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Web Street Golf Report

VOLUME 12, NUMBER 22

Monday, June 1, 2009

THE EROSION CONTINUES: PerformanceTrak, collaboration between the PGA of America and National Golf Course Owners Association reported April rounds played domestically were off 1.6% versus a year ago. On a year-to-date basis, the number of rounds played is lower by 0.5%. According to the research, approximately 24% of total annual rounds are played in January, February, March, and April based on 2008 calendar year statistics.

Looking inside the numbers, same-store rounds played at private facilities were flat at 0.1% in April, while same-store rounds played at resort facilities were down -8.0%. Useable same-store golf fee revenue responses were submitted by 1,068 facilities. Median gross golf fee revenue was down -4.8% nationally in April, the research indicated. All other gross revenues (merchandise revenue, food and beverage revenue, and total revenue) were also down in April 2009 compared to April 2008.

ON DEMAND: Throughout his career, Tiger Woods has already accomplished more than anyone could have expected, including even himself. If there is room for criticism, it’s difficult to find. But if someone wanted to be nit-picky, accessibility to the best player in the game is difficult at best. His tournament schedule is closely guarded and often it isn’t revealed until the last minute. For example it was announced last week that the world’s #1 player will be teeing it up at The Memorial this week. The world loves Tiger. They want to see more of him is perhaps the easiest way to sum it up. It’s a good problem, if it can be considered one, to have.

But some early chatter, however, is surfacing that this might be changing... Tiger on demand? The answer is yes and no. Electronic Arts Inc., (ERTS: NASDAQ) is introducing this fall Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Online. The game will be accessible via a web browser; therefore making it available anywhere that offers an internet connection. The company said it wouldn’t require any installation, disc or additional peripherals either. At launch, Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Online will include several world-class championship courses, such as Pebble Beach, TPC Sawgrass and St. Andrews, while additional new courses will be available on a regular basis. In addition, a fully stocked schedule of tournaments and multiple community features, allowing fans to connect and compete with friends will be included.

For those wondering what’s the catch? Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Online will be offered through a multi-tiered subscription in fall of 2009. Prices have yet to be revealed, but it’s doubtful it will prohibitive to many of his loyal fans. For more information about Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Online, go to www.tigerwoodsonline.com

 

SOME NEW COMPETITION IN THE DRIVER CATEGORY: Its been said by none other than Warren Buffett, that first comes the innovators, next the imitators followed by the idiots. Considering the source, its difficult to dispute his intellect and the theory can be applied to a wide range of topics beyond simply the investment world. Consider the following: Three-time RE/MAX world long drive champion and Long Drivers of America (LDA) Hall of Fame member Sean “The Beast” Fister has begun designing and marketing drivers through a new venture, Fister Golf Co.

Nothing against the Beast, but going up against the likes of TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist, Cobra, Ping, Nike or Cleveland Golf head to head for a future driver sale is a bit out of his playing to his strength’s.

Fister Golf’s first offering is the Punisher 450 Pro LD driver. With a retail price of $399 (and a pre-order special of $349), the driver features the Punisher 450 head assembled with a black-and-white Pro LD shaft in XX and XXX made exclusively for Fister Golf by UST. Fister Golf is also selling the Punisher 450 Pro LD head by itself for $329, with a pre-order special price of $279. “Basically, our aim is to provide a high standard of quality and design at a fair price,” said Fister, who, along with another monster LDA hitter, 2008 Desert Duel winner Brooks Baldwin, will debut the Punisher head at Long Drive Association's (LDA) upcoming Texas Shootout Presented by Toyota of Lewisville, scheduled for June 3-5 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

A quick check of the market shows the $399 price point for drivers by the above-mentioned competitors isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. In fact the usual suspects have resorted to promotions such as including a fairway wood or hybrid (in some cases two of them) for essentially nothing.

Fister won his RE/MAX world championships in 1995, 2001 and 2005, so he certainly knows a few things about generating distance. He was elected to the LDA Hall of Fame in 2002. With this venture he becomes the first long drive world champion and LDA Hall of Famer to enter the golf club design business. For those interested in learning more about the Punisher 450 Pro LD driver, as well as Fister Golf, visit www.longdriving.com.

ROOM TO GROW: While most companies are keeping a tight fist on their spending levels as everyone attempts to wait out the recession, Nike Golf has opened its checkbook. The Beaverton, Or. -based company has expanded its, research and design (R&D) facility in Fort Worth, Texas, which it refers to as “The Oven.”

The facility, which originally broke ground in October 2002, has increased its total square footage by 17,600 to reach 49,100 square foot. Maybe that means there is a much larger SasQuatch in the making...

The most significant component of the expansion appears to be the addition of a 129,000 square-foot short game area that includes three synthetic greens, one natural grass green, bunkers and practice holes. The practice holes and hitting areas are designed for the purpose of iron and ball testing, while the short game area has incorporated a water feature that runs through the middle of it. Perhaps that’s in case “The Oven” overheats!

“The Oven” is really the equivalent of an incubator. It is in this place where new ideas are hatched and then fleshed out by Tom Stites, Nike Golf's Director of Product Creation for Clubs, and his staff of engineers. On site technicians are then tasked with the development, research and testing of the technology before anything is ready to go to market. Rock Ishii, Nike Golf's Product Director for golf balls and his team of engineers and technicians also utilize the facility as the primary location for ball testing. In conjunction with club testing, the ball team obtains launch parameters, track trajectory and measures actual carry, roll and dispersion.

"The Nike brand is globally synonymous with innovation, performance and the pursuit of athletic excellence,” said Cindy Davis, President of Nike Golf.  “The expansion of ‘The Oven’ is an indication of Nike Golf’s commitment to our athletes, as well as to solidifying our role as an undisputed leader in the research, design and development of clubs and balls.”

NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT: Later this summer at the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, the Antigua Group, Inc., will mark half of its corporate existence as a preferred provider of men's and women's apparel for the retail pro shops and corporate apparel needs of the PGA of America at the event. The Arizona based company, in its 30th year of business will mark its 15th consecutive PGA Championship.

"Our relationship with the PGA of America and its 28,000 members is something all of us at Antigua are very proud of," said Ron McPherson, President and CEO of the Antigua Group, Inc.

The company will provide the PGA Championship with a variety of men and women's garments including selections from its new Desert Dry apparel.  As the name itself implies, it features a moisture wicking technology created exclusively for Antigua to absorb and wick moisture quickly and evenly to achieve the most efficient evaporation possible for comfort and dryness.  Headquartered in Peoria, Arizona, it allows the company to enlist some of the hottest conditions around the country, if not the world, to assist it in its product development. Look for more form the company on its new Desert Dry apparel in the months to come.

STOCK WATCH: Wall Street closed out another week of trading and the books on the month of May as well. While the plight of the recession has dominated the headlines around the country, equity markets have made some surprising inroads over the past weeks. While it remains to be seen if the worst of the economy is out of the way, unemployment levels have peaked, banks return to “normal” lending practice and real estate values have bottomed out, stock prices, believe it or not, seem to be painting a different picture that the wall of worry on exhibit though the main stream media.

The Dow ended the week up 2.7 percent, and all three indexes rose for the third month in a row. The Nasdaq added 4.9%, while the S&P 500 gained 3.6% for the week. In the last three months the Dow industrials and the S&P have had the biggest three-month percentage gains in more than 10 years. It is the longest winning streak since the three months ended in October 2007 -- when both indexes hit record highs. The Dow was up 4.1 percent for May, the S&P 500 index gained 5.3 percent, and the Nasdaq advanced 3.3 percent.

The market's spring gains have been driven by a widening consensus on Wall Street that the worst fallout of the financial crisis and recession has passed. However, some participants are increasingly worried about the timing of a recovery and whether stocks are too highly valued considering that the outlook for profits and dividends remains murky. The dog days of summer, yet to come, may provide the ultimate test of faith for traders as they await further data points (good or bad) on the health and welfare of the US economy. Meanwhile, concerns about inflation and U.S. deficits also helped send the American dollar lower. In May, the greenback lost 6.4% of its value against the euro. After Friday's trading, in which the dollar fell against most major currencies, the euro had more than regained its value against the dollar for the year to date as one euro bought $1.4140. The Canadian and Australian dollars both rose more than 9% against the U.S. dollar in May.

TRAVEL:

MARKET $IGN$: Smith Travel Research (STR) is projecting a 9.8-percent year-over-year decline in revenue per available room (RevPAR) for 2009. It also expects a 1.5-percent increase in 2010, according to the latest data released from the Hendersonville-based company. In the first quarter of 2009, RevPAR declined 17.7-percent, which led to the forecast revision. STR expects the second quarter to continue to be challenging before the industry’s performance slows its slide during the third and fourth quarters.

“With the first quarter of 2009 now behind us, it is clear that declining room rates are taking a harder toll on performance than we were expecting,” said Mark Lomanno, president of STR. “It appears that many hoteliers are embracing the very same pricing and room distribution strategies implemented in the 2001/2002 downturn.”

The U.S. hotel industry should see some relief toward the end of 2009, according to the projections released by STR. Occupancy at year-end 2009 is projected to be down 6.5 percent. At the end of first quarter 2009, the industry occupancy is down 10.9 percent to 51.4 percent. Average daily rate (ADR) is projected to be down 3.6 percent to US$102.89. At end of first quarter 2009, ADR was at US$100.13, down 7.7 percent for the year.

“On a positive note, we believe the first two quarters of 2009 will be the lodging industry’s trough in this cycle, and we will see some modest improvement in the third quarter followed by measurable gains in the fourth quarter, especially in occupancy,” Lomanno added.

The U.S. hotel industry projections for occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR are even more optimistic for 2010. Occupancy is projected to end the year flat at 56.5 percent, and ADR is projected to increase 1.5 percent to US$104.41.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IS BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, BUT IT IS NOT GUARANTEED. THE OPINION EXPRESSED IS THAT OF TERRY MCANDREW AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A SOLICITATION TO BUY OR SELL SECURITIES IN ANY OF THE COMPANIES DISCUSSED WITHIN THIS NEWSLETTER. CONTENTS OF THIS NEWSLETTER MAY NOT BE REPRINTED OR REBROADCAST WITHOUT THE EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT OF TMAC GOLF

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:21)

 

 

Web Street Golf Report

VOLUME 12, NUMBER 21

Monday, May 25, 2009

BETTER DAYS LAY AHEAD, WAIT AND SEE: Its been said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Often times its easy to say and much more difficult to actually do. The phrase is often stated with little conviction behind it at the time, since rarely does someone need a kick in the rear end when the world is crashing and burning around him or her. While the economy is friendly to no one these days and wave after wave of bad news has consumed the media headlines, it easy to succumb to the brow beating that is being delivered emotionally. The debate of whether the glass is half empty or half full in the court of public opinion seems to be a foregone conclusion.

Business is often about being one step ahead and while the global economy makes it trickier than ever to anticipate where to be positioned, there are positives to take away from the current market conditions.

Ken Schwartz, CEO of Ahead, acknowledged recently that his business is off from previous years. “My guess is that we are doing better than average,” he said. “But we as a company are more efficient that we were a year ago and I know that we will be a better company when things finally turn around,” Schwartz stated, “whenever that happens.” He said that his embroidery business, which is maintained domestically, has allowed the company flexibility to respond when orders appear. “Buyers are only buying when they need something and being able to ship quickly based on those needs is a competitive advantage especially these days,” he said.

While it feels as if the new ways of the world won’t be changing anytime soon, the reality is they will be. No one knows for sure when, but like all good things this too shall come to an end.

