HERE we are at the start of another Singapore golfing year, which is certain to include product and facility launches as well as a wide range of tournaments. The Business Times takes a look at two golf companies - Cobra Puma Golf (CPG) and the Mizuno Group - which are looking to raise their brand awareness in the competitive golf industry here this year.
CPG, the result of a merger between Cobra and Puma in April 2010, offers Cobra drivers, fairways, hybrids and irons along with Puma Golf's sport and lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories for men and women.
The company, which prides itself on customising its equipment and apparel and includes Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson among its brand ambassadors, recently launched a number of new products for 2014 and is looking to significantly grow its market share in South-east Asia.
Its director of international sales Trevor Carter said that the company sees the potential in the region; this year, it moves from being a distributor business in Singapore and Malaysia to a corporate structure.
He said that, Singapore and Malaysia aside, CPG is, for the first time, in talks with Myanmar, Brunei and countries that had not been in the company's sights thus far because of its priorities elsewhere.
On the equipment side, CPG is looking to expand its line to meet the needs of every type of golfer, he said.
"Under the previous ownership, Cobra was known as a women's and seniors' brand, so we've been working very hard to change people's perceptions of what Cobra is about and who it's for. We haven't forgotten the seniors or the women - we have the Baffler line, which is perfect for them and those new to golf.
"BiOCELL™ is for the core of golfers and now BiOCELL+ gives us access to the better player. We have a full portfolio of golf clubs now that gives us access to all golfers," said Mr Carter.
In Singapore and Malaysia this year, CPG will focus on establishing the brands. "We want people to connect with what CPG is really about. And the sales will come. We don't have aggressive growth expectations for the region. We have growth expectations, but we're not trying to be the biggest golf company anywhere in the world by tomorrow. We're building brands for longevity."
The Mizuno Group, a giant in the sporting world comprising Mizuno Corporation and its 12 subsidiaries, is primarily engaged in the manufacturing and marketing of sporting goods, including those for golf, baseball, football and rugby.
The Japanese corporation has long had a large presence here, both in retail and as a sponsor of the Singapore Sports School's Golf Academy.
Going forward, it plans to set up the Mizuno Golf School (MGS) in Singapore by June. The school first opened in Japan in 1983 and now has 100 branches there; in 2009, the first MGS outside Japan opened in Malaysia, which now has three such academies. All MGS instructors are qualified PGA Professionals who have undergone training at Mizuno Corporation in Japan, and are certified by the company's director of instruction Joe Thiel, who has been with Mizuno for more than a decade.
The PGA Master Professional, who has been coaching for more than 37 years and who has worked with the likes of Se Ri Pak, has been named one of the Top 100 Teachers in America. He said that Mizuno's philosophy of building "significant people" through golf matches his, and that he believes golf can develop character.
He also wants to build champions, of course.
The MGS programme is an A-to-Z development one which starts off with lessons in the short game, and then moves on to the long game, putting, body, nutrition and mental performance. The school utilises teaching aids such as Flightscope launch monitors, K-Vest 3D motion analysis, V1 Pro swing analysis software and TOMI Pro putting analysis.
MGS also runs a golf programme for juniors to develop young tournament-level players. This course comprises advanced mechanical, mental, body and course skills with practical, written and oral tests.
The MGS also carries out custom-fitting for adults in addition to its teaching facilities.
David Leow, a senior manager with Mizuno Singapore, picking up on Mr Thiel's point about building "significant people" through training in golf, said he believes that this training ought to start early - at Primary 1 level, at age seven. Learning the game is also about learning to be honest, respectful, courteous to their parents, teachers and friends, he said.
Mr Thiel, saying that the MGS programme has been several years in the making and has a track record, added: "There's no finer game in the world that teaches character better than golf. It is a game without a referee and it teaches integrity and honesty - and perseverance is needed because it's a tough game.
"We have to learn how to pick ourselves up and play when we don't have our 'A' game, so I think we need that to use to create significant people. Let's help these kids become ambassadors of Singapore."