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Scratch Golf is going out of business

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GolfWRX has learned that Scratch Golf, a boutique golf equipment company founded in 2003, will go out of business. The company faced financial difficulties in recent years, which led to a company restructuring that “didn’t work out,” according to founder and outgoing President Ari Techner.

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“We fought and tried hard for 12 years,” Techner said. “We were never very well capitalized, and the golf business is a tough business. Looking back, there are a few key mistakes I could point to. The biggest mistake was trying to expand too much, which got us away from who we were as a company … of course hindsight is 20/20.

“I think we had a very positive impact on the industry, and I’m not sure the major equipment companies would have improved their custom programs as quickly as they did if we didn’t exist. I’d like to thank all of our customers for the support through the years. It was an honor to be trusted with something as personal and important as our customers’ golf clubs. 

“We never had a big staff, but we had a lot of loyal, good people who worked for us. It was a dream come true to work with Don White, and I could talk about how incredibly talented Jeff McCoy is forever. The game of golf is lucky that he decided to make golf clubs, and I hope for golfers’ sake that he continues to do that.”

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Scratch Golf’s assets will change hands in the coming weeks.

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61 Comments

61 Comments

  1. Jay

    Nov 4, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Are they selling off the rest of the clubs hey have?
    WHere can I buy the wedge in the picture!!?

  2. Clayton

    Nov 2, 2015 at 12:31 am

    Does anybody know who is going to purchase the assets and when that is taking place?

  3. Skillet

    Oct 28, 2015 at 1:40 am

    Man some of the reactions to news like this surprises me. I mean some people act like Scratch Golf held your mom up at a convenience store or something. They were a boutique company who obviously loved golf components and wanted to give it a go at making some premium small run equipment. They, for the most part, did just that. The golf industry, like most others, is just too much of a machine and very hard to survive in. At the very least,, I hope all involved had some good times and found some satisfaction in their craft. And hopefully they will all move on to greener pastures fiscally. I can’t speak for some of the top shelf full iron sets they produced, but I did thoroughly enjoy several of their wedges. As workable as anything I have ever used for sure. All the best to the former staff of Scratch and thanks for your efforts to produce a product that was ultimately intended for our joy. I think I speak for many people in saying we appreciate the effort and wish you all the best.
    -Skillet

  4. Jack Wullkotte

    Oct 20, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I first saw the product Scratch Golf was offering to the public, right about the time they hired Don White. My only thought was, the heads were terrible looking. Not only were the models cosmetically bad, but the grinding was equally amateurish. If they continued to design iron heads looking like that, even God couldn’t help them. I never saw any of their clubs after White began working for them, but you couldn’t blame their demise on him, because in my 68 years in the clubmaking business, he was the very best. It had to either be bad management, ridiculously high prices for an inferior product, or heads designed by someone who had no idea what a decent golf club should look like.
    Jack Wullkotte

  5. Pat

    Oct 19, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    I’m sad to hear that Scratch has gone under. I still play my tour issue raw scratch wedge which I’ve had for 8 years and have a set of AR-1’s in the closet. One of the best iron sets I still keep around to this day. Currently play Vega but I sometimes whip out the AR-1’s when I feel nostalgic.

  6. JP

    Oct 16, 2015 at 8:36 am

    I have a set of their 8620 wedges. I have played some of my best rounds with them in the bag. Took a little work to get them where I liked them, but they are solid sticks. Hate to see the company fold….

  7. Andy W

    Oct 15, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Am enormously sadden to see Scratch go. Ari created some putters for me that were technically very difficult to construct, and yet made each one a piece of art that even Leonardo De Vinci would have admired. Each putter is an incredibly work of art and functions like no other. A few timeliness and quantity issues, but overshadowed when the Mona Lisa was delivered.
    This art work is on display at ebay, search “Surveying Putter” or Putting.

    • Si

      Oct 16, 2015 at 4:36 am

      “Leonardo De Vinci”

      Oh you so do NOT know what Da Vinci did or who he was. So shut it, shut the exaggeration

  8. Sean

    Oct 14, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    Don White where are you?