“When we all look back at this time, whether its three or four years from now, we will see that this has forced us all to become better at what we do,” said Schwartz. And while that may seem like a small consolation prize for the moment, its significance will grow in time especially when the market conditions finally improve. For those survivors who are left standing, its difficult to describe what other chain of events could rival or for that matter replace the degree of difficulties everyone is up against for the moment. Some people prefer to go through life viewing it through the rear view mirror. Others are focused on the road that lies ahead...

IT TAKES MONEY TO MAKE MONEY: For anyone paying attention to the talk coming out of the mouths of many corporate CEOs these days, special attention is being made towards capital preservation than on ways of spending it. While the economy has just about everyone spooked, due to tightening credit markets to start with, the idea of investing in growth opportunities hasn’t exactly been a battle cry in quite some time.

However, one business is venturing into a place where others prefer to remain absent as Dynamic Brands, the parent company for Bag Boy, Slotline, AMF Golf, Baby Jogger, and Protect-A-Bub, announced it has acquired the assets of ForeFront Holdings LLC. Soon to be included in the portfolio of offering are products from Burton, Datrek, Devant, Sir Christopher Hatton, and Miller Golf. Financial details are not being released on the transaction, which was completed on May 18, 2009.

“The addition of these well respected brands allows us to better service our customers with high quality customized merchandise” said David Boardman, CEO of Dynamic Brands in a prepared statement.  “We are excited about the opportunities these brands present in meeting the needs of today’s golf professionals as well as our golf specialty retail partners.”

Craig Ramsbottom, current President of Bag Boy, Slotline and AMF Golf will also be President over the newly acquired Forefront Brands. Dynamic Brands said it would keep the Devant towel plant in Monroe, North Carolina open and retain all of those employees (20).  ForeFront’s headquarter office is in Springfield, TN and it has 32 employees. This office is expected to shut down in the next 60 days.  ForeFront’s warehouse is in Baldwin, Miss., and has 10 employees. It will shut down within the next 90 days.  The company said approximately 10 other ForeFront employees are being retained and will be relocated to either Dynamic Brands’ headquarters in Richmond, Virginia or its warehouse facility in Los Angles.

Burton has been in existence for over 100 years and has been producing premium quality golf bags and accessories since 1923.  Datrek, a supplier of innovative golf bags and accessories, is known for fashion forward designs and cutting edge features. For over 35 years, Devant has been considered the #1 towel brand in the golf industry. Its image dye process produces customized towels. Sir Christopher Hatton also produces the towels and it is represented at leading country club and resort golf shops around the world.  A key player in the golf accessory market since 1952, the Miller brand consists of a variety of customizable golf products such as bag tags, repair tools, ball markers and tees.

 

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR ’09? Recreation and leisure industries haven’t exactly been a growth spot lately thanks in large part to the challenging global economic climate. However, not everything is what it appears. The battleground is being waged at the retail level and one of many uncertainties is what the future holds. Last year is going to be a tough one to measure up to, however it offers a historical perspective given the changing market conditions. In spite of a 16% surge in shooting sports equipment, retail sales of sporting goods (footwear, clothing and equipment), which reached a record $53.5 billion in 2007, fell 1% in 2008 to $53.4 billion, according to a just released National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) report “The Sporting Goods Market in 2009.” While it’s been a bumpy if not rocky start to 2009, the Association is calling for sporting goods sales to slip by only another 1% to $52.3 billion.

“In spite of the decline, 2008 sales were the second highest in the 30 years the Association has been doing the market study,” NSGA Vice President of Information & Research Thomas B. Doyle said.

Athletic and sports equipment, which accounted for $24.88 billion in sales, showed a 0.7% decline. The Association is forecasting a 1% decline in equipment sales for 2009. In 2008, athletic and sport footwear slipped to $17.19 billion, a 1.9% decrease. The Association is forecasting flat footwear sales for 2009. Athletic and sport clothing showed a 2.5% decrease, to $10.56 billion. The Association is forecasting a 1% decline in clothing sales for 2009.

Among equipment categories with sales of more than $1 billion in 2008, hunting & firearms showed the greatest percentage increase as sales rose 16% to $4.6 billion from $3.9 billion in 2007. According to the research, golf equipment fell 5% to $3.55 billion. Fifteen of the 24 equipment categories surveyed by the Association last year showed declines. Two were flat and the balance (except for hunting and firearms) showed modest (1% to 4%) increases.

"The Sporting Goods Market in 2009" is available for $295 for retailer/dealer members of the Association and free to manufacturer and sustaining members. For non-members, the cost is $340. The report comes in both printed and electronic formats. "The Sporting Goods Market in 2009" is a copyrighted NSGA consumer study that projects 2008 purchases of sporting goods products based on a survey of 80,000 U.S. households. National Family Opinion, Inc. (NFO) maintains the consumer panel used in the survey, which is balanced to parallel actual American household distribution as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Census, so that the data can be projected nationally.

For additional information, contact Dan Kasen, NSGA, 1601 Feehanville Drive, Suite 300, Mount Prospect, IL 60056-6035. Phone: (847) 296-6742, E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or fax: (847) 391-9827.

MACGREGOR GOLF IS MAKING A COME BACK: Anyone know what MacGregor Golf is worth? You might be surprised by the answer. Golfsmith (GOLF: NASDAQ) has reached a deal to acquire the full intellectual property rights to the MacGregor Golf brand throughout North and South America, Europe, Australia/New Zealand, and Africa. The retailer will position it as a proprietary brand.

The price tag for it came in at $1.75 million, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, it is payable in eight quarterly installments of $218,750 with the first quarterly installment due one year from May 20, 2009. The final installment won’t be made until ninety days prior to May 20, 2012.

The old saying goes nothing ventured, nothing gained and in the case of Golfsmith, its risk would appear minimal. It wouldn’t be an unrealistic expectation, even with current market conditions being what they are that it can earn back its purchase price over the next three years, if not even fund it in advance. As of January 3, 2009, Golfsmith operated 72 stores. If each location posted $50,000 in MacGregor Golf equipment sales over the payment period, its gross profit margin should easily cover the cost of the installment payments thus leaving the brand free and clear going forward. This meager revenue goal shouldn’t poach in any way shape or form on the normal sales volume of Callaway, Titleist, Cobra, TaylorMade, Cleveland, Nike or Ping thus offering Golfsmith a realistic opportunity to make this deal a keeper not only for it but also its shareholders.

“MacGregor Golf, like Golfsmith, is a well respected, established worldwide brand,” said Marty Hanaka, chairman and chief executive officer of Golfsmith. “Based on our Q1 results where we showed measurable improvement of our balance sheet, we are able to strengthen our position in the marketplace through added investment in our proprietary brands business, much like those we have made in the key manufacturer brands. There will be no reduction in our premier brands.”

Product introduction plans for the re-launch of the MacGregor brand include game-improvement clubs, golf balls, bags, gloves and other golf accessories. New MacGregor products are expected to be available as soon as Holiday 2009 with the majority of planned product launches scheduled for Spring 2010.

“Adding MacGregor to our mix of great brands broadens our appeal to a larger golfing audience and no doubt allows us to compete more effectively in the golf specialty retail landscape,” Hanaka added.

SALES UP, BUT BOTTOM LINE WAS DOWN: Retail sales for Dicks Sporting Goods (DKS: NYSE) improved from a year ago, but it didn’t come from the golf business however. The retailer reported its latest operating results to Wall Street, which saw its sales for the quarter increased by 5.2% to $959.7 million. The improvement was attributed to the opening of new stores and the addition of e-commerce sales. However, comparable store sales were down 6% from a year ago for the retail chain. Stores carrying the company name fared the best, registering a decline of 4.6%, but Golf Galaxy, 91 locations with 105 million square feet, were down 19.7% in the first quarter of the 2009 fiscal year. It marks the second consecutive quarter that Golf Galaxy stores registered significantly lower sales for its owner. In the fourth quarter of the 2008 fiscal year, Golf Galaxy same store sales were off 20.7%. Dicks reported that it earned $10.2 million compared with $19.6 million for the same quarter last year.

LIFE BEGINS AT 50: Tom Lehman may have graduated to the senior circuit but that doesn’t mean his shelf life as a competitive golfer has reached its limit. Nor for that matter that his business opportunities are fading into the sunset. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and the former Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman have entered into a multi-year sponsorship agreement.

Lehman, who plans to play a full schedule of events on both the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour in 2009, will carry the Fairmont Hotels & Resort logo on his golf bag and will be making several personal appearances for the company throughout the year. In addition, the 1996 Open Championship (British Open) winner will write a monthly blog for the Fairmont Golf website (www.fairmontgolf.com), participate in the Fairmont Presidents Club newsletter and take part in an upcoming Fairmont Presidents Club Great Escape – an exclusive golf travel package offered to members of Fairmont’s Presidents Club.

Meanwhile, the relationship doesn’t end there. Lehman and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts also have agreed to mutually assist each other in supporting the various charities with which the two parties have ties.

“Having spent my professional life traveling the world, I have been a big fan of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts for a very long time. I can tell you first hand there is no one who does a better job of delivering luxury, quality and value than Fairmont Hotels & Resorts,” said Lehman. “Each of their properties is distinctive and unique, but they all deliver an exceptional level of sophistication, comfort and superior guest service no matter where you are. That’s something I value and I am very proud to now be officially affiliated with their team.”

KEEPING A STEP AHEAD: If things go according to plan next year, every member of the PGA Tour will be trading in their irons for new ones. It isn’t a case of going with the latest and greatest necessarily from the various equipment companies although there may be some of that, but rather its a matter of adjusting the new rule the USGA is expected to implement with respect to grooves. The purpose behind the exercise is to reduce the amount of spin delivered to a golf ball. Stewart Cink recently tweeted that in his testing at Nike Golf, “New grooves next year mean 10% less spin from fairway and 60-70% less from rough with short irons. Players will use softer balls I believe.”

It appears that a few ball companies are already working in more ways than one towards future solutions for players, whether its spin related or not may be a debatable point,

In a matter of a one-week span, the Acushnet Company, parent to Titleist, had neither one, nor two or even for that matter three new patents published but rather a grand total of 15! It wasn’t the only company inundating the Patent office. In the same week, SRI Sports (aka Srixon) had five golf ball patent applications published, and Bridgestone had four of its own.

Listed below is a breakdown by company and filing.

