Fully Equipped: What’s the future of equipment at LIV Golf events?
Equipment deals aren’t going anywhere. So long as television contracts exist, equipment manufacturers will continue to see the value in paying the best players in the world to play their equipment. Wins, particularly those on the major championship stage, command eyeballs, which in turn leads to the possibility of more revenue in the retail space.
It’s a formula gear manufacturers have used over the years with plenty of success.
But with LIV Golf recently entering the fray, there’s potential for equipment deals — not to mention how the gear is serviced for each event — to change in the not-too-distant future. With few concrete details, GOLF’s Fully Equipped crew looked at some potential scenarios for the future of equipment on the LIV Golf tour.
Ryan Barath, GOLF.com senior equipment editor: I think a lot of OEMs are in this holding pattern where they don’t know what’s going on. This is not Formula 1, where you have to race for your team or you don’t have a car. If players want to, they can walk into a retail store and buy some golf clubs if they want. You can’t just walk into a garage and get an F1 car, but you can walk into a golf store and get some clubs that work. It’s a weird situation from the OEM side of things. For Brooks, he could go back to being on his own and having Nike on his bag or the popcorn brand he owns.
We could end up in a scenario like the late 90s where most players were free agents. Everyone had a local sponsor Tour bag. Back in those days, there wasn’t a lot of money being thrown out by OEMs. Greengrass dominated and it wasn’t about big, big marketing. We could be back to that era for a lot of those players.
Jonathan Wall, GOLF.com managing equipment editor: I do wonder if the guys going to LIV just decide to not do gear deals in the future. Do they cut existing deals short and say thanks but no thanks? Do they let the deal run its course? I could see a lot of those guys, just based on the money they are getting, playing a mixed bag. Maybe they’re all gear free agents in the future. I think LIV is going to shake up professional golf in a big way when it comes to who’s a gear free agent and who isn’t. In the past it was just a handful of guys. It was the upper-crust — Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood — who remained gear free agents because they could because they were making great money on the course and had other non-gear deals in place. Then you had the other guys who didn’t have a deal because it wasn’t worth it to tie yourself to one brand. With what LIV is offering, maybe you don’t need the money manufacturers are offering anymore and you can play what you want.
Kris McCormack, True Spec’s vice president of tour and education: I’m curious to see the set compositions that come out of this as the Tour progresses and they start playing in different environments and parts of the world. Do they stick with the same set? Or do we all of a sudden start to see a lot of different gear show up in these bags, maybe even some older product — going back to their garage and saying, ‘You know, I really loved insert club name here.’ That all of a sudden becomes the go-to gamer, even though it might be two, three, four, five-plus years later.
Gene Parente, Golf Laboratories Inc. founder: Except for the guys making $100 or $200 million, if someone’s dangling $3 or $4 million, it still matters. That’s real money. At the end of the day, it’s all about moving the needle. If these guys move the needle and generate publicity and interest, the OEMs are going to offer them contracts. It’s just that simple. And my guess is they’re probabably going to take those contracts. You’re not going to turn down $3 or $4 million and be catered to for your every whim to get everything specifically dialed in. But $200 million? I don’t know, I might take a flier. If I’m Brooks and you were willing to do it only making x on the Tour — he’s kind of the wildcard. I could see him saying he’s done and not going to worry about equipment ever again and go with what works.
Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.