On Facebook some of my Swedish golf colleagues are talking about an American lawsuit. Acushnet, the maker of the Titleist golf ball, is counter-suing Costco, the wholesale giant.
The Costco Ball
Costco brought out last year its Kirkland Signature ball. It had a four-piece, urethane-cover product similar in construction to many tour-caliber balls. The price was an eye opening $15 a dozen. A cult-like buzz around the ball ensued. It flew off the shelves. But Costco could not keep up with demand and ran out of the product.
There was talk that the Kirkland Signature ball would not return. Costco officials promised that the ball would be back in stores in Spring, 2017.
But the ball’s cult popularity rubbed some the wrong way. Like Acushnet, the makers of Titleist golf balls. They sent Costco a letter alleging false advertising because of its Kirkland Signature guarantee. It says the ball will “meet or exceed the quality standards of leading national brands”. They also said that the Costco KS ball infringes on 11 patents of Titleist.
The Kirkland-based corporation hit Acushnet with a declaratory judgement. It establishes that Costco is not guilty of false advertising. Nor does it violate Acushnet’s patents, because the patents are invalid to begin with.
The suit notes reviewers compared the more expensive “tour quality balls” to Costco’s. Costco “has never in publicly compared the KS ball with any Acushnet ball.”
This is no gimmie for Costco. Declaratory judgements like Costco’s are usually a preemptive strike. A lawsuit to stop a lawsuit. Acushnet has been down this road before. The Korean company holds more U.S. patents in golf ball technology than any manufacturer. They have a history of defending their patent portfolio, even through years of litigation. Invalidating patents is never easy. And going against a company with the intellectual property and the guns to back it up makes it that much harder.
Acushnet says “over half of the Kirkland Signature Golf Balls cracked or became unsound before the testing by Acushnet concluded.” Acushnet also claimed that the KS golf ball travelled less distance than the KS ball. These distance tests were with drives of 130, 140, 150 & 167 mph. A bogey golfer (18 HCP) can hit 130 mph. As the vast majority of golfers will never hit those speeds, why the stink by Acushnet? (see chart)
In the summer of 2016, I played golf in Oregon with a friend who had the prototype of the Costco KS golf ball. I saw no difference in his game using the KS ball. It wasn’t damaged in anyway. Jim plays to a sub 12 HCP. He liked the way the ball played.
Let’s face it, all the hullabaloo is about money. A dozen Pro V1 or ProV1x go for around $45-50 a dozen in the States. If you could get a ball that “almost” acts like the $4.00 ball, what would you choose? I can lose that $4 ball just as fast as one for $1.25. And, like most golfers, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Costco is the second biggest retailer in the world behind Wal-Mart. They have over 700 warehouse stores world wide. Over 500 are in the USA alone. Costco seems ready to tee off with this lawsuit. Now it’s Acushnet’s turn to file an answer to the suit.
Back to the Future
Annika Sorenstam returns to her home course in Sweden and brings her 2015 edition of the Annika Invitational with her. A hero of the past salutes the golfers of the future. The Invitational runs through Thursday at Bro Bålsta Golf Club.
Sitting on the patio overlooking the eighteenth green, you couldn’t ask for a better day to show off Swedish golf. I’m at Bro Bålsta Golf Club for the opening round of the Annika invitational Golf Tournament and the weather is sunny and warm for the 78 players who come from all over Europe. In fact, Ivanna Samu and Kayleigh Telfer traveled all the way from South Africa. The good weather is also credited to the great turnout of fans, especially young girls to watch the “Big Girls” play.
Patric Wester, CEO/VD Bro-Bålsta Golf Club,
The Annika Invitational Europe is part of the R&A World Amateur Golf Rankings and a qualifying event foe the 2015 Junior Solheim Cup. It also shows the commitment that Annika Sorenstam has to junior woman’s golf in general and to Sweden in particular. Few golfers of her stature are doing the same. Believe me when I tell you that Ms. Sorenstam’s schedule would have me crying for mercy. Yet she finds the time to donate a week to all three of her events in Asia, Europe and the United States.
SGO captured Patric Wester, Club Manager of the host club Bro Bålsta, to tell us what it took to get ready for this event.
Patric said that he was contacted by Annika as whether the club would be interested in hosting the 2015 version of the Invitational. “Of course, I gave her an immediate YES,” he said. The
Club, rightfully, takes great pride in being the young Annika’s home course. Her parents still play there.
The club began preparations for the event in December, 2014. “There are a 1,000, 2,000, maybe 3,000 different details that must be attended to,” Wester said. Asked what kind of changes the girls can expect, Patrik said that the greens are quite fast. “The members would not be able to putt on them. They’re like a table top,” smiled Wester.
I remarked about the exceptional turnout especially the young kids. Patric said a lot of the credit goes to social media. “Our budget did not allow for big time media buys. Social media allowed us to get in contact with the younger fans and we are pleased with the results. Of course, Annika’s name draws a certain amount of attention, like her interview on the SVT-TV morning show.
Wester also remarked about the financial support from Stockholm Golf, the City of Bro and the Stockholm Golf District among others in buying playing spots in the Jr. Pro-Am. Those spots were given to young golfers to play in the event. “It was a big boost to get the juniors to play with the 78 top European girl golfers. It was a big thrill for those kids to see how these girls can play,” said Patric.
The 2015 Annika Invitational Europe will be here at Bro Bålsta Golf Club through August 6, 2015.