The first game of golf was played in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1456, but it took awhile for manufacturers to develop products for the sport. In fact, about 450 years passed before companies noticed its popularity. Though the the first permanent golf course originated in Scotland, as did the first written rules, and the 18-hole course, it was good ol’ American ingenuity to grab the first slice of the golf industry pie.
The oldest golf companies aren’t off course when they insist on claiming the title of “most innovative.” The firms who invested early on changed the way amateurs and pros play the game today. A 1927 ad stated that “Spalding Discovered That ‘Mild Steel’ Banishes Finger Fatigue.” In 1922, The Wilson Sporting Goods Company added golfer Gene Sarazen to its advisory board, beginning a 75-year relationship. The legendary Dunlop “65” golf ball was number one for an unprecedented 50 years. And though MacGregor Golf sounds a tad Scottish, the 110-year-old company is based in Albany, Georgia, and has always modeled its products on emerging technology.
Contemporary companies came into the manufacturing game with materials unknown in the 20th century, developing products that the trail blazers couldn’t have imagined. But being one of the firsts has its rewards — how many brands can brag about financially backing legends Patty Berg and Babe Didrickson Zaharis to found the new women’s PGA? (Wilson, 1948.) Or how about working for a company started by a Hall-Of-Fame baseball pitcher, who developed the first dimpled golf ball? (Spalding, raising the bar in golf ball engineering.) Those first brands continue a mission that still drives the golf market: Stay the course with high standards.