Bridgestone Golf is getting back to some of the things that helped the company stand out among its peers but were lost in the era of controversial company CEO Angel Ilagan.
Moving forward with CEO Dan Murphy, who was at the marketing helm at the Georgia-based brand's peak and is back for a second tour with the company, Bridgestone wants to put their products up against anyone else's and see how they do.
If you'll remember, Bridgestone proudly boasted of taking more than 300,000 consumers through golf ball fittings to showcase their technology and gather data about how real golfers interact with golf balls. The data produced informed research and development, and it also positioned Bridgestone as a company willing to stick their neck out in the name of getting golfers to try a different ball. More than 70 percent of consumers fit saw an increase in distance, and the company created an online fitting tool and a mobile app that also doubled as a low-end launch monitor.
The company got away from leading with fitting, and now it is not only re-emphasizing it again in marketing but has also revamped the process to make it more complete.
Bridgestone ball fittings moving forward will use three clubs: driver, 8-iron and wedge. Using three clubs gives Bridgestone a chance to show how the ball performs off the tee, with approach shots (8-iron being a common approach club) and around the greens. Players are asked questions about what they want to get out of a golf ball in all three facets of the game, and then they hit their current gamer against a Bridgestone equivalent -- typically from the Tour B line or the new e12 line -- on a Foresight Sports GCQuad launch monitor. The performance of the balls are compared against each other and what the consumer hopes to achieve, and Bridgestone lets the data speak for itself. The golfer leaves with a sample pack of balls to try in their own play, including around the greens where feel is almost impossible to quantify in the way spin can.
Part of what ball fitting reveals is most golfers aren't playing the right category of ball for them. Many don't have the swing speeds to get the most out of a tour-caliber ball, but they reflexively play them. Perhaps a lower-compression model, or one with different performance goals, can actually improve their game -- and might even do so at a lower price.
Bridgestone’s new ball-fitting program kicked off at the Super Bowl Experience in Atlanta and will move nationwide throughout the golf season.
The company is also reviving their Test Drive club demo program. First born in 2015, the program has been updated to include Bridgestone's latest equipment, including the full JGR line. A consumer goes to the Test Drive website and picks a "kit" of clubs -- drivers, fairway woods, hybrids or irons (with Tour B XW-1 wedges available in March). From there a player picks the specs and shaft of the club sent to them for $20, which covers the cost of shipping both ways. If a golfer chooses to keep the club, they'll be charged the full retail price for it, less the original Test Drive cost. If not, they can return it with a pre-paid shipping label.