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Metal woods carrying a heavy market share

It has been only 20 years since the first non-wooden wood club was introduced. Now almost all woods are made of metal.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2000


There was time when golfers played drivers and fairways woods actually made of wood. Really.

Anybody who has come along in the past 10 to 15 years wouldn't know any better. Almost all drivers and fairway woods are made of metal. Of course, it didn't used to be that way.

Not until TaylorMade introduced a club called the Pittsburgh Persimmon in 1979 was there a "metal" driver. The term "metal wood" is a trademark of the company.

By 1982, sales were up $12-million and in 1984, Lee Trevino became the first player to win a major title using a metal wood when he captured the PGA Championship. By 1989, annual sales had reached $150-million.

And the metal wood craze was on. By the early 1990s, nearly all the major manufacturers were producing some sort of metal club, including Callaway Golf, which became No. 1 in the market.

TaylorMade introduced the Burner Bubble in 1995, a graphite shaft with a bubble-like tip that allowed golfers to gain more power with the same swing speed.

Now it is introducing its 300 Series of metal woods, (300ti, 320ti and 360ti) designed to help players find a club matched to their specific swing characteristics. "We set out with a goal of trying to be the No. 1 player in metal woods on tour," said TaylorMade president Mark King.

The new clubs are due out next month, but they are already in the hands of tour players, who have won 12 events using the new product.

That is a key component of TaylorMade's marketing effort.

"We can't get this product to the people unless it performs at the very highest levels," King said.

The idea behind the 300ti is to produce long drives with a flat, boring trajectory. It has a smaller head size than the other models and is geared more for the lower handicap player.

The 320ti delivers a medium and higher trajectory. The more forgiving 360ti produces drives with a high launch and low spin. The club is geared toward higher handicap players or those with slower swing speeds.

The clubs will retail for approximately $400.

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