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Meet Michael Martinez, the former Marine who is designing some seriously cool clubs and head covers

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I came across Michael Martinez’ Instagram account a couple of months back and was instantly impressed by what I saw. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran routinely posts club, shoe, and head cover designs. The account, msquare.design, is loaded with some truly interesting creations.

Here are a few examples, so you can get a taste of Martinez’s work.

I wanted to get to know Martinez a little better; and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

Tell us a little bit about your background…

I’m a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran: Signed Nov. 93’ – Entered July 94’/Discharge May 98’, and I volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve from ‘98 to ‘00. I transferred to multiple schools/universities before landing on my true passion: industrial/product design. I have an Associate’s degree in Fine Arts from Grand Rapids Community College (Grand Rapids, MI) 2005. I also hold a BA graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design – Ferris State University/ Grand Rapids. I graduated with a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Industrial Design in 2008.

I also caddied at a local country club. It would provide me with a good amount of information regarding club selection/brand loyalty/buying power/longevity/etc. It was a little different for both men and woman. They definitely approached things differently in both gaming and style. Not a lot of the woman focused on brand loyalty but were more into color and material selections. I did find that both men and women were extremely competitive and took the game very seriously. I met a lot of good people…and some really mean people!

I focused on whether or not they understood weight positioning and ball flight. Even if the user was even really focused on the visual aesthetics when making a initial purchase. I was trying to implement a new way of positioning weights on the sole of the driver. This was around the time TaylorMade introduced the R7 with external weight ports. I wanted to conceal the weights and still give the user the ability to position weights for a fade or draw. My club design was based on a driver Tom Wishon developed years earlier 715CLC; he had strategically positioned a weight on an elbow. It required using a tool and the weight was not changeable. Wishon believed the average golfer would benefit more with a heavier weight, rather than fumbling around with lighter weights. My idea…I wanted to be able to swap the weights and have the ability to turn the internal weight/elbow without using a tool. The spin dial would be detented allowing the user to position his/her desired flight pattern.

Anyway, I later went on to intern at New Balance, where I was working with their running team and then went on to intern at Philips Respironics (Pittsburgh) working on medical equipment. I currently design for one of the largest power tool manufacturers in the World. Our product portfolio consists of hand held power tools to outdoor power equipment.

Tell me about your relationship with golf and how it fits into your life

Watching the Masters in the mid-80s and early 90s with my father and brother: We had no clue how to play, nor did we ever pick up a club. We were so fascinated by the course conditions and the competition of the game.
Golf became more of an idea to really play around the Faldo days…It wasn’t until we started watching Nick win back to back Masters. So, my brother and I would pretend to play golf outside…so my dad came up with a silly idea of making a club. My dad loved to build things with his hands and dabble with wood working projects. One day, he thought he would make his own persimmon driver head. Didn’t work out all that well…he ended up cutting off a portion of his thumb on a table saw. He never finished the project, but today he’s truly a golf nut!

For me, shoes have always been a passion. During that time Nike was getting a lot of attention. I would watch whoever was sponsored by Nike (Curtis Strange). I was a day one Nike guy! I’ve been a Nike fan since a man named Michael Jordan laced them up in the black/red Air Jordan 1s.

My first golf experience didn’t happen until I was at Camp Lejeune Paradise Point Golf Course. While I was in the service, I kept hearing about how my father and brother were taking up golf and taking trips around Michigan to play….I want to say my dad was playing some old Walter Hagens and he had a sweet all leather red bag with the Hagen logo.

My first time ever playing golf, I wasn’t so much interested in playing and perfecting my skills, I was more interested in the technology at the time (it was the introduction of titanium clubs) and cast iron clubs by Ping. For some odd reason the irons really stood out to me. They were extremely oversized irons with white paint-fill. All I know is I really wanted them even though I had no clue how to play the game of golf. So instead of purchasing the Ping Zing 2 Deep Cavity Back or Ping ISI Nickel (last nickel head produced by Ping), I settled for a low-profile PING Ti Hat.