Acushnet

1     20090124432 GOLF BALL DIMPLES (Acushnet)

2     20090124428 HIGH PERFORMANCE GOLF BALL HAVING A REDUCED-DISTANCE (Acushnet)

3     20090124427 THERMOPLASTIC CORE HAVING A NEGATIVE HARDNESS GRADIENT FORMED FROM A PLASTICIZER-BASED GRADIENT-INITIATING SOLUTION (Acushnet)

4     20090124426 THERMOPLASTIC CORE HAVING A NEGATIVE HARDNESS GRADIENT FORMED FROM A PLASTICIZER-BASED GRADIENT-INITIATING SOLUTION (Acushnet)

5     20090124425 HIGH PERFORMANCE GOLF BALL HAVING A REDUCED-DISTANCE (Acushnet)

6     20090124424 HIGH PERFORMANCE GOLF BALL HAVING A REDUCED-DISTANCE (Acushnet)

7     20090124423 HIGH PERFORMANCE GOLF BALL HAVING A REDUCED-DISTANCE (Acushnet)

8     20090124422 HIGH PERFORMANCE GOLF BALL HAVING A REDUCED-DISTANCE (Acushnet)

9     20090124419 SILANE-BASED GRADIENT INITIATING SOLUTION FOR THERMOPLASTIC CORE HAVING A POSITIVE HARDNESS GRADIENT (Acushnet)

10     20090124418 HIGH-ENERGY RADIATION POSITIVE HARDNESS GRADIENT IN A THERMOPLASTIC GOLF BALL CORE (Acushnet)

11     20090124417 DUAL CORE GOLF BALL HAVING NEGATIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT THERMOPLASTIC INNER CORE AND SHALLOW POSITIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT THERMOSET OUTER CORE LAYER (Acushnet)

12     20090124416 DUAL CORE GOLF BALL HAVING NEGATIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT THERMOPLASTIC INNER CORE AND STEEP POSITIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT THERMOSET OUTER CORE LAYER (Acushnet)

13     20090124415 DUAL CORE GOLF BALL HAVING NEGATIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT THERMOPLASTIC INNER CORE AND SHALLOW NEGATIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT OUTER CORE LAYER (Acushnet)

14     20090124414 DUAL CORE GOLF BALL HAVING NEGATIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT THERMOPLASTIC INNER CORE AND STEEP NEGATIVE-HARDNESS-GRADIENT OUTER CORE LAYER (Acushnet)

15     20090124413 THERMOPLASTIC CORE HAVING A HARDNESS GRADIENT FORMED FROM A GRADIENT-INITIATING SOLUTION (Acushnet)

SRI Sports (aka Srixon)

1     20090124431 GOLF BALL (SRI Sports Ltd.)

2     20090124430 GOLF BALL (SRI Sports Ltd.)

3     20090124429 GOLF BALL (SRI Sports Ltd.)

4     20090124421 GOLF BALL (SRI Sports Ltd.)

5     20090124420 GOLF BALL (SRI Sports Ltd.)

Bridgestone

1     20090124412 GOLF BALL (Bridgestone)

2     20090124761 METHOD OF MANUFACTURING A GOLF BALL (Bridgestone)

3     20090124758 GOLF BALL (Bridgestone)

4     20090124757 METHOD OF MANUFACTURING A GOLF BALL (Bridgestone)

GREG NORMAN THINKS 2010 WILL BE FASCINATING FOR GOLF: The Great White Shark believes technology in today’s golf equipment has played a larger role in influencing where a ball travels. But he also believes that could be changing before long. “I think it's easier to hit the golf ball straighter now days,” he said. “And the ball goes longer. No question. That is technology. No question about it.”

However, the Aussie thinks an equalizer is coming that will force Tour players to think twice before smashing they’re next shot into orbit. “A great barometer is when the V grooves come into play next year. And I hope it does,” Norman said. According to the Aussie, rumors are floating around the Senior PGA Championship last week that the rule change may not happen. “But if the V grooves do come back into play, that will be a great barometer to see how good these players are with their touch and their feel and their imagination. And understanding that the ball, if it looks like it's going to leap 40 yards extra off the club face, how do you play that?” he continued referencing a flier lie.

Norman said he believes the art of golf is being able to understand what is going to happen to the ball when it is struck. “Understanding the spin of the golf ball. Its not just a pure given fact if you hit it in the rough, it just drops on the green. That's not going to happen next year (with V grooves),” he said. “That's going to be great to watch on television.”

Norman isn’t a masochist who is interested in watching today’s best players chop their way around a golf course. Rather he feels the groove change will create a separation between players. “Those are the type of things that actually help the better players distance themselves from the average players. And I think that's why in my generation you saw such great shot makers out there, Trevino and Seve in a lot of ways, he hit phenomenal shots.

“I was a good driver, but I was also a good short game player, so that was a lethal combination in a lot of ways. I could be very aggressive off the tee, aggressive second iron shot, because I wasn't afraid of missing the green, I knew I would get it up-and-down the majority of the time. So it really allowed you to free up your game big time. And V groove clubs are going to change that a lot next year for a lot of players.”

CALLAWAY GOLF CALLS A PENALTY ON ITSELF: Its been said that an ounce of prevention is considered the best form of medicine. Callaway Golf has elected to take this strategy with a manufacturing glitch it discovered recently. The company said it recently learned that a small number of its Touri golf balls exceed the USGA weight limits, which in turn could affect its performance. Upon this discovery, Callaway said it has requested the USGA remove the version of the Touri and replace it with an updated one that features a different side stamp (as pictured) than it previously had in order to draw attention for consumers to have confidence that the product is conforming to the weight rules.

According to Callaway Golf, the deviation on ball weight was traced to a manufacturing anomaly that occurred over two days in mid-2008. It added that it believes less than 1% of all Touri ball manufactured were affected. The balls with the new side stamp were added to the USGA conforming list of golf balls, Callaway said, on May 6th.

For those who may have concerns regarding the use of the balls going forward, Callaway has posted a question and answer page on its web site http://www.callawaygolf.com/Global/en-US/Articles/TouriInformation.html as a resource.

STOCK WATCH: The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week at 8,277.32. For the week, the index eked out a 0.1% gain. The Nasdaq Composite Index finished at 1,692.01 on Friday while notching a 0.7% gain for the week. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index closed at 887 last Friday. For the week, the index is up 0.5%.

TRAVEL:

DON’T DESPAIR: Despite the recent downturn in the golf business, Bruce Charlton—immediate past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, and President and Chief Design Officer of Robert Trent Jones II (RTJ II)—sees a time of great opportunity.

“The game has been around for 500 years, and over the centuries it’s taken various forms,” Charlton said. “I think we’re going to see some different things ahead, like a period of new courses as public spaces—the way golf was at its Scottish beginnings. We’ll see fewer expensive private clubs hidden behind hedges, and more public facilities where golfers might encounter their neighbors walking their dogs around the links or strolling on public paths built in and around a golf course. People are beginning to realize—again—that golf courses are terrific community assets that both golfers and non-golfers can enjoy, but which can also produce revenue.

“We’ll also see golf grow as a hotel and resort amenity, especially in places not currently associated with the game—like China and Dubai, Scandinavia, Turkey, South and Central America, and even Africa,” Charlton continued. “People will continue to value golf as a magnet for attracting tourism worldwide.”

Charlton, considered an industry elder statesman along with partner and RTJ II Chairman Robert Trent Jones, Jr., believes the golf business went off track and is currently suffering the consequences. “We overbuilt and saturated some markets with courses and golf housing communities,” he said. “Ten years ago everyone was building golf course communities and trying to sell golf as a lifestyle. There wasn’t anything wrong with that model—perhaps we just did too much of it.”

Charlton advises existing facilities to consider upgrading their courses and meet new environmental standards. “Developers should also look at the actual hard costs of development and revisit plans with their architects and contractors—not just the costs, but the model for whom they are aiming at,” he said. “Housing developments can be built around public courses that are community assets, encompassing parks and green spaces and wildlife habitat. Golf can return to the democratic roots of the game that developed in Scotland and have kept it popular for centuries. Construction costs are at levels where they were five years ago; savvy developers will get projects under way now, when costs are inexpensive. When the market picks up again—as it will—they’ll have product ready.

“The golf industry should also look at new business models—instead of a purely private club, how about one with some public access; we have hybrid cars, why not hybrid golf courses that combine public/private partnerships, whether in the deal structure itself, or in a facility that might offer several days of public access to offset membership costs, or rotate two courses between public and private access?”

Charlton concluded, “Golf will come out of this current period leaner and stronger. We’re getting rid of fat, learning from our mistakes, and developing a clearer sense of what the golf market and the golfer need. We’ll be more unified. There’s never been a greater time for everyone in the industry to get together and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around the campfire and begin to tell golf’s story to the public—a story of positive impacts, economically, socially, and environmentally.”

GO NORTH YOUNG MAN! With the recent strengthening of the U.S. Dollar, a summer getaway to one of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ acclaimed Canadian golf properties is now more affordable for US citizens. Four of Fairmont’s Canadian golf properties are now offering Golf “Fore” Free packages valid all season long, May – October 2009.

The Golf “Fore” Free packages is currently available at The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, The Fairmont Banff Springs, The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and The Fairmont Algonquin.  The packages feature luxury accommodations, up to two complimentary rounds of golf per person, per day (with exception of the arrival day) and are available from May through October 2009.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Golf “Fore” Free vacation package starts at $199. The Fairmont Banff Springs, Golf “Fore” Free rates start at $399, while the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Golf “Fore” Free starts at $399. The Fairmont Algonquin package starts at just $199 per night based on double occupancy. All Golf “Fore” Free packages are based on double occupancy, based upon availability and do not include tax, gratuity or service charge. Prices quoted are in U.S. Dollars unless noted otherwise. Full details and booking information for these packages are available online at www.fairmont.com/promo/golfpackages or by contacting Dan Cormier, Golf Coordinator, Fairmont Golf Desk, toll-free 1-888-860-8282 or via email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IS BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, BUT IT IS NOT GUARANTEED. THE OPINION EXPRESSED IS THAT OF TERRY MCANDREW AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A SOLICITATION TO BUY OR SELL SECURITIES IN ANY OF THE COMPANIES DISCUSSED WITHIN THIS NEWSLETTER. CONTENTS OF THIS NEWSLETTER MAY NOT BE REPRINTED OR REBROADCAST WITHOUT THE EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT OF TMAC GOLF

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 03 February 2010 09:59)

 

 

Web Street Golf Report

VOLUME 12, NUMBER 20

Monday, May 18, 2009

A NEW CATEGORY IS A FOOT: FootJoy is heading towards iconic status. An argument can be made it has already, due to the commanding presence it has enjoyed for a long time on the PGA Tour. The dominating market share levels it has achieved in sell through validated by consumer’s wallets, is another point that makes it hard not to dispute. While the brand is a recognizable force within itself, the company has started to leak plans of introducing something new under the name ICON.

Sometime this summer, FootJoy said it will set a new standard for luxurious golf footwear with the introduction of the FJ ICON, which it believes is an entirely new category of performance golf footwear.

“In truth, this project has been a collaboration of the ideas, suggestions, lengthy discussions and debates from our entire product development team, as well as ongoing feedback from Tour players,” said FootJoy’s Vice President of Golf Footwear, Jack Erickson, who is responsible for FootJoy’s global footwear development process- from initial concept through final production.

“To simplify, we strive to make great products that will exceed the expectations of those who are most in tune with their feet and require elite performance products: Tour players.”

The company incorporated its Tour staff into the product development process early on to gain insight to ensure it would live up to its advanced billing. After all as the name implies, it doesn’t allow much room for errors.

“The first prototypes we tested with Tour players featured the new FJ ICON outsole with a stock upper pattern and no discernible FootJoy branding. These were made ‘under the radar’ just to get initial feedback on the performance aspect of the shoes,” said Erickson. “We were pleasantly surprised to see several of the players, including Camilo Villegas, Ian Poulter, Davis Love, Hunter Mahan and David Toms immediately put these prototypes into play during tournament rounds,” he continued. “It spoke volumes about the confidence players had in the shoes’ performance. Overall, the feedback from the tour players has been tremendous - they have expressed excitement about the performance, fit and comfort, upper designs and virtually limitless customization capabilities.” Look for more on this from the company in the weeks to come.

APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING: The PGA Tour appears to be weathering the recession better than almost anyone else. That shouldn’t imply, however, that it isn’t affected by it, which in this instance is actually a good thing. Many times the Tour is evaluated by its financial performance both in terms of size of its purses as well as its charitable contributions. However, the economic impact being felt due to the economy is somewhat of an intangible at this point. “Well, to be very honest, we've been lucky as players,” said Camilo Villegas. “We will feel the hard times in the economy, I'm sure, but so far we're just trying to focus on just providing good service and keep doing all the charity work we're doing and providing a good show for the customers and the fans out there. Hopefully we can continue to do that.”

