Unpaid Endorsements: When Golf Pros Defect From Their Sponsors

When a pro golfer uses clubs from a company that pays them, that’s an endorsement. But when a pro uses a brand — perhaps even their sponsor’s competitor — without being paid, that’s 100 times the endorsement. It reveals their true preference when bags of money aren’t influencing them.

In this article, we analyze the brands used by the top 50 ranked golfers in the world to find which brands have the most of these unpaid endorsements.

Dataset

Our data is based on OWGR rankings as of July 1, 2024. The players include everyone from #1 Scottie Scheffler to #50 Thomas Detry.

Sponsors

Of the top 50 players, we identified 44 as having a sponsorship from a club manufacturer. Titleist was at the top of the list with 16 staffers, followed by Callaway with 11. To our surprise, TaylorMade had only 4 representatives — Tiger Woods sadly didn’t make the cut.

Ping and Srixon were both ahead of TM with 6 players each.

The lone ambassador for Avoda, the much-discussed 3d-printed iron maker, is of course the mad scientist himself, Bryson DeChambeau.

Titleist 16
Callaway 11
Ping 6
Srixon 6
TaylorMade 4
Avoda 1
Unaffiliated 1

Players

Of the 44 pros affiliated with a brand, 22 were loyalists. That is, they carried only clubs from their sponsor in the bag.

Titleist 10/16 (63%)
Callaway 8/11 (73%)
Ping 3/6 (50%)
Srixon 0/6 (0%)
TaylorMade 1/4 (25%)
Avoda 0/1 (0%)

None of Srixon’s pros were totally loyal, which is none too surprising: Srixon and their subsidiary Cleveland are best know for their irons and wedges respectively, not so much for their woods or putters.

Unpaid Endorsements

So which brands did pros defect from their sponsor for? Which did unaffiliated golfers go with when they had no strings attached?

Let’s dive in.

Brands

The brand that the pros defected to most often was Titleist/Scotty Cameron with 30 defections, followed by TaylorMade (24), Callaway/Odyssey (14), and Ping (8). For the purpose of this analysis, when a pro defected for a range of irons or all his wedges, it’s counted as 1 defection.

Despite manufacturing its last club in 2016, Nike made 2 appearances, both for the Nike Vapor Pro favored by Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka.

Two of the oddball brands included in the dataset, Krank and Sik, were of course Bryson DeChambeau.

Titleist/Scotty Cameron 38
TaylorMade 24
Callaway/Odyssey 14
Ping 8
Cobra 3
L.A.B. 3
Srixon/Cleveland 2
Nike 2
Krank 2
Mizuno 1
Sik 1

Club Types

The type of club that pros tended to defect for were wedges (25), fairway woods (22), putters (19), and irons (16).

When it came to wedges, Titleist dominated, with 24 of the 25 defections due to their Vokey SM10, SM9, and WedgeWorks models. The lone exception was the ever-contrarian Bryson DeChambeau with the Ping Glide 4.0.

As far as drivers and 3-woods, the TaylorMade Qi10 models were far and away most popular.

Most of the irons tended to be long utility irons like the Titleist U505, Srixon Z U85, or Mizuno Pro Hi-Fli.

Putters had balanced representation, with Odyssey (7), TaylorMade (5), Scotty Cameron (3), and L.A.B. (3) leading the way.

Driver 10
Wood 22
Hybrid 6
Iron 16
Wedge 25
Putter 19

Golf Balls

Of the top 50 golfers, the most popular golf ball brand was Titleist (31), Callaway (9), and Srixon (6).

Titleist Pro V1x 16
Titleist Pro V1 15
Callaway Chrome Tour X 4
TaylorMade TP5x 3
Srixon Z-Star XV 3
Srixon Z-Star 3
Callaway Chrome Soft X 3
Callaway Chrome Tour 2
Bridestone Tour BX 1

If we look at only the the unpaid endorsements, a startling 100% of pros defected to Titleist for their golf balls, with 7 Pro V1’s and 4 Pro V1x’s.

Titleist Pro V1 7
Titleist Pro V1x 4

The Ultimate Setup

Based on the data, when considering the unpaid endorsements of the top 50 pro golfers in the world, what is the ultimate setup?

Driver TaylorMade or Titleist
Wood TaylorMade
Hybrid Callaway
Iron Titleist
Wedge Titleist
Putter Odyssey
Ball Titleist

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