How did you get into design?

I was attending school full-time in Detroit and working part-time in the NW Suburbs. I was looking for an apartment closer to my work; I found an apartment really close to work, but the apartment lease was way out of my budget. It was more for business professionals in the area. The leaser offered to help me find a more financially suitable place close to my employment. The leaser inquired to learn more about me and my future goals. See, he and his wife had kids roughly my age who were also attending school; so, they offered to lease a portion of their home in an affluent part of Detroit. It wasn’t something they had typically done.

I just think they saw something in me…whereas they wanted me to succeed in both school and work. He and his wife were expats from Germany who were working for one of the Big Three in Detroit. He was an automotive designer (exterior/interior) who had worked for Porsche. My best guess was his focus was automotive interiors, b/c he had one of his first designed Porsches in his garage, whereas he had showed me the examples of his design. His home office was decorated with his automotive drawings, which really fascinated me! I wanted to learn more, because I wasn’t all that excited about international business and mechanical engineering. He suggested I take a few fine art courses. I did exactly that, and I was hooked!

What are a few of your favorite creations?

In my professional career ; it would be creating new Visual Brand Languages (VBL) for a couple power tool companies. As far as golf goes, I would say my collaboration with Ben Hogan in 2015 (PTx Irons). I happened to get a hold of Terry Koehler who introduced me to a former Adams Golf employee who was running the R&D department by himself. I sent him my portfolio, and I was off and running as a freelance designer.

I started off by doing initial concept designs for their hybrid line and irons. They already had the Ft Worth irons and TK wedges ready to launch, but they were looking to introduce a cavity-back iron for 2016 with a modern aesthetic…still keeping within the Hogan classic look. They had me in the initial phase of the design process, so I tried my best to sketch out as many thumbnail sketches as possible. I would make refinements to the ones they thought were viable, and then I would move on to other projects that were in the product line-up. It wasn’t too long after that…some of the team members at Ben Hogan left. They brought in a new engineer who I believe also came in from Adams Golf (they had their own split to TM).

Meanwhile (2016), the new/replacement engineer at BH offered me a freelance job outside of BH to assist him in doing wedge project for company that mainly focuses on training aids or game-improvement clubs. I finished at BH in January of 2017.

Cool. What came next?

I went on the search again, and through networking I found a few companies I would go on to do iron designs (Japanese market – sells Japanese production clubs here in US) and putter (up and coming designer – serious Insta following) designs.

I ended up catching up with a gentleman that was part of the wedge project I worked on earlier in 2016. He introduced me to another designer (who had ties to another company that existed in the FT Worth area) in his company, I submitted my sample portfolio once again…then I was off and running doing initial sketches for a new line of products for 2017/2018. I would say this has been one of my more consistent jobs as a freelance designer.
Since then I have been doing fun things on Insta. My initial gallery was sketches of clubs/irons/drivers, but I wasn’t getting followers from the golf community. Most of my hashtags were aimed towards the art community. It wasn’t until Dormie Workshop started running a contest called Cover vs Cover, it changed for me…I came in second in their initial contest. I was pretty bummed! I must have pestered the Bishop brothers with all my submissions for the first contest. I had A LOT of ideas.

Once they announced the 2nd annual Cover vs Cover contest, I wanted to make sure people saw my work whether or not I was selected as a finalist or not. They selected me right off the bat as a finalist, but the only problem was…I only had 100-plus followers. Where was I going to get the votes?! So, I tried my best to post all my golf ideas (bad or good). Fortunately, it worked: I came in first in their 2nd Annual Cover vs Cover contest.

Many people have asked whether or not I’m concerned about my ideas being taken or altered in some sense. Companies know there isn’t much I can do…For instance, I was a graduate out of design school (2009) and submitted a concept proposal to SKLZ Golf about a trainer aid called the Perfect Shot – Where as the user makes perfect iron contact with ball. The device was a U-Shaped mat and you positioned the ball in between the legs of the mat…the user would be trained to hit down on the ball (perfect compression) rather than scoop or hit directly behind the ball. I still have the letter of denial from SKLZ to move the product forward, but it wasn’t until 2011 they brought out the Ball-First Trainer (ball striking mat) featuring Rick Smith. Ain’t that a kick in the ass!