Villegas was speaking at the BMW Media day as defending champion and he said the Tour reminds the players of the real world going on outside the ropes and that their assistance is needed with the corporate sponsors who help to pay for the bar tab, if you will, at the end of the day. “They (the Tour) constantly keep reminding us how important the sponsors are, how important the fans are, and the tough times that the economy is in. Both the players and the Tour, we're trying to work in conjunction to provide good service, to make it exciting, and just to -- at the end of the day, they can look back at us, the players and the PGA Tour and say, you know what, we (sponsors) want to invest with them. We want to be with them because they represent the good stuff; they represent something positive for the community, and not only for the community but for all the businesses and all the sponsors that are behind us,” the 27 year old explained. So while the recession hasn’t necessarily shown up on the balance sheet for the Tour, its impact has been felt in other ways and for a change that is a positive sign.

Sidenote: BMW has added an interesting twist if any pro records an ace in the tournament. Rather than give away one of its luxury vehicles it’s decided to try something different. “If there is a hole-in-one scored at the BMW Championship by any of the professionals, what we will do is award a scholarship in the name of that professional to another candidate. I think that's a good innovation, that's supported by the players and by the Western Golf Association and the PGA Tour,” said Jim O'Donnell, who's the president of BMW of North America

THE PAST CATCHS UP TO THE PRESENT AND MAYBE THE FUTURE: The theme throughout 2009 is clearly one to do with promotional deals. Some appear more aggressive than others, but it’s rare for the end user to look a potential gift horse in the mouth. Norwood Promotional Products founded in 1989 is a supplier of over 5,000 promotional products. It currently has some aggressive deals when it comes to golf balls. The company is promoting corporate logo Callaway Golf balls, priced between $35.88 (Big Bertha Diablo) to $67.70 (Tour i or Tour ix) per dozen that include a $40 or $50 Callaway gift card. Orders start at 12 dozen and a condition of the deal is that the gift cards must be included with golf balls as they are provided strictly for the corporate end user. But there is a potential issue with these deals.

Norwood, citing an inability to re-finance its roughly $200 million of debt has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its unsecured creditors include UPS ($800,000 debt), Titleist ($668,000), Callaway Golf ($259,000) and Nike ($188,000). It remains to be seen whether it can navigate through its financial challenges while at the same time maintaining its vendor relationships should it be successful in doing so.

THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE: In case anyone missed it but May 13th was National Golf Day. Various golf organizations descended upon Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. to convey a message to various members of Congress on the economics of the golf industry.

"There are a number of congressmen who do not understand the economic impact of golf on their local community," James B. Singerling, chief executive of the Club Managers Assn. of America explained to the LA Times. "Our message to Congress is that when you pass legislation that makes it difficult for the golf industry to stay in business, you don't hurt the wealthy. Who you hurt are the employees."

It can be characterized fairly that golf was also looking to press the flesh and impress to the government servants that it received a bad rap earlier in the year thanks to AIG and a guilt by association with Northern Trust’s sponsorship of a PGA Tour stop after accepting a $1.5 billion in federal funding.

"We're in an unprecedented era of government involvement in business, so we have to be in D.C. to be able to make sure that people, when they're writing law or making comments about our industry, realize all of the positive impact that golf has," Joe Steranka, chief executive of the PGA of America stated. However, PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem appeared confident those concerns are now a matter of the past. “ I don't think we are arguing about anything that's happening right now,” he said. “We went through a couple of months ago some criticism about whether or not it's appropriate for a company to entertain clients as part of the dollars that they spend; I think that rhetoric has calmed down now. I haven't heard much about it lately. But what happened a couple of months ago taught us a lesson that this is something that needs to be reaffirmed on a regular basis with Members so they have that as a backdrop before public commentary is made.” Finchem continued, “Whether you're going have a dinner and some musical entertainment, I think it's a very subjective thing. Whether you or I might go to a dinner that has Sheryl Crow playing, you might think it's lavish; I probably wouldn't, but then that's my opinion. These are decisions that should be left to companies to effectively use their dollars.” Might want to check with the President on the last point since the word on the street is the Obama administration has begun serious talks about how it can change compensation practices across the financial-services industry, including at companies that did not receive federal bailout money.

It’s a worthy cause speaking to the federal government. However, its equally important to share with the various constituents who follow the game, regardless of where they reside, some level of transparency with regard to the health and welfare of it during this unusual economic times. At a press conference covering the President’s Cup, coincidentally and ironically held on National Golf Day, Finchem told the esteemed members of the media the following factoids. “The basic message is reminding members (of Congress) that golf is an industry of $75 billion, $76 billion. You put it in these terms: It's the equivalent of the motion picture and publishing industry combined, and that goes for revenue, jobs and overall economic impact,” Finchem stated. Sorry but I’m not buying what your selling Tim and here’s why.

First off the number he quoted originally came to light in January of 2008 from a report commissioned by the World Golf Foundation’s GOLF 20/20 initiative, which the PGA Tour is involved with. So there isn’t any conflict of interest there. The report and subsequent numbers came from (drum roll please) 2005. That fact was somehow overlooked, whether it was by design or not I’ll leave you to judge for yourself. Now you can color me jaded and even cynical and I’ll plead guilty up front to the charges and save everyone some time. But and this is where we all need to come together. The world is shall we say a slightly different place than it was in 2008 let alone 2005. Its time everyone recognizes these are unchartered waters we are all residing in. It’s also time to quit playing the charade of pretending what once was versus what it is. That is perhaps even more so the case for those who reside in the position of leadership.

Comparable to the movie industry? Does golf have an ANGELS AND DEMONS or another HARRY POTTER movie to look forward to anytime this summer?? Let’s take a poll with golf course owners and operators or equipment company executives. The publishing industry? It has been underwater for some time. Just ask newspapers how it’s going...

Early evidence has begun to trickle in that equipment companies financial results are not living in 2005, as much as anyone would love to turn the calendar back to the good old days. When Sean O’Hair made more money in the first quarter of 2009 than his equipment sponsor did (they aren’t the only ones in this pickle), its fair to say that no one saw this day coming. And it remains to be seen whether this is the exception or the rule in 2009 or beyond. I will repeat that speaking to Congress about the significance that golf represents to the economy is a commendable effort. But it isn’t a rational or logical to reference 2005 numbers without the context of disclosure when dealing with the challenging world that is today. Very little appears relative from 2005 to 2009 and if you don’t agree with my opinion, ask anyone of the 13.7 million who were classified as unemployed in April. This may catch Commissioner Finchem and company by surprise but over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has risen by 6.0 million. See how much can change in a relatively short period of time. It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination or a leap of faith to consider that maybe one or two of the 6 million might have considered themselves a golfer not that long ago when they had a job and a means to pay for some of their discretionary hobbies. Another piece of good news that may have also been lost on the desk of the Commish or his contemporaries is that U.S. foreclosure filings in April rose to a record, affecting one in every 374 housing units, and bank repossessions in particular are expected to spike in the next few months, according to RealtyTrac. I’m not trying to be a buzz kill to National Golf Day efforts, just simply keeping it real since I don’t have the luxury of living in 2005 still.

Thanks for spreading the word to Capital Hill, but the next time National Golf Day comes around maybe the effort can be focused on the folks who actually pay for the bar tab, that being the end user also known as golfers. Let’s find a way to get them out to play (maybe even a little more often) and enjoy the game as well as a means to a diversion of the big bad world that can wait a few more hours before we all have to return to it unless of course you one of the lucky few.

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT: Golf is a business model centered on supply side economics. In other words you just hope people never have enough! With that as the intro, the good people over at TaylorMade Golf have come up with yet another R9 driver. You might have thought that it couldn’t be done, but ye have little faith if that is in fact the case. It was only February when the company introduced its first R9 version, which today is the No. 1 driver model on the PGA Tour, according to TaylorMade. Now, it has the R9 460 driver, which boasts a greater volume to its sibling. But perhaps the best part to the latest and greatest is the price, $299 versus $399 the original is requesting! Now there are some differences (460cc versus 420cc) and similarities (Flight Control Technology for example) between the two namesakes but for those who are interested in the movable weight system you limited to the original. The second generation doesn’t feature it.

"In addition to the advantages of FCT in a 460cc club head, the R9 460 also delivers the kind of shape, feel and sound that TaylorMade drivers are famous for, and which our competitors can't come close to matching," said Harry Arnett, TaylorMade senior category director for metal woods. I’ve pointed this particular quote for a reason. These features are considered secondary performance attributes, which are subjective to the tastes of the individual. However, they play virtually little or no role what so ever to the actually performance of a club. Meanwhile, the product comes with a 45.75" Aldila REAX 60-gram shaft is longer than others typically are.

ANOTHER SPIDER WEB: TaylorMade Golf appears to be going back to the well one more time with the addition of the Monza Spider Balero. It’s the latest to join the Rossa Monza Spider putters family. "We spend a lot of time studying putting and the reasons why most average golfers don't putt as well as tour pros do," said Bill Price, senior director of Rossa. "One in-depth analysis we conducted focused on putts of 14 feet and less. That's a range where pros convert a relatively high percentage of the time, but amateurs don't. Why? One of the reasons is because, according to our data, the amateur aims the putter face poorly 64.4% of the time. Meaning that on two out of every three putts, the player miss-aims."

The Balero features a uniquely shape, a "ball-in-cup" located in the back of the putter head.

At address, the image of the ball resting in front of the club works in conjunction with the white line on Balero's crown and the round hole through the back is to help simplify the act of starting the ball rolling on the exact line you've chosen. The ball-in-cup appearance is also intended to reinforce the image of a ball against the center of the back lip of the cup, which TaylorMade believes will promote a firm, accelerating stroke while discouraging deceleration.

The Rossa Monza Spider Balero becomes available starting on May 21, which an expected retail price of $159.

ALL IS WELL: Take a look around you. Chances are if you play golf there is less of you to be found. The National Golf Foundation reported the number of golfers in the U.S. dropped by 3% from the prior year. And this was before the fun really started with the economy! Statistically it may not sound like much but it means there are 900,000 fewer players in the U.S., according to the NGF. It reported the participation level at the end of 2008 resided at 28.6 million. For research purposes, a golfer is defined as a person age 6 or above who plays at least one round of golf in a given year, so it isn’t exactly an elite crowd that can qualify to be in this club. Synovate, a global market research firm in Chicago, Ill, fielded a study of 42,000 Americans.

According to the NGF's annual golf participation study, decreases were seen in both Core and Occasional golfer categories. Core golfers (age 6+, eight or more rounds a year) dropped 4.5%, from 17.3 million to 16.6 million, and Occasional golfers (age 6+, one to seven rounds a year) dropped 1.5%, from 12.2 million to 12.0 million. However, on the flip side 4.0 million golfers either approached the game for the first time (1.7 million) or returned after a hiatus (2.3 million.), the report showed. This was offset by 4.9 million so-called, "lost golfers" who played in 2007 but disappeared in 2008.

"There is a natural turnover of participants not only in golf but in virtually every sport," says Joe Beditz, NGF president and CEO. "We are definitely attracting new and former golfers from a large pool of latent demand. The challenge for the industry is to slow the loss of existing golfers while increasing the retention rate of those who come in each year." That should be comforting to the many course owners and operator who have daily tee times that go by unused.

THE HITS KEEP COMING: By now everyone is acutely aware how difficult the economy is making it for business as well as individual life. Golf being a seasonal business, is feeling the pain now whereas other industries began the adventure in the back half of 2008. Financial results are the ultimate testimony to any company’s long term sustainability along with a report card on the here and now. Up until this point in time, many within the golf industry were unsure how deeply the economy might affect various components of it. Its quite clear that golf hasn’t been spared and further troubling news came that hammers this point home. While other companies have experienced shortcomings in the sales column starting out 2009, True Temper Sports, Inc., has the dubious distinction of leading the pack on a percentage basis.

