Grouchy Golf Blog

Monday, January 21, 2008 at 8:42 PM

Has Titleist Jumped the Shark?

My friends over at the Sand Trap got the latest scoop on Titleist's upcoming 2008 iron lines. It includes four new models, the AP1, AP2, ZB and ZM. My first reaction was, "Oh crap, has Titleist just jumped the shark?"

"What the hell does that mean?" you ask? Well it's an entertainment industry term that refers to the point when a successful show has passed its peak. The phrase refers to a scene in "Happy Days" where Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a shark while water skiing. The sheer ridiculousness of that scene sent the popular TV show into a ratings tailspin. Now it has been used as a metaphor for anything that has passed it's peak. I use it often to describe some of my favorite companies when they start to make crappy products.

For example, one of my favorite car companies was BMW. Ever since I could remember, BMW had consistently improved the aesthetic designs of their cars. Amazingly, each generation of their models had improved upon the previous generation in both form and function. That is, until one Christopher Edward Bangle became BMW's Chief of Design in 1992. Soon thereafter, BMW produced cars that were more Rosie O'Donnell rather than Angelina Jolie. My friends over at The Truth About Cars wrote, "Chris Bangle’s designs are still a shock to the system. I still cringe whenever one of the BMW's 'flame surfaced' 7 Series hoves into view. I still shake my head when I catch a glimpse of a 5 Series’ mascara headlights. I still avert my eyes when any of his models drive past, for fear of glimpsing the rightfully reviled 'Bangle butt.'" I couldn't describe my feelings about the "Bangle Mangle" any better. I swear that the people who buy these new bimmers are suffering from a kind of "beer goggle" phenomenon produced by the BMW badge. Take that bavarian logo away, and they'd quickly realize that their beauty was really a beast. Yes, BMW jumped the shark!

Similarly, I believe that the same fate may be in store for my beloved Titleist. IMHO, Titleist is the premier all-around golf company. If I had to equip myself with golf gear from only one company, there's no doubt that I'd choose Titleist. Most serious golfers would do likewise. But that may all change based on the early teaser shots of their new iron lines. Of course it's premature to base anything from a couple of photos, but aesthetics are an important feature of an iron's design. Unfortunately these new Titleist irons just don't do it for me. They are a dramatic design departure that reminds me of BMW's recent history. Well, I guess it doesn't look like my garage will feature a new bimmer or a new set of Titleists anytime soon!

Anonymous looper said...

very interesting post. i have felt for the past few years that titleist has become increasingly out of "sync" with the golfing marketplace. They paid very little attention to the game improvement and mid-range handicapper markets as they developed and left that space to callaway, taylormade, nike, cleveland, adams, cobra - just look at how they completely missed the hybrid market - now hybrids are used by most pro's on all the tours - what all golfers see (including pro's) is that the real innovation is happening all around titleist but not at titleist - remember how dominant mcgreagor was in the 60's, 70's and then declined in the 80's? what happened? they didn't innovate. titleist is in the same position now with respect to their equipment- cept for golf balls - but callaway has very innovative golf ball products as does nike and bridgestone. titleist may have the market now but these guys are chipping away with more innovation - the dynasty is in decline and pro v1 franchise is next to fall - within 5 years the picture will be very different. their market leader arrogance will blind them to the fact that while they still have a solid lock on 50+ year old golfers, the younger guys don't see them as leaders - just look in the bags and golf ball choices of the 35year and under crowd (esp. the better players) - i see more nike and callaway balls in the hands of these guys and as for equipment- forgetaboutit - it's callaway, nike, cleveland and taylormade - and hybrids, hybrids and more hybrids. and where is titleist? - resting on their laurals and remembering the dominant days of the 1980's and 1990's.

The ghost of mcgregor is looming over the titleist empire!  


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting..Titleist may indeed be seeing the ghost of MacGregor. Do you stick with your tradition, or go modern? Now there's a tough one with no easy answer.

Funny you brought up BMW, Grouch, I always felt their only failing was becoming a prisoner of their old grill when designing new models. Fortunately, that fear of identity loss never affected Ferrari or the need to build SUVs. Maybe it's a German thing. I'll bet Italian golf clubs, if they make them, don't suffer from "old designs"

I just hope Grouchy Golf Blog never jumps the shark  


Blogger William said...

I grew up watching Happy Days, and can even now remember where I was when the shark was jumped. There on the orange 70's shag carpet, leaning back against the yellow ocher, off white, and lima bean green floral sofa, sipping a capri-sun, my certainty of Happy Days' establishment of 'coolness' disintegrated as I watched the icon, the Fonz, jump a shark on water skis. It was the dumbest thing I'd ever seen. The coolness of Arthur's "Aaaaaa" evaporated in one sunny water sport hijinks. The Dukes were all I had left......

I had no idea others had marked this as THE turning point.
Oh, I'll be using this "jumping the shark" thing all the time. The wife will be so amused.... :D  


Blogger Eileen said...

I think the new AP1 and AP2 irons will get some action. They are a departure from the retro look Titleist irons had from 2003 to 2007. The company really wants to attract more iron buyers and the new line could do that. I think they will prove to be more attractive to the higher handicap golfer than previous models.  


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