So, I do have concerns with designs being shared or taken…. it’s already happened. A lot of these smaller business are doing the same thing as me…fighting for recognition amongst the golf community.

Talk about other designs, what golf club do you find the most aesthetically pleasing?

In terms of irons: King Cobra Forged SS Irons (softness/organic appeal of the design is clean with the logo centrally located and framed). Nike Forged Blades (simplicity with a hint of sophistication/refinement of the design–logo placement is just done right; with the Swoosh molded in). Cleveland 588 MB Forged Irons (such a visually pleasing iron with the bold script font and the soft body line that runs along the lower qtr. of the iron head). TaylorMade P730 (the machined/milled channel appearance gives it that utilitarian appearance, but its ART at the highest degree). Srixon Z 945 (this is modern design with the variable chamfer – so strong and bold in design…apparent in modern automotive design with strong character/bone lines). Mizuno MP-5 or MP-18 (stunners! What more can you say about the design…these are more than a classic look! It’s a work of art much like a highly crafted samurai sword).

Would you rather design clubs, head covers, or shoes?

Oh, this is a tough question! I lean more towards designing hard goods like golf clubs, but I have a lot of fun designing soft good products. The majority of my Instagram gallery is all in fun–things I would find funny or interesting–items I would like to see in my own bag! I try to think out of the box, breaking the mold of traditional looking headcovers, shoes, and golf clubs. I think people want to more options…more customization! Much like the shoe game, they want the best of the best things to hit the market. Some golfers not only want what the pros are gaming, but they want it to better, no matter the cost. They also know that they will get their return on certain items through online auction sites.

What do you think about the current state of golf apparel and footwear?

I love the fact that there are more options. When I started playing, it was mostly Footjoy that stood out to me, but I have always dreamed up having some type athletic style golf shoe. I always wondered why companies like Nike/adidas/Puma never got in the game earlier. It was that type of styling I’ve always wanted to see in the game.

What do you think about the rise in custom club designs?

There seems to be a market for it at this time, and seems to be really hot! Customized golf gear is extremely hot, so much so in the soft goods area. The accessory companies are all fighting for the same market share, and it’s by any means necessary. That’s either by replicating another brands style or methodology. I do think the vast majority of consumers will soon realize the difference in quality and craftsmanship…sooner or later some of those companies won’t be able to sell at a higher price point, because the product they are providing isn’t up to par with the top tier companies.

What would you like to be doing down the road? What’s the dream?

My number one goal coming out of school was always to work for one of the major golf companies. Do I think it will happen one day? Maybe! I now know…there are other avenues to designing golf clubs. It appears some of the companies outsource some of the work elsewhere; it could mean working for a major design consultancy one day. But, I’m happy with what I do today…power tools are exciting! I learn things every day, and our product range is so vast.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tony Lynam

    May 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    My lowest round ever is a 74 at Paradise Point’s Scarlet Course. Three putted twice in that round – ugggh!

  2. JZ

    May 2, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Are these for sale?

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News

More beginners, bigger base: Insights from the NGF’s Industry Report

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A record number of first-time players took up the game in 2017, according to the National Golf Foundation’s Industry Report. 2.6 million beginners swung a club for the first time last year. Additionally, first-timers making their maiden trips to a golf course increased for the fourth straight year.

The NGF took a different route with its report this year, saying,

“To more accurately reflect the evolution of golf’s overall consumer base…[the organization] expanded definition of participation looks beyond traditional on-course golf and also factors in off-course engagement, which tracks those who swing a golf club at facilities like Topgolf, indoor simulators and driving ranges.”

Per the NGF, the on-course participant base held steady at 23.8 million golfers in 2017. 8.3 million people played exclusively off course, interestingly, at Topgolf and similar facilities, driving ranges, and simulators. Thus, the total number of “golfers” in the U.S. is nearly 32 million.

