More than just a cool slogan on a hoodie, the words “I play golf” have had such a strong impact on me throughout my life.
Like any kid growing up, I had a variety of interests… but ultimately, sports ran my life. Whether it was watching or playing, I lived for basketball during basketball season, football during football season, and baseball during baseball season. But ever since I could walk, I took a strange liking to golf in particular, and it never had an “off-season” to me. In the spring, summer and fall months, I went to the range (often forcing my mom to videotape my swing for hours), to the golf course with my dad, or hit pitch shots in my backyard until sunset or long after. In the winter, I chipped on the carpet in our living room, or I swung a golf club in a mirror working on my positions. I was obsessed with the game.
Often times, however, it was a personal obsession; something I kept to myself. Kids can be cruel, and playing golf was more of a reason to be ridiculed than praised for me while growing up. So I always told people “I play basketball,” or “I play football.” Rarely did I say, or at least say proudly, “I play golf.”
But as time went on, and I went from playing golf in junior events, to high school matches, to playing golf in college, I started saying it more and more proudly. My college peers, probably from all of the student-athlete gear I’d wear to and from class, knew I played a sport at Rutgers. They’d ask, “what do you play; baseball or lacrosse or something?” And I’d answer, “No, I play golf.”
I was being borderline cocky with my answer, if we’re being honest. I liked playing Division I golf, plus I had worked so hard to get there I felt entitled to that bravado. It also felt good to not hide my passion for golf amongst my peers anymore like I did when I was younger. Some people even thought it was pretty cool I played golf.
A funny thing happened my junior year while on the golf team at Rutgers, however. A tumor popped up into my spine, and the back spasms were so bad I needed immediate surgery. Back surgery at 20 years old is far from ideal for anyone, but as a collegiate golfer with big aspirations, it could have meant the end of my career. And it almost did.
I was forced, both physically and by my doctors, to red shirt my senior year. That meant I did not in fact play golf. For awhile, I couldn’t even stand to putt, let alone work on my swing at the range. “I play golf.” Maybe those are words I’ll never say again, I thought at the time.
Sometime during my senior season, however, I began swinging the golf club again. Then I started playing golf again. Then I started scoring pretty well during practice rounds, and I felt I was “back.” But this time around, I had a new appreciation for the sport that I’ve always loved.
After graduating from Rutgers, and with a year of eligibility still left to play collegiately, I took my (mostly diminished) talents to Hawaii; a Division II school called Hawaii Pacific University. When people asked me at HPU what sport I played, I proudly — not with embarrassment, apprehension, or some unwarranted cockiness — told them “I play golf.”
The words “I play golf” may have different meanings to you, depending on your perspective. Actually, I had a swing coach one time who would repeatedly ask me, “Do you play golf swing or do you play golf?” to which I’d answer “I play golf.” But, to me, the words “I play golf” on this hoodie represent a lifelong relationship with golf that went through ups and downs, but today I’m proud to be a golfer, and I’m proud to have the opportunity to play the game I love most. And to anyone who gets made fun of — kids, adults, whomever — for playing golf, I say screw em; be proud of who you are and what you love. Life’s too short to be ashamed of yourself, and golf truly is the greatest game ever played, isn’t it?
LA Golf Partners buys Matrix Shafts’ assets, launches “LA Golf Shafts”
Reed Dickens, Founder and Chairman of the newly formed LA Golf Partners, is bringing a concept he once used in a baseball bat company into the world of golf shafts.
Marucci Sports, of which Dickens was the co-founder and former CEO, was once the No. 1 bat in Major League Baseball, and it was different because the company partnered with professional players who not only helped with product development, but who actually invested in the company.
Now, Dickens is bringing the same strategy into golf after winning a bid and purchasing assets (inventory, equipment and patents/IP) from Matrix Shafts on March 9th. LA Golf Shafts will partner with professional golfers; the company will build shafts for these pros “from a blank sheet of paper,” meaning they will be fully custom, according to Dickens. Also, those players will become partners with the company. As of now, LA Golf Shafts has not announced exactly which players will become partners.
LA Golf Shafts will also sell aftermarket shafts, with emphasis on the word aftermarket. According to Chief Operating Officer Chris Nolan — who’s the former General Manager of North America for Matrix Golf Shafts — LA Golf Shafts will be made with extreme attention to detail and with a different scaling approach. Therefore, the new shafts will be aftermarket-only, meaning they will not be the “stock” shafts in the golf clubs of OEMs. LA Golf Shafts will also offer the signature shafts of pros to the public, according to Nolan.
