published Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

A different look: Golf has become very customized sport

Phil Mickelson, left, and Rickie Fowler talk during a practice round ahead of the 2013 British Open
Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland. Fowler has become popular for his outlandish colors that
kids love.
Phil Mickelson, left, and Rickie Fowler talk during a practice round ahead of the 2013 British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland. Fowler has become popular for his outlandish colors that kids love.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
  • photo
    Former Baylor School star Brooke Pancake’s Chase 54 sponsor will include a new line just for her to wear at the Women’s British Open.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The old joke is that it takes five minutes to look like a golfer and five years to become one.

The joke is obsolete. No two golfers look alike. They're all different.

A trend extends from the highest levels of the game -- the LPGA Tour and the PGA Tour -- all the way down to the junior level, where U.S. Kids Golf offers its clubs in a variety of colors.

Customization is cool.

"Nothing is 'stock' anymore," said Josh Williams, the operations manager at GolfHeadquarters. "One of our old company reps used to say that everybody dresses in the '70s and shoots in the 90s. That's not the case anymore."

Almost every single item that a golfer wears, grips, touches, tips, tosses, putts, punts or pitches can be customized to make them just a little different from the rest of the crowd or their regular playing party.

"It's everywhere," Williams said. "It's in everything."

It's on the LPGA Tour. Paula Creamer is the "Pink Panther." Christina Kim has worn a Kangol hat and attached a chain to her yardage book during a tournament in 2010.

It's on the PGA Tour, with everybody from Tiger Woods and his Sunday red to Boo Weekly and his constant camouflage trying to be just a little bit different.

It's about marketing.

Customization also is the current area craze from Brainerd and Black Creek to Fields Ferry and The Farm.

Except for a team event, no two golfers look alike, no two have the same colors on themselves, on their bags, in their bags, on the clubs in their bags or the rain bags that go over golf bags.

"Golf has changed in about three years," Williams said. "Companies are more contemporary instead of classic. Even Ping. They were the last to hold out."

TaylorMade probably took the lead with custom-designed clubs when it unveiled a driver with a white crown. Williams said the competition waited for the consumer response.

"Once anybody saw a pro with a white driver, they knew it was TaylorMade," Williams said. "Now the whole industry has changed to different styles and different colors."

Cobra and Callaway have a multitude of different color combinations available for almost every club from driver to wedge. And when it comes to wedges, they can be stamped with just about anything. Former Baylor School golfer Luke List is one who has his name stamped on some of his clubs. Customization has gone so far as to make serial numbers obsolete -- names can be etched on clubs instead.

The industry is following the lead of its stars. But then golf is an individual sport.

Fans of the Atlanta Braves can buy a jersey of their favorite player. Fans of the Titans, Falcons and every college team can do the same to emulate and support a player or team.

Golfers don't wear numbers. They wear a style -- and play a style that is unique.

It could be Rickie Fowler and his outlandish colors that kids love. It could be Ian James Poulter and his English style. It could be Bubba Watson and his pink swashbuckling driver. Perhaps former Baylor School star Brooke Pancake and her Chase 54 clothing, which will include a new line just for her to wear at the Women's British Open.

"She'll have sweaters, jackets and pants to keep her warm over there," Chase 54 creative director Lulu Faddis said.

It's a style that Pancake will make her own -- different from everybody else.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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