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GolfWRX Audio Chat Transcripts and Audio Download - Powerbilt Golf Clubs April 2007, Larry Edlin - President

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 10:09 AM

Audio Download:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

GolfWRX your all-inclusive internet golf headquarters is proud to present a chat with Powerbilt Golf.  Today we are proud to have the head man himself, the President of Powerbilt Golf, Larry Edlin.  

0:15 – GolfWRX:  Okay Ladies and Gentlement, we’re here today at GolfWRX and we are very pleased and proud to have Larry Edlin, the President of Powerbilt Golf.  Larry, how are you today?  

0:27 – Larry Edlin:  I’m doing great Frank, I appreciate you having me.  

0:31 – GolfWRX:  We’re excited about having you as well Larry.  Your company is near and dear to my heart.  I was in high school in the ‘70’s and Powerbilt was definitely the big dogs back then.  I can remember playing the deep face Persimmon Citation driver, the fairway woods with the brass backings, the Scotch Blade irons.  That was an experience I won’t forget.  Larry, we’re here today to talk to you about how Powerbilt has changed since then and exactly what you guys are going to be doing with your plans.  First of all I wanted to ask you Larry, can you describe your current position and how you got started in golf in general?  

1:25 – Larry Edlin:  Sure Frank.  Currently I’m President of Powerbilt Golf.  I’m like a lot of – I don’t want to say golf geeks, but you referred to yourself that way earlier so I guess I’m in that same category – but at age 11, started caddying at the country club.  There’s a nice club here in Louisville Kentucky, Hirshfield Country Club and the golf pro there Jim Osbourne was nice enough to employ me at 14.  I was picking the driving range and cleaning golf clubs and worked my way into the golf shop.  At the time there was one school up in the middle of Michigan, Ferris State University, who was the only school in the country that had a program where you graduated after four and a half years with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, but you also graduated with 30 of your 36 credits to become a Class A PGA Club Professional.  Of course being a young kid who spent his whole youth around the golf course, I thought I might try that.  So I went to Ferris and had a great opportunity while I was there through an extensive internship program to work in Tulsa, Oklahoma, work in Needles California, worked at a course back in Michigan, and worked at a course in Louisville again and graduated through what is now called Professional Golf Management.  I believe they have over ten universities that now offer their programs.  So it was a way for the PGA Golf Professional of today to get much more of a background in marketing and get much greater understanding for food and beverage and to be more than just a club pro but to gain the knowledge to move into overall club management if they wanted to.  Then working at a course in Louisville, I decided to look elsewhere in golf as well.  Believe me, we have a great company here in Hillerich & Bradsby which is the parent company of Powerbilt Golf.  They had an opening as a sales rep in the state of Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida in 1984 and I took it.  From there I worked in Alabama for about two years and then had the opportunity to take over the territory in Orlando, Florida.  I did that for about seven years.  With a little bit of luck and some success, I was asked to come in as National Sales Manager for Powerbilt Golf and did that.  In the year 2000 I was appointed the President of Powerbilt golf.  So I’ve been very, very fortunate with a great company.  It’s rare to be with a company as long as I have.  I’ve certainly had opportunities to do other things, but I’ve just got a deep passion for the brand Powerbilt and the people here in Louisville and that’s how I got to where I am today.  

4:39 – GolfWRX:  It’s an awesome success story.  It’s always great to hear when people start at the ground level and work their way up.  It’s got to be an awesome company for you to stick around that long.  Speaking of, let’s talk about the H&B Brands.  That company has a long and distinguished history, most notably with the Louisville Slugger brand.  What is Powerbilt’s history in golf?

