You know what they say: If you can't bring the hacker to the tour van, bring the tour van to the hacker.
True, they don't say that often. Maybe never. But now, Titleist is giving you a taste of the Tour with WedgeWork's Hand Ground wedges from its Vokey Tour Department.
Starting June 19th, Vokey is offering the full Tour treatment to Average Joes. What does that mean, exactly? Well, mostly that they'll be crazy customizable, and that they won't come cheap.
First, we'll walk you through the cool stuff. You start with either a 58- or 60-degree wedge in Vokey's previously-Tour-only "Raw" finish. That club then goes to one of Vokey's team of wedgemakers in Carlsbad, Calif. They'll be taking your order.
Next, you select from four of Vokey's sole grinds: The M, a standard, medium-bounce club with heavy heel and toe relief; the E, a limited-edition, full bounce sole option designed for soft turf; the V, another custom grind that's a narrower-soled, higher-bounce version of the standard M; and the T, a narrow-soled grind with a wide trailing edge common in Vokey's super-high-lofted wedges. Got that? Know what fits you best? Good. Onto step two.
Now, you're going to choose the additional grinds you want applied. This is where it starts to feel pretty Tour-y. You can go shape it into a square-toed look, straighten the leading edge, pre-wear the leading edge, bevel the topline, add additional heel-relief (on E-grinds only), or add a Pro-Groove, a channel hand-ground into the sole, which Vokey says allows players to better "activate the bounce on short pitches." At this point, you might as well go ahead and specify your preferred shaft, length, loft, lie and swingweight.That should cover the brass-tacks stuff.
Still with us? Good. Because now it gets sassy. Vokey will let you pick from five toe stampings ("Prototype 2013," "Hand Ground," "Special Grind," "Spin Milled" or "BVHG"). You can get an additional custom stamp, too, up to eight letters/numbers using 12 available colors in one of four available styles. Just for good measure, pick your favorite Vokey shaft band, grip and ferrule. Finally, your hand-grinder will stamp his initials on the hosel. (BV means it was done by Voke himself. Good luck getting strokes with that in the bag.) Voila! There you have it, your custom wedge.
Orders for WedgeWorks Hand Ground wedges can be submitted to the Vokey Tour Department through Vokey.com beginning June 19.
It'll cost you $350 per stick, and expect 2-3 weeks turnaround time. But, hey, its easier than getting on Tour.
Fortune Brands Inc. announced Friday morning that it has reached an agreement to sell Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist and FootJoy, to Fila Korea Ltd. and Mirae Asset Private Equity of Korea for $1.225 billion in cash. According to a media release, Fortune Brands will earn $1.1 billion after taxes and expenses on the sale.
Fila Korea Ltd. is the owner of the Fila brand globally; according to the release, Mirae Asset Private Equity is the largest private equity firm in Korea.
The release went on to say:
"The Acushnet Company has long been the trusted steward of two of golf’s most revered and iconic brands, and has perpetuated the longest running records of golf equipment success in the game,” said Wally Uihlein, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Acushnet Company. “The Fila Korea and Mirae group understands and appreciates our golf industry leadership, passionate associates, and unique and enduring culture. Together, with our new owners, our team is looking forward to strengthening and building upon the global success of the Titleist and FootJoy brands.”
After the acquisition, Acushnet will remain as a standalone company through separate operation from Fila Korea, with its worldwide headquarters remaining in Fairhaven, Mass., and led by Uihlein and Acushnet’s current management team.
The release continued,
“The acquisition of Acushnet transforms our platform with a stable of premier world class brands,” said Gene Yoon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Fila Korea, Ltd. “We are equally excited to embrace Acushnet’s exceptional management team led by Wally Uihlein. With our extensive knowledge and reach in Asia, we believe that the Acushnet brands have incredible new opportunities for growth in the emerging markets in Asia.”
