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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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5 things we learned Friday at the British Open

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We had a leader by two shots, until Carnoustie did its thing. Here’s the question: is it CarnNASTY or is it the Siren song of the Barry Burn? The serpentine end to a lengthy waterway beckons and teases and devours. It did the same to Kevin Kisner today, but we’ll get to that before too long. 79 golfers made the cut, thanks to Kisner’s gaffe…don’t worry, we’ll get to it. Some pre-tournament favorites went home early, and some unexpected names surged to the top of the leaderboard. Time now to run down the 5 things we learned on Friday at the 2018 British Open.

1. Kisner had it, until he lost it.

It might be from the tee, or from the approach, but the Barry Burn inevitably asks more than you have to give. Kisner stood in the fescue, owner of a two-shot lead, when he took an ill-advised (if any advice actually came) swing at clearing the water. He failed and poof, there went the lead. Kisner closed with six and fell back to a tie with Zach Johnson, winner of the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews.

Kisner stood in the left rough, knowing that the burn and the nearby out-of-bounds lurked, and still he went for the green. He came up woefully short, one-hopping into the briny depths. The good news for Kisner? Until the brain fart on 18, he had parlayed five birdies against two bogeys on the day, so he still finished atop the list, albeit in a tie with a former winner of the world’s oldest open championship.

2. Some will stay and some will go

From the bottom to the agonizing top, these golfers won’t be around for the weekend: Poulter, Bubba, DJ, Rahm, Sergio, Hideki and JT. The foursome missed the cut by one misplayed shot.  No, they’re not here to make the cut, but you don’t win without first making it past the halfway farewell.

We know that Sam Locke will win the medal for low amateur. The young Scotsman from Aberdeen was the only one who doesn’t play for pay to shoot below 146. Locke must be saluted; after making consecutive bogeys at 13 through 15, the lad clenched his teeth and played that treacherous closing triumvirate in two-under par. Now that’s mighty. He’ll be joined by a number of golfers expected to challenge, like McIlroy, Finau, Spieth, Fowler and even Woods.

3. Some will join José Jurado and others

…as runners-up at Carnoustie. Jurado lost to Tommy Armour in 1931, and was followed by Reg Whitcome, Frank Stranahan, Jack Newton, Dai Rees, Sergio Garcia and, of course, Jean Van de Velde. Those men never captured an Open, but fellow runners-up Bob Charles, Jack Nicklaus, Justin Leonard and Peter Thomson, did. And so it might be for Kisner, Pat Perez, Xander Schauffele, Erik Van Rooyen, et al.

They find themselves in the running for the championship at Friday’s end, which is a triumph in itself. They want more, and they will spill everything out onto the course over the weekend, all for glory and eternal fame. To those who come up short, we salute you for entering the cauldron and baring your skills and emotions on the world’s stage. If it’s your year, you might even catch the breaks.

4. There are golfers who challenge year in and out

Their names are Matt Kuchar, Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Charley Hoffman, and there are others. These are the golfers who’ve won on tour, many more times than once. To date, they have been unable to claim one of the game’s four major championships. They might wonder how golfers like Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton, and Paul Lawrie were able to do so, in this event alone, in just the past two decades.

They have been preceded by Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie, Doug Sanders and others, golfers of the highest quality who could never break through, while others were touched by fate, perhaps undeservedly so. The Open Championship is history itself, and demands that we consider not just the importance of today’s event, but of all the others, throughout time. To the aforementioned foursome, along with Noren, Olesen, Moore and Perez, have a go.

5. The one golf course rules them all

It comes down to this, doesn’t it? The dry-baked course on Thursday, the one that allowed 400-yard drives and 280-yard 6 irons, gave way to a softer version, yet the scoring went up. What is Carnoustie’s true face? Who will figure out the mystery come Sunday?

We would bet on Zach Johnson, but it will be difficult for him to play well on Saturday. Why? Well, Kisner is unlikely to maintain his level of play, and it’s supremely difficult to play well as your partner’s chances ebb away. We might go with the resurgent Jordan Spieth, or the indecipherable Brooks Koepka. Neither should be in a position to win, yet both are, and both are proven major winners. Or McIlroy, who appears to have rediscovered his 15-year-old self.

What we’re saying is, who knows! More importantly, who cares? As they almost always do, Carnoustie and the Open will present us with a champion worthy of our affection, and deserving of the Claret Jug. Perhaps a putt like this one will complete the job.

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USGA, R&A to target green-reading books

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Green-reading books are about to get a tough edit. Per a report by Geoff Shackelford, the USGA and R&A are going to “severely restrict” the information players can have at their disposal in the books, beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

According to Shackelford, “the move will effectively render the books impractical to players who have increasingly leaned on them for reading putts.”

Several sources have confirmed the decision is coming.

“We announced last year that we were reviewing green-reading materials and expect to be able to give a further update in the coming weeks,” an R&A spokesman said. “We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round.”

For its part, the USGA had this to say.

“We haven’t made any public announcements on Green Reading Materials since our joint announcement with The R&A last year, but we do plan an update on our review process in the coming weeks. It’s simply too premature to discuss, but we promise to keep everyone informed as we move forward.”

