with Robert Bicknell
According to a recent news release, the US Golf Manufacturers Anti-Counterfeiting Working Group announced that a preliminary injunction has been issued by the Southern District Court of Florida to shut down 62 websites where counterfeit clubs were sold.
Amazingly enough, that is still the tip of the iceberg.
Most golfers and almost every club professional is aware of knock-off clubs floating around the marketplace. In the old days, it was guys selling them out of the trunk of their car at driving ranges and golf course parking lots. Back then, they looked real enough except for the funky names on them which came close to the real item's name, but not enough to cause people to believe they were getting the real deal.
Nowadays, knock-off artists rip off the entire club, name and all.
You might think you're getting a new authentic R11 driver and, in some cases you could take it to a TaylorMade shop and he'd authenticate it, but it's really a high quality knock-off, right down to the serial numbers and good enough to even fool the distributors.
When this first started, club manufacturing plants, after making 10,000 of the authentic item, would knock off a few thousand heads, patterned after the original with small changes to get around the piracy laws.
But now, they don't even bother. The same manufacturing plants who turn out the real items also make a few thousand "extra" using inferior steel and other parts, which they then market as the original.
What is frightening is that these fakes play like the real thing, but only for a short time. After a few weeks, you'll find the face caving in, welds bursting loose and, occasionally, the entire clubhead flying off the shaft.
According to the Anti-Counterfeiting Group's website, it's estimated that over 2 million fake clubs are made each year. To put it in perspective, if you laid every fake club end to end, the line would stretch from Lao Cai to Vung Tau and back again. Roughly, 5,000 miles. That, my friends, is a ridiculous amount of fake clubs.
And that doesn't even take into account fake balls, gloves, bags, head covers and the like.
In 2010, the group seized 25,000 counterfeit golf products worth a million dollars.
The problem is that, there are some actual respectable internet based dealers, but not many. Most of the shady sites are actually based in Asia (you know where, I don't have to say. Any Google search will reveal it). Once they get closed down, another two or three pop up the next day with a modified name, but the web pages themselves look almost identical.
How do you know it's a fake?
Well, in the old days it was pretty easy because the name would give it away. Then, later when they started ripping off the name as well, you could tell by the colours used. Most often, they were a shade or two off the true colours. Also, some fennels would be wrong.
Nowadays, it takes an expert to know if it's real or not and, even then, they'll probably have to cut it apart to see for sure. One fake club was so good that it had the experts fooled until they noticed that the adjustable weights didn't match the markings. They were a tad higher or lower than the stamped weight.
So, it they're that close to the real thing, why not use them and save a lot of cash?
Well, as mentioned earlier, they may look identical, but the materials and workmanship aren't the same quality. The website recommends that people should only shop from authorised distributors. In most cases, the Club brand's website will have a list of recognised dealers in almost every country.
For example, if you go to Acushnet which is the parent company of Titleist / Footjoy and click on ‘Vietnam', you'd see Vietnam Golf Distribution listed as the country representative.
Another way to tell if you're buying a fake is to check where the clubs are being shipped from. If it's a certain country here in Asia (Google it), the website claims it's a pretty good bet they are knock-offs.
Golf is hard enough even with the best quality clubs, don't make it harder on yourself by using fakes. — VNS