5:06 – Larry Edlin:  Well here’s a little known fact Frank:  Powerbilt is the oldest golf company in the United States still under original ownership.  You certainly have some other heritage brands like MacGregor and Spalding that are old brands and older than Powerbilt but have had multiple owners.  The Powerbilt brand has always been held by Hillerich & Bradsby and they’ve been very, very dedicated to the golf industry.  Hillerich & Bradsby made their first golf club in 1916.  It was actually – well let me back up a little bit, 1884 was when Hillerich & Bradsby was formed.  Hillerich’s were immigrants from Germany, they were wood-makers, they started with butter churns and bedposts and spindles, that type of thing and of course ultimately moved into baseball bats as well.  In the day, our core components were dealing with wood and to a certain extent metal and of course that’s what golf clubs were made out of, so it was kind of a natural to move into that.  But it was really driven by the Bradsby side, Frank Bradsby was a golfer.  He came on a year prior and in 1916 we started making golf clubs.  The Powerbilt brand itself was formed in 1934 to represent our pro-line series.  We had Louisville Slugger Series, we had Grand Slam Series which we still have today, and then we wanted to get deeply into strictly pro-line and a little bit less into the retail side and we brought Powerbilt in to represent that.  So again, making clubs since 1916, Powerbilt brand itself in 1934, and again the oldest brand in the United States still under original ownership.  

7:22 – GolfWRX:  That’s a fantastic story.  We’ve talked to a lot of different OEM’s, and you have the most interesting story, so you win the prize for that.  Let’s talk a little bit further, hopefully we can get into some more interesting facts about the clubs which leads me to my next question.  Why should consumers choose and consider Powerbilt golf equipment?

7:50 – Larry Edlin:  Well Powerbilt, as with Louisville Slugger and our other division – we up until recently had TPS Hockey which was based out of Canada – has always put quality and performance first.  Being a company that’s been around since 1916, at least on the golf side, we’ve seen the full evolution of golf as far as equipment is concerned.  So we have a real understanding for what is important in design and what changes have taken place.  With that we also have tremendous relationships with all the variety of vendors in the marketplace.  So we have true design partnerships with shaft companies like True Temper and Aldila and all of the finest head casting houses, if you will.  So our R&D capabilities stretch far beyond our own walls.  While we hold a lot of knowledge and experience in golf club design, we also have long standing relationships with other people who are experts in the field.  The reality of it is being family held, we don’t have the advertising dollars to compete with the publicly held companies.  What we are able to do is produce as high a quality of a golf product and as well a performing golf club as anybody in the industry and what we’re able to do is take it to the market typically at a less expensive price for the consumer.  So you’ve got a lot of experience in design, you’ve got high quality, aesthetically pleasing, and you’re able to get all that for a little bit less money because we’re not spending $30 million dollars on A&P which is where many in the marketplace are right now.  

10:10 – GolfWRX:  I think you’ve touched significantly on my next question which is how does Powerbilt fit among the other OEM’s?  Anything you want to add to what you just said?

10:24 – Larry Edlin:  No.  I think it’s like so many other categories of products we buy in daily life.  Again Powerbilt, because we don’t have the money to throw at it like the publicly held companies, it may not be among the top of the mind brands as you walk through the door because we’re influenced, whether it’s automobiles, food we buy, the things we drink, certainly watches, we’re influenced by the heavy spending of brands.  You’ve got to look beyond that sometimes to get the best values in life and sometimes even better performance.  So that’s all we ask is that consumers check Powerbilt out, see what we represent, and take advantage of all those years of knowledge and check out our quality and see what we can do for them because it’s top notch stuff.  

11:25 – GolfWRX:  Sounds fair.  Larry, what do most golfers need help with in their games and how does Powerbilt help golfers accomplish this?  

11:34 – Larry Edlin:  Well, the game is constantly evolving and as we’ve seen the industry is changing products every six months.  No we are starting to see some caps:  we can only have a 460cc head, our COR is limited, MOI now has a measurement, we’re going to see changes in groove configuration, etc.  So what Powerbilt can do is bring you all the latest technology at a very, very affordable price.  Most golfers, what do they struggle with?  Most golfers probably struggle with finding enough time to play any more.  That’s a little difficult for most to do here in Louisville Kentucky (laughing).  But most average golfers they slice the ball and they don’t always hit on the center of the face, a lot of good golfers don’t hit it on the center of the face.  We’re trying to maximize performance across a wider range of the face.  We’re trying to incorporate shafts that, dependent on the model, help shutting down the head and reducing slice.  And we’re certainly looking at the patterns out there among golfers, we’re not just slapping a stock head on a golf shaft and sending it out to the marketplace.  You know Frank, I’m not sure where else you’d like me to go with that, but we’re providing high performance at a value and we consider all aspects of a golfer’s game when we design a golf club.  