The shaft manufacturer reported its first quarter sales dropped a staggering 48.5%, coming in at $18.4 million. A year ago, it had revenue of $35.8 million. Suffice is to say no one saw this coming, especially from the company side. The business recorded a net loss of $11.5 million during the first quarter of 2009, compared to a net loss of $1.6 million the first quarter of 2008.

Despite the significant downturn in its business backed by its financial performance, the company continues to enjoy success at the PGA Tour level. Through the Players Championship, its products have been in the hands of the winner 16 straight times and for the 19th cumulative time already this season. However, it hasn't been able to carry over to the real world.

"Coming into 2009, we certainly expected that our results would be negatively impacted by the challenging global economic environment, and in particular the unfavorable retail landscape for discretionary consumer goods,” Scott Hennessy, President and CEO said. “Our first quarter results clearly reflect this weaker environment, along with the significant decrease in the retail and wholesale channel inventories throughout the global golf and sporting goods industry. These factors combined to deliver a pronounced decline in revenue for True Temper, as compared to the record top line results that we reported in the first quarter of 2008. The level of quarterly decline was also an issue of timing, influenced by the strong results we posted during the second half of 2008, when our volume certainly outpaced the industry and that of our competitors. It is clear that those products are now being distributed and sold through the retail market, and we remain confident that True Temper has maintained its market share in our core golf business as the supply base adjusts its carrying levels of channel inventories."

Hennessy continued, "While the overall retail landscape and golf market are somewhat out of our control, we have taken a very aggressive approach to cost containment and cash management in this difficult operating environment. Short-term forecasting remains very challenging in this uncertain economic and retail environment. While we are confident that the long-term outlook for the golf industry is strong and stable, there are certainly a number of near-term market forces that will result in a substantial decline in revenue for the industry and True Temper during the remainder of 2009.

“These forces include both a weaker retail consumer sales environment, and the continued reduction in channel inventory which was initiated during the first quarter. Our operational objectives during this time are focused on reducing variable costs in line with unit sales volume, and to aggressively attack our fixed cost infrastructure to remove any expenditure that are not absolutely necessary. Executing on these key business initiatives during 2009 will ensure that we are well positioned to maintain share and take advantage of the golf market growth that should accompany an overall economic recovery in the future. In addition, we will continue to work with our lenders to arrive at a financing arrangement that addresses the company's current leverage, ensuring that our capital structure is consistent with the current retail and credit market landscape. We remain in active, collaborative discussions with our financing partners related to the non-compliance on our various debt agreements disclosed during the first quarter, and we do not expect this process to impact our Company's ongoing operations, customers, vendors or employees."

HANGING TOUGH: When it first made a name for itself through its Tight Lies fairway woods, Adams Golf (ADGF; NASDAQ) was considered a one hit wonder. The company had a successful product but it was also locked in a fierce battle with Orlimar and its Tri-Metal fairway wood. The rest as the saying goes is history. Adams successfully secured future funding by becoming a publicly traded company, while Orlimar never was able to. In turn Adams Golf diversified its business branching its product offering into drivers, irons, wedges to compliment what put it on the map in the first place, fairway woods.

While the go go days of growth are behind Adams Golf, (it isn’t the only one in golf either) it has managed to sustain itself despite the back chatter its upside down designed fairway wood would only take it so far.

The business reported its first quarter operating results for 2009 and while the landscape has been rugged for those who operate in a transparent mode, Adams has held its own with the comparisons of the peer group.

Sales came in at $23.5 million for the three months ended March 31, 2009, a fall of 16% year-over-year to the $28.0 million it recorded in 2008. It posted a profit of $0.4 million compared to net income of $0.8 million last year. Credit management for this accomplishment. The idea has been floated that in a rough and tumble economy, retailers to consumers would stick to the larger brands competing in golf and the second tier brands would be the first to feel the pain. That may eventually hold true, but keep in mind Adams Golf made money in the first quarter while TaylorMade didn’t. There are extenuating circumstances and it isn’t a fair comparison, but in business it comes down to making or losing money as the ultimate judge and jury.

"Given the difficult economic conditions for the golf industry and economy as a whole, I am relatively pleased with the company's Q1 results," said Chip Brewer, CEO and President of Adams Golf. "Although revenues were down 16%, this performance exceeded market conditions in general which we believe were down approximately 23%. In addition, our team was disciplined in its expense management and thus delivered a profitable quarter."

The CEO remains cautious about the future and recognizes there are more challenges remaining in the year. "Looking forward, we have recently begun to see some encouraging signs that we believe may signal a bottoming out in demand contraction during Q2 and Q3 with potential for improved conditions by year end,” Brewer said. “Still, we expect Q2 and Q3 to remain extremely difficult operating environments due to both continued year over year market contractions as well as marked increases in discounting and promotional activity by competitors.” Brewer said the company has taken additional steps to reduce its expenses due to the market conditions, extreme as he classified them. “These reduction efforts have now lowered our annualized fixed costs by approximately 21%," he said.

THE THRILL IS GONE: It doesn’t require too much of an imagination to see the fun of being in the golf business is not what it once was, at least perception-wise. The new motto could be summed up as Elvis has left the building! Case in point, Sport-Haley, Inc. (SPOR: NASDAQ) reported a 40% drop in demand for its product for the three months ended March 31, 2009. The fashion apparel business reported sales were $2,852,000, a decrease of $1,887,000, or 40%, from the $4,739,000 it reported in the similar quarter a year ago. The company lost $997,000 during the three months of its operation in 2009.

Looking beyond the recent quarter, Sport-Haley’s nine-month sales were $8,901,000, a decrease of $3,631,000, or 29%, from $12,532,000 in the prior fiscal year. It has lost $2,179,000 compared to $802,000 in losses for the nine months ended March 31, 2008.

While the economy no doubt is to blame for some or all (in the eyes and minds of management) of the red ink stained bottom line, it begs the question if the recession continues for a protracted period of time, how much more can the business handle before enough is enough?

To this point, Sport-Haley, Inc., announced that it has submitted written notice to the Nasdaq Stock Market LLC ("Nasdaq") of its intention to voluntarily delist its common stock from the Nasdaq Capital Market and to subsequently deregister its stock under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("the Exchange Act"). The Company intends to file a Form 25 with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") and Nasdaq on or about May 29, 2009, to effect the voluntary delisting of its common stock from the Nasdaq Capital Market, with the delisting of its common stock taking effect no earlier than ten days thereafter, or on June 8, 2009. As a result, the Company expects that the last day of trading of its common stock on the Nasdaq Capital Market will be on or about June 5, 2009.

STOCK WATCH: The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the week in the red, falling 3.6%. It is only the second losing week in the last 10. The Nasdaq Composite Index’s nine-week string of weekly gains came to an end, as well as it fell 3.4% over five days. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 index lost 3.4 percent.

TRAVEL:

LIFE GOES ON: Americans are expected to take 322 million domestic leisure person-trips during June, July and August 2009, according to the annual summer travel forecast by the U.S. Travel Association. Although it represents a decline of 2.2 percent from the summer of 2008, leisure travel remains resilient given the current economic climate. Consumers are expected to take an average of two trips this summer, stay approximately seven nights away from home and spend more than $900 on their longest summer trip.

“Travelers’ resilience is good news for the travel industry and the entire American economy,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “According to our forecast, Americans will do their part this summer to stimulate the economy, save and create jobs and strengthen communities from coast-to-coast.”

The April 2009 travelhorizons survey by the U.S. Travel Association and Ypartnership, predicts an estimated 54 percent of American households are planning to take at least one leisure trip this summer, compared to 50 percent at the same time last year. While Americans are still watching their travel budgets and other discretionary spending, more than half (51 percent) of these leisure travel planners expect to spend the same amount on their summer vacations this year, according to the research.

“Consumer spending intentions for this summer are consistent with the patterns we have observed in earlier travelhorizons and other recent survey work,” said Peter Yesawich, chairman of Ypartnership. “Americans continue to shop aggressively for value pricing when purchasing travel services.”

The travelhorizons survey also revealed:

Six out of ten (57 percent) intended leisure travelers expect to spend the same number of nights away from home this summer compared to last. Slightly more (22 percent) travelers expect to spend “more” nights away from home this summer than “fewer” nights (20 percent).

• Americans plan to take more day trips or long weekend getaways in lieu of weeklong vacations. On a positive note for travelers, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Price Index, the cost of lodging and airfares is down by 6.8 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively, through the first quarter of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.

• Travel deals may entice Americans to travel, especially at the last minute. And the market of “undecided” leisure travelers looms large: an estimated 38 million U.S. adults have not yet decided whether or not they will take a leisure trip this summer through early fall.

• These Americans are waiting to see if the economy and their personal finances improve in the coming months. Travelhorizons reveals that 45 percent of travelers will plan their trip and 39 percent will book it within two months of departure.

• Consumers are seeking out packages to book and comparison shopping, especially online, to save money.

While gas prices were the primary deterrent to travel last summer — hitting an all time high of $4.11 for a gallon of unleaded regular — gas prices should be less of an issue this summer as they are expected to hover just over $2 per gallon.

While the domestic leisure travel market has been fairly resilient, a more concerning trend is the expected 9 percent decline in international travel to the United States for full-year 2009, including a 7 percent decline in overseas travel. International travelers, according to the research, spend more money; averaging $4,500 per trip to the U.S. Therefore, increasing international travel to the United States would be the most efficient form of economic stimulus.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IS BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, BUT IT IS NOT GUARANTEED. THE OPINION EXPRESSED IS THAT OF TERRY MCANDREW AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A SOLICITATION TO BUY OR SELL SECURITIES IN ANY OF THE COMPANIES DISCUSSED WITHIN THIS NEWSLETTER. CONTENTS OF THIS NEWSLETTER MAY NOT BE REPRINTED OR REBROADCAST WITHOUT THE EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT OF TMAC GOLF

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 03 February 2010 10:01)

 

 

Web Street Golf Report

VOLUME 12, NUMBER 19

Monday, May 11, 2009

A CHANCE TO TALK TO TIGER: Tiger Woods is the most recognized athlete in the world but equally one of the toughest guys to talk to. By in large access to him is restricted to media scrums after his round or at press conferences prior to or during the events he plays in. Nike Golf is looking to shake things up a bit by providing access to the world’s #1 player to consumers. On Tuesday, May 12, 2009, from 7:00-8:00 p.m. EST, Woods will talk live to consumers in eight different cities in the U.S. from Orlando, Florida. It will be simulcast live on www.nikegolf.com.

Woods is an equipment geek and has shown in the past to be both insightful and more engaged than he tends to be in answering questions about his knee or playing schedule for example. The purpose behind providing Woods to the masses is one part of a Nike Golf full-day consumer experience that will take place at eight stores in the U.S. In each of the eight locations, Nike Golf will be conducting equipment demos, long drive contests, footwear try-ons and in-store special offers.  Dubbed “Tiger Web Talkback,” consumers will also be able to hit Nike’s new adjustable driver, the SQ DYMO STR8-FIT.

“I enjoy an opportunity to speak directly to golf fans.  It’s cool to be able to do it through the cutting-edge technology of the web,” said Woods. “We are going to have a fun time and I look forward to sharing my views about different facets of the game.” Much like his golf game, Woods rarely disappoints anyone who watches him and this opportunity shouldn’t deviate from that pattern.

