Jack Nicklaus is getting (back) into the golf-ball business. He announced Monday that he has consulted with Bridgestone Golf to develop and produce three lines of golf balls that will carry the Nicklaus brand and go on sale in pro shops at courses in the Nicklaus Design portfolio and online starting in November.
A percentage of the in-person proceeds with benefit the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. Online buyers, who will get a significant discount on the per-dozen price, can opt to donate as well.
The Nicklaus balls are color-coded, designed for a player to easily identify the ball for them based on the color of tees they typically play. The black code is for players who tee up from the tips, then the blue balls for the next set of tees and the whites for the high-handicap player. It all makes perfectly good sense.
Yet there’s a problem.
For the better part of three decades, Jack Nicklaus has been steadfast in his belief that the golf ball travels too far, doesn’t spin enough and reduces the skill required to be successful in golf. (One I share.) And now he’s introduced three lines of golf balls that fit within the equipment sandbox that Nicklaus wishes was smaller.
In fact, Nicklaus has been developing these proprietary golf balls for three years, all the while continuing to make public remarks about the notion of scaling back the golf ball.
“The game of golf is a lot bigger than any individual or any individual piece of it,” Nicklaus said, according to Golf Digest. “My position hasn’t changed in relation to the golf ball. What’s important is what’s best for the game of golf.”
It’s not difficult to support something that raises money for charity, like what this Nicklaus ball project aims to do.
It’s also not difficult to support a product that could make golf more accessible for the casual player, as this intends to do by giving consumers three clear options that will simplify the ball-buying process. (Smart move to work with Bridgestone, which has turned the concept of ball fitting into a differentiating brand feature.)
Nicklaus says the new golf balls are about making golf more enjoyable for the average person, which is something, as an ambassador of the game, he hopes for, too. But what matters more: the long-term, good-of-the-game fight to roll back the golf ball or lending his good name to the omnipresent push to grow the game?
Are they mutually exclusive?
Then again, who’s going to buy a rolled-back golf ball before they have to?