13:26 – GolfWRX:  Larry, I think you hit on the major issues and I like the fact that you keep your costs down.  Initially when people like myself and others on our site see these prices, we’re going to be a little stunned that they’re so low compared to what other OEM’s charge and I’m really glad you explained why, that you’re not throwing all these dollars into advertising and that’s how you’re able to provide this.  Because initially a person like myself is going to think this is an inferior product.  But it’s not, and you’ve done a great job explaining that it’s just as good, it’s just that you’re not going to make me pay for all this additional advertisting.

14:11 – Larry Edlin:  I think if you took the golf club and had the ability to break it down, you’d see our head weights are at the tightest tolerances in the industry.  You’re plus or minus one or two grams of weight, you’re plus or minus one degree on loft and lie.  We use only the finest components in shafts, we use Nippon steel, we use True Temper, we use Aldila which are used by all the larger publicly held companies.  We use Winn grips, Golf Pride grips, they’re weighted they’re spec’d out.  Our swing weight tolerances are as good as anybody.  The quality of the components are there, the design of the golf club which is most important is there, the bottom line is if you’re going to spend money in the promoting of the brand, it costs money.  No company does that out of the kindness of their hearts, it’s built into the golf clubs.  Don’t get me wrong, we’d like to advertise more than we do because we’d like people to get to know the brand better but we have some restrictions that way.  We have to go by word of mouth.  We have a very, very loyal following of Powerbilt people.  Your comments at the opening are very, very typical.  So many people grew up on Powerbilt.  Especially back in the ‘70’s when you were forging golf clubs and you were turning persimmon or laminated woods, the barriers into the industry were very, very high.  You basically had fifteen companies making and selling golf clubs with very little marketing dollars behind it other than Tour expense.  I think last time at the PGA Merchandise Show, I think there were a little bit over 170 companies that were selling some type of golf club.  Castings and metal woods have certainly reduced the barriers of entry into the industry so there are lots and lots of companies out there selling golf clubs.  

16:44 – GolfWRX:  When I think of your company I think of guys like Frank Beard and Fuzzy Zoeller.  I know Fuzzy’s still around, what type of relationship does Powerbilt have with Fuzzy and how many Powerbilt clubs does he have in his bag currently?

17:03 – Larry Edlin:  Well Fuzzy, we just resigned him again beginning January 1.  Really, Fuzzy grew up right across the river in New Albany, Indiana and played our clubs all during the time growing up and through school.  We had Fuzzy on tour from the first day out.  Fuzzy won the Masters and the U.S. Open playing our golf equipment.  Various times through a career, players have opportunity, especially with the success that Fuzzy was having.  What it basically boiled down to was K-Mart was wanting to get into golf in a big, big way and Fuzzy was a hot commodity at the time and really gave Fuzzy an excellent opportunity for a full advertising package and representation so Fuzzy took the contract with K-Mart.  So we’re very, very fortunate to have him back.  He did fantastic last week, made the cut at Augusta and he’s been off to a pretty good start on the Champions Tour this year.  It’s a long, long history and relationship with Fuzzy.  The beauty of a family held company like that is that a Tour player can get very, very close to not only me, but also the owners of the company.  Fuzzy has had a long history of going fishing with Jack Hillerich who’s our Chairman of the Board.  They used to go once a year to Canada, they used to canoe in up there and fish.  It was interesting, Fuzzy’s contract was done in the early days on a fishing boat with Jack and Fuzzy.  It’s that little bit of nostalgia and romance you can have with a company like us.  It’s great for us to have him back, we pull for him every week and he’s wanting to get very involved in the design of our equipment and we want to broaden his name out on a series of golf clubs.  We’re looking forward to a long relationship with Fuzzy again.

19:24 – GolfWRX:  Larry, I’m beginning to understand why you stayed at Powerbilt so long, it’s one big family.

19:29 – Larry Edlin:  It is, it’s a really unique environment.  You try and describe to people – and yeah, yeah, it’s just a company.  But when people come and spend the day with us, invariably they leave and say, “You know you’ve got something special here.”  You can’t put your finger on it and you can’t put into words, it’s just something the Hillerich’s have been able to do and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of it.  

