Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Manufacturers Must Swing with the Changes

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Manufacturers Must Swing with the Changes

Article excerpt

MARLBORO, Mass. -- Golfers are going soft.

Players across the U.S. are giving up their metal spiked shoes for new soft cleats. In many cases, the change isn't voluntary -- many top courses are banning metal spikes.

The change is noticeable. Players don't clickety-clack across tile locker room floors, and greens don't look like the previous foursome played a quick game of Twister before going to the next tee. "Basically, this represents an evolutionary step in the game of golf," said Norm Hitzoth, head pro at the National Golf Club of Canada in Woodbridge, Ontario. "We think this will make our golf course even better for the players." Nonmetal cleats are popular with club owners and course managers because they cause less damage than metal. While metal spikes have single pins that dig into the turf, nonmetal cleats are designed to give traction with less damage. Some cleats are just a series of nubs, others are spiral-shaped. Caught in the change was MacNeill Engineering Inc., the Marlboro company that dominated the market for metal spikes since 1931, when it patented the spike-anchoring device that's built into every golf shoe. "We have never had to do any advertising or marketing in the past," said Marty Greenwald, the family-owned company's head of marketing. "We simply did not need to because we were so dominant." Not any more. Some 400 courses banned metal spikes in 1996, Greenwald said. Now there are more than 2,000. Among them are some of the most prestigious in North America: the Congressional County Club in Bethesda, Md., site of this year's U.S. Open; Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course, in Cornelius, Ore., site of the 1997 U.S. Women's Open; Winged Foot Golf Club's West Course in Mamaroneck, N.Y.; as well as the National, just outside of Toronto. The new leader is Softspikes Inc., a Rockville, Md., and Boise, Idaho-based company that was founded in 1993. It has 70 percent of the nonmetal spike market. MacNeill, which is the U.S.'s top maker of traction cleats for athletic shoes, has shifted gears. It now produces nonmetal spikes, and has marketing and public relations people to help sell them. …

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