The books, particularly the green-mapping portion, have come under scrutiny in recent years, particularly as they have become popular at the college level. Opponents of the books believe they slow down play and/or remove an element of skill in the playing of the game.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: Kiz catches a big one | USGA to restrict green-reading books? | 78 for Lincicome

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In case you’ve missed it, or you prefer to read on site rather than in your email, we’re including it here. Check out today’s Morning 9 below.

If you’re not signed up for our newsletters, you can subscribe here.

By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

 

July 20, 2018

Good Friday morning, golf fans. Metaphor alert: The first below represents the first-round Open lead…
1. Kiz cruises
You wouldn’t think a South Carolina boy would be comfortable at Carnoustie… but Kevin Kisner is liking it.
  • “The golf course is great for me,” Kisner said. “The conditions have been fine. Going forward, you never know what you’re going to have in Scotland. I know the rain is coming in tomorrow. I don’t think the rain is going to affect how the golf course is playing in one day, but I have to just keep doing what I’m doing. If I have 22 putts the next three days, I bet I’ll have a pretty good shot.”
  • Interestingly, Kisner is sharing house this week with Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker.
  • “It’s not intimidating at all. They’re all great people. That’s the best part about it,” Kisner said. “I mean, we’re out there playing soccer at night and hanging out. Everybody is just really chill, and it’s a lot of fun to be around those guys. There’s a lot of great players. It’s really cool just to hear what they have to say. Everybody’s sitting around at night scratching their head on what club to hit off of every tee.”
2. Cheat sheets begone?
Golfweek broke the news that green-reading books are set for a neuter.
  • Geoff Shackelford writes…”Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the move will effectively render the books impractical to players who have increasingly leaned on them for reading putts.”
  • “Three golf industry rules experts confirmed the plan to Golfweek. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the move.”
  • “We announced last year that we were reviewing green-reading materials and expect to be able to give a further update in the coming weeks,” an R&A spokesman said. “We believe that the ability to read greens is an integral part of the skill of putting and remain concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round.”
  • “The USGA provided the following statement: “We haven’t made any public announcements on Green Reading Materials since our joint  announcement with The R&A last year, but we do plan an update on our review process in the coming weeks. It’s simply too premature to discuss, but we promise to keep everyone informed as we move forward.”
3. Tiger, Tiger
It was an up and down day on the golf course Thursday for Tiger Woods, and he ultimately finished at even par, as you likely know.
  • Instead of recapping his round, I’ll call attention to this quote from Woods…”I’ve always loved playing this championship. I’ve been able to win it a few times. I’ve just always enjoyed — this is how the game should be played. It should be creative. It should be played on the ground.”
  • “You can utilize the ground as an ally. When we play home in the States, that’s not the case. Everything is going straight up in the air, but this is very different. It’s amazing the shot — the creativity. I mean, you can roll the ball 100 yards if you wanted to, or you can throw it straight up in the air. I like having those shot options.”
4. “Brain fart”
Forget about everything else in Jordan Spieth’s opening round. How does this happen?
  • Rex Hoggard writes..”Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.”
  • “The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it’s an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”
5. Brandon Stone’s epic day

How about Stone’s couple of days, actually? He came to Carnoustie on the heels of a final-round 60 to win the Scottish Open. All he did in his opening round was fire a 3-under 68. Not bad!

  • But his Thursday to remember was only getting started as Stone made the 25-mile trip south to the Old Course to peg it…with a set of hickory clubs! Well played, sir, well played.
6. Who does Pat Perez speak for?
Pat Perez is going to Pat Perez. The interesting question is: How many pros agree with his sentiments? The answer: probably more than you think.
  • “They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They’ve got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you’ve got the greens receptive. They’re not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn’t. The course is just set up perfect.”
  • “The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”
7. Lincicome’s most enjoyable 78
Randall Mell writes…”Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward…It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.”
  • “A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.”
  • “I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well…I love playing with the guys. It’s so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”
8. Vegas’ visa saga
Great stuff from Ryan Lavner detailing what it took to get Jhonny Vegas to Carnoustie.
  • “The problem was an expired visa….Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.
  • “No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.,,Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.”
  • “His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time…Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”
9. KT Tape: Thanks, Tiger (probably)
Josh Sens with the details on the stuff...”The KT Tape that Woods wore Thursday is manufactured and sold by a Utah-based company of the same name….Russ Schleiden, KT Tape’s chief marketing officer, said that Woods was wearing KT Pro Black Tape, which is made of synthetic fiber and is designed to last four to seven days, longer than the three-day duration of the original cotton KT Tape.”
  • “Soon enough, KT Tape had posted an offer on its website: “25% off golfer’s flash sale.”
  • “By mid-afternoon, Utah-time, Schleiden said, traffic on the site was up 300 percent.”
  • “How that translated into actual sales was too early to tell, Schleiden said, “because our sales normally peak after work and in the evening.” But based on past experiences with other high-profile athletes wearing KT Tape in big events…Schleiden guesstimated that the Woods-driven publicity would prompt a 100 percent spike in sales.”
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