19:59 – GolfWRX:  Well, it’s obviously brought a lot of loyalty from you.  

Part 2

0:15 – GolfWRX:  Larry, how much influence did Fuzzy have on the development of the Citation series?

0:21 – Larry Edlin:  Well, if you’re looking on the website right now and you’re seeing the cavity back Citation series, he did not have a lot of development with that.  That was developed actually about this time last year for introduction this fall before we were back in our relationship.  What Fuzzy is working very close with now is the development of a Citation forged iron.  It’s not up on the site.  The golf club will be introduced sometime in June, it looks.  It’s carbon steel, pure forged, not a form forged, with entirely milled cavities, so very precise.  It has a profile Fuzzy chose and it’s going to be a beautiful, beautiful golf club.  It’s going to have a deep cavity.  It will be available a couple of different ways:  it will be available with a traditional three and four iron, it will also have the hybrid options to that, because as we know even on Tour, so many of the better players are bagging one or two hybrids.  The whole hybrid category has been a godsend to the average golfer.  He’s going to be heavily involved and will continue to be as we broaden what we call the FZ Series.  We look forward to working with him.  He hits everything, I can promise you that.  

1:59 – GolfWRX:  Really, does he really?

2:00 – Larry Edlin:  Yeah, he does.  Well, now let me back that up.  In his bag now is a prototype series of the iron because we’re still making changes to it cosmetically.  He’s waiting on a driver that we’re finalizing.  His bag, we’re hoping by mid-June will contain the Powerbilt Citation driver, a couple of hybrids, and he’s already playing a full set of irons.  When I say he hits everything, he tests out all products that are going to bear his name and gets involved in the design.  So he’s actively involved, it’s not just run it by the office, let him give it the blessing, and off it goes.  We enjoy that, that’s what we want.

2:54 – GolfWRX:  What kind of a guy is he?  He just seems like he’d be a blast to hang out with.  

2:57 – Larry Edlin:  What you see is what you get.  His history on Tour is exactly the way Fuzzy is.  I have not seen an alternative side to him regardless if it’s a business meeting or a social environment.  He deals with stress in his life by being jovial and him whistling down the fairway tied for the lead on the 18th hole is Fuzzy.  He’s been good for golf for sure and he’s certainly been good for Powerbilt over the years and the other companies he’s represented.  Fuzzy is Fuzzy and I can’t say that there’s a side to him that would be any different from what people anticipate Fuzzy being – which is just a relaxed, good guy that you want to sit and tell jokes and have a beer with.  He’s just a great person.

4:02- GolfWRX:  Larry, can you describe the design and R&D process for your golf equipment?

4:08 – Larry Edlin:  Sure.  It certainly all starts with a concept.  You have to decide what it is you want to design into a particular product, whether it be a wood or iron.  You have to look at not only what’s in the industry right now but also where the industry is going to be literally nine months to a year in advance because once you start this process, that’s about the time frame it takes to get the product to market the way you want it.  We’re sitting today looking at: do you pull the trigger on square drivers, or do you do your MOI design in a more traditional shape.  You’re looking at changes in shafts so you have to adjust your head to the performance of the different shafts that are our there.  Do you put screws in your golf clubs, or do you weight them internally?  There’s a lot that goes into just the conceptual side and then each company has their own distinct personalities that you want to create into the golf club.  Powerbilt will always have, in their Citation line, some type of back-weighting system into it which goes back to our persimmon days.  It’s not always going to be a visible brass back-weight in the back, but it’s going to incorporate that technology because that’s a little bit of an identification of what we’re about.  Anyway, then you take it and get it into drawings, which you then move into CAD drawings and then go into the process of getting prototypes made up.  You have to adjust the weights, you have to check the positioning of the center of gravity, you have to measure the MOI.  There’s a variety of different measurements you have to take on a golf club to ensure it’s going to be durable, it’s going to perform well with the shaft, etc.  Then you make those adjustments and you go into a series of subjective and objective testing.  You put a golf club on a hitting machine and certainly measure the distances and the accuracy of the golf club, but you’ve got to stick it in player’s hands, of all different calibers rather, and see what they think.  How does it feel?  A better player is going to hit down and through the ball and it’s going to have one feel.  An average golfer is going to sweep it and hit the ball lower on the clubface and they’re going to have a different feel.  So you’ve got to try and create those balances, adjust those center of gravities to the type of club you design for the type of player you design.  Then you’ve got the whole cosmetic side of it.  Very often getting the cosmetics correct is as difficult, if not more difficult sometimes than even getting the performance correct.  From the time your start it on paper, if you’re on a fast track, it’s about nine months.  If you’re on a standard track, it’s a year, and if you’re on a slow track it could be eighteen months.  It’s a fairly involved process.  Then you rely on your vendors.  We do cannon testing for durability through our vendors.  We use Iron Byrons through some of our vendors as well.  We do independent testing as well, so there’s a lot going on really.  