    • KoolAid

      Oct 16, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Probably fishing for Brim or down in Jacksonville with his buddies fishing for Mullet.

  9. Will

    Oct 14, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    what did u expect. they charge 1.5x all the established manufacturers. good to see theyre paying the ultimate price. good riddens.

    • Captain Obvious

      Oct 15, 2015 at 12:07 am

      Better materials and a better product = higher price, especially when the volume is lower. Similar to how Will + spelling bee = failure.

      • Johny Thunder

        Oct 15, 2015 at 4:49 am

        This is the Wal-Mart mentality that the majority of sheeple have been brainwashed to believe; price is the only deciding factor in life. Higher price = ripoff. Lowest possible price = birthright entitlement. Forget service. Forget quality. Forget choice. Forget craftsmanship. Forget artisan work. This is why Wal-Mart employs almost 1% of the US population, and small companies – a benchmark of a healthy economy – are driven out of business. Anyone who says “good riddens” [sic] to such small companies will ultimately get what they “pay” for. We’ll have to fondly recall the good old days of actual choice, and thank the global conglomerates for the illusion of choice. It’s happened in many industries already, it would be nice if golf were smart enough to avoid it.

    • Scott

      Oct 15, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      What was even worse were their hours. They were open 9 to 5 during the week only, no (or very limited) Saturday hours to get fit. That made it tough to get to the studio

      • Captain Obvious

        Oct 16, 2015 at 3:55 pm

        If you talked to one of their reps, they’d work around your schedule. I went to the studio a couple of times when they weren’t otherwise open, during the process of getting fitted for and buying my irons and wedges.

  10. golfiend

    Oct 14, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Was impressed with their wedges and availability of different grinds. In fact, I felt the forged wedges were too “soft” for my taste (meaning that it went out of the range for feedback on the soft side as opposed to the more common harsh/hard side) after owning several of them. The golf equipment business is a tough one!

  11. Ol deadeye

    Oct 14, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    Sure, I’ve heard of them. Wedges are like putters, hard to set your product apart from off the rack at much lower prices. Never played with anybody who had one in his bag and I used to play three times a week. Still, I hate to see any American business fail. Better luck in the future.

  12. Jason G

    Oct 14, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Honestly, most people in the golf industry are shocked they lasted this long. Great customer service, horrendous management.

  13. David

    Oct 14, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Sad to hear but not surprising. They had a good value product early on that I loved (the cast 8620 wedges), but when they abandoned that line for only forged wedges and the prices for those clubs were 2x, I could not afford them. They probably lost a lot of folks then just based on price.

    Moving to Detroit probably wasn’t the best idea either, but I think it was for family reasons.

  14. Duffer Pauly

    Oct 14, 2015 at 11:50 am

    Never heard of them – never seen one of their clubs – never heard anyone I know who plays mention them…I have played golf for 50 years and these little upstarts come and go. I would never buy a “custom” club…My index goes between 3.7 (lowest) to 8.8 (highest), and I play off the shelf clubs…This custom fitting nonsense is pure garbage for all but the touring professional. And even then, a young Tiger could beat anyone with a Dunlop set from Target. Golf is a game of tempo, attitude, confidence and a little luck…Period.

    • Don

      Oct 14, 2015 at 12:11 pm

      Where have you been? I don’t know of anybody who plays golf and is up on golf equipment who hasn’t heard of Scratch Golf. But you are correct in that it is very difficult for a company like that to survive. They custom make clubs at a premium price. The big name manufactures will custom fit you and custom make your clubs with no upcharge. Not to mention you have better resale value when you try to sell a big name club. But they did have some very nice looking clubs.

    • Jason G

      Oct 14, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      I hope you are just trolling…

    • Captain Obvious

      Oct 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      Maybe your handicap wouldn’t fluctuated so wildly if you weren’t compensating for poorly fitted clubs.

