Golf equipment companies are flourishing during the pandemic, with the club and ball market specifically generating almost 2.9 billion dollars annually. This episode, we’re going to talk with one of the top players in the space about what they’re doing to maximize that growth boom, and what trends they’re seeing emerging.

The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.

 

Adam Grubb: What’s the most important thing when you’re looking at a new design of the golf ball, the uh the next iteration of your product? Is it the pro’s responsibility and how they are reacting to the ball, or is it the amateur, the everyday golfer that’s out there, that’s playing your ball? Who’s most important in their opinion of the Bridgestone ball?

Dan Murphy: Emphatically, it’s both. We put as much time and effort into the amateur golf ball as we do into the pro golf ball. One of the things that really makes us different when we’re approaching golf ball development is that we’re part of Bridgestone Tire and Rubber, and that gives us access to a whole host of technological advantages that maybe some others don’t have- we learn a lot from the tire division. You think, “Tires? Golf balls? What do they have to do with each other?” They actually have a lot to do with each other. The way a tire interacts with the road surface- which is a violent high performance moment- is actually very similar to how a golf ball interacts with a club surface. From that, we’ve learned a lot from them. They do a kind of science called “contact science” in the tire division, and we’ve borrowed that and brought it to golf. 

Alyson Johnson: One of the one of the things that you just launched recently is your new Women’s ball. Why now with a new ball in the women’s space? What are you seeing that made you think now is the time for that?

Dan Murphy: One of the things that has been a hallmark of who we are, how we define ourselves, and how we serve our consumer is we talk about fitting for a golf ball, that there’s not a one size fits all solution on golf balls. There’s individual needs for individual consumers with individual characteristics. Same thing with your golf ball. We talked about the Tour B ball at the top of the pyramid, we talked about the E12 contact in the middle, and then we also have a ball that’s very much engineered for a lady’s golf swing with the Bridgestone Precept Lady. What that ball is designed to do is react to a moderate swing speed, but it’s also designed- from a dimple pattern perspective- to get up in the air really quick and really easy.

Those are things, through our consumer research, we found would help women enjoy the game more. We’ve had so many people come to the game, and most of the industry talk when I talk to the PGA of America, the PGA Tour, or anybody is, “how do we keep them, how do we get them to come back?” Bridgestone firmly believes that the way to do that is to make it fun to play golf. So getting a golf ball that fits your game, we think, is a key component of doing that.

Adam Grubb: You’ve been in this space a long time, you’ve been in Bridgestone for a while, but are you still surprised at the level of science, ingenuity, and engineering that goes into the golf ball construction process?

Dan Murphy: Absolutely. We still see that there’s opportunity with the depth of material science and polymer engineering that we kind of bring to the table- it really differentiates us. If you look at what’s going on in golf ball technology- just to toot our own horn for a moment- we’re still developing a better golf ball, we still believe that the engine of the golf ball- the core, the cover, the components of the golf ball- can still be improved under the current USGA rules of golf, and we’re doing that. Some other folks seem to have kind of fallen back to more of a cosmetic solution, including that technology and advancement, but we’re still much more about the actual guts of the ball, that we can make the ball better. 

Alyson Johnson: In having your own tournament on the Champions tour, how does that help to differentiate you from others? 

Dan Murphy: That’s in partnership with our parent company, Bridgestone Tire and Rubber. They have a very large research facility in Akron, OH. The Firestone brand is part of the Bridgestone family, and that’s where Firestone originated from. So there’s deep local ties from our parent company, and that’s one of the reasons they’ve enjoyed 40 years of professional golf being played at Firestone Country Club. We’re proud to be part of that, both under the WGC time frame which ran for 13 years, the Bridgestone invitational, and now under the Bridgestone senior players. So, we’re very proud that it’s an opportunity for branding for us, as a golf company, to have our own tournament. Nobody else has their own tournament.

Adam Grubb: How are you guys working with the young players, and the up-and-coming players; those that are on either some of the smaller mini tours, or that are in high school or younger? How are you guys at Bridgestone looking to help grow the game and continue the success that golf is seeing right now?

Dan Murphy: Well, we’re involved with a lot of high school programs, a lot of college programs and a lot of young guys coming up that have chosen to play the ball. I’d say the way we contribute to the growth of the game and to the youth movement in the game is with education.

Hearkening back to some of the comments I had before, all those players are individuals- some have high swing speeds with high spin characteristics, some have low swing speeds with low spin characteristics, or a mix of those two. Our thought is maximizing their performance is the best way to serve them to keep them interested in the game. We think through proper fitting and proper choice of a golf ball that’s right for you, we think it’s very important to get what’s right for you.

Key takeaway: Engineering the golf ball is far from being finished.

Listen here to an even further explanation of golf ball technology and how to find the right golf ball for you.

Ashley Guenin

Ashley is from Indianapolis, IN and is the hackiest of hacks. She has only practiced the sport for less than a year, but enjoys it and once had a really good drive. When she's not chunking up the driving range, she delights in cooking, film studies, and exercising.