“We are very impressed with what Acushnet management and employees have accomplished so far,” said JH Ryu, CEO, Mirae Asset Private Equity. “We will fully support the company to remain focused on its core golf expertise and continue driving the growth of the industry.”
"Titleist and FootJoy are powerful global golf brands,” said Uihlein. “The fact that Asia Pacific represents over 30% of the world's total golf equipment spending, and that South Korean golfers are among the most passionate and organized in the game, is testament to the significant investment in the Acushnet Company by the Fila Korea and Mirae group. They recognize the strength of the brands and opportunities for growth particularly in golf's emerging regions.”
The final sale is expected to be completed later this summer.
The Pro V1 patent dispute between Acushnet and Callaway appears to be over after Callaway's request for a new trial was denied. Here's the press release from Acushnet, which says the case is now "officially closed."
U.S. DISTRICT COURT PROVIDES FINAL JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF ACUSHNET COMPANY IN PATENT DISPUTE WITH CALLAWAY GOLF
Four Callaway Golf Ball Patents Determined Invalid
Fairhaven, MA (April 21, 2011) – Acushnet Company, the golf business of Fortune Brands, Inc., announced that the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware provided its final judgment in Acushnet Company's favor today in a long-running patent dispute with Callaway Golf. The judge denied Callaway's request for a new trial, and the case is officially closed in the U.S. District Court more than five years after Callaway filed a lawsuit asserting that Acushnet's Titleist Pro V1 golf balls infringed on four Callaway patents.
"Today's positive ruling substantiates what our contention has been throughout this process, that the patents in question were invalid and should never have been issued," said Joe Nauman, Executive Vice President Corporate and Legal, Acushnet Company. "We had confidence that once we had the opportunity to present all the evidence, and as we continued to receive favorable rulings from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO), we would prevail. The confirmation by the U.S. District Court is another significant step in finalizing this case."
The dispute began in January 2006 when Acushnet requested that the PTO reexamine the four patents in question. Callaway filed a lawsuit in February 2006 asserting that Acushnet's Titleist Pro V1 golf balls infringed certain claims of those patents. In March 2010, a jury determined that all four patents were invalid as obvious and anticipated. Last month, the PTO affirmed the patent examiner's decision that the claims of four Callaway Golf patents were invalid. Today, the judge upheld the jury verdict on obviousness and rejected Callaway's request for a new trial. Callaway has the option to appeal the case to the Federal Circuit.
Acushnet Company is the industry leader in developing golf ball technology and has over 700 active golf ball patents – more than any other manufacturer. Titleist Pro V1 golf balls are the product of technology developed and accumulated by the Acushnet Company over the past 20 years, and over 65 Acushnet Company patents are related to the Pro V1 family.
There had been rumors of a deal brewing between McDowell and Srixon for a few weeks. However, in mid-December when I spoke with a Callaway representative, I was told that there was still a chance that McDowell, whose contract expired on Dec. 31, might stay with the company.
Sure, business is business, but this will be an especially bitter loss for Callaway. The company awarded McDowell with a sterling silver belt buckle, trimmed in gold, to commemorate his win at Pebble Beach. He was also flown to Carlsbad, Calif., in September, where he spoke to Callaway employees at their annual sales meeting and talked about how much he liked his equipment—and the products he'd tried that were on the way for the 2011 season.
While McDowell's accountant will certainly be happy with his new deal, it does come with a certain level of risk. The Northern Irishman had a dream season in 2010, and if his level of play falls off in 2011, a lot of people will say that he simply chased the money instead of sticking with the equipment that helped him achieve so much in 2010.
It's unclear exactly which Srixon clubs McDowell will use, but I will publish a complete list of his equipment later this week—McDowell is in the field at the season-opening event at Kapalua.
Srixon may have found some money to sign McDowell after Jim Furyk, whose contract also ended on Dec. 31, decided to sign an endorsement deal with TaylorMade.
