Home' Australian Golf Digest : June 2017 Contents 62 australiangolfdigest.com.au | june 2017
Joining the team in the mid-1980s was
Mark McClure, a former ski instructor and
golf pro, who turned out to be a marketing
whiz. All of a sudden, Cobra had a dynamic
trio in charge with Biszantz handling the
finances, McClure the sales and marketing
while Crow provided the creative nous
behind club production.
Cobra’s great growth spurt occurred
after the signing of Greg Norman and Hale
Irwin to endorsement deals in 1991. Norman
had met Crow previously and the two
Australians had formed a good rapport.
But rather than simply pay Norman a
lump-sum fee, he was offered an equity
stake in the company, the opportunity to
assist with club development and to own
the Cobra distribution system in Australia.
Norman acquired a 12 per cent stake in
Cobra Golf worth $1.9 million.
In 1992, Cobra launched its first full set
of oversized irons in response to Callaway
Golf’s Big Bertha clubs. In order to help
launch its King Cobra line of oversized
clubs, Cobra Golf was publicly listed in
1993, raising $US38.5 million from an initial
public offering of 3.25 million shares.
Incidentally, Crow offered every PGA pro
who was a Cobra stockist the right to buy
200 shares (under the family and friends
scheme). Many bought in and almost
doubled their money instantly. To this day,
PGA pros in America thank Crow for giving
them the opportunity to make some extra
money on the side if they were willing to
take the gamble.
In 1994, King Cobra men’s clubs were a
phenomenal success, becoming the No.1
selling irons. Cobra became synonymous
with oversize irons and the company
launched popular King Cobra
clubs for seniors and women.
“Professionals don’t buy golf clubs. And
[Dad] wanted to make golf clubs that
the average guy could play with and get
better at,” says Jamie Crow. “So that’s
why he invented the oversized irons. And
remember, the Prince tennis racquet had
just come out, which was the first oversized
“He wanted something that was going to
be easier for the average guy to be able to hit.
And that’s where he made his niche market
– for seniors and the ladies ... He designed
clubs for swing speed, not for gender.”
By 1996, Cobra Golf was a leader in the
oversize iron market as well as graphite-
shafted irons for players with slower swing
speeds. At the time, Cobra had annual
turnover approaching $US300 million
and approximately 1,200 employees at its
Carlsbad factories in San Diego County.
That same year American Brands
(Acushnet’s parent company) purchased
Cobra Golf for $US754 million. It’s been
speculated Norman made more than $US50
million from the sale.
But Cobra struggled as part of the
Acushnet stable. Titleist-branded
clubs began offering the same game-
improvement features that appealed to
a wider range of golfers, thereby putting
them in competition with Cobra rather than
complementing the brand.
Still, the innovations continued,
including newer versions of the Baffler. In
1998, short-game guru Phil Rogers designed
the Trusty Rusty wedges made of soft,
unplated carbon steel with a tri-bounce sole
design and a distinctive ‘scallop’ in the back
of the flange for greater versatility and feel.
Crow retired more than a decade-and-
a-half ago. But his legacy lives on. In 2003,
the PGA of America acknowledged Crow’s
achievements by bestowing him with the
Ernie Sabayrac Award for life contribution
to the golf industry.
Jamie adds: “[Dad] always thought
outside the box. And he was willing to listen
to people. He wasn’t so set on his own ideas.
He would listen to somebody talk about
something and then he’d take it from there
to a different place.”
In 2010, Cobra Golf was sold to Puma
AG and the merged entity became a major
player in the golf industry as an equipment
and footwear manufacturer. Cobra Puma
Golf has grown as a lifestyle brand through
athletic young players such as Rickie Fowler
and Lexi Thompson.
Today, Cobra Puma Golf is one of the most
recognisable brands in golf.
The Baffler name was a word play on the baffy and baffing-spoon,
the most lofted club in a set of spoons, which was used primarily for
approach shots in the late-19th century.
For several years in the 1950s, Tom Crow would travel to England as
Peter Thomson’s “manager”. In 1958, Crow arranged a sponsorship
deal for Thomson that was worth more than the £1,000 he received
for winning his fourth British Open title at Royal Lytham & St
During his time at PGF, Tom Crow became very good friends
with Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore. On one
occasion they were playing golf at Singapore Island Country Club.
With the threat of assassination after Singapore’s separation from
Malaysia in 1965, they had a platoon of soldiers lining the fairway, a
platoon behind them and a platoon waiting ahead on the next hole.
In 1999, Tom Crow played a pivotal role in Adam Scott’s
development. Phil Scott credits Crow for introducing Adam to
Butch Harmon when the teaching guru was highly sought after due
to his association with Tiger Woods. Harmon fine-tuned a swing
that would eventually capture Australia’s first Masters title and the
world No.1 ra nking.
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