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Is the Golf Industry a Birdie or Bogey Investment?

Know why? 'Cause most weekend warriors are learning it's the talented player who hits it 300-yards plus, not the club itself (which are also highly customized for Tour players' games).

Adams Golf (recently absorbed by Adidas) burst on the scene in the late 1990s by introducing the very playable Tight Lies hybrid club to help golfers struggling with long irons. It was an immediate hit for amateurs and pros alike and the company raked in millions. That is until the big competitors designed their own wonder clubs (its hardly difficult to mimic a club design) and supported it with comparatively bottomless marketing dollars to usurp Adams' revenue.

As stated, the problem with golf equipment is companies with a unique product enjoy a fairly short unique shelf life. Sales skyrocketed when Woods shocked the stodgy conservative golf apparel landscape donning the mock collar in 2003.

But like equipment, other manufacturers quickly caught onto the trendy fashion threads and now every company sells performance fabric wear -- including Under Armor (UA - Get Report), which expanded its popular line into the golf segment and is big with the younger crowd.

Today's golfers realize it's far easier to look like their favorite star performers than play like them. Popular player Rickie Fowler put Puma (PMMAF) on the map with his trendy outfits -- its akin to Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) early iPod attraction to kids -- even with only one tour victory. If he wins a major...watch out. Yet, Puma stock is flat while Adidas is trending up.

Privately held Danish shoe company Ecco struck marketing gold after popular golf star Fred Couples wore its casual golf shoe with the ubiquitous molded traction bar soles at the 2010 Masters. However, the lofty price is hard to justify as I have four pair of similar (and less expensive) competing models that also feel and look good on and off the links.

In addition, golfers aren't as apt to trade in their current sticks for the latest, greatest clubs these days, instead opting to use the savings to buy actual rounds of golf. But they'll still spend to look the part -- at least until they take that way-off-plane golf swing.
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