Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Introduction: Why I’m writing 18 stories for GolfWRX

Published

on

My name is Tom Stites, and 40 years ago I fell in love with a wonderful game. For most of that time I’ve also been a golf club geek.

I started getting serious about golf clubs in the mid-1980s when I was a young, golf crazy engineer. In 1986, the Good Lord got me a dream job at the historic (and real) Ben Hogan Golf Company. That was 30 pounds and 30 years ago, but I remember it like yesterday. Actually, I remember it better than yesterday.

From then to now I’ve worked (or done consulting work) for more than 20 golf club manufacturers. During those gigs I’ve received more than 200 patents, designed more than 300 commercial golf products and worked directly with more than 150 touring pros who have used my clubs for hundreds of wins (including all four major championships, multiple times). I’ve had 30 years of great golf fun, made a good living from clubs and lived vicariously on the tour through some really great players. I don’t think for a second, however, it was because of my small dose of talent.

I got much help from many others. I also don’t think any of the good stuff would have happened if I had not met, worked directly for and learned from Mr. Ben Hogan and master club maker Gene Sheeley in my very first golf industry job. You just can’t dream up a job, a place, a time or a blessing like that. Thank you, Mr. Hogan! Thank you, Gene!

I’m sort of semi-retired now, but I still do club design and business consulting work. If you’ve ever shared a beer or dinner with me, you know that I love to tell the Mr. Hogan stories. I’ve also had great fun with many other pros. I’ve even had some hard encounters with a few. I sometimes slip up and tell these stories.

I’ve got some strong opinions about how the club business got to where it is today and where I think it will go in the future. I question how many will care, but maybe it is time for me to tee up these stories and opinions. My friends and family have encouraged me to write a book. Maybe someday I will, but for now, no. I just want to get a few things recorded so some future golfing grandson will know what his old timer granddaddy did back during the club wars of the 80s and 90s.

I wish some of my native Cherokee ancestors had recorded their stories as they were removed from their land in Georgia by Andrew Jackson and force walked on the Trail of Tears to settle Oklahoma. I wish my great great uncle, who was killed the first day of the battle at Vicksburg, had told us more of his life as a Civil War veteran. No way my life as a mere golf club veteran even sniffs close to these guys, but still I’m feeling compelled to get on paper some of my experiences and stories just in case someone, somewhere, someday might care or enjoy. As club and golf lovers, maybe some of you too will want to follow along.

So here is my plan. I will play this like a round of golf. I will tee up 18 short stories with the front 9 holes being some never-published stories of my personal encounters with Mr. Hogan. On the back nine, I will take a risk and tell stories of other pros and share my opinions on the equipment industry, as well as my predictions for the future. I especially look forward to telling you about my personal favorite touring pro and how his incredible ball striking skill doesn’t even get close to the level of his awesome personal character.

So if you will join me, I invite you to go back with me 30 years and hear the ramblings of this old fart golf club geek. I learned a lesson in each of these stories, and I think you might, too.

Related

Your Reaction?
  • 279
  • LEGIT15
  • WOW20
  • LOL0
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP3
  • OB3
  • SHANK5

Tom Stites has spent more than 30 years working in the golf industry. In that time, he has been awarded more than 200 golf-related patents, and has designed and engineered more than 300 golf products that have been sold worldwide. As part of his job, he had the opportunity to work with hundreds of touring professionals and developed clubs that have been used to win all four of golf's major championships (several times), as well as 200+ PGA Tour events. Stites got his golf industry start at the Ben Hogan Company in 1986, where Ben Hogan and his personal master club builder Gene Sheeley trained the young engineer in club design. Tom went on to start his own golf club equipment engineering company in 1993 in Fort Worth, Texas, which he sold to Nike Inc. in 2000. The facility grew and became known as "The Oven," and Stites led the design and engineering teams there for 12 years as the Director of Product Development. Stites, 59, is a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. He is now semi-retired, but continues his work as an innovation, business, engineering and design consultant. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Ben Hogan Foundation, a 501C foundation that works to preserve the legacy and memory of the late, great Ben Hogan.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Anna Simon

    Nov 4, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Hi Tom,

    I am currently working with a company that is building a new product that helps golfers improve and analyze their golf swing, taking a multi-sensor approach to the swing analyzers products on the market. The product’s Kickstarter will be launching later this month. Would you like us to get in touch with you to test the product? If so, please send me your email to anna@duotrac.com.