    • James

      Oct 15, 2015 at 12:48 am

      Are you kidding or just plain ignorant?

  15. don davis

    Oct 14, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Sad commentary on golf these days. The game is more corporate with big companies running the show and participation is declining . I remember the old days when clubs were treasures and Scratch Golf reminds me of that kind of company.

  16. KK

    Oct 13, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    Scratch has made some of the most beautiful bespoke irons I have ever seen. Very sad it’s going under. Even sadder that modern societal values seem to be drifting further and further away from values intrinsic to golf which may be partly why golf is shrinking.

  17. TWShoot67

    Oct 13, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    So sorry to hear this news. I’ve always wanted to get with Ari and DW and come up with my own custom set, but like Scratch golf I had a good 5-6 years of bad sh!# happen, like getting hurt in 2008, then not able to work until 2011 only to not find the industry was dead! I can only wish the best for all the guys at Scratch golf, hopefully things will work out for all involved! Still have my custom built 53* 1018 wedge will never sell this baby!

  18. Benny

    Oct 13, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Too bad, such an awesome product and custom builds like no other. It is not an easy market by any means. Looking at most of these replies manufacturing is not going to improve either. LOL.

  19. Joe

    Oct 13, 2015 at 8:54 am

    Should have done better advertising. I’ve never heard of em.

    • Justin

      Oct 13, 2015 at 10:22 am

      That’s the biggest hurdle for smaller brands, I think. We’re constantly seeing ads for the “big boys”, but these smaller companies (which many, I feel, can go toe-to-toe with them) just don’t have the ad budget to keep up.

      • Richie Hunt

        Oct 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm

        I agree with Ari, most businesses I see that fail (and that my employer has bought out) struggled with expansion. You can make a great product and get a huge increase in demand, but if you can’t handle the distribution it will likely destroy your business.

        I think the golf equipment world is one of the worst because if a Tour player decides to use your product, for free, and then wins an event and the public sees that he’s using your product…the demand could explode for the product. Then the delivery times lag and that creates customer dissatisfaction and if you’re not creating new products and the original product becomes a fad, then you can have all of this supply built up with nobody to sell it to. And you’re paying extra $$$ for manpower to meet that demand. Advertising should be the least of a small golf company’s worries. Creating demand and being able to fulfill that demand as it fluctuates is the real issue.

        • Matt

          Oct 13, 2015 at 2:38 pm

          Advertising is often part of creating that brand.

    • rockin1234

      Oct 14, 2015 at 9:56 am

      You’ve never heard of “’em” because they didn’t carry them at dicks sporting goods. *They advertised on this site

      They did have a tour presence, not many big names, but Ryan Moore used them some years back.

  20. KoolAid

    Oct 13, 2015 at 8:42 am

    I doubt Balmer and the other investors who put in millions would agree under funded was the cause. Guess this means that Don White didn’t really retire after all. Hopefully Patrick Boyd’s personal bank loan to float the company during rough times got paid off before going out of business. Sounds like the operating losses just got too much to handle and someone called the note.

    • Kooleraid

      Oct 14, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      Should have followed the Scotty Cameron business model

  21. Buybye

    Oct 13, 2015 at 3:44 am

    Greed.
    For being “boutique” I bet they all took big pay checks home thinking they can sustain it, instead of making super-special limited-number clubs at higher prices like some custom houses do in Japan and making them damn right perfect, but instead they tried to entice the lower-end general public into thinking there’s another option for forged clubs but when the bad rumors spread and Scratch couldn’t back it up initially, they were doomed.
    I’m glad they’re gone.

    • Wade

      Oct 14, 2015 at 12:16 am

      I am sure some small companies fail because the owners/investors take too much out of their company too early, but the above statement strikes me as unfair without proof. Based on Ari’s posts I’ve read my impression is that he would not be one to do that.

