Are Equipment Deals in Professional Golf a thing of the Past?

by Maura Hutchinson

The first two majors of 2018 are over.  Besides both being won by American golfers under 30, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed had one other thing in common – neither has an equipment deal and both won their majors with a mixed bag of clubs.  Leading us to wonder, is equipment sponsorship really necessary in the world of professional golf these days?

A few years back, winning on the PGA Tour was almost unheard of without an equipment deal. Tiger Woods was the face of Nike Golf, Phil Mickelson Callaway and every week you could be sure there would be a winner and a brand to take credit for their victory.

And then Nike pulled out of the golf hardware business.

The worldwide brand’s decision to no longer produce golf equipment in the summer of 2016 left many stunned, including their long list of staffers like Woods, Rory McIlroy, Koepka, Paul Casey, Tony Finau and Michelle Wie. At the time Nike stated it wished to focus on “being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel.” And just like that, many of the top golfers in the world became free agents.

Within a few months Woods had signed with TaylorMade, Rory McIlroy followed earlier this year, but in the meantime a new trend seemed to be gaining steam on Tour. With players consistently winning tournaments without an equipment deal and boasting a mixed bag of hardware.

Patrick Reed left Callaway in 2017 and decided to try out different equipment before settling down again. By April he was the Masters champion.

“I wanted to try something different this year,” Reed told CNBC after his first major win. “There’s so many great companies out there. When you go on these big deals like this, you kind of get stuck on, you have to use all of the same equipment. It’s hard to believe that there is one company that makes 14 perfect clubs and a perfect golf ball for every player.”

In March former Nike staffer Paul Casey managed to deny Woods his first win in five years as the Englishmen shot a stellar 65 on Sunday to claim the Valspar Championship title. The 40-year-old secured his second PGA Tour title in nine years with a mixed bag of clubs and no equipment deal in sight.

“Sorry, Tiger, but I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” said Casey afterwards. “It’s very rewarding to have a good putting Sunday. It’s the thing that’s been holding me back and the frustrating thing for a couple of years.”

While Koepka was the winner at Shinnecock, another former Nike player’s amazing performance at the U.S. Open also turned heads. England’s Tommy Fleetwood shot an astounding 63 on the final day, becoming just the sixth player in history to shoot that score at a U.S. Open. And the 27-year-old did it using a mixed bag and some older Nike equipment.

When asked earlier this year by Golf Digest about his unique club setup Fleetwood said, “These clubs are still working. I have no desire to change while they’re still working. I’m used to them and have used some version of these clubs for years and years. Eventually I will put something else in.”

Doesn’t seem like it’s time to change just yet!

Check out the pros mixed bags below and see how they are using the biggest brands in golf to fully customise their games.

It’s working for them, could it work for you too?

Patrick Reed’s Bag

Driver: Ping G400 LST
Fairway Woods: Nike VR Pro
Driving Iron: Titleist 716 T-MB
Irons: Callaway X Forged; Callaway MB-1
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5
Putter: Odyssey White Hot Pro 3
Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Brooks Koepka’s Bag
Driver: TaylorMade M4
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL
Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro; Mizuno JPX-900 Tour
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 Raw
Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Paul Casey’s Bag

Driver: TaylorMade M4
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M1
Hybrid: TaylorMade M3
Irons: Mizuno MP-25; Mizuno MP-5
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM6; Titleist Vokey prototype
Putter: Scotty Cameron 009
Ball: Titleist ProV1

Tommy Fleetwood’s Bag

Driver: TaylorMade M3 460
Fairway Wood: Nike Vapor Fly
Irons: Nike VR Forged Pro Combo; Nike VR Pro Blade; Callaway Mack Daddy Forged
Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy Forged
Putter: Odyssey White Hot Pro 3
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x