8:15 – GolfWRX:  Interesting.  Now Larry, are there any other players using Powerbilt on Tour at this time and are there plans to sponsor any more Tour players in the future?

8:27 – Larry Edlin:  Well, currently Fuzzy is the only one under contract.  Now if you want to talk about a Tour history a little bit, ours would be tough to beat which a lot of people won’t realize as well.  We’ve had over 120 PGA Tour wins over our history by contract Tour players.  You mentioned names earlier like Frank Beard, of course we had the Bobby Nichols, the Gary Brewers of the world, Larry Mize chipped in as a contract Tour player against Greg Norman.  Fuzzy Zoeller, as we mentioned earlier, won two majors along with many other Tour events.  We’ve had Chip Beck play our clubs, we’ve had Steve Lowry play our clubs, we’ve had Grant Waite play our clubs, we’ve had many of the LPGA Tour players play our clubs.  So we’ve had a long, storied history.  We’ve won eight majors total going back to Olin Dutra.  Currently we have Fuzzy again because you have to create a balance as to how much you want to spend on Tour, how it affects the price of your clubs, and how it can impact your brand against the competition.  So there’s something to be said for is two or three going to do any more for your brand than one?  More importantly, what we have to look at is because we are a heritage brand, we have nineteen licensees around the world representing 22 countries that do a phenomenal job with our brand.  We’ve got tremendous brand strength in Australia, South Korea, Japan, England, Europe, South Africa.  What can we do as a company here that will positively affect their business there?  Fuzzy is a Tour player that can raise his hand and say, “I’ve won the U.S. Open and the Masters playing Powerbilt golf.”  That benefits all of our licensees regardless of where they are.  If you’ve got a young kid out there, you don’t know if he’s going to play in thirty events, is he going to be on TV, or even win a tournament?  You have to look at it and say, “Is that going to help a guy in Italy putting a lot of time and energy into Powerbilt there, or is that going to help my guy in Australia?”  Because we’re a heritage brand and because we’ve got such strength overseas, we try to benefit the licensees as much as we can.  Sometimes our expenditures aren’t always as clear in the U.S. as they are on a world-wide basis.  

11:50 – GolfWRX:  What is your percentage of business overseas compared to the United States?

11:54 – Larry Edlin:  Gosh, outside of the United States, it’s about 70% of the total volume.  We’ve had a lot of people who have been doing Powerbilt for a lot of years outside the country.  We are one of the better U.S. brands in distribution outside of the U.S.  A lot of that has to do with our heritage and history outside the U.S. as well.  

12:27 – GolfWRX:  Okay, what set of golfers were each of the series designed for:  the Citation, the Powerbilt, and the TPS?

12:38 – Larry Edlin:  So what type of golfers?

12:42 – GolfWRX:  Yeah, if I was a scratch golfer, where am I going to go, is it TPS?  If I am a mid-handicap and a high-handicap, where am I going?