  22. Johny Thunder

    Oct 13, 2015 at 12:27 am

    I think “trying to expand too much” might be a lesson well learned by other companies, and would be interested to hear Ari expand on that. Too often the truths of companies closing are lost in hyperbole and cloaked in media bull****. Sometimes “small” is just the right size, regardless of what MBAs, media, shareholders or armchair quarterbacks might think. Like suggesting Scratch needed to “compete with the big boys” in order to be successful, profitable, and a great career (albeit for a comparatively small number of people). I liked what Scratch was doing; owned a few wedges and a set of EZ-1s. I’d like to see a lot more small companies in golf – ones that know you needn’t be a global corporate conglomerate to be successful and solvent.

    • Wade

      Oct 14, 2015 at 12:26 am

      Agreed. Bigger doesn’t mean smarter. Restaurants are a good example. I’ve seen it happen several times to good pizza joints that decided to expand and couldn’t handle it. Then it’s a shame when they closei. There is something to be said for wanting what you have.

  23. rymail00

    Oct 12, 2015 at 11:57 pm

    Hands down the best wedges I’ve ever played and the only since the JLM wedges and now DW wedges I got this Spring.

    I truely wish the best to Ari and the rest of the crew the best in the future.

    Definitely a sad day.
    Ryan

  24. rymail00

    Oct 12, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    WOW!!!! This sucks!!!!
    I was so hoping to play Scratch wedges forever.

    So bummed out.

  25. Jack

    Oct 12, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    This sucks. They made some great wedges. Irons I never really loved, but their wedges looked and worked great. They sorta pioneered making multiple grinds available to customers rather than just pros. Not sure what it did for my game, but it sure was cool.

  26. marcel

    Oct 12, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    hard market

  27. Stevemac

    Oct 12, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Really great guys that I got to meet in Oregon many years ago-thank you, Steve

  28. Nick

    Oct 12, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    In 2009 I was interested in some scratch irons. I sent an email to a general mailbox address off their website figuring I’d get some automated response. 15 minutes later, I got an actual reply from one of the VPs (forget the name). We exchanged emails for a week about the set makeup and then he was even gracious enough to contact my club pro and sell the set at wholesale to him instead of at retail to me. I still play them and will for a long time.

    • Justin

      Oct 13, 2015 at 10:26 am

      That’s pretty cool! Not only did you get good clubs, but a memorable experience, as well!

  29. Doug G.

    Oct 12, 2015 at 6:42 pm

    After both playing Michigan golf for a over 3 decades, Ari and his crew (Patrick, Don, Jeff) were the only people I’ve ever met with the true talent to properly “fit” both wedges or irons to someones game. I’ve been everywhere in M.I. and I’ve seen every “club fitter” “golf pro” you could name and NOT ONE has successfully done similar work with grinds, bounce, finish, stamping etc. Sad day in my world of golf, truly hope these guys grind it out and come back with the same premium stuff.

  30. James

    Oct 12, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Not surprised. I remember reading that the Materials they used were not as advertised. Didnt they just get RAW heads forged or cast from Kyoei (Vega, Yururi ect ect) and finish them off in the States? Pretty tough to compete when your costs per unit are 3-4x and are no different than other forged wedges.

    • derek

      Oct 12, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      Poor taste to say that on such somber news. That was proven to be a lie. Scratch tested and showed proof. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

    • Travis

      Oct 15, 2015 at 7:51 am

      That is the most asinine statement on this thread. Who cares where they got the heads, it is what they did with them that set them apart. The great painters of the world get their paint from the same place as everyone else.

      • James

        Oct 17, 2015 at 8:56 pm

        An artist is not a Company that has to compete with non-artists offering a similar product at a much lower price. The reason I made the statement about the heads is because it is pertinent and had a meaningful effect on the companies bottom line. The Company is not making any of the clubs themselves but simply stamping blank heads, the only thing making them unique is the stamps and the paint. which make it automatically more expensive per unit than other large companies who get bulk amounts of raw heads from Japan (1018 series – Kyeoi forged) or China (8620 series). The clubs that Don White got to grind are different, they are atleast raw heads forged from Japan and finished by one of the best, but were extremely expensive.

