There is a generation of golfers whose first golf equipment was made by Nike. The second Tiger Woods switched to clubs with the Nike swoosh, people wanted them. Nike also produced golf balls and other golf equipment but that has changed. Nike announced it would no longer sell golf equipment. This news is another shot to a game that has been struggling in recent years.
It could make sense. Maybe Nike never really had long-term plans for golf equipment outside of Tiger Woods’ career. Golf equipment isn’t like apparel — an area where Nike is the undisputed leader and expert. Equipment has a longer shelf life, it’s more expensive to produce creating tighter margins. Nike was never an expert in equipment so a lot of serious golfers would scoff at the clubs when they were on the course. It wasn’t a natural fit, even with Tiger Woods fame and branding power.
Now Tiger’s return to the game is doubtful. He hasn’t played in almost a year and may never return to the championship and major winning level he attained in the past. Maybe that was the plan all along. Ride out Woods’ fame and persona with Nike clubs, and when his level of play dropped, pull out of the equipment game. That’s odd because they signed Rory McIlroy, but having McIlroy on the roster adds international branding power, and it isn’t like Nike is totally out of golf. The company will still produce apparel and footwear.
This continues the downtrend for golf. Adidas is selling its golf unit. The number of people playing the game continues to drop. Golf clubs and courses continue to struggle to connect with the younger demographic. Even things like the Olympics — where golf will be played for the first time — had a large portion of top talent drop from tournament for multiple reasons — see Zika, lack of pay, etc..
If Nike is getting out of the equipment business that should be a major sign to people in the golf industry. Nike is mainstream, and gains the attention of a lot of casual fans with its marketing of the game. Now with Tiger essentially gone — until his epic comeback complete with viral marketing videos — Nike has decided golf isn’t worth it. Nike doesn’t leave a market sector just because. Its projections must not be great for golf. And that is the biggest warning signal for the sport over the last few years.