    Many Thanks,

    Anna Simon

  2. Austin

    Jun 12, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Tom,

    It was great to sit down for dinner with you a few years ago in the stockyards of Ft. Worth. I still retell the Henny Bogan story you to told us over those great steaks. I look forward to hearing more of your experiences. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Christosterone

    Jun 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Any wait….Nike in 2000….can’t wait to hear tiger stories/legends….dude was a god at the turn of the century

  4. driver ben

    Jun 6, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Looking forward to hearing your stories! Thank you for sharing.

  5. Deez

    Jun 2, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    WITB?????

  6. Deez

    Jun 2, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    WITB?????

  7. C. Weber

    May 31, 2015 at 7:07 am

    I can’t wait to read the stories.

  8. trbgolfer

    May 31, 2015 at 12:50 am

    Looking forward to hearing your stories and insight into the world of golf club design. Thanks for taking the time to share from your experiences and challenges with players and, even, Mr. Hogan himself. What an honor to have worked with so many wonderful people and it’s an honor to hear what you have to say. I will definitely be joining you for this “round” of golf.

  9. Reid

    May 30, 2015 at 3:50 am

    Definitely looking forward to your stories!

  10. Justin O'Neil

    May 30, 2015 at 3:15 am

    Mr. Stites,

    It will be a pleasure to read of your encounters and experiences from behind the curtain of the golf world. Your brother, Kirk, was the best man in my parents wedding. Jack O’Neil is my dad and he got me started on the game very early in life and shared some stories of you and your brother. He always went back to a round of golf with you at Oak Tree and discussing golf club tech. He also liked to tell the story of Kirk taking him up in his airplane on the morning of the wedding and doing a free-fall! Please, if you read this it would do me a great honor to have a personal correspondence with you via email. You can reach me at: justin.oneil@wosc.edu

    I am looking forward to this 18-holes worth of reading material!

  11. rymail00

    May 29, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Tom,

    Welcome to WRX. Reading your first article I got say I’m looking forward to more of them. The real “inside” of golf is something I’ll never be a part of so reading future articles or a book on that subject especially on Hogan and the Hogan company as well as Nike definitely peaks “my” interests. Hopefully people keep the comments to whatever is written in the articles and get to side tracked fanboys or haters.

    Like I said really looking forward to stories, and inside look into the golf companies regarding the good and the bad.

    -Ryan

  12. Ryan K

    May 29, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Sweet!

  13. Sean

    May 29, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Look forward to it Tom! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  14. Scott

    May 29, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    This sounds like there will be some good reads. Looking forward to it

  15. Lynn Rowland

    May 29, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Eager to hear these stories. Would be interested in reading a book written by Tom and his experiences with Hogan (the man and the company) and Nike. As well as general thoughts on club design. I have a feeling he has some very cool stuff to share. Especially with Hogan/Nike fans like myself with an engineering background. Thanks Tom

  16. larry

    May 29, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    This is exciting. I’m sure Mr. Stites is well aware of the opinions that some folks have in regards to Nike clubs and this may be a real eye opener for some, and of course, hearing stories of Mr. Hogan will be awesome as well. Looking forward to this!

  17. alan

    May 29, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    looking forward to these stories and your opinion. not many folks willing to share less than pleasant encounters they have had with others. i personally think taylormade and callaway are killing themselves and having multiple releases every year. spending tons and tons of money on advertising and product rollouts cuts into their bottom line, further consumers dont want the value of their clubs to be nominal in less than 3 months.

