Mickelson and Yonex, Couples and Lynx: Those marriages are long over, but the brands are back in the game

Wilson finds a resurgence; Etonic and Hogan could be back in the groove again, too
Yonex and Lynx both had a sizable presence at the recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

Back in the early-1990s, Phil Mickelson, who just won his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am title in 2019, was playing Yonex clubs. Fred Couples was a Lynx guy (remember the Boom-Boom driver?), Wilson was still known for its outstanding forged irons and wedges and Etonic was still an iconic golf shoe brand along with FootJoy.

Before Mickelson started playing Callaway in 2004 (and Titleist before that), he won on the PGA Tour 17 times with Yonex clubs. In the United States, he was the face of the brand.

Since Mickelson left Yonex in 2000, Yonex hasn't exactly resonated with the U.S. golf market, so little that most golfers in North America probably weren't even sure that Yonex was still in the golf business.

But the Japanese company appears poised to gain some notoriety again in the United States (Yonex has a sizable presence in Asia, of course). Last year, according to Yonex assistant sales manager David Cho, four players on the PGA Tour had Yonex irons in their bag without being compensated, and after hitting them, I can understand why. (Yonex does have a couple of LPGA players under contract: Hyo-Joo Kim and Suzuka Yamaguchi.)

Japanese company Yonex makes gorgeous forged irons.

While forged irons are a niche market with recreational players, the beauty of these clubs is undeniable, as is the feel, given that they are made entirely at Yonex's Japanese factory. Plus, Yonex has added a more forgiving cavity back, the CB301s (which are still beautiful and played in a combo set by the tour pros) or CB701s (bigger head, more offset) that appeals to a wider range of golfers. Yonex also makes its own shafts, not surprisingly excelling in the graphite department given its outstanding reputation in tennis racquets (Naomi Osaki just won the Australian Open using Yonex).

Of course quality like this comes at a premium price. Yonex's forged irons (MB501, CB301, CB501, CB701) starts at $240.00 per club, but they're pretty special.

Lynx Golf ready for U.S.

Last I saw Lynx, it had become a brand of Golfsmith, then Dick's Sporting Goods after Golfsmith's bankruptcy. What most of golfers in the United States didn't know is that the Lynx Brand has been gaining momentum under different ownership in Europe. A little over a year ago, husband and wife Steve Elford and Stephanie Zinsor secured the U.S. rights from Dick's and are serious about bringing the Lynx brand back to the forefront here.

The company was a full participant at this year's PGA Merchandise Show, both at demo day and with a substantial booth inside the Orange County Convention Center, offering a wide array of products, including blade irons (which retail for $699, 4-PW.)

Lynx's new Prowler VT driver with Switchface technology

Lynx also has a new driver, among its many new products – the Prowler VT Switch Face, which isn't so cheap. You've heard of TaylorMade's Twist Face technology?; Well, Switch Face Technology allows the user to literally change the face of the driver to change the loft of the club, creating a true loft, instead of what most companies do by changing the hosel in their adjustable driver.

Some 10 years in the making, this innovation isn't cheap. The driver costs $525 and comes with two faceplates. Additional plates are $120 each.

Wilson back in a big way

Wilson is simply one of the most iconic brands in golf, going back more than 100 years. The brand could have its own Hall of Fame section with staff players that included Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Patty Berg, Nick Faldo, Payne Stewart, John Daly, Ben Crenshaw, and Vijay Singh, just to name a few. Palmer and Crenshaw both used Wilson 8802 putters, with Crenshaw's "Little Ben," one of the most famous blade putters of all time.

Wilson Golf didn't exactly go away, but its reputation in golf waned in the 1990s and 2000s. Lately it's been rebounding nicely with a new generation of equipment and players, who include Padraig Harrington (who has been with Wilson through thick and thin), Kevin Streelman, Ricky Barnes and Gary Woodland, who just recently signed with Wilson.

Woodland has been playing Wilson's gorgeous new forged Staff Irons and according the company, testing out the new Wilson Staff Cortex, winner of Driver vs. Driver 2 as seen on Golf Channel.

The Chicago-area based company had a large presence at the PGA Show in January, both at Demo Day and in the convention center.

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Wilson Golf irons: New tech fits amateur and pro games

As for what Wilson is offering these days, it's plenty, including new golf balls, woods, hybrids and irons. The latest golf ball is the Duo Professional, a urethane covered ball that sells for about $35 a dozen, for those who are looking for great performance at a little more palatable price.

Aside from the Staff Cortex Driver, Wilson is also offering the new D7 driver, woods, hybrids that company says features "lightweight distance technology to encourage greater levels of forgiveness and yardage from the tee."

“The process of creating the D7 driver started with designing the head shape and then stripping out all available weight, almost 25 grams. This weight was strategically returned to the head with the goal of improving the sound of the driver and optimizing ball flight with Dynamic Launch Control,” said Jon Pergande, Global Innovation Manager at Wilson Golf.

