Nike exits golf equipment business, will stop making clubs, balls, bags

Decline in golf participation led to Nike break up (1:57)

Darren Rovell reports on Nike's decision to no longer make golf equipment and attributes it to the decline in golf participation as well as the economic downturn in 2008. (1:57)

Nike announced Wednesday that it is getting out of the golf equipment business, ditching any future in clubs, balls and golf bags.

"We're committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel," Nike Brand president Trevor Edwards said in a statement. "We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike golf."

Nike Golf finished fiscal 2016 with $706 million in revenue, its worst year since 2011, when the division generated $623 million.

Nike spokesman Brian Strong said the company has no plans to sell its golf equipment business as part of the transition, and that where there are products being made, production will continue to completion, which Strong says will take place over the next few months.

Aside from a challenging marketplace that never fully recovered in the economic downturn that began in late 2008, Nike's prime golf endorsers have struggled.

Tiger Woods, who re-signed with Nike in 2013 to a deal of undisclosed length, hasn't played golf for an entire year and missed cuts at three of the four majors in 2015.

Rory McIlroy, who signed with Nike in January 2013, hasn't won a PGA Tour tournament this season and missed the cut at the past two major championships.

"Tiger continues to be a staunch and massive brand ambassador for Nike," his agent, Mark Steinberg, told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "Tiger and I will put together a plan on the hard goods side of the business and will discuss working with new companies."

Steinberg would not disclose what Nike's exit from the equipment business would mean for Woods financially.

Winners of the past eight majors were not Nike endorsers, the longest drought since a nine-major run from 2003-04.

Nike entered the golf ball business in 2000 and the golf club business in 2001. Even though Nike had insisted that Woods' contract didn't force him to use their equipment, he eventually fully transitioned.

Wednesday's announcement comes three months after Nike's competitor Adidas said it would enter into negotiations to sell off its golf division, including TaylorMade, Adams and Ashworth.

In 2014, after years of too many products in the marketplace and heavy discounting, Dick's Sporting Goods laid off more than 500 of its in-store PGA professionals.

It's unclear what Nike's liquidation plan is or how it will work with retailers, but Dick's was discounting Nike clubs by up to 60 percent online on Wednesday.

It is also unknown how Nike's contracts with its endorsers, including Woods, McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Jhonattan Vegas, will change now that there won't be a club or ball business to promote.

"We don't discuss the details of our athlete contracts," Strong said. "We will work with each of our athletes to manage the appropriate transition."

Nike says it will focus on golf footwear, but that also has its challenges. Many retailers were put off when they bought a new Tiger signature shoe last year and Woods never wore it, instead preferring an old model.

In a statement released Wednesday, Bob Philion, the president of Nike competitor Cobra Puma, called Nike's announcement "surprising," adding that "at Cobra Puma Golf we believe we have the right strategies to continue playing offense while others are clearly playing defense."

Meanwhile, golf club manufacturer Mizuno tweeted that it would hold "open tryouts" for Nike endorsers.