  31. cb

    Oct 12, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    sad news, these guys were excellent and extremely talented people and they always were nothing but gentlemen to customers. the OEMs should be lining up trying to get these guys working for them

  32. Garrett Metcalf

    Oct 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    seriously bummed by this I’ve had the original EZ1 in my bag since 2007 wanted to get a set of AR1 V2 to replace them I have to find a set before they’re all gone!

  33. 3 Jack Par

    Oct 12, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    That sucks. I bought a set of SB-1s this spring, and my iron game has never been better. I love my irons, and I was hoping that I’d be able to replace them with another Scratch set when these wear out. As a Detroit guy, it was cool to have an equipment company like Scratch in my back yard, and it’s sad to see they couldn’t make a go of it.

  34. Mark

    Oct 12, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Quality product and a bit different. Didn’t stand a chance against the big players. I wonder how Hopkins are doing?

  35. Tom

    Oct 12, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    Well thats a pisser.

  36. Pure745

    Oct 12, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Ugh.. hate to hear this. Can’t thank Ari, Patrick, Jeff, and Don enough for making some of the coolest irons and wedges I have ever had the pleasure of hitting.

    • KCCO

      Oct 31, 2015 at 2:14 pm

      you own some of the best irons, prob the best they ever made!

  37. Kyle

    Oct 12, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Always sad to hear someone else in the biz went out of business. Wish them all the best going forward.

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Equipment

What It’s Like: TaylorMade Golf’s “The Kingdom”

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One of the best parts of this job, beyond the people we get to meet, is the facilities. All of the core OEMs have a “place” that is exclusive, away from anything normal, and you gotta know someone to get a ticket in.

That’s what the “What It’s Like” series is about. Those certain OEM places with no doors open to the public. Those places that if you happened to sneak in, there is no way you can Fletch your way around into two steak sandwiches and a bloody mary.

I never admit this, but I used to manage a night club in Los Angeles called Les Deux (it was cool for a minute). It was a fun although soul-sucking endeavor but the thing that made the experience stick out was the exclusivity of it. If you got in by knowing someone, greased the door guy (me), or got invited, it was four hours of awesome. Yes, it’s a lame example, but there is, unfortunately, something about getting to the other side of a closed door that is just awesome.

TaylorMade Golf’s Kingdom is location No. 1, and as you would expect, it’s nothing short of pure golf ecstasy.

My Experience

I have been to TaylorMade HQ quite a number of times, and typically those visits involve time at what I call the gear junkie mecca (short of Tiger Woods’ garage or the Nike Oven graveyard now called Artisan) AKA The Kingdom.

The coolest thing about it is how subtle the location is. Located just steps away from the front door of TM HQ (and a very random corporate basketball hoop) sits a small-yet-elegant building that if you didn’t know was there, you would fly past it. Once you pull into the side parking lot, unload your sticks, and head to the door, there is still that feeling of “will they actually let me in?”

Here’s the thing. The best (all of them) have been in here. To test, practice, hang out, get fit, get wowed to potentially be on staff and everything in-between. A schmuck like me should get nervous, but then it happens, the door opens and you are not only let in but you are greeted by the master of ceremonies and a man I truly adore Tom “TK” Kroll.

With the passion to match not only yours but anyone else who walks in, he makes sure every nuance is seen and experienced. From the lobby with current TM athletes on the wall to the locker room with your custom locker that sits next to an exact replica of Tiger’s bag. There are snacks, extras shoes, gloves, swag, coffee, beer, and all your wildest dreams…and we are barely in the facility.

From a 35,000 foot view, The Kingdom has everything a golfer would ever want, need, or wish for. Starting with Duane Anderson’s putter studio that has tested thousands of strokes from players ranging from a 20 handicap to Rory McIlroy. The data compiled in this room is staggering. We did a video (link below) that gives you the full rundown.

