Equipment Spy Finds Nike's Sumo2 Driver IllegalNike calls it a "voluntary product return", I'd call it overstepping, pushing the envelope, or a violation of the sacred rules of the USGA. No matter how you want to describe it, Nike Golf has gotten itself into, as the Brits would say, a sticky wicket.
How could this happen in the dog eat dog world of golf equipment?
They were ratted out by a competitor. Who? TaylorMade? Titleist? Cobra? I’m guessing Callaway. Not that I have any evidence to pin it on them, but who better to put the fear of "non-conformity" into the hearts of equipment buyers but the company that could gain the most from this year’s square driver competition but Callaway.
And how would they gain by this bit of corporate espionage? Take the wind out of a competitor's sales (nice play on words there I'd say) by tipping off the USGA that their competitor is trying to gain a market advantage by selling (unofficially mind you) a NON-CONFORMING driver. Callaway can look like the good guy by reporting Nike to the authorities, increase its sales at the expense of its competitor in the meantime, and cause Nike to spend money and time recalling thousands of bad drivers. Ouch!!
Based on what I hear and read, Callaway's FT-i Square Driver is kicking the Nike Sumo2's butt where it counts: retail sales. Reference the latest Golf Magazine and you'll see that they rate the TaylorMade r7 SuperQuad higher than the square drivers (Nike finished third). For whatever reason, even before this golf manufacturing "spy" committed corporate espionage, Nike’s product hasn’t been getting the same respect or publicity as Callaway. Even Tiger Woods doesn't have the new Sumo2 in his bag. How bad is it when your top spokesplayer snubs your product?
More evidence of getting caught red-handed is Nike’s own website www.nike.com/nikegolf. Upon entry, a video pops up of president Bob Wood explaining that Nike is voluntarily complying with the USGA by removing and replacing these NON-CONFORMING drivers. If they weren’t guilty, my guess is a corporation as large and as savvy as Nike would drag out this thing in court, do like the White House and "out" the spy, then stall until the selling season for this driver is past (about six months). Also, Nike is only instituting this recall for 34 days (from March 26 to April 30) so they are not being very generous when it comes to returns for customers affected by this situation.
In the dog eat dog world of golf equipment, being the "hot" product for the season is golden and can mean a make or break year. It is also accepted that pushing the technological envelope is de rigueur. Being caught with the goods just might trash this year’s sales of the Nike Sumo2, as well as sully their hard fought reputation. An “unauthorized manufacturing variance” that Nike hoped wouldn’t be noticed looks like its going to cost them big time.