Have you ever experienced one of those “it was a really good idea at the time” moments? Have you ever thought of a ridiculous idea, gone through with said idea and then been sued by one of the world’s largest golf companies because they didn’t appreciate the use of their name in your marketing materials? Ya… me neither. But I know someone that has…
As much as I love the latest and greatest in golf equipment, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the unusual. When I sit around with some of my golfing buddies and talk about “the good ol’ days” of working in the shop, the conversation usually focuses on some of the weird and wacky equipment that we had the opportunity to play and sell. When the talk turns to golf balls, there are two models that always come up in conversation – the Top-Flite System C and System T.
Some of you have probably never heard of these… mainly because they got phased out rather quickly. There isn’t a ton of information online about these but I still have a decent recollection of the whole concept. If I’m forgetting something, leave it in the comments below.
There were really two big wood lines in the late 90’s. Callaway was riding their Big Bertha line (Great Big Bertha and Biggest Big Bertha) while TaylorMade was in full “copper mode” with clubs like the Burner Bubble, Ti Bubble and Ti Bubble 2.
I remember our Top-Flite rep coming into the shop one afternoon with a “really cool” surprise. He pulled two boxes of golf balls out from his bag. New golf balls rarely excited me but these were a bit different. Our rep explained that this new line of balls were designed to maximize the distance and accuracy of Callaway (System C) and TaylorMade (System T) drivers. At first I was intrigued by the idea but after a few minutes of thinking, I realized that these were pretty ridiculous. Ever more ridiculous was the fact that the boxes had pictures of Callaway and TaylorMade drivers on them. I’ll never claim to be an expert in the trademark and patent field but even I could see the impending train wreck with these things.
“Callaway Did Not Participate in the Design, Production or Sale of these Balls. Top-Flite is Solely Responsible for this Revolutionary Ball/Club System”
warning across the front of the box was going to prevent ol’ Ely from suing Top-Flite. Regardless, we bought a bunch of them and conveniently set them up beside the corresponding drivers (I must say… merchandising has always been one of my strengths).
To my surprise, they sold quite well. Some customers bought them out of curiosity and others swore that they really maximized their Callaway and TaylorMade clubs. Some customers even bought them in hopes that they would somehow magically transform their $20 bargain bin drivers into Biggest Big Berthas. The most entertaining part of the whole thing was how TaylorMade guys wouldn’t touch System C balls and Callaway guys stayed away from System T’s. Had a Callaway club come in contact with a ball designed for the Ti Bubble, the results would have been disastrous.
It didn’t take long for the lawyers to get involved and eventually the balls were phased out. Prior to “the law” ruining all the fun, Top-Flite had gone out and challenged Titleist and Slazenger to a $1 million “our System C and System T balls will outperform your golf balls” bet. Too bad these balls weren’t around long enough to see such a challenge unfold.
You can still find these balls online if you look long enough. The picture used in this post came from eBay where a hopeful seller is offering a dozen System C’s for $50. You’ll probably want to pass on this one and save your money.