We analyzed 3,367 clubs from winners’ bags on 239 PGA Tour events over a span of 5 years.
Golfers love to read “What’s in the winner’s bag” segments to get a real insider’s view in the bags of top players. However, this analysis is done in isolation for each winner or at most for a season with a limited objective.
Wouldn’t it be great to see in-depth ‘trend analysis’ of winning combinations on the PGA tour for many years? It can answer so many questions!
Which leading brand has truly dominated the winner’s circle? Which club type do they focus on? Which product range has made the lasting impact?
And many more…
To our knowledge, this is the only collective study of Winners’ Bags for a stretch of time. We learned a lot about equipment trends and sponsorship on the PGA tour. And I’m sure you will too.
Here is a quick summary of our findings:
1. Aggregating 5 years of data, only TaylorMade and Titleist held the top two spots in the “winners’ circle” for all club types and balls, gaining ground on the other heavyweights of the equipment business.
2. TaylorMade took the lead in the drivers, woods, and irons category, while Titleist ruled the wedges and putters category, with twice more representation than the runner-up.
3. TaylorMade was the most popular drivers’ brand, used by 1 in every 3 winners over last 5 years. Their M-series drivers M1 to M6, absolutely reigned during 2017-2019. It was the single most played series assisting 37% wins (55 out of 149) across these 3 years, followed by their SIM series in 2020-21 assisting 26% (23 of 88) wins.
4. Out of 321 woods seen in PGA winners’ bags during 2017-21, 133 (40%) were from TaylorMade alone, while Titleist and Callaway combined were seen 135 times in the same period. Again, their M-series was most represented in winners’ bags, with impressive 75 wins during 2017 to 2021.
5. In the iron’s category over last 5 years, TaylorMade and Titleist were head-to-head with 23% and 22% presence, closely followed by Callaway and Ping, making it a real nip and tuck affair. Analyzing by each year, Titleist irons in 2017 and TaylorMade from 2018 to 2020 won the top spot, while 2021 was the year of Callaway with 24% representation in winners’ bags, rising from just 4% in 2020!
6. Out of 239 winners’ bags we analyzed, only 76 had a hybrid (or two) in them, with Titleist having an average 37% share of winners’ bags over 5 years.
7. Titleist Vokey SM range performed as the highest winning wedge aiding an average 45% visibility for Titleist in the bags of winners over the previous 5 years on The PGA Tour.
8. Scotty Cameron by Titleist is the most used putter brand by the winners of PGA tournaments over 5 years with an average 34% share.
9. Titleist Pro V1 and V1x prevailed as top golf balls, enabling average 60% representation of Titleist in the bags of winners, more than 3x of the runner up and more than all brands combined!
We have detailed data and analysis of every equipment category below.
TaylorMade drivers were seen in 1/3rd of winners’ bags over 5 years
Historically, you would find a mix of straight and long drivers on The PGA Tour. It is now a requirement that you must use long driver to compete. Back in the year 2000, TaylorMade released the R540 and R580 Drivers. Since then, their domination in this space has been unprecedented.
In 2017, when KPS, a private equity firm bought Taylormade from Adidas, it was a loss-making company. KPS managed to sell it in 2021 for $1.7 Billion, 4 times their investment. KPS and Taylormade accomplished this goal through various reforms in marketing and supply chain from 2017 to 2021, including a crucial change in their sponsorship strategy on PGA Tour.
Taylormade’s new strategy was substantiated by their visibility in winners’ bags each year.
TaylorMade M1 to M6, was the most played series assisting 37% of all tournament winners (55 out of 149) during 2017-2019, followed by their SIM series in 2020-21 assisting 26% (23 of 88) wins.
This all started with the M1 and M2.
The introduction of the “speed pocket” into the TaylorMade series was the stroke of genius that propelled them to the number 1 Drivers on tour. The difference between the two was the M1 holds the interchangeable “sliders” on the head. Where you can dynamically change the loft and the “draw” or “fade” bias yourself to react to your swing or ball flight.
Other brands have caught up with this leading technology and you will see Callaway and Titleist challenge TaylorMades’ dominance.