  18. MHENDON

    May 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    To all you Nike bashers here’s your chance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

On Spec

On Spec: The origin stories of popular golf club designs

Published

on

Host Ryan Barath takes a long look back at the lineage of club designs from putters to drivers, and explains why we often see trends repeat themselves. From the eureka moments to modern-day manufacturing techniques that allow for continuous breakthroughs in forgiveness and overall performance. We try and cover it all on the show!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

Your Reaction?
  • 6
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP2
  • OB1
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

Renee Parsons is….

Published

on

When we started discussing the idea of a PXG series, one of the things I was most curious about was meeting the person that drives the feel of PXG—not the clubs, the feel of the company, the aesthetic, the physical experience, the style…you get it. My assumption was that an introduction to a creative team would be made, but I was dead wrong. The name I was given was one person, Renee Parsons.

Like my article on Bob, I need to say this out loud. Yes, she’s Bob’s wife. Get over it. Yes, they have lots of money. Get over it. Yes, they live in an atmosphere that to most would seem lavish and a bit extreme. Get over it. And yes, it’s probably convenient that Mrs. Parsons is leading the fashion side of PXG. Get over it. Could the Parsons have gone outside of their family walls to find someone else for the job? Probably. The question is why, when the best and most qualified person sits next to Bob 24/7.

It’s a fact, both of them came from very humble beginnings and clawed, scratched and fought their way to the reality they live in now. I’m sure there are those who don’t agree with how they get things done; I’m certain no one at the Parsons residence or PXG as a company is losing sleep over it. I’d love to meet the person who wouldn’t trade places with them. If that person exists please say hi…I’ll wait.

Now that the housekeeping is done…

Having been guest of PXG a few times, I am always overwhelmed by the detail that goes into the whole experience. I mean even the soap is the greatest thing ever. As the schedule started to go out for our shoot I was most excited and nervous for the interview with Renee. It’s the truth. I know Bob well enough at this point, but the Renee conversation is a bit outside my wheelhouse. She is the president of PXG apparel—fashion—something I know very little about. There is also the elephant in the room (that got blown away the moment we met) she’s Mrs. Parsons and anyone with a brain would approach this with a bit of nervousness.

Any caution or nerves I had amassed leading up to the moment of introduction evaporated quickly. As you’ll see in the video, Renee Parsons is a fun, real, tough and measured businesswoman whose ambition rivals Bob’s. After spending time with her, I not only found enhanced respect for what she is endeavoring but also what she has accomplished already.

The PXG brand overall is a culture. It’s big, disruptive, cocky and oh so much fun. It’s not engineered for everyone to like it FYI. It’s very high end, edgy apparel that refuses to stray away from the simple essence that is PXG. The best materials JAM-PACKED into a clean, sleek package.

Like the clubs, the apparel is expensive. $200 sweaters, $300 backpacks, etc. But, like the clubs, you get what you pay for. For a nonfashion eye, I can even attest that the PXG things in my possession hold up as well as anything I have, and even more they are special to me. That’s the thing. It’s special. This is the essence of what Bob, Renee and Team have done.

Like, for instance, Mercedes Benz, PXG has created a brand that part of you might resent because of the cost, but the other part is not only curious but is attracted to what you see. It makes you curious and that is the secret sauce of what Renee is pushing for PXG Apparel. You may see it and have preconceived notions, but damn if you aren’t curious to know more. Then, you get any PXG product in your hands, or walk into the doors of Scottsdale National or PXG HQ….and you know what? You never want to leave.

That’s the biggest takeaway from my time with Renee: I’m excited and curious to see where this goes. If it’s anything like my own personal experience with the things I have been involved in with PXG (like the Scottsdale National Experience that RP had a huge hand in cultivating) it will be big, fun, cocky and leave me wanting more. So, to answer the question, Renee Parsons is…ambitious, and she is going to make the PXG brand bigger than Bob ever dreamed.

Enjoy the video!

 

Your Reaction?
  • 25
  • LEGIT9
  • WOW5
  • LOL4
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP11
  • OB9
  • SHANK94

Continue Reading

Bogey Golf

Bogey Golf: How to plan a golf trip

Published

on

Larry talks with his buddy Pat about their upcoming golf trip to Forest Dunes. They discuss how to plan a trip, what not to do, and take some questions from the audience.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending