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by Joe Henry | October 25, 2016
Let's be honest: Not everyone's a cold-weather person. A good chunk of the American populace would much rather be swinging away on a golf course, so it's no wonder golf equipment is among the most heavily redeemed items in incentive programs.

"When you're looking at golf, there are two really popular items: irons and drivers," says Nichole Gunn, director of marketing and communications at Incentive Solutions. 

But while things are changing in the world of golf -- Nike and Adidas are both looking to get out of the equipment-manufacturing game -- the undisputed powerhouse club manufacturers remain Callaway Golf and TaylorMade, which is for now still owned by Adidas.

"Their technology and marketing teams are unsurpassed," says Kara Hoover, program manager at Spear One.

The must-have item, Gunn adds, are clubs from Callaway's Big Bertha family. And the company released a new driver earlier this year: The Big Bertha Fusion, specifically designed to help golfers tee off with more power and accuracy. 

While Callaway and TaylorMade are clearly market leaders in golf clubs, Hoover notes that Cobra and PING are "near the top, but not close to Callaway or TaylorMade." Gunn has seen uptick in redemptions for the Cobra KING driver -- which the company bills as "The Ultimate Distance Machine."  

Gunn is also seeing more redemptions of the Grenade driver from BombTech Golf, a family-run company, formed in 2011. "We think it'll be hot during the holiday season," Gunn says. "It's almost a rebel thing."

On the other hand, maybe all you need is a putter. These are more of a toss-up in terms of brand popularity, said Hoover -- though she noted Scotty Cameron putters are still huge. The company is known for its milled blade putters, carved from a single piece of steel.

Of course, is a golfer without something to hit still a golfer? Choosing the right ball is important in the sport of golf, and the more expensive the ball, the better the quality. Balls with a urethane cover in particular are the most coveted, because they spin well and last a long time. And undisputedly, the top manufacturer is Titleist, and its most popular product is the premium Pro V1. 

"Titleist is the number one ball in golf," says Hoover. "That is not just a commercial."

But while Titleist is the big name for golf balls (Callaway is also popular), Gunn is seeing sharp pick-up of golf balls manufactured by OnCore, a startup based out of Buffalo, NY. OnCore's products have a hollow metal core with a polymer layer, and are designed to reduce sidespin.

"They're going like crazy from our catalog, more than the Callaways and the Pro Vs, which everyone wants," Gunn says.