There are three (one with an Iron Byron for testing) main inside hitting bays with all the bells and whistles you would assume. TrackMans, cameras, big screens, fresh gloves hanging on the wall, and a club fitting matrix with every TM combination you could think of.

The outside hitting area is heaven on earth. There is no other way to describe. Huge hitting area with multiple styles of grass, lies, pins, etc. Any shot you would need to hit can be recreated here on grass with a ball flying into the air and not into a screen. My favorite area is the Flick Tee. In honor of the great teacher and longtime TM staffer Jim Flick. Its tucked up high and privately in the corner of the range under a tree and this may sound ridiculous but you can almost feel Mr. Flick standing there with you as you look out onto the facility. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

As mentioned, the man who manages your experience is Tom Kroll. He’s about as respected and beloved as anyone in the industry and for good reason. You combine passion with service you get an awesome human to hang out with. Everyone that has been through these doors has a TK story, which includes a chuckle and a smile.

I chatted with him recently about The Kingdom, and this is what he had to say.

JW: Walk me through how The Kingdom came to be what it is now? Basically origin to current day…

TK: Back in 1994, I was in R&D, running player testing, and we needed to find our own testing range. We built our headquarters in Carlsbad in the 1990s and added the range in 1998. Only robot, cannon and player testing were done at the start. Once in a while, a tour or staff pro would come out and test, but it was all operated from one building. At the time, what’s currently the clubhouse at The Kingdom was actually a maintenance building. But in 2010, The Kingdom was reimagined to the layout we have now.

Over the last three years I’ve been at The Kingdom, we’ve added GEARS, Quintic high-speed cameras, and a Foresight simulator bay. We transformed the putting lab with a Perfection Platforms articulating floor and SAM technology. Last year we resurfaced the main tee, redesigned and dedicated the Flick Tee, underwent a complete renovation of the short game area with new bunker complexes, redesigned the targeting downrange, and developed a par-3 routing. We partnered with Kurt Bowman Design, a longtime designer under Jack Nicklaus.

Our superintendent Mark Warren and his crew have done incredible work with our current maintenance equipment, and I can’t wait to see the conditions after we deliver a brand new fleet of brand new Toro equipment. We structured a long-term partnership with Toro and Turf Star Western.

JW: What is the simple function of The Kingdom? 

TK: We still have the robot bay and R&D does development work almost every day. We are mostly a resource for the entire company: Global Sports Marketing (Tour), developmental pros and ams, AJGA standouts, our Crusaders (club professionals), and commercial teams. We host pre-lines to introduce new product to our at-large teams and training events. We’re even a PR resource, hosting media, social influencers, celebrities, and professional athletes.

We also act as a hub for our Crusaders. They send their members to us, and we wholesale back to the staff account. I’ll do a significant amount of corporate events, charity events and have had “Flicks at The Kingdom” where we set up a giant projector and our employees bring their kids, beach chairs and blankets to watch a movie out on the range. Really a fun and cool event.

JW: Give me three awesome stories or experiences from your time there that you are cool sharing.

TK: It’s tough to only pick three! From Reggie Jackson stopping by to Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, President Bush. Those may be the most haughty name drops of all time! What can I say, it is beyond the coolest job I have ever had! It’s truly tough to pick, but here are my three…

Story 1: Tiger was preparing to make his first PGA Tour start after fusion surgery and he just spends the day grinding out here. He was testing an early proto of the TW irons and to see how much speed he still had. There’s a sound that only he and maybe two or three others make when they center it up. That sound is something that goes through your body, I can still hear it. It sticks with you.

He’s playing old school lofts, which are three degrees weaker than any other tour pro, but the carry distances were still there, the windows he hits it through, holding it against the wind, flighting a 6-iron even ripping a 5-wood 275 yards. His feedback and ability to discern the most minute details working with the advanced teams developing the irons was fantastic to witness.

To come full circle, I played with him in the Southern Cal Amateur when he was 16-years-old and had a front-row to his 62 at Hacienda, I was keeping his scorecard so he has my autograph. To again be standing three feet from him while he goes through the process is just special.