12:52 – GolfWRX:  Well, the Citation line and Citation brand will always represent our ultra-premium line of products and that’s always going to cater to two types of golfers.  We will always have the player’s clubs which is what we’re working on now with Fuzzy.  As you said you remember playing the Citation blades growing up, we will always try and maintain that product line within the Citation line.  It will have some sort of that Citation Wing on the back and you’ll see that in the new blade when it comes out.  We will also have a premium player improvement club that in many cases can be utilized by the low, low-handicapper if they’re used to playing castings with offsets.  It’s also very, very forgiving and it can be utilized by high-handicappers.  Of course we offer a variety of different shafts for which the shafts, as much as anything, is going to zero it in towards a better player, or a mid to high-handicapper.  TPS is kind of a mid-priced, upper mid-priced series.  We even go into packaged sets now, packaged sets is a big, big part of the buisiness.  Years ago you could go in and buy three and eight – three woods and eight irons – our Grand Slam series did phenomenal and it would typically retail at $399.  What’s interesting today and good for today’s golfer is they can get a 6-4 titanium head, stainless, fairway wood, all with graphite, 2-hybrid, a full set of stainless irons, an alignment style putter, and a really nice golf bag and walk out the door with that for $399.  Consumers definitely get more bang for the buck, and that’s more of a mid-level.  You can also buy, and excuse the term, “junk” in package sets if you’re not careful, but we’re not going to put that out.  The average golfer, the weekend golfer, when I say weekend only plays once or twice a month, can get incredible value at $399 in the marketplace nowadays.  We also do junior clubs.  We’re very, very proud of our junior line.  We’ve got four different series for the boys, two different series for the girls.  They are stainless heads, all composite shafts, they come with a great little stand bag, alignment putters, get them started on the right foot.  What’s interesting is when we got into juniors, and the consumer may not know this, we started to really do competitive analysis of the other brands junior clubs and were surprised to find how so many of them had basically taken an adult head, downsized it and developed it in zinc.  When you do that you end up with a club that’s got the sweet spot high in the heel that would feel absolutely horrible to some kid trying to learn the game.  We took a lot of time and energy, we made them out of stainless, the sweet spot is dead in the center of the face where it should be, and we feel we’ve got the best junior golf club on the marketplace.  

16:50 – GolfWRX:  Outstanding, that’s interesting.  Talking about more interesting stuff, MOI is a huge buzz word in the industry now.  How does Powerbilt go about incorporating this into their clubs?  

17:04 – Larry Edlin:  Well, we represent the MOI technology two different ways in the marketplace right now.  We’ve got a golf club that will be introduced shortly in the U.S., it’s already in the European marketplace right now, called The Slugger and it is a square driver technology where you’re taking the weight and extending it out on the far heel and toe perimeters of the golf club.  The Citation line that we’re in development of next year is going to have a little bit more traditional shape, but is going to have an equally high MOI where it’s again positioned deep and to the back and will meet the limitations of the USGA on what the MOI can be.  So we do it two ways, we do it in a traditional shape – and when I say traditional, it’s a little bit more elongated, but it’s a little bit more oblong than what you’ve got with the square.  What’s interesting and cool about golf is that I think we’re going to start to see more shapes and we’re looking at shapes that are non-traditional to try to maximize MOI.  Right now square is the one that I think has the industry really trying to guess where it’s going right now.  I think it’s going to be interesting to see where square does go, it is effective, it does maximize the MOI, it’s not the only way to do it.  We’ve seen Titleist come with a real unique shape – it’s not triangular shape – pointed back club.  I think that’s going to be part of the new energy coming out of golf is the maximization of shapes more so than anything else.

19:04 – GolfWRX:  Are you guys working on anything else right now for future release?

19:10 – Larry Edlin:  We’re working on four new models that will be launched this fall including the Fuzzy line, but like I said that will be early this summer.  We’ve got a few things, they’re somewhat proprietary, so I can’t get into detail on design, but we’re also doing some modification to some lines.  You’re always working on continual improvement and you learn a lot once you get a club in the field for a year.  You’re always working on something and very often we are working on products for markets outside the U.S. where the U.S. will never see the product.  You’ve got the Japanese market which puts a lot of engineering, if you will, into the design.  They still like to use face inserts whether they’re miraging face inserts or titanium.  Very, very expensive golf shafts in a very, very distinct cosmetic look.  So there’s very, very little that transfers over from the U.S. market to the Japanese market without some type of modification to it as well as South Korea.  Most of Europe and Australia and New Zealand will pretty much adopt the U.S. designs, maybe with some shaft changes.  