In 2021 winners’ bags, ‘Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond’ and ‘Titleist TSi3’ driver led with 8 wins each, breaking the TaylorMade’s streak of 4 years.
In 2017, Ping driver was used by Austin Cook who won The RSM Classic. Then with the advent of the Ping G400, Ping drivers gradually ascended with occurrences in winners’ bags. In 2021, Ping G425-LST driver was found in 6 winners’ bags, just 1 shy of TaylorMade SIM.
Finally, you must have come across the news of Rory McIlroy extending his Taylormade contract for the foreseeable future, a deal worth a reported $100 million! It is along the lines of the TaylorMade strategy described above.
Hence, the top Drivers may not always ‘outperform’ the competition, but it is no surprise to see their adoption on tour.
TaylorMade is unrivaled when it comes to Fairway woods in winners’ bags
Analyzing the woods, it is clear that Titleist has a significant part to play. However, TaylorMade led the way once more.
Over 5 years, an average of 40% (133) woods seen in PGA winners’ bags were from TaylorMade alone, while Titleist and Callaway combined were seen 135 times.
TaylorMade M-series woods carried the flag with a staggering 75 wins across 5 years. Specifically, M-series was more prevalent till 2019 and then SIM series was quick to pick up where M5/6 left, with 43 instances in winners’ bags just across 20-21.
What was apparent is the ball speed increase of the SIM vs the M5. This is why distance was increased when this club hit the market.
The product graph shows that TaylorMade M3 and M5 were sported by a record 12 winners in 2018 and 19, followed by 9 and 10 wins by SIM in subsequent years.
In more recent years the Titleist TS woods have been making
rounds in winners’ bags with TSi2 and TSi3 getting 7 and 5 wins
respectively in 2021.
They have remarkably similar technology to the aforementioned “speed pocket.” The TS series has an active recoil channel, which makes off-center hits stay straighter than previous Titleist models. For players this makes long approach shots stop quicker on the green, even if not quite out the middle of the club-head in the strike.
TaylorMade Irons had most wins between 2018-20, while 2021 was Callaway’s year
The sponsors primarily like the players to adopt the clubs like woods because their headcovers and size lay for excellent product placement. Due to this reason, you will see many tour players sticking to a particular set of irons that may not be the same brand as their woods.
That is a major factor behind a huge variety of equipment within the winners’ circles, when it comes to the irons.
It’s a ‘mixed bag’ in the irons category (Pun intended).
TaylorMade and Titleist were head-to-head with 23% and 22% visibility, closely followed by Callaway and Ping, while many other brands such as Mizuno, Srixon, PXG, and Cobra combined took a significant space in the bags of winners.
To begin with, Titleist was the most represented irons in 2017 which was used by 27% of winners. Then from 2018 to 2020, TaylorMade managed to grab the top spot but not with the huge gap as we see in drivers and woods.
2021 was an interesting year for iron brands as we saw Callaway pulling Ken Miles from Ford Vs Ferrari, with 24% representation in winners’ bags from just 4% in 2020!
According to the product appearances chart, TaylorMade “P” range and Titleist 718 irons were predominant in winners’ bags for most years. Except in 2021, when the Callaway Apex TCB turned out to be the hottest iron of the year.
You will see that irons that were used up to 2-3 years back, are still used by the players. A feature of the early clubs, prevalent now is the cavity insert that provides a soft and forgiving edge to their irons which from the address appear like a Titleist MB or TaylorMade “P” range. Hence the adoption.
As discussed earlier, the irons are also a space where smaller brands can make an impact. The reason for this is that technology cannot be improved past a particular point with an iron. The same way you would find with a Driver. In 2019 players like Shane Lowry won The Open, adopting the Srixon Z 785 irons, a trend we saw across the tour.
We also saw a welcome return for Ping. A brand synonymous with putters and drivers appears to be more prevalent in the iron space. From 2011 onwards Ping started to offer a good mix of playability and forgiveness in irons. Starting with the “i” range.
Titleist Hybrids had most representation in the bags of tour winners
On the PGA Tour, many of the courses are firm and fast, which suits clubs like the 4 iron, 3 iron, and often the 2 iron. Therefore, the low adoption rate of hybrids is a given, particularly because they were created to assist higher handicap golfers to hit their longer clubs higher and easier.