Story 2: I’m going to put two guys in the same bucket (because The Kingdom is so magical, I hope the golf gods are okay with it). Rory now spends a day out here the week of Farmers–he has for the last two years, and with the U.S. Open there 2021, I think he’s a lock for the next few. He went through two sets of irons in a wind quartering off the right at 20-25 mph. The consistency of launch, speed and spin were shockingly close! It was one of the greatest ball-striking exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. We handpicked the range after his day, it took us 10 minutes He’s also the most gracious, down to earth person.

Jon Rahm stops by five or six times a year. To watch his sessions in the putting lab, to see Duane show him what’s changing and getting Jon back to baseline and see his confidence, to the 4-iron flop shots after we tell our Seve stories. Jon is part of the family. His brother and dad came out before Jon and Kelly’s wedding. He’s one of the two or three others where the sound goes through you.

Story 3: Has to be Operation Game On (OGO). We have partnered with  Tony Perez for over 15 years, we are the cherry on top of a 6-10 week program where wounded veterans take lessons and the graduation is a fitting at The Kingdom. I had a dear friend, Joe Horowitz, who’s a golfer and a musician, here late one day and I mentioned the OGO guys were coming the next day. It’s Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps Birthday. Not to mention Jon Rahm would be here for a last tweak before he left for Dubai. Joe shows me a video of him singing the national anthem at the Jaguars game a few weeks before, and we both say let’s do that for the OGO guys. I get in early and send an email to all employees to be on the tee at 9 a.m. sharp. We have the OGO guys arrive and Jon is hanging in the locker room. I’m stalling to get all the employees onto the tee through the side gate, I walk the boys into the bay and hit the roll up door. Outside are 250 employees cheering these guys on! Joe sings the anthem (goose bumps every time), then happy birthday to Jon and the marine corps. There’s fittings, a pizza truck, Jon Rahm signed U.S. Open staff bags for the OGO boys. Then, get this, Jon goes on and wins that week in Dubai!

JW: If you could change anything about the property or the experience what would it be?

TK: At TaylorMade, the relentless pursuit of improving is in our DNA. The Kingdom is no different. We’re constantly innovating and reimagining the downrange experience. From targeting, to conditions and turf types, we’re always nuancing and squeaking out ways to be better. One example, we’re designing each of our targets with a specific purpose. When players are testing at The Kingdom, we want them to feel that every shot has a consequence. So, we want to deliver a real-world experience in every testing situation. We went through a massive redesign last fall and are currently still working with the advanced research team on new ways to enhance our testing and fitting experiences to meet the way that players perform in competition.

When it comes to the overall experience, The Kingdom has transformed from a predominantly R&D and fitting facility to the most capable environment to test, measure and understand how equipment performs and how golfers interact with their equipment. I call it the ultimate truth machine. We help golfers at every level uncover the insights they need to improve. After each session, we’re going to know everything about the club, the player and the ball flight.

So we came from a place where we were mainly focused on research, fitting, and selling. Our goals have changed. Now we obsess over how to help golfers get better.

What would I change? If you’re curious and passionate about making change, the answers are out there. The first thing we do is listen. We’re going to change everything that needs to be changed in order to meet our goals. I have an incredible focus group to bounce ideas off of. To ask our tour pros, club professionals, and teachers for feedback on the design ideas and what they like and prefer is fortunate. We’re constantly learning, we’re constantly improving, and if there’s a better way do something, then we’re going to figure it out and do it.

JW: What does the kingdom look like in 10 years?

TK: We have a lot of incredible plans for new targeting, bunker complexes, and refining the purposeful design of the range and short game area. Beyond that, we have designs for new teeing areas, a new short game complex, adding another GEARS system and Foresight Simulator, along with other new technologies. I can’t disclose all we do, since the R&D guys get a bit jumpy when I start going on about all the cool stuff and high science! I don’t know exactly what The Kingdom looks like in 10 years as technologies and our understanding continue to improve, but I do know give me six months, and we’ll have done something new. Always grinding to get better!