“Golf participation is evolving,” said NGF President Joe Beditz. “On-course, green-grass participation is holding its own and off-course is continuing to grow. There’s no denying that we’re down from our pre-recession highs, but it appears to us that traditional participation is stabilizing and there may be a new support level between 23 million and 24 million.”

The game’s most ardent players continue to account for 95 percent of all rounds-played and spending in an $84 billion industry.

With respect to translating off-course participation into on-course play, the number of non-golfers who said that they’re “very interested” in playing golf increased to 14.9 million from 12.8 million in 2016.

Rounds played were down 2.7 percent to 456 million in 2017. As has been the case every year since 2006, there were more facility closures than openings, with just over 200 facilities shutting their doors. The U.S. still has just under 15,000 facilities: 45% of the global supply.

Openings such as Streamsong Black in Florida, Shepherd’s Rock in Pennsylvania and Bayou Oaks in Louisiana got plenty of attention, but renovation projects remain the major industry investment. The NGF tracked 1,100 major course renovations in 2017.

The average price of an 18-hole round of golf at a public course in 2017: $34. 75 percent of U.S. courses are open to the public. The NGF says this is the highest public-to-private ration in the country’s history.

Looking ahead to 2018, the NGF sees “a further balancing of supply and demand.” 15 to 25 new course openings, 75 to 100 major renovation projects.

NGF members can access the full report here for free ($199 for non-members)

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Tour News

Lucas Glover’s wife arrested for domestic violence after allegedly attacking husband for poor play

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Lucas Glover’s wife, Krista, 36, was arrested after allegedly attacking Glover and his mother after he missed the 54-hole cut at The Players Championship, Saturday.

Krista Glover was released on $2,500 bail after spending the night in St. John’s County Jail. She’s slated for a May 31 court date on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence battery and resisting arrest without violence.

Per the officer’s report, following Glover’s third-round 78 and MDF at Sawgrass, the Glovers had an altercation, which Lucas’ mother, Hershey, attempted to stop. At that point, Krista allegedly began attacking her husband’s mother. Hershey Glover reportedly had cuts and blood on her arms, as did Lucas.

Glover and his mother did not want to press charges, according to reports. Glover reported his wife had been drinking and that she frequently berates him about his poor play, calling him a “‘loser” and other names in front of the couple’s children. 

The three-time PGA Tour winner tweeted the following statement, Sunday.

Per the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Department, full details are available via the arrest report below.

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Popular Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the AT&T Byron Nelson

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The PGA Tour arrives at Trinity Forest Golf Club for the first time as the AT&T Byron Nelson settles into its new home.

To familiarize yourself with this 2016 Coore & Crenshaw design, we have shots from both the front and back nine at this buzzworthy track. Additionally, we have our usual assortment of range photos, as well as WITB looks and shots of J.J. Spaun’s sweet Scotty Cameron. We also got a look at Jordan Spieth’s instructor, Cameron McCormick’s studio, which is extremely cool.

Here are 10 interesting photos from our Monday/Tuesday coverage.

Rumor has it J.J. Spaun thought his “for street use only” custom Cameron merited inclusion in 10 Interesting Photos. He’s not wrong!

Have yourself a Callaway Apex MB, Noah Goodwin! (The reigning U.S. Junior Am champ is in the field on a sponsor’s exemption)

What’s better? Troy Matteson’s headcovers or the bag by his bag? Toss up.

Martin Flores: A man of multiple Scotty Cameron headcovers

What’s going on here? Vintage lefty weapons and more…

Colt Knost’s camp has the beverage situation under control. (Also: great range buckets)

Not sure of the owner, by strong headcover game

Ireland’s Seamus Power’s custom Accra shaft

Cameron McCormick hangs banners for his students’ achievements. There are many.

PSA: You have to see our shots of Trinity Forest

Check out all our photos from Monday and Tuesday at Lord Byron’s tournament.

Discussion: See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the photos below

 

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