Wilson is also offering the new D7 "performance" irons. They feature something called "power holes," but when you get to the pitching wedge there's just one row of these power holes to make them better for distance control.

For golf purists: Ben Hogan Golf

Ben Hogan's beautiful Fort Worth White irons.

While Wilson and Yonex make beautiful forged blade irons, Hogan has never taken a back seat to anyone in that department. Originally founded by the great Ben Hogan himself in 1954, the Hogan Apex irons were the most popular iron on the PGA Tour through much of the 1970s.

The equipment company has certainly gone through its ups and downs under different ownership, including Spalding and Callaway. But more recently, Hogan is regaining momentum under new owner and CEO Scott White and a new business model.

You won't find Hogan clubs in retail stores or golf shops, only online at the company's website, which allows them to make clubs one at a time and keep costs down. Simply put, Hogan wants to keep the brand alive and viable for the accomplished and avid golfer, but has no illusions of competing with the major manufacturers.

White, a 30-year industry veteran who was with Hogan back in the Spalding days, says the "factory direct" model is resonating well with golfers, who are used to buying things online. And though the company isn't planning to sign a bunch of tour players, it does have representation with Fort Worth residents J.J. Henry and Mark Brooks.

On the website, you can see Hogan's offerings, which feature some nostalgic looks combined with new design concepts. The Fort Worth White and Fort Worth Black forged blade irons (4-PW) are particularly gorgeous and not that expensive, starting at $700 a set. And Hogan's PTx irons are the company's most technologically advanced irons ever, according to the company, offering feel and performance throughout the set. Plus Hogan offers a very workable trade-in and demo program so you can easily unload your old clubs (if they're fairly current).

Etonic Golf offers great value

Etonic actually goes back to 1876 and takes credit for inventing the first golf specific shoe in 1945. Later it would become the first golf shoe to use Gore-Tex to make them waterproof.

Etonic remained popular for decades, but after it was acquired by Spalding back in 1996, it had a hard time keeping up with the technology and trends of shoe stalwarts like FootJoy, adidas and Nike in particular -- especially after Nike signed Tiger Woods.

Etonic Holdings LLC, a collaboration of the Weisfeld Group, Anthony L&S Footwear, and The Castlewood Group, though has re-emerged in the last year or so as a partner of Ray Cook (another brand you might have been wondering about), offering a totally new line of golf shoes that are both inexpensive and much more comfortable than what it had in the 1990s and 2000s, as well as apparel and gloves.

Etonic's new Stabilizer shoe is just $70.

The best news is that if you're looking for value, Etonic might be a good place to start. Its most expensive shoe, the Stabilizer, sells for just $70 and there's a whole range of shoe models for less than that.

This is the shoe currently worn and endorsed by everyman John Daly, who is also donning Etonic apparel and using Etonic gloves. The company's high-end tour glove is just $13, by the way, and you can get a pretty nice looking performance pullover for just $40.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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She managed to control me even in a long-distant relationship. Checking my facebook ... All these back and forth episodes lasted about 3 years after our marriage.
Source: https://golfguides.info/best-golf-clubs-for-money

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I was introduced to this wonderful game with a set of hand-me-down Wilson Staff forged "shoulder-back" irons, and Wilson Staff Persimmon Driver, 2-wood, 3-wood, and 5-wood in the early/mid 70's. I was later handed down a full set of Wilson Staff "muscle-back" irons in the mid 80's. I was still playing those woods and those irons in 2002 when I went on a golf trip to Scotland. I was also sporting Etonic shoes all that time. Even though I now play a set of forged cavity-back Cleveland TA-3's and metalwoods, I recently took out both sets of irons and those old persimmon woods, re-gripped them, and occasionally play them for fun (and practice - you try finding the sweet spot on those clubs, and you'll be dialing in your swing). Those old woods are like butter!

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Thanks for your comment, William. I too have fond memories of Wilson and the like and still have several persimmon woods that I haven't hit in quite a while. I remember how much I loved my wood MacGregor (another name from the past, but relegated, best I can tell to the UK now) driver and I had a set of MacGregor blades to go with them. Sure was proud of those clubs. Had Hogan Apex irons too at some point. And while tour pros certainly take advantage of technology, it's interesting to see how many of them still play blades, especially in the scoring irons.

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Their FG Tour V6 irons are the best feeling iron I have ever hit. Wilson for life.

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Mike- tell the Etonic people that their claim of a golf specific shoe is false- as a one time Chief Operating Officer and President of Florsheim Shoe Co.(1996-2000) I can with certainty say that Florsheim had golf shoes in the early 1920's, we had a spikeless golf shoe in 1926(a patent can be found) and I have a newspaper ad from the Chicage Trib. Our company put golf shoes on many Ryder Cuppers from America in 1929/1931/and 1933. Dave Sanguinetti Livermore CA

Commented on

Interesting, Dave. Will let them know.

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Mickelson and Yonex, Couples and Lynx: Those marriages are long over, but the brands are back in the game