“This is going to be a unique experience for consumers to interlace with our brand, to be inspired by Tiger, and to ignite their passion for golf,” said Mike Francis, U.S. General Manager of Nike Golf.  “We are able to do this on a broad-reaching scale around the globe by taking advantage of the real-time, cutting-edge technology available today on the web.”

The eight stores working with Nike Golf are Dicks Sporting Goods in Washington, D.C., Edwin Watts Golf in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Evanston Country Club in Skokie, Illinois, Golfsmith in Houston, Texas, Golf Galaxy in Woodbury, Minnesota, Haggin Oaks in Sacramento, California, Harbor Links in Port Washington, New York and Presidio Golf Course – San Francisco, California.

A word to the wise, probably not a smart move to ask Woods about his Sunday performance the Players.

TAYLORMADE SWINGS TO A LOSS: A little more intrigue in the golf sector came with the first quarter operational results from TaylorMade adidas Golf. It’s German parent company, adidas AG, divulged the golf assets delivered revenues of € 194 million versus € 191 million in the first quarter of 2009. At first glance the numbers appear more than respectable given the global economy along with comparison of Callaway Golf (-26%) and the Acushnet Company (-12.5%) as detailed in last week’s Web Street Golf Report. However, upon further investigation the 2009 results were aided by the first time inclusion of the acquisition of Ashworth (November 20, 2008), which was not a part of the 2008 numbers. The apparel business contributed €15 million in the reporting period, adidas stated. Therefore the apple-to-apple comparison between ’08 and ’09 quarters for TMaG reflects its core sales were €179 million or €12 million (-6.3%) below a year ago.

A quick look back at Ashworth’s numbers from a year ago when it was a stand alone transparent public reporting company, provides some context over its initial contributions to its new parent company. Consolidated net revenue for the quarter ended April 30, 2008 decreased 3.4% to $57.8 million as compared to $59.9 million for the second quarter of 2007. The Company reported net income of $0.9 million during that time. Looking at current exchange rates (EUR/USD approximately 1.3365) implies sales were in the area of $20 million, a huge drop off from a year ago, despite an absolute time comparison.

But the area most glaring resides at the bottom line. For its first quarter, TMaG lost €21 million compared to a year ago when it delivered a profit of €23 million. With or without the help of the inclusion of Ashworth sales, TMaG delivered respectable top line sales compared to its direct competition of Callaway and Acushnet. However, both of those companies managed a profit, be it lower than a year ago. TMaG has dug a large hole for itself starting out the year with respect to generating a profit from its business. The market conditions don’t appear to be letting up, at least anytime soon. So it remains to be seen whether the business is able to salvage the year or not.

A couple of other operational highlights for TMaG, European (€ 30 million vs. €32 million) and Asian (€ 61 million vs. €65 million) sales were off 6% in the quarter, however North America was up by 10% (€102 million vs. € 92 million).

TMaG gross profit margin decreased by 6.8 percentage points in the quarter to 39.8% compared to 46.6% in 2008. The decrease, according to adidas, was mainly a result of “price repositioning” due to the promotional environment in all regions, as well as the first time consolidation of the Ashworth business, which it said carries lower gross margins. Net operating expenses as a percentage of sales increased 15.6 percentage points to 47% in the 2009 first quarter from 31.4% in 2008. This was mainly due, according to the parent company; to integration costs (€ 5 million) related to the Ashworth acquisition and head count reductions at the apparel business. Higher marketing expenses to support new product launches also contributed, adidas said. In absolute terms, net operating expenses increased 52% to € 91 million in 2009 vs. €60 million in the 2008 first quarter.

WHAT’S NEXT? Golfsmith International Holdings, Inc., (GOLF: NASDAQ) reported 2009 first quarter net revenues of $68.8 million, a 13% drop off from the $79.2 million it had a year ago. The retail chain said comparable store sales were off by 11.7%, while its direct channel revenues were down 24.8%. The company said it lost $5.4 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to a loss of $5.2 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2008.

“While the recession continues to pressure spending in our industry,” Marty Hanaka, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer explained, “it is also making us a better organization as we focus on initiatives to increase efficiencies, reduce operating expenses and lower inventory levels, in which all areas we have made very good progress. As a result of these efforts, along with same stores sales that outperformed our plan for the quarter, we were able to generate free cash flow in the quarter and finish the period in an even stronger financial position. We will carry this improved operating platform, our differentiated merchandise assortment, and our Guest-First in-store experience into the future, and remain confident that we will gain market share.”

As of April 4, 2009, the company had $45.2 million of outstanding borrowings under its credit facility, borrowing availability of $16.4 million, and total inventory of $94.1 million. This compares to $65.4 million of outstanding borrowings under its credit facility, $2.2 million of borrowing availability, and $100.5 million of inventory at March 29, 2008. Average store inventory declined 7.8% at April 4, 2009 as compared to March 29, 2008.

COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE BUT WILL IT GET BETTER? Aldila, Inc. (ALDA: NASDAQ) announced softer sales versus a year ago that changed the color of its bottom line into red from black. The shaft manufacturer reported sales of $13.8 million for the three months ended March 31, 2009. A year ago in the same period, Aldila had sales of $16.7 million. It recorded a net loss of $48,000 to begin 2009, comparable to a net income of $458,000 in 2008

"The current economic environment we are faced with is challenging,” said Peter Mathewson, Chairman of the Board and CEO. “We are meeting this challenge by aggressively managing our expenses and focusing on our working capital requirements.

However, the company results were better than some market signs, Mathewson said. “The National Golf Foundation club build report, which is comprised of information provided by golf club manufacturers, is showing a 22% decline in metal woods and an 18% decline in irons produced through the three month period ended March 2009 versus the same time period last year.” he explained. “The overall golf equipment market continues to be impacted by weak consumer spending and a concerted effort to reduce inventories to preserve cash and clear channels of older product to make room for newer offerings. Our golf sales declined 13% compared to the first quarter 2008. Our units were down 13% and our average selling price was flat versus a year ago. While these numbers are not good, they are probably better than most in our industry and we are reasonably pleased with our results under the circumstances. Our branded and co-branded shaft sales increased to 48% of our total golf sales, up from 32% in the comparable quarter of last year," said Mathewson.

Moving forward, the challenging environment doesn’t appear to going away. "The second quarter looks particularly challenging for the Company and we believe for the rest of the industry as a whole,” the CEO said. "Our Composite Materials Division sales declined by 42% compared to the first quarter last year. Order activity from most of our customers has declined as demand for their products have declined and they closely manage their inventories to preserve cash. As the majority of our customers for this segment service the recreation industry, their businesses have also been affected by the general slowdown in the economy. Until the general economic climate improves, we don't expect to see significant improvement in sales to these customers," Mathewson stated. In an effort to monitor the company’s capital expenditures, further cost cutting measure are anticipated in its Mexico operations as it transfers some of its business to Aldila’s China factory in the next few months. But there is some hope of the horizon.

“We look forward to the back half of the year as the new shaft programs which we have been awarded are scheduled to begin shipping to support our customers' 2010 product lines," Mathewson said.

THE LATEST: There are still some new products trickling in as Never Compromise introduced the NCX-RAY line of putters. According to the company, the putters have experienced some popularity on the PGA Tour, as Vijay Singh, Joe Durant, Kent Jones and Stephen Marino have become early adopters of them.

The NCX-RAY putter’s feature “Suspended Face Technology” (SFT), which includes a dual-density insert that uses isolated ribs embedded in a softer composite. This provides ultimate dampening yet responsive feedback, according to the company. Utilizing the advantages of an ultra-lightweight face material, designers were able to relocate up to 80 grams (25%) of the head-weight into the extremities of the putter, producing maximum MOI for consistent ball-velocity across the face. The SFT technology also limits the surface area in contact with the ball, Never Compromise said, which improves directional dispersion. Additionally, the NCX-RAY putters incorporate a gray and red alignment feature to help achieve a consistent set-up and improved alignment.

“I’ve turned my putting around since switching to the NCX-RAY putter,” said Stephen Marino, PGA Tour professional. “If you take the all latest putter technology from each of the various putters out on the PGA Tour, you’ll find all that technology wrapped into the NCX-RAY putters.”

Available in four different models: NCX-RAY - Full Mallet; NCX-RAY Tau – Blade with Plumber’s Neck; NCX-RAY Sigma – Geometry Mallet and NCX-RAY Beta – Small Mallet, the putters begin shipping on May 22 with a minimum advertise price of $149.99.

WILL IT BE BACK? The Skins Game began in 1983 and in 2009 it finds itself in jeopardy. The economy is once again to blame as the Thanksgiving weekend tradition, for now, is postponed. According to the event partners, ESPN, IMG Media and the City of Indian Wells, the event is planning on returning in 2010.

“The Skins Game has enjoyed a long and successful history, and it will continue to be an important part of golf’s fall season in the future, but given the current economic climate, postponing the 2009 event was necessary,” said Barry Frank, Executive Vice President, IMG Media. “We look forward to working with key partners over the coming months to ensure the Skins Game comes back next year in a manner befitting one of golf’s great traditions.”

What began with some of the game’s greatest legends – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson – going head to head for an unprecedented prize money at the time has morphed to last year’s event that saw K.J. Choi earn six skins for $415,000 in his first time in the event to take the title over Stephen Ames, who was looking for his third straight victory. Phil Mickelson and Rocco Mediate also participated. No disrespect to any of these players but only one is headed to the Hall of Fame one day, to join the forefathers who helped to sell this event in its infancy. Throughout the years the Skins Game has evolved. Annika Sorenstam was a featured participant for example, and Fred Couples used it as an ATM machine. However, the best players of the day no longer were or are interested in it, in part likely due to their never ending season but also the economic opportunities are frankly plentiful for those who reside at the peak of the pyramid. Sadly the dollar amount associated with the Skins Game no longer holds the same cache as it once did either, especially when you compare it to the multi-million dollar annual earnings of the game’s best players even if they did participate.

“The Skins Game has been an important fixture in Southern California for the past 25 years, and not only have fans here looked forward to it each year, but also the golf fans across the country watching on television,” said Greg Johnson, Indian Wells City Manager. “The Skins Game offers great golf and great entertainment.”

Clearly the 2009 Skins Game was handcuffed due to the advent of a new World Golf event in China in November as well as the world’s #1 player making an appearance in Australia with his clubs in the same month. It remains to be seen whether the event can get a make over to remain current with the times, which in turn it could be said the latest decision does indeed reflects 2009.

ALOHA: Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), has reached a 10-year agreement to be the title sponsor of the PGA Tour’s season-opening tournament in Kapalua, HI. SBS replaces Mercedes-Benz, whose sponsorship agreement was to run through 2010 at The Plantation Course at Kapalua. Additionally, SBS has extended its exclusive agreement to broadcast PGA Tour tournaments in Korea through 2019, which is a 7-year extension over the existing contract. While the current site agreement is through 2010, PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem said the intent is to continue playing the SBS Championship at Kapalua.

“The fact that SBS has made a commitment for the next 10 years not only gives us tremendous continuity, but also the opportunity to institute new ideas to help continue to build and grow the tournament,” said tournament chairman Gary Planos. “Mercedes was a great sponsor but now we look forward to our future with SBS.”

The tournament dates back to 1953, when it was known as the Tournament of Champions and was staged in Las Vegas, NV. It moved to Carlsbad, CA in 1969 and remained there until its move to The Plantation Course at the Kapalua in 1999. “We have had a wonderful relationship with the PGA Tour and Kapalua Maui Charities,” said Stephen Cannon, Vice President, Marketing of Mercedes-Benz USA. “We look forward to continuing to work with the PGA Tour on future marketing programs.”

