AP Photo/Darron Cummings

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Nike to Stop Making Golf Clubs, Balls

Sports Dow Jones Newswires

Nike (NKE) is getting out of the business of selling golf clubs and balls, products it built around Tiger Woods but has seen suffer with a recent downturn in the sport.

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The Beaverton, Ore.-based company said Wednesday that it would narrow its focus to golf apparel and footwear and spend more on partnerships with professional golfers. As a result, the company will stop making clubs, balls and bags.

"We're committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel," said Trevor Edwards, the Nike brand president.

The move comes as the golf industry, and sporting goods in general, has struggled. Rival Adidas AG said in May that it is looking to sell parts of its golf business, including the TaylorMade brand, which is among the largest in the industry.

Golf is the smallest sport category at Nike, and sales for the unit slipped 8% to $706 million for the fiscal year ended May 31. The company makes the bulk of its revenue from sales of footwear and apparel but gained a following in golf in large part due to the late 1990s rise in popularity of Mr. Woods.

Nike has named one of its most prominent buildings at its headquarters after the 14-time Major tournament winner, and co-founder Phil Knight mentioned Mr. Woods as among his favorite athletes in his autobiography published this spring.

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In recent years, Nike�and the professional side of the golf industry at large�has looked to find a successor to Mr. Woods, who elevated the sport to new heights in his heyday but has struggled of late. Nike has backed 27-year-old, four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, while rival Under Armour Inc. has found success with Jordan Spieth, 23, who has won two Majors.

Nike still endorses Mr. Woods, 40, who hasn't won a tournament since 2013 and has been out of action for nearly a year as he recovers from multiple back surgeries. There is no timetable for his return.

U.S. participation rates for the sport peaked at 30 million in 2003, according to the National Golf Foundation, but have leveled off since. Manufacturers like Nike and others have worked to try to make golf more appealing to millennials, including making casual golf shoes to appeal to the broader athleisure trend.

Some golf companies see greener pastures on the horizon. Acushnet Holdings Corp., which owns golf brands Titleist and FootJoy, filed for an initial public offering in June.

Brian Costa contributed to this article.

Write to Sara Germano at sara.germano@wsj.com