Golf Logos & The Golden Bear's Manly Man Makeover

I love logos!  At their best they're a melding of memorable art and effective communication; the graphic symbol of an identity... corporate or personal.

Golf is big on logos.  Now more than ever, as players, tournaments, country clubs and manufacturers seek to distinguish themselves in a highly competitive marketplace.  A memorable logo... one that truly evokes the values of a particular brand... becomes the face of that brand and all it may offer.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on recent US Open logos and how each one had to provide a distinctive take on both a hallowed golf venue and a major sporting event... in one simple image.

Country club logos traditionally tend to feature a crest and couple of crossed golf clubs, however one that really stands out for me is the re-design by Group W Art Works, of the Merion Golf Club logo.  Based on William Kittleman's design, it features a wicker basket flagstick set against a tuft of Scotch Broom. Both the pin and the plant are distinctive elements of the course, and they're artfully rendered in this logo design.

Apparel and equipment companies often tend to rely on custom fonts in their logos.  The industry has also used an interesting array of wildlife... crocodiles pumas, penguins... to create memorable brand identities.

Many professional golfers have logos these days too.  Tiger Woods, Suzanne Petersen and Lee Westwood all use their initials.  Of course I'm more partial to John Daly's lion and Ryo Ishikawa's squirrel.

This all brings us the Golden Bear... and the makeover.  Perhaps you knew this, but I didn't:  It seems that at the height of the Arnold Palmer-Jack Nicklaus rivalry,  Palmer would goad those he saw wearing Jack Nicklaus golf shirts, going so far as to suggest that the embroidered Golden Bear on the breast pocket looked more like... a pig.  And quite frankly,  if you look at the logo on the far left, you'll see that it did, in fact, appear slightly quite porcine.  Well, many surmise that the subsequent makeover... which resulted in a logo that was noticeably more athletic manly ursine... came about because Nicklaus ultimately got wind of his rival's caustic comments.

That story was originally told in "Arnie: Inside the Legend" by Larry Guest, but I came upon it in Adam Schupak's new book.  "Golf's Driving Force" is the amazing story of Deane Beman, the former PGA Tour commissioner who literally transformed the PGA Tour.  It's extremely compelling because you feel like you're in listening in on conversations... often contentious ones... that took place decades ago among those who shaped professional golf.  Shupak's writing style along with his exhaustive research and over two hundred interviews, bring golf's mid-century growing pains... and the force that overcame them... to life.