Limited to winners from the previous PGA TOUR season, the tournament will be renamed the SBS Championship.

NO DAY AT THE BEACH: Further evidence that the world is a changed place came when the San Jose Mercury News reported the Pebble Beach Co. announced a companywide reorganization that included the elimination of 47 jobs, the second round of layoffs in the past year for the company. In four of the past six months, group cancellations have exceeded new bookings, it reported, and individual reservations are down substantially for this time of year.

Under any other circumstances, May would be the start of yet another busy season for the resort hotels and restaurants, the spas and golf courses that operate under the wing of the Pebble Beach Co. But 2009 isn’t what many were expecting, and Pebble Beach isn’t the only facility in the Monterey area that is feeling it.

Hotels across Monterey County experienced a drop of 14.1 percent in occupancy for the first quarter, compared with the same three months of 2008, according to the newest data from Smith Travel Research, a Tennessee firm that tracks the hotel industry. The fall off is much steeper than the 10.9 percent decline in occupancy felt by the nation's hotel operators. Even the upper end of the spectrum isn’t immune to the ways of the new world.

STOCK WATCH: It appears the flow of bad news on the economy is slowing down and that has Wall Street excited. Some banks passed a stress test, while others have some time to prepare for a second probe later this year. Meanwhile a slowdown in the pace of U.S. job losses spurred interest in stock prices that lead once again to gains. Its been hard to find any kind of encouraging news lately, but Wall Street is doing its best impression as a cheer leader implying that better days are in front of all us or its a head fake to simply squeeze out a buck or two. Typically the market settles into a trading pattern when the dog days of summer roll around, but this year has already proven it’s been anything but normal.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted a 2 percent gain on Friday trading alone to finish with a weekly gain of 4.4%. It is the second week in a row and eighth time out of the last nine that has seen the blue chip index move higher. During the past nine weeks it has moved higher by 29.39%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 1,739.00, up 1.2% for the week. It is also higher by 10% for the year after rallying 34.41% in the last nine week period. The S&P 500 gained 5.9% for the week. Believe it or not, but the index is up 37% from its 12-1/2 year closing low of 676.53 that it hit back on March 9. While equity prices continued their appreciation in value, crude oil prices ended last Friday at a six-month high, settling higher by $1.92 a barrel at $58.63. Crude rose 10% in price last week

TRAVEL:

GO NORTH YOUNG MAN! Canada’s top-ranked golf resort, the award-winning The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, has unveiled what may prove to be the best golf vacation package to be found anywhere this summer.

Dubbed, Golf Fore Free, the package provides exactly that – two nights luxury accommodations at Fairmont Chateau Whistler and one complimentary round of golf per person registered in the room at Chateau Whistler Golf Club. Guests can choose to sweeten the deal, booking three nights and receiving two complimentary rounds of golf or booking four nights and receiving three complementary rounds of golf per person registered in the room. Prices start at just $199 CAD per person, double occupancy with a minimum two-night stay.

The Golf Fore Free vacation package is available from May 2nd to Oct 13th, 2009, subject to availability. Tee times for the Golf Fore Free package are also based on availability.

To book the Golf Fore Free package or for more information, please visit http://www.fairmont.com/whistler/HotelPackages/Golf/GolfforFree.htm or call (604) 938-2092 or toll-free (877) 938-2092.

“We’re just now seeing positive signs in the economy, and we’re hopeful for the upcoming season,” said Gregg Lown, director of golf, Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club. “However, we know our guests have been working very, very hard over the past year and they can really use a fun golf getaway with their family or friends. We think this vacation package is the perfect way to welcome them back to Whistler.”

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club opened in 1993, the par 72, 18-hole course traverses creeks, ponds, stands of ancient Douglas fir and granite rock faces that testify to the fact that this magnificent course follows closely the natural state of the rugged terrain.

YOU HAVE TO SEE, THIS: Chicagoland golfers are anxiously awaiting one of America’s best public golf courses unveiling this month, as Cog Hill’s award-winning Dubsdread prepares to reopen. The golf course, which was closed for the entire 2008 season for a $5 million dollar renovation is scheduled to open May 15.

“We believe the golfers will be very happy with the changes we have made to Dubsdread,” said Frank Jemsek, CEO of Cog Hill Golf & Country Club. “The routing remains the same but every hole has undergone renovation from tee to green to restore the original design integrity and overall character inherent in the work of the original architects. Dubsdread remains a pleasant challenge for the average golfer, but will offer more strategic shot-making options and risk-reward challenges for the tour professional.”

Rees Jones was selected for the comprehensive renovation project, the first since it opened in 1964. The extensive work on the par-72, 7,600 yard, Dick Wilson and Joe Lee design, included reconstructing all 18 greens and tee complexes, reshaping of the fairways, adding a pond on No. 7, significant tree management and the repositioning and sculpting of 98 bunkers.

One of the biggest investments of the project is actually undetectable to the naked eye. A state-of-the-art aeration and moisture removal system called SubAir was installed underneath all 18 greens. This underground system promotes healthier and stronger playing surfaces through moisture management, subsurface aeration and root zone temperature control. It has some famous clients as Augusta National Golf Club and Pebble Beach Golf Links use the same SubAir system that is now at Dubsdread. “SubAir is like a vacuum system that hooks to subsurface drainage under greens so when we get heavy rains, we can accelerate the drainage process by sucking water out,” said Ken Lapp, superintendent of Cog Hill Golf & Country Club. “We can also change that system to cool greens during hot dry spells by blowing air into the root zones. This system will allow Dubsdread to have consistent, faster, tournament condition greens throughout the season.”

Along with the greens, every bunker has been completely reshaped and reconstructed to improve visual definition, enhance sight lines and create a more classic design style. Several of the original bunkers were relocated to stay in line with the modern game, restoring the original strategic design intent. Greenside bunkers were repositioned and tucked closer to the greens to more effectively protect designated cupping areas within each putting surface. Although most bunkers were also deepened, their unique grass “fingers” and “noses” continue to provide golfers with walkouts.

The tee complex of each hole were also completely reshaped and reconstructed. Each hole has multiple, square tee pads, strategically placed at varied yardages and angles of play to improve alignment and overall playability.

“This is a great piece of golf property and Dick Wilson did a wonderful job with the original design,” said Rees Jones. “Many of the greens have been made a lot smaller because the green complexes are more important today than in past. The ball goes so far now. Back when Dick Wilson designed this course and like my father, Robert Trent Jones, they always built big greens because on long holes you would hit woods into them, now you hit midirons. So the green complexes have to be smaller. We still will have the Dick Wilson tongues and little small areas of greens. But the golfer will have to make choices, go for the fat of the green or go for the Dick Wilson tongue. That will depend on where you hit your tee shot, and the penalty will be greater if you go for the small part of the green and miss it. There will be all kinds of choices so this will be a course of continuing interest."

Dubsdread hosted the PGA Tour’s Western Open from 1991-2006 and the BMW Championship in 2007. After a one-year hiatus, due to the renovation project, 70 of the world’s best golfers will return Sept 7–13, for the 2009 BMW Championship. The tournament is the third in the four-event FedExCup series. “We are very excited to have the tour back at Dubsdread and are looking forward to seeing how the players like the course,” Jemsek said.

Dubsdread will officially open to the public on May 15. Green fees for the 2009 season are $150, which include golf, cart and range balls. For information visit www.coghillgolf.com

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IS BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, BUT IT IS NOT GUARANTEED. THE OPINION EXPRESSED IS THAT OF TERRY MCANDREW AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A SOLICITATION TO BUY OR SELL SECURITIES IN ANY OF THE COMPANIES DISCUSSED WITHIN THIS NEWSLETTER. CONTENTS OF THIS NEWSLETTER MAY NOT BE REPRINTED OR REBROADCAST WITHOUT THE EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT OF TMAC GOLF

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 03 February 2010 10:04)

 

 

Web Street Golf Report

VOLUME 12, NUMBER 18

Monday, May 4, 2009

REALITY CHECK: Callaway Golf (ELY: NYSE), one of the golf equipment industry’s heavyweights reported its first quarter operating results, which reflects the world as it is today. The economy took a big bite out of the company’s first quarter revenues versus a year ago as sales ($272 million versus $366 million in 2008) dropped 26%. Sales of Callaway metal wood were lower by 31% ($36.6 million), iron revenues sunk 32% ($31.3 million), the putter business slumped by 20% ($6.8 million) and golf ball sales were down 19% ($11 million).

The picture doesn’t look any better when spanning across the globe. Sales in the US were down 23% ($43.1 million) in the quarter, Europe dropped by 35% ($23 million); Japan represented the best of the worst, as it declined 11% ($5.9 million) while the rest of Asia was lower by 37% ($9.9 million). Other foreign countries were down 35% or $12.5 million from a year ago, Callaway reported. In total, reported first quarter sales were down from a year ago by $94.6 million. Over 71% of the sales decrease came from two key categories the company has been known for: Metal woods and irons. Despite, the depressed volume, the bottom line hung in there for a profit ($6.8 million versus $39.7 million in 2008).

A year ago in his prepared remarks, George Fellows, Callaway’s CEO was pleased with his company’s record start to 2008 and was cautiously optimistic about the future. This year the tone was centered on the worldwide economy. “The widespread global economic downturn accelerated from the fourth quarter of '08 into the first quarter of '09, resulting in reductions in retail traffic of greater magnitude than originally anticipated,” Fellows stated. “This was compounded by heightened retailer reluctance to carry traditional, beginning-of-season inventories,” he continued. “We are clearly disappointed in the manner in which the year has started. However, we firmly believe that the golf industry will recover as the economy recovers. Clearly, the short-term outlook remains unclear, but there have some been glimmers that we may well have bottomed, or have come close to doing so. But whatever your view may be on the broader economic issues, golf as an industry will recover as the economy does. I really believe that the golf industry has gone through or is going through a fairly short-term hiccup because of the economy. The fact is that people are out there buying product, they're out there playing golf.”

The looming question on everyone’s mind is how long the current economic conditions will persist before leading to better days. It’s also unknown when discretionary consumer spending will show an increase once the economy begins to improve. In the meantime, it would be a safe assumption to anticipate more of the same until proven otherwise.

MAKING MONEY BUT IT’S GETTING HARDER TO DO: Another giant in the equipment business also reported weaker operating results last week. The golf division at Fortune Brands (FO: NYSE), Acushnet Company, reported it’s first quarter sales were off 12.5% from a year ago coming in at $347 million versus $396.4 million in 2008. The company generated operating income before one-time charges ($25.7 million) related to cost reduction initiatives and supply chain realignment of $34.7 million. In the first quarter of 2008, Acushnet produced $51.5 million back to its parent company in operating income a year ago. It may be of little consequence, but despite playing under the same economic conditions as its peer group, the Titleist, FootJoy and Cobra Golf brands were able to perform at a higher level than its direct competitors.

“While consumers are pulling back on big ticket discretionary spending and golf related travel participation in golf has continued at a relatively healthy rate,” said Bruce Carbonari, Fortune Brands Chairman and CEO. “While the most important months are still to come, rounds of play in the US were up 2% for the first three months of 2009. Even so, we’re planning for US rounds of play to contract in 2009 and for consumers to spend less related to each round they play,” he continued.

“We also expect soft economies in Europe to adversely impact rounds played and discretionary spending in the US markets. Even though growth in key Asian markets will help offset softness in Western markets we expect spending in the global golf equipment market to be down at a double-digit rate for the year. Having said that, we’re aiming to outperform the global golf market,” he said.