So, what’s the connection between baseball bats and golf shafts?
“There’s not just a few parallels, there’s dozens,” says Dickens.
Dickens, who aspired to be a pro baseball player but is a lifelong golfer and has a handicap in the “low teens,” says when the opportunity arose to buy the assets from Matrix he drew a number of connections between the baseball bat industry and the golf shaft industry. The similarities he noted included materials used, industry size, trade secrets and attention to detail of the products. He also recalls that player-after-player in the majors had issues with baseball bat specs that were off: “Some players kept a scale in their locker to make sure their bat actually weighed [the proper amount].” Now, Dickens says making golf shafts that are fully custom and “absolutely perfect” makes perfect sense given his background. He says that “custom” shafts doesn’t mean engravings or colors, however; he says they’re making prototypes for specific player needs.
Just four days after winning the bid, Dickens and Nolan said they already began making prototypes. While no player-partner for LA Golf Shafts has been announced, they say they’re shooting for Quarter 2 — “as early in Quarter 2 as possible” — to have a product at market.
In terms of pricing, Dickens says LA Golf Shafts will “position as a premium brand.” They will be “aggressive with margins,” and expect to sell “on the high end and above the high end” of what’s currently on the market, possibly “at a few different price points.” Dickens says philosophically that he places a premium on value, meaning he “won’t ask for more money than [the shaft is] worth” and that the company will “spend more money on making these shafts in order to give more to the consumer.”
As for LA Golf Partners, Dickens says the brand new company will continue “looking for good opportunities and looking for the right partners.” Dickens says the company will focus on not just traditional strategies in the golfing space, but will be looking for strategies that are different, possibly partnering with companies not in the golf space.
“I’m on a mission to grow and expand the game of golf,” Dickens says. “[LA Golf Partners will] invest in diverse golf businesses and grow the audience of who plays golf.”
The takeaway here? Dickens and LA Golf Partners have big plans for growing the game of golf, and they’re starting with a shaft company.
Certainly, GolfWRX will be the first to bring you in-hand photos of the new LA Golf Shafts when they release, along with all of the information on materials, tech and specs when we know them.
Ben Hogan launches Equalizer wedges
The Ben Hogan Equalizer is back.
Forged from a soft, 1025 carbon steel, Equalizer wedges feature a Progressive Center of Mass Weighting System, which means more mass higher and around the edge of the club head in the lower-lofted wedges, and incrementally lowering in the higher-lofted wedges.
Equalizer wedges feature a milled face and 0.20″ U-Shaped grooves precisely cut into the face at increments of 0.40″. The CNC-milled wedge faces create a texturized surface between the grooves for increased spin.
The company carries over its V-Sole Technology from the TK wedge series, improving upon the sole geometry with a softened leading edge and addition of more bounce. The leading edge of the Equalizer wedges is straighter than the TK series, which aids alignment and tightens dispersion.
Equalizer wedges are available now in even-numbered lofts from 48-62 degrees via BenHogangolf.com exclusively. Length, lie, shafts, and grip modifications are available at no extra charge. $100 per wedge.
Dick’s relaunches Tommy Armour golf
Dick’s Sporting Goods is relaunching the Tommy Armour golf brand. That’s right, the proprietors of the 845s irons are returning to the marketplace. According to the company, new Tommy Armour products featured a “renewed focus on innovative golf club technology that promotes both forgiveness and distance.”
The in-house brand features men’s, women’s, and senior drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons, wedges, and putters.
Dick’s enlisted the help of Designworks, a subsidiary of BMW Group, to develop a premium set of game improvement woods and irons for mid-to-high-handicap at a lower price point than competitors.
“We set out to honor the history of the Tommy Armour brand and build a product that golfers at any level would want to use,” said Scott Hudler, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, DICK’S Sporting Goods. “From the early feedback we’ve received, these clubs are ones that you’re just going to have to try to really experience the difference they deliver in both distance and feel. We think this brand will be a game-changer for any player looking to improve their game.”
The company points to the new TA1 Driver, which features a DAT 55G titanium face, is a highlight of the new product line/collaboration.
Further product details, on the TA1 driver, irons, and GXT wedges, per Tommy Armour, below.
The full Tommy Armour line is available in-store and online at Dick’s.
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