Of 239 winners’ bags that were analyzed, only 76 of the players used a Hybrid. The purpose typically will be for players that may struggle for a high apex with the long irons or want support in ball striking from 200 yards plus.
Titleist Hybrids had the most, 37% average representation in the bags of tour winners across 5 years.
It is remarkable given that this field was first created by TaylorMade in the early 2000s.
Despite the dominance of Titleist, ‘Callaway Apex’ did equally good as a single model or a range in most years. However, the Titleist range secures the most top 3s year-on-year.
This is a field that still has a lot of development opportunities and has seen interesting designs come and go.
Titleist Vokey performed as the highest winning wedge over the previous 5 years
When you think of wedges, there is one brand that all players want to play. That is the Titleist Vokey!
The wedges are so good, that players like Tommy Fleetwood will exclusively use their wedges, despite being signed and using TaylorMade across their Driver and Fairway Wood range.
It is no surprise to find that Titleist comes out on top in the wedges category, snatching 45% average visibility in the bags of winners over a 5-year span between 2017 to 2021.
Not a single year, when Titleist visibility went below 40% in winning Wedges category.
Note: A large difference you see in numbers from 2019 and 20 is because 2020 was the pandemic year with lesser PGA events.
‘Titleist Vokey SM7’ was the most used wedge by the PGA tournament winners for 2018 & 19, which was replaced by its successor SM8 in top spot during 2020 & 21.
Success of the Titleist ‘Spin Milled’ series can be attributed to the soft metal, traditional design, and high spin of the clubs which make them most desirable for players of all skill levels.
Not only that, but they are also truly diverse. By this, I mean you can purchase Titleist Vokey wedges with a variety of different “grinds.” This means, that regardless of how the player strikes through the turf around the greens, the sole of the club can be selected to suit your strike position.
The center of gravity in the Vokey wedges, particularly the new SM9, is positioned extremely far forward. This accentuates a lower ball flight, which combined with the loft, allows players to flight shots from 100 yards and in more consistently. Something the PGA Tour professionals find a necessity.
Finally, due to USGA regulations, there is a limit on the size that grooves in wedges can be. The Vokey wedges consistently push the size to the limit. The result for players is an elevated level of spin, which increases ball control in the short approach, and around the green.
A final brand to note is the Cleveland, who recently introduced their RTX range, which players have adopted quickly. Including Brooks Kopeka, Graeme McDowell & Hideki Matsuyama. All of which have major titles to their name.
Scotty Cameron brand was ranked #1 in the uptake of putters by the winners on the PGA Tour
Even before this research was completed, I was convinced that the Scotty Cameron brand would be ranked #1 and Odyssey ranked #2 in the uptake of putters on the PGA Tour.
Scotty Cameron by Titleist is the most used putter brand by the winners of PGA tournaments over 5 years with an average 34% share, while the second place is shared by Taylormade and Callaway with 21% wins each.
Titleist belongs to a family of brands owned by parent company Acushnet. In 2016, when Acushnet made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange, companies like Nike and Adidas had already fled the Golf business and there was uncertainty around golf. However, Titleist was confident about golf’s resurgence and their strategy of pulling ‘dedicated golfers’ through their brand representation by winners.
Looking at the below chart, the success of their strategy is evident with the dominance of Scotty Cameron putters each year (Quite similar to their Vokey Wedges).
Nevertheless, both TaylorMade and Callaway have challenged the leader in this category. You can notice that, TaylorMade took the tour by storm in 2020 and was seen in 36% of winners’ bags.
Note: Around 25% of winners used ‘prototype’ putters, custom-made for players. We have mapped them to the original families as much as possible to bring uniformity to the data.
Don’t be confused to see more of TaylorMade in this chart of product appearances in most victories.
Scotty Cameron is in its league when it comes to traditional blade-type putters and has enjoyed mass adoption, meaning most winners on tour use them. However, their wins split between Scotty Cameron Newport, Futura, and recently the Phantom range.
On the other hand, TaylorMade Spider range, with its unique “spider” looking head (built to challenge the Odyssey 2 ball putter) took the top spot in our analysis for 3 years straight (2018 to 2020).