JW: Tell me a little bit about your career at TaylorMade.

TK: 31 years is hard to do in a “little bit” but I’ll try to give you the Clif Notes! Bob Vokey ran our Tour department and had me running his repair shop in Vista after George Willett took a job driving the Tour truck for TaylorMade. I was refinishing wooden clubs and repairing clubs for the local country clubs. I told Bob I was going broke making $4.50 an hour and driving all over San Diego. I asked if he could get me a job at TaylorMade and I started on the custom line with Wade Liles! Get to work at 2 p.m., off at 1 a.m. and golf in the morning. It was the life! Not to mention, I was lucky enough to meet my wife who worked for the company.

I started our player testing and worked for the great Dr. Benoit Vincent–the smartest man I know. I was a pretty good player, and I played a bunch of USGA and national amateur events. But when I did a TV commercial, I lost my amateur status and made the decision to turn pro. I quit my job and started that journey. Our CEO wanted me to take a leavem and I said: “I need to be all-in on this.” I had two children, a mortgage, car payments and had to buy health insurance while getting through all three stages of Q School. I realized I was a better amateur than a tour pro. We had our third child, and then I got the sales rep job in San Diego. After 10 years of sales, I moved inside the building and the ran innovations department before taking over our metalwoods category when we hit our highest market share in history. I spent a few years in product creation, ran global experiential for a few years and then got the best gig in all of golf here at The Kingdom. Been here for three years, and we’re just getting started!

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Puma Golf teams up with Ernie Els in support of Autism Awareness Month

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Puma X Els Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and Puma Golf has teamed up with ambassador Ernie Els in support of the Els for Autism Foundation.

Throughout April, Puma will donate a portion of every individual sale of the brand’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged shoes with the proceeds going towards the Els for Autism Foundation.

Puma X Els Autism

Every pair of Caged shoes sold this month will include a blue Els for Autism shoe bag and puzzle piece ribbon lapel pin – with the color blue and the puzzle pieces representing Autism Awareness.

Puma X Els Autism

The Els for Autism Foundation helps deliver and facilitate programs designed to serve individuals with autism spectrum disorder. You can purchase the shoes here.

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What GolfWRXers are saying about “Boutique brands vs Major OEMs”

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In our forums, our members have been discussing both boutique brands and major OEMs and why the former “trail the OEMs in drivers and woods”. WRXer ‘gr8 flopshot’, who plays a bag full of boutique clubs bar woods, poses the question and it’s got our members talking in our forum.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • DaRiz: “Irons, wedges, and putters don’t change much, and for all the technology OEMs try to pack in there, it’s more about how they look and feel. So boutique can fit in nicely here. Drivers/FW, on the other hand, definitely benefit from the millions of dollars in R&D, and it is probably really hard to compete. You can argue that COR is maxed out, but the tiny changes in launch conditions, spin rates, and forgiveness add up.”
  • MattM97: “One reason why I and most other lefties don’t go boutique is options. At least with OEM’s for drivers and most woods we get the most of what is released, some versions and loft we don’t get but better than nothing. I’m not against boutique; I love my putters, I love the look of a lot of wedges, I would absolutely love a set of Japanese forged CB irons one day. Just woods I’ll stick to OEM options.”
  • sniper: “The Wishon 560’s I had built years ago were as good (or better) as anything I’ve had. My current set of MP-18SC’s and Wishon’s are the best feeling irons I’ve played. Both came from a club builder and not built by the OEM. Obviously on the Wishon’s.”
  • RogerInNewZealand: “Genuinely good point. It’s like why we buy JDM, Yonex Ezone 420…and the famed J33 Bridgestone driver from long ago! T.E.E is another one..always a surprise there. With your wood/driver if your sorted that’s fine! You don’t have to bag an exotic club to hit fairways.”

Entire Thread: “Boutique brands vs Major OEMs”

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