Next time you run to Costco for paper towels, baby formula or coffee pods, you might consider dropping another item in your cart: golf balls.
That is, if you can find them.
As reported by Forbes this week, Costco's Kirkland Signature golf balls have become a hot commodity at the wholesale club. The first run of the four-piece, urethane-covered balls, which retail for about $30 for a 24 pack (or about $15 per dozen), already have sold out, though the store says more balls should be available by Dec. 20. Yep, just in time for Christmas.
What's the appeal? The affordability, for one, but the balls also appear to perform, with some golfers comparing them to premium priced Tour models (most of which typically retail in the $40-$48/dozen range).
"I am a 7 handicap," a reviewer named Dmun wrote on the Costco site, "and find the distance, control and short game feel are exceptional." Said Tim W: "I've played 2 rounds with these, and they are far better than any other ball I've played. Long distance off the tee and lots of spin with short irons and wedges." Added MrGolf55: "Only problem I see is people are selling these balls on Craig's list and ebay for twice the price."
Costco has been reluctant to discuss the balls and why they can't keep them in stock. When reached by GOLF.com Wednesday, a Costco media relations representative said the company "cannot comment on the Kirkland Signature golf ball at this time." There is a note on the Costco site from company president and CEO Craig Jelinek that reads, "All Kirkland Signature products must be equal to or better than the national brands and must offer a savings to our members."
With that mission in mind perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the "K-Sig," as some devotees call the ball, would perform well in comparison to big-name brands. But at a price that's about a third of some competitive models, you have to wonder how Costco has done it.
At least part of the answer could lie in another case study: Snell Golf. Like Costco, Snell is a successful newcomer to the ball market that offers a Tour quality multilayer model at a value price (six dozen of Snell's well received My Tour Ball balls cost $157.99, which equates to about $26/dozen). The Massachusetts-based ball maker is able to cut prices relative to national brands by selling direct to customers online and not spending on advertising, marketing or Tour player contracts. Obviously Costco is also cutting costs by buying and selling in bulk, and not supporting the product with any advertising.
But where did the design come from and how does a big box store without any material engineers or resident ball engineers create a Tour model that actually performs? They buy it -- in this case from a ball manufacturer in South Korea called Nassau Golf Co LTD. Though we haven't been able to reach anyone at Nassau, the Costco site (which states clearly that product details come directly from the manufacturer) describes the four-piece construction as consisting of a large, soft core, speed boosting outer core, super fast mantle, and soft urethane cover. The design as described aligns perfectly with what could be considered a generic Tour ball construction that, if properly manufactured, should perform well.
Of course there's only one sure-fire way to know if the K-Sig is right for your game: Wait until they're back on the shelves and go pick up a box for yourself.