The weighted heels of the Spider club allowed for a more forgiving putter. In technical terms, if you did not strike the putt from the center of the clubface, the putter would not twist as much as a Scotty Cameron putter. This meant an off-center strike on the putter’s face would remain straighter than competitor putters. When putting for tens of thousands of dollars a week in and week out, this is a massive advantage to have the assurance and insurance in your putting stroke.
Perhaps a slowdown in technology progression in TaylorMade putter, has meant Scotty Cameron taking back the #1 spot in 2021. Odyssey also leapfrogged the technical Spider putter. This was down to their shaft technology, particularly the “counterbalance” shafts that you find throughout the Odyssey putter series, which was taken up by many of the PGA professionals.
However, despite the comings and goings, when you look into the winners’ tools on the short grass. Scotty Cameron will always feature. Like the Vokey Wedge, it is the premium material, the traditional looks, and the consistent performance from the milled face that the players love.
Titleist Pro V1 and V1x are the top ball choices of the PGA tour winners
When it comes to ball selection the players have 2 choices. Either the softer skin on the ball (Titleist Pro V1 and TaylorMade TP5) or the harder skin (Titleist Pro V1x or TaylorMade TP5x).
Titleist wins it by a mile every year, with more than half of the winners choosing their golf balls on tour.
The Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x are the top choice of golf balls for the winners.
Interestingly, the winners tend to prefer the Titleist Pro V1x golf ball a tad bit more.
When this ball is compared to its sister, the Pro V1, the difference lies in two key areas. Firstly, the Pro V1x will launch lower due to its firmer skin, and secondly, it has a harder feel around the greens, while the spin rate is similar in both.
Therefore, it is down to the players to select their preference, the firmer feel leads this when it comes to The PGA tournament winners.
In shafts category, winners preferred Mitsubishi for drivers and woods, Graphite Design for hybrids and True Temper for irons and wedges
The shaft department on tour has been the biggest technological advancement in recent years. We see a plethora of modern technologies coming through within the shaft product range. Many claim to increase ball speed, increase launch angle, and lower spin rate.
Before we analyze what shaft is performing at the highest win rate, it is important to note that all drivers now can interchange and lock new shafts within 10 seconds. All clubs now are very interchangeable, and you can purchase adapters. If you have a Titleist shaft, with the right adapter, that could slide into a PING driver and so forth.
Hence the analysis of shafts used by winners gets complex. For brevity, we are presenting the most popular shaft brand and most used shaft model for each category across 5 years.
Mitsubishi (Including their Aldila subsidiary) and Fujikura were the two most popular choices for Drivers & Woods, with the Mitsubishi coming out on top more than Fujikura. For MCA (Mitsubishi Chemical America), their Diamana and Tensei sub-brands led the pack, while for Fujikura it was the Speeder and Ventus series.
For hybrids, Graphite Design inc’s ‘Tour AD’ series of premium shafts were the most popular choice by winners enabling them to top the brand representation chart in 3 out of 5 years.
Within the irons, True Temper is globally considered the number one golf shaft brand. We found that between 2017 to 2021, an average of 66% of iron shafts and an average of 73% of wedge shafts in the winners’ bags were manufactured by True Temper.
The most popular series for every year as seen in the graph was the Dynamic Gold, followed by their sub-brand, Project X.
Putting It All Together
Golf’s biggest brands compete with one another to get their clubs in the hands of top performers. But when you put stats to the facts, Golf becomes even more fascinating. Doesn’t it?
Boy, this was exhaustive!
So here’s a succinct infographic showing which brands have truly dominated the winner’s circle on PGA Tour for several years.
It was interesting to see that TaylorMade and Titleist were the only brands occupying the top 2 spots in ALL club types, surpassing the competitors.
We’d like to thank ‘PGAtour.com‘ for publishing the WITB information diligently for many years, which was used for this study. Such curated reports are only possible because of the data transparency maintained by the Golf organizations.
And if you’d like to know more about how we gathered and analyzed this data,
Here’s a link to our study methods.
Now we’d like to hear your thoughts:
What’s your #1 takeaway from this brand study?
Or you can ask a question about the findings.
Either way, we’d like to hear from you. So leave a comment below right now.