titleistaaaAh, the glorious ProV1, the staple of every avid golfer’s bag, the industry standard, the king…sniff…THE KING IS DEAD!

What’s that?  OH DEAR LORD…IT CAN’T BE…THAT’S THE PROV1’S MUSIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A lot has been made of the demise of the ProV1 as a result of the litigation regarding patnent infringement by Acushnet, the parent company of Titleist, against Callaway, but it’s about as much of a non-story as it gets.  So why should we care then?  Dude…come on, it’s the ProV1 we’re talking about here.  This is like Linux taking Microsoft to court and Windows being accused of stealing registered patents or something along those lines.  Callaway has King Titleist in its sights and is aiming to kill, but what’s going to come of this? 

Probably nothing, and in the end, we’re the beneficiaries.

See, there’s a bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo that’s messing this up, and in the meantime, while Acushnet files their appeal, Callaway gets off scot free advertising things like this, a relatively damning advertising campaign at first glance, though in the end, will do absolutely nothing because the patents that Callaway is saying Acushnet infringed on were declared invalid by the US Patent and Trademark Office, a HUGE point that the jury was not permitted to consider.  That, and the fact that Callaway acquired these patents when they bought Spalding/Top-Flite in 2003, yet the current model ProV1 (and ProV1x) was issued in 2000. 

Does Callaway have any legs to stand on in this debate?  Sure, in the short-term only.  They have won the initial injunction which is a big step, but there’s a court of appeals for a reason, and if Acushnet loses, then I’ll play a round in ladies clothing.  The other strange thing is the patents infringed on are not in use by Callaway in any of their models AND Callaway waited a year to even file the motion, which makes absolutely no sense if there was a valid claim to begin with.  Titleist’s press releases even go as far as to say that they’ll still be selling the old model ProV1 in addition to the 2009 design, so what was the point? 

cally-golf-adNo monetary settlement, no wholesale ban of the previous ProV1, nothing except a semi-damning ad that is so counter-intuitive to Callaway’s goal that it blows me away that their suits would even let it be published.  Take a look at the ad from above again…you can buy the old ProV1’s for $30/dozen now, yet Callaway is saying that their ball is pretty much the equivalent, yet they sell it for $15/dozen MORE?  Not only that, but they say “the best selling ball in golf” was built on Callaway technology?  Um…IT WAS SPALDING/TOP-FLITE TECHNOLOGY!  Just because you purchase a company doesn’t mean that their designs are yours…sure your name might be on it, but it wasn’t your design.

Let’s be honest here…is Titleist going to suffer in the slightest?  Not sure?  Then go to eBay and see how many ProV1’s you can buy in bulk and compare that to Callaway, Taylor Made, Srixon, Nike or any other ball manufacturer.  The ProV1 is king for a reason, and some ambiguous injuction that is months from settlement isn’t going to change that no matter what.  Your boss is still giving you that sleeve of ProV1’s for Christmas, clients are giving you ProV1’s to do business, your annual golf outing is still going to stock these by the dozen, and this is an undeniable truth. 

So, how is this going to effect us, the people putting the ball in play, the consumer? 

I’m a ProV1 player and a pretty staunch supporter of everything Titleist, so I may come across as biased here, but I’ve tried pretty much every premium ball on the market and always come back to the ProV1 (not x…those blow).  The Callaway Tour i-series is a pretty solid ball, but it feels like poo around the greens, and of any of the premium models, I like the overall performance of the Srixon Z-URS as the second-fiddle to the ProV1.  Now, this is completely subjective and only relates to me, but even if Titleist balls were made using “borrowed”  Spalding/Top-Flite/Callaway technology, that’s not nearly enough of a reason to get me to change, because frankly, I like the ProV1 better.

That said…moving forward, how is this going to effect the ProV1 models that millions of golfers swear by?  According to Acushnet, not a whole lot, in fact the 2009 redesign is going to simply augment the current characteristics of the ProV1 and make them perform more consistently and allow golfers to get the most out of their ball.  The stampings will be indentical with the iconic Titleist script and it’ll be like nothing really ever happened.

So why did Callaway even make a move?  Why did Callaway purchase Spalding/Top-Flite for $125 million for patents that are clearly invalid?  Easy…PR.  Callaway has been going after Titleist for years now, dating back to when Phil Mickelson was fired from Titleist for saying Callaway equipment is great (which I don’t really agree with, but that’s another story for another day) and they’re in the business to make money, and what better way than to go after the item that makes the most money in the industry?  GENIUS!  Please note the heavily drenched sarcasm.

Callaway wants “their” piece of the pie, and even if they don’t get the massive settlement they’re looking for, they’re banking on the fact that people will just throw down their ProV1’s in disgust and march right to their sporting goods store and stock up on Cally’s.  That or a settlement that even a lay-man like myself knows isn’t coming.  I don’t see the benefit of making a move like this…the best way to take down an incredible superpower force like the ProV1 is not to take it head on, but to make something, you know, BETTER.

The thing is Callaway has a long history of designing clubs that are great performers and offer a wide range of great sticks like their Fusion-technology woods/hybrids and their Roger Cleveland designed wedges, and their Tour i-series balls are great performing, even if they’re not my thang, but there are certain products out there that are so recognizable and have such a firm hold on their status that there’s almost nothing you can do to knock it off.  The Fender Stratocaster, Microsoft Windows, the iPod…you’re not getting rid of these things, just designing a different option, just like you’re never getting rid of the ProV1. 

So keep on giving Titleist free press and good luck getting your skrilla, Callaway.  Sure, it’s an exercise in futility, but hopefully this will propel you into designing a better product instead of playing a public game of grab-ass in a court room.