Another player who has switched to TaylorMade is Camilo Villegas. In August, Acushnet and Cobra Golf sued TaylorMade and Villegas after TaylorMade announced that the Colombian star, who won last season's Honda Classic, had signed an endorsement deal with the company while Villegas was under contract to play a Titleist ball and use Cobra clubs.
This week at Kapalua, look for Villegas to use a bag full of TaylorMade gear, a Penta TP ball, and display the company's logo on his hat and bag.
What do Jim Beam bourbon, Moen bathroom sinks and Titleist Pro V1 golf balls have in common? They're all a part of Fortune Brands, but not for long. The company announced Tuesday that it will split into three different parts.
In a media release, Fortune Brands said it plans to become "an independent, publicly-traded company focused solely on its distilled spirits business." The release went on to say that the company plans to sell or spin off the Acushnet Co., it's golf business, which makes Titleist balls, clubs and accessories, as well as FootJoy shoes and apparel.
The CNNMoney video below explains some of the reasons why Fortune has decided to break up.
Golfers learning this news might logically have a few questions, so here are a few answers.
Will I be able to keep buying Titleist golf clubs and balls? Yes, it's going to be business as usual at Titleist and FootJoy until the completion of a deal is finalized. In its release, Fortune Brands said its board of directors "has directed management to develop detailed separation plans for consideration and final approval by the Board. The company expects to complete development of these plans — including the structure, timing, and other related matters for each business — within the next several months."
In other words, nothing is going to change in the immediate future.
Titleist recently released its 910 line of woods and gave prototype Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls to its staff professionals to play. An updated Pro V1 and Pro V1x are expected to be released in early 2011.
If Acushnet gets sold, who would buy it? Fortune Brands' release states that Acushnet has annual sales of $1.2 billion, so anyone looking to buy the company needs to have deep pockets.
One possible buyer could be a private equity firm. Another could be a large company already in the golf business. However, if a company like Callaway, Nike, Adidas or Bridgestone wanted to buy Acushnet, it could present anti-trust and intellectual property issues.
"… All of these potential suitors present significant antitrust issues. Adidas and Nike, for example, are No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in golf footwear and acquiring FootJoy in the No. 1 position would imply a major advantage to the successful buyer.
Callaway and Bridgestone are No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in golf balls and acquiring Titleist and its dominate No. 1 position in market share would equally set off a series of complaints from those that lost out in a potential deal. Similarly Callaway, Bridgestone and Sumitomo represent golf ball product category intellectual property right antitrust issues.
An alignment between Titleist and anyone of those three would give the combined entity 40+% of the golf ball Intellectual Property Rights landscape. Navigating through antitrust issues would slow up any sale process and could require divestitures. Although there would be some financial synergies with any strategic buyer, the antitrust risks and delay coupled with the integration costs could outweigh those benefits along with the tax consequences that may influence the final sales price."
Is there a timeline for when things might happen with Acushnet? The Acushnet Co. is based in Fairhaven, Mass. Local reporter Charis Anderson writes in South Coast Today, "Officials said they expected the process to move fairly quickly."
Given the assumed complexity of the process and any deal that happens, it seems safe to speculate that we're talking about months before something is finalized, not weeks.
Were Titleist Tour players like Davis Love, Geoff Ogilvy, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker told about this before the announcement? No. The announcement came from Fortune Brands, not Titleist or FootJoy.
Fortune Brands' board of directors agreed in principle on Tuesday to break up the company and sell or spin off its golf business, Acushnet, which includes Titleist and FootJoy, according to several media outlets.
The company has been the subject of speculation since William Ackman's hedge fund disclosed an 11% stake in the conglomerate. Ackman is an activist shareholder who supports the move by the board. "We think the long-term value of each of the three businesses will be materially higher if they are separate," he told The Wall Street Journal.
Acushnet's most likely suitors, according to the Journal, are private equity firms and Asian sporting goods and golf companies.
The Journal also reported that "the company intends to spin off its home and security unit to shareholders in a tax-free transaction." That would leave Fortune with its liquor business, which includes Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Canadian Club.