Rory’s Trusty Two-Iron

GOLF RETAILING was the only trade magazine to be invited to the launch of Nike Golf’s first Performance Fitting Centre, at Archerfield Links in Scotland. Rory McIlory was there too. Robin Barwick reports

Sometimes it can be difficult to relate to Rory McIlroy, particularly when he starts talking about two irons.

“My two-iron carries to about 240 yards,” starts McIlroy, while offering a demonstration at the opening of Nike Golf’s first ever Performance Fitting Centre at Archerfield Links. “And it runs out to about 260 or 270 yards on links ground, so it works well on links, particularly off the tee.”

240 yards? Running out to 270? A two iron? Some might find such capability inspiring. Or humbling. Either way, it certainly illustrates the chasm separating McIlroy and almost every other golfer on the planet. This correspondent has never carried a two-iron in my life.

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 09.42.51McIlroy, 25, was hitting shots at the Performance Fitting Centre at the beginning of July, at an event at which GOLF RETAILING was granted a trade media exclusive. Six days later he would record a top-20 finish in the Scottish Open with his two-iron in the bag, but of course this was just the prelude to the following week, when the Northern Irishman would storm to victory in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, becoming the first European golfer to complete the treble of winning the US Open, PGA Championship and Open Championship. Just the Masters to go to complete the career Grand Slam, and to borrow the words of McIlroy’s final-round playing partner at Hoylake, Rickie Fowler, “I really don’t have any doubt that Rory will win the Masters. It is just a matter of time”.

McIlroy’s dominant performance at Hoylake brought to mind the two-iron rockets we watched him launch at Archerfield, and it was his Nike Golf MM Proto two-iron that McIlroy turned to down the final stretch at Royal Liverpool.

“I hit the MM PROTO quite a bit,” said McIlroy after he had won the Claret Jug. “In particular, my last four shots in the Open were with the MM Proto. I hit two two-irons on the 17th and two on the 18th. That club proved a good choice for the week.”

The Nike Performance Fitting Centre has been built with a view to providing golfers with the ultimate custom-fitting experience and complete game analysis. Based in East Lothian, just around the corner from Muirfield on Scotland’s east coast, Archerfield’s elite coaching panel includes former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart and leading European Tour coach Gary Nicol, and Nike promises that golfers will be able to experience the same attention-to-detail that Nike Golf Tour athletes like McIlroy receive, by booking in for one of several fitting experiences.

Genuinely state-of-the-art, Nike Golf and Archerfield enlisted the expertise of MIA Sports Technology to make sure the centre’s technology is unsurpassed.

Rory 2“It was great to be part of the launch event and it’s brilliant to see all of the hard work come to fruition that the teams at Nike Golf and Archerfield have put in,” added McIlroy. “I see so many golfers in pro-ams playing equipment that just isn’t suited to their game, and the same guys often don’t even know how far they hit each club. They would improve their performance after going through the ultimate fitting experience from the team here at Archerfield.

“Regardless of your ability, regardless of your handicap or your experience in the game, the premium services offered at the Performance Fitting Centre will improve your game. Golfers will have the opportunity to be fitted to a whole new level than ever before, and the constant development of Nike Golf means they will have the best equipment in their bag.”

Golfers can book the entry-level ‘One hour fitting experience’ at Archerfield, incorporating Trackman, V1 or Sam Putt technology at a cost of £75, with session options increasing from there until they reach ‘The Ultimate Experience’, which is a three-day stay that includes an equipment assessment and complete custom-fitting throughout the bag, apparel and footwear. The £950 package includes meals and accommodation, but does not include the products. Nike Golf will even deliver the personalised, custom-fit clubs to Archerfield in time for the golfer to enjoy a playing lesson on one of Archerfield’s two 18-hole golf courses.

For Nike Golf loyalists looking for an upgrade, with three days to spare and with cost being no object, this is an undeniably impressive service.

“What we have at Archerfield is the ultimate fitting experience for golfers who want to improve their game,” says Angus Moir, Nike Golf EMEA general manager.

“Whether they come for an hour session, half a day or the full three-day experience, we are confident they will be delighted with the services offered.’

 

“Rory embodies what a Nike athlete should be”

In an exclusive interview with GOLF RETAILING at Nike Golf’s  Performance Fitting Centre at Archerfield Links, Nike Golf president Cindy Davis talks about the company’s partnership with Rory McIlroy, and considers what lies ahead for Nike Golf and the industry at large

What does Rory McIlroy bring to Nike Golf?

We love having Rory on the team. He embodies what a Nike athlete should be. He is very athletic, daring, aggressive on the golf course and he is an authentic sportsman. Our product teams also love working with Rory because he is really good at giving feedback on product and sharing insights, so he is very much engaged with our product development process.

Rory is fun to work with because he is daring, in terms of what equipment he will play and apparel he will wear, and then he is also a great advocate for our product line, so it is a really good fit.

Cindy DavisWe are here at Nike Golf’s first Performance Fitting Centre. Where and when will there be a second one?

There will be a handful more Performance Fitting Centres being introduced around the world. We are going to open two more in different countries within the next nine to 12 months. We believe these facilities are the best expression of our brand, and the best way to bring innovation to the consumer. It is bringing the fitting experience we provide for golfers like Rory, to the consumer. It enables us to showcase our brand and to show what we can do in a way that we don’t think any other company can.

Growth is a precious commodity in the golf industry right now. Has Nike Golf found any this year so far?

We closed our fiscal year at the end of May and we showed growth, so we are pleased. We view what is happening in the industry right now as a tremendous opportunity for us. That is why we are introducing concepts like this Nike Golf Performance Fitting Centre, and that is why you are going to see some new innovations and launches coming up soon. We are actually very bullish even though it is a tough market out there.

With growth comes optimism, but Nike Golf seems to be less cautious than a lot of golf companies right now.

We have a view at Nike that when there is chaos, typically there is also opportunity. We have been working for so long to develop our level of innovation and it is all coming together at this time, and we believe consumers are moving closer to what our brand is bringing to the market place. We think there is also the opportunity for leadership to change within the industry, if you bring the right innovation and deliver it to the consumer in an interesting way, as we are doing here.

Gaining market share is one thing, but it must remain a concern that golf participation is dropping in mature markets such as the United States and the UK.

Fundamentally, golf is still tied to the economy, and we cannot forget that if people are still uncomfortable with their level of disposable income, then we feel it. There is no doubt about that.

There is some research that shows the ‘Millennials’ [Millennials are people born roughly between the early 1980s and early 2000s] are kids who are coming out of college and not getting jobs, so they are delaying marriage, delaying buying homes, and delaying playing golf and things like that because they are yet to settle into a career. This is an issue for golf and this is economy-driven.

Are there any particular ideas for growing participation that you like?

I am a big proponent of golfers playing nine holes – that is a great idea – and I think that the more the industry can legitimise nine-hole golf  and make people feel like nine holes is a complete golf experience, then I think that will attract more people to golf courses in the short term, and then lead to more 18-hole golfers in the long term.

The best thing, though, is that people are talking about how to grow the game and we are seeing more activity in that regard than ever before. I really applaud a lot of people who are out there doing different things to get golf out in front of more consumers, and to engage people.