While it wasn’t the start the company had envisioned, it has taken additional precautionary measures with respect to what it sees coming for the remainder of the year. “The golf ball industry is experiencing a more severe market contraction than our original forecasted decline for 2009," said Jerry Bellis, President, Titleist Golf Balls in a prepared statement. “The combination of golfers' reduced golf ball consumption and declines in corporate spending on golf have caused a decrease in global demand. To align our production with marketplace conditions, we have unfortunately needed to make adjustments in our golf ball plant staffing."

The Acushnet Company, manufacturer of the Titleist and Pinnacle brands, said it has reduced its workforce by a total of 169 employees. Ball Plant II, which makes the 2-piece Titleist NXT, Ball Plant III, where the Pro V1 is made and the Custom Golf Ball facility will be impacted, it said. The business expects a contraction in the global golf ball market in 2009, including a significant decline in demand for corporate and custom logo golf balls.

STILL SEEING RED: While two of the larger equipment companies reported their financial results, one of the smaller operators, Wilson Golf shared its performance through its larger Finnish parent company, Amer Sports.

"The sporting goods business entered 2009 under the same cloud of uncertainty that is oppressing almost all consumer businesses. As a result, retailers have become extremely cautious about ordering new products and they have been de-stocking. Furthermore, besides slower consumer demand in general, consumers have also been moving to lower price points in their attempt to cut spending. The current headwinds in the trading conditions are clearly more obvious in the US than in Europe,” stated Roger Talermo, President and CEO of Amer, the parent company to Wilson Golf.

Amer reported its golf sales were € 19.7 million down nearly 16%, from € 23.4 million in 2008. A quick look back saw a year ago Wilson’s golf business down 26% in the first quarter of 2008. In 2007, sales were € 31.8 million versus 2009 at €19.7 million. Amer said its 2009 golf segment net sales declined in the first quarter by 26% in the Americas, 16% in Asia Pacific and 7% EMEA. It stated to its shareholders that market research shows the golf industry has declined more than other sport categories as a result of the economic recession and the higher cost of participation. It didn’t provide any information to substantiate this claim with respect to the pull back being felt in golf versus other sports. It did point out that manufacturers are focused on providing value to the consumer at lower price points, which appears to be the name of the game in 2009 worldwide. Among some of the brands Amer owns are Salomon, Wilson, Precor, Atomic and Suunto. First quarter net sales decreased overall by 2% to € 355.3 million for the company and it said its earnings before interest and taxes was € -6.9 million. The weakened results reflect challenging market conditions particularly in the USA, Amer pointed out.

STAYING AHEAD OF THE CURVE: There is a proposal circulating through the PGA Tour that appears to be gaining some interest. “ There's a pretty popular proposal right now where everyone would be required to play every tournament on Tour at least once out of four years,” said Stewart Cink, a member of the PGA Tour Policy Board. “ It's gotten some traction. I don't know if it's ever going to become a rule or not. It might,” he added. “There are positives and negatives to it. Obviously the positives are Tiger Woods is going to come to every tournament eventually,” he continued. “That's a great thing for all tournaments.” But there is a down side to the concept that would essentially be placing restrictions on Tour players’ schedules. “There would be nothing stopping Tiger Woods from playing the European Tour for a few years or the rest of his career. He's got that kind of power. Unfortunately he could do that. That would be a serious mistake if we did that. Got to look at things from both sides,” said Cink who has added the Honda Classic this year to his scheduled events. “I'm adding some tournaments here and there. I'm trying to do my part. We could all play 35 tournament a year, that would be great, but the level of play would probably suffer a little bit. Got to balance it.”

WHAT’S MISSING FROM THIS PICTURE? Exercise walking, which experienced 7.6% growth in 2008, remains the No. 1 participant activity surveyed by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA). According to the Association, it has held this position since 1990. Data contained in NSGA’s annual “Sports Participation – Series I and II” reports, which will be available in May, shows 96.6 million Americans walked for exercise in 2008.

Swimming, with a 6.1% increase, moved ahead of exercising with equipment for the No. 2 spot. With its increase, swimming attracted 63.5 million participants. Exercising with equipment attracted 63.0 million participants, statistically in a dead heat with swimming, held the No. 3 position.

Bowling and camping (vacation/overnight) were also in a statistical dead heat, with bowling claiming 49.5 million participants for the No. 4 spot. Camping (vacation/overnight) came in at the No. 5 spot with 49.4 million participants.

New to the Top 10 was hiking, with 38.0 million participants. This pulled it to the No. 9 position. Falling from the Top 10 was power boating. Its almost 13% decline in participation to 27.8 million participants sent it to the 15th spot.

Rounding out the Top 10 were bicycle riding, No. 6 with 44.7 million participants; fishing, No. 7 with 42.2 million participants; workout at a club, No. 8 with 39.3 million participants; and weight lifting, No. 10 with 37.5 million participants. Golf wasn’t able to crack the top 10 in participation levels.

GET MY ATTORNEY ON THE PHONE: Juxtapose the fact that golf doesn’t break the top 10 in participation levels with the follow: What sport has been the subject of the most patents?  A search of the USPTO database for all utility patents with titles containing the sport came up with a rather revealing factoid. Golf returned a staggering total of 14,510 patents!  That's about 50% more than these other sports combined.

Over at http://www.1201tuesday.com/ it ran an interesting comparison of historical golf patent filings issued on an annual basis to the performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Starting in around 1983, golf "patent market share" grew significantly and actually led Wall Street by a few years.

A LEAN, MEAN MACHINE: One byproduct that is evident from the economic pressures being felt today, is the importance to be lean whether in business or your personal life. Companies have been downsizing to varying degrees and it’s simply a fact that individuals are following the trend as well.

Sun Mountain, which has been designing and manufacturing functional, high-quality, lightweight golf bags for over 25 years, has found a way to get 25% smaller and weigh 20% less than other leading push carts with its latest invention.

The new Micro Cart offers a new-look walking cart sporting four-wheels and weighs only 13 lbs. It folds down to 52 cubic inches and the Micro Cart, perhaps best of all, requires no assembly. It simply folds and unfolds in one easy motion. Sun Mountain added a fourth wheel to the design for greater stability on side hills. It also means there is no tracking adjustments required. The four wheels come standard with low maintenance solid foam tires and the adjustable front axle is able to accommodate even the largest of golf bags. The Micro Cart will be available starting this week in four colors (red, black, blue and silver) with a full-suggested retail price of $239. For the retailer nearest you, call 800-227-9224 or visit www.sunmountain.com.

AND NOW FOR SOME GOOD NEWS: According to the latest Golf Datatech (March 2009), the total ON/OFF-Course market share for Srixon balls has climbed to a 4.1%, with the OFF-Course portion market share also rising to 5.6%, within the U.S. market. These latest Srixon market share figures, both records for the company, represent approximately double the market share of March 2008, the company said.

“The new Z-STAR and Z-STAR X are phenomenal golf balls that are helping Srixon pave its way toward being recognized as a premier golf ball manufacturer”, said Greg Hopkins, President/CEO of Cleveland Golf/Srixon. “Doubling our U.S. market share in less than a year is not only a tremendous accomplishment, but proof positive that players everywhere are realizing Srixon really is a better ball.”

Additionally, according to the latest Darrell-Survey, Srixon balls finished 3rd in the ball count at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, as well as the Nationwide Tour’s South Georgia Classic, with a total of 28 players using Srixon balls.

ALL A BOARD: Sport-Haley (SPOR: NASDAQ) has added two new members to its board of directors. Both appear to have extensive financial backgrounds, which could lead to speculation the firm is exploring a variety of opportunities.

The newbies are Samuel A. Kidston and Lloyd M. Sems and as luck would have it, both are considered to be beneficial shareholders of the Company. Sems recently reported ownership of over 5% of the Company's outstanding common stock.

Kidston is the managing member and founder of North & Webster, LLC, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, an investment management and advisory firm. Prior to founding North & Webster, LLC, he served as an equity analyst at BlackRock, Inc., from December 2001 to March 2006.

Sems has served as President since October 2003 of Sems Capital, LLC, and of Capital Edge, LLC, both of which he founded. Previously, He served as Director of Research and Portfolio Manager for Watchpoint Asset Management.

In a joint statement, Kidston and Sems said, "We look forward to working with the Board and the Company's employees to find ways to further leverage this brand, during these difficult economic times." Ron Norick, Chairman of the Board added, " We believe that they will contribute new ideas to the Board and provide fresh perspectives to help direct the Company through the challenges that lie ahead."

STOCK WATCH: In today’s world there isn’t enough good news to go around or for that matter report. It would seem that Wall Street would be an unlikely source for a cup of optimism, but never look a gift horse in the mouth.

April turned out to be Wall Street's best month in nine years! This data point offers some of the most powerful evidence yet, that maybe just maybe, the economy is about to begin a turnaround. The Standard & Poor's 500 index, considered the most reliable measure of the broader market, climbed 9.4 percent in April, its best performance since March 2000. The blue chip index, Dow Jones industrial average gained 7.4 percent in April, following a 7.7 percent move in March. Despite the gains in March and April, the Dow remains down 42 percent from its peak in October of 2007, and the S&P 500 index is off 44 percent. But remember the gift horse theory, so on that note its fair to say the mood is clearly more upbeat based on the numbers.

For the week, the Dow rose 1.7 percent; the S&P 500 index added 1.3 percent and the Nasdaq rose 1.5 percent.

TRAVEL:

HOW’S IT LOOK? Smith Travel Research (STR) a recognized leader for lodging industry benchmarking and research is expecting a back to the future effect in 2009. STR is projecting a 9.8-percent year-over-year decline in revenue per available room (RevPAR) for 2009. However, it expects a 1.5-percent increase in 2010, according to the latest data released from the Hendersonville, TN-based Company.

A difficult environment resulted in a 17.7-percent RevPAR decline in the first quarter of 2009 and led to the company revising its forecast. STR expects the second quarter to continue to be challenging before the industry’s performance slows its slide during the third and fourth quarters.

“With the first quarter of 2009 now behind us, it is clear that declining room rates are taking a harder toll on performance than we were expecting,” said Mark Lomanno, president of STR. “It appears that many hoteliers are embracing the very same pricing and room distribution strategies implemented in the 2001/2002 downturn.”

The U.S. hotel industry should see some relief toward the end of 2009, according to the projections released by STR. Occupancy at year-end 2009 is projected to be down 6.5 percent to 56.5 percent. At the end of first quarter 2009, the industry occupancy was down 10.9 percent to 51.4 percent. The average daily rate (ADR) is projected to be down 3.6 percent to US$102.89. At end of first quarter 2009, ADR was at US$100.13, down 7.7 percent for the year.

“On a positive note, we believe the first two quarters of 2009 will be the lodging industry’s trough in this cycle, and we will see some modest improvement in the third quarter followed by measurable gains in the fourth quarter, especially in occupancy,” Lomanno added.

The U.S. hotel industry projections for occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR are even more optimistic for 2010. Occupancy is projected to end the year flat at 56.5 percent, and ADR is projected to increase 1.5 percent to US$104.41.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IS BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, BUT IT IS NOT GUARANTEED. THE OPINION EXPRESSED IS THAT OF TERRY MCANDREW AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED A SOLICITATION TO BUY OR SELL SECURITIES IN ANY OF THE COMPANIES DISCUSSED WITHIN THIS NEWSLETTER. CONTENTS OF THIS NEWSLETTER MAY NOT BE REPRINTED OR REBROADCAST WITHOUT THE EXPRESSED WRITTEN CONSENT OF TMAC GOLF

 

Last Updated (Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:09)

 
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