in perspective, their running brand made over seven times this amount. Nike Golf no longer fits Nike’s overall mold. While the rest of Nike continued to innovate and move forward, its golf division remained stagnant. Sales haven’t increased since 2013.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, along with 12 other PGA Tour golfers, will have to adopt new clubs, balls and bags in the near future. They will be forced to endorse a new, possibly unfamiliar brand and adjust to completely different equipment in a short period of time. McIlroy just dealt with this problem when he signed with Nike in 2013. He had tremendous difficulty with his new clubs and it took him nearly the entire year to become fully comfortable with them. As a result, his 2013 season was one of his worst as a PGA Tour professional.
Although Nike is halting their production of golf equipment, they will continue to sell golf apparel and footwear. They believe there is still room for growth in these sectors and will focus on trying to “accelerate innovation,” according to a recently released company statement.
Adidas, Nike’s main competitor made a similar move back in May, stating that they would shift away from the golf equipment industry. They were looking to sell TaylorMade, the brand sported by Jason Day and Dustin Johnson. But, just like Nike, they would continue to sell apparel and footwear.
Nike and Adidas are the sports industry’s two biggest brands. To see them both drop out of the golf equipment business signals that the game’s popularity is dwindling. According to the National Golf Foundation, the number of active golfers in the US has steadily been declining. In 2011, there were about 26 million golfers. Today, only five years later, that number hovers around 24 million. The sport has always been costly in terms of both time and money. Historically, that hasn’t stopped people from buying equipment in record numbers. However, Nike’s declining sales and exit from the golf equipment market signals that this may no longer be the case, and hints that the sport may be reduced to the point where it’s only played behind the gates of country clubs.