Part 3

0:15 – GolfWRX:  Now, just talking about your business model for a second and sticking with the U.S., any chance you guys are considering going into custom fitting at all?  Some companies are big on demo days, other companies bring vans into town – one of the big retailers out here is Golf Galaxy and they’ve got some van, Mizuno, whatever coming through town and they’ll custom fit you with a set of clubs – Callaway’s got their Optifit cart, where they’ve got the screw-on heads with the shafts.  Are you guys toying around with that idea at all, any of those concepts, to further expand your business in the United States?

1:06 – Larry Edlin:  Well we certainly over the years have been - I don’t want to say in and out of custom fitting, we’ve always built custom fit products – we’ve been in and out of them in our marketing execution of custom fitting.  We basically address it now on an as-account basis.  We will build a custom fit kit for accounts that are interested in custom fitting.  Yes, you’re right, the Golf Galaxy’s of the world are becoming very involved in that and we believe in custom fitting.  In the industry as a whole, when you look at the 16,000 golf accounts that are out there, as a percentage, very, very few do a really, really good job on custom fitting.  That’s why we do it on a per-account basis.  We do not have a system like Callaway’s, that’s a phenomenal system.  I think that’s a great turn-key that they have and Ping again is another one.  So we are not investing at their level of that, but that is not to say that you cannot get a custom fit set of Powerbilt golf clubs.  You can go to our website and we can help direct you as to where you can get custom fit, but we don’t have a roll-out national program.  

2:39 – GolfWRX:  Very good.  The Citation series irons have a titanium face, what are the advantages of using Titanium in that situation?

2:49 – Larry Edlin:  Well, titanium is not the titanium of when metal woods first came out.  There’s many, many different variations of titanium.  What it’s all about is maximizing the COR of the iron.  We are able to take that face and make it as thin as possible, but as durable as a stainless face.  So you’re able to take significant weight out of that area and redistribute it into the heel and the toe to make it a very, very high MOI face, a very, very forgiving face, and yet a very, very hot face because of how thin the face is, you’re really maximizing the COR.  You get a great response off the face, but yet a very forgiving design, much more so than you would have with an all stainless face because you can’t get it that thin.  

3:43 – GolfWRX:  That’s fascinating.  Larry with all the materials used in the Citation iron, how are those irons produced?  How do you put them together?

3:52 – Larry Edlin:  Well, it is a multiple step process because the face you have to mechanically seal and in raw casting there are lips that go around the extremity and then you set the titanium in, then you have to fold those over, and then polish them down.  It’s not an adhesive process; it is a true mechanical fit that’s in place.  The other material on the back of that are the weights that are in the heel and toe, those are extruded in and then polished down.  It’s a multiple step process, it’s a more expensive process, but it’s a higher performance product.  You’ve got the polishing which is a little bit different because you’re dealing with the multiple materials and the stainless will get hotter than the titanium so you’ve got to be very careful as you polish it because you’re working under different heat tolerances.  

5:00 – GolfWRX:  Larry, how much of a difference is involved between cast versus forged irons?  

5:10 – Larry Edlin:  Well, forgings you are certainly more restrictive in design.  A lot of it is due to weight, a lot of it is due to who you’re targeting that particular model to.  You don’t have the flexibility in design with forgings that you do with castings because of the process itself.  With castings you are able to manipulate wall thickness, have undercut cavities, a variety of different things you can’t do when you’re stamping out or milling a forging – that’s why you have the limitations with forgings.  They’re never going to be as forgiving as what you have in a true casting.  As far as cost, forgings are very, very expensive.  Tools for forgings are four times what they are for castings.  They’re more expensive, but yet they’re less flexible – that doesn’t make sense, yet that’s just the way that it is.  With castings it’s all about creativity, cosmetic acceptance, and then hitting the certain key measurements which are the center of gravity position, your MOI, and then putting it together with the right shaft and grip components.  

6:50 – GolfWRX:  The Citation wedges use a brass insert, how is this produced and what advantages does this provide for golfers?

7:01 – Larry Edlin:  Well, it’s very similar to the titanium insert.  It is a mechanical fit.  If you look at that golf club, you’ll see a lighting bolt at the back of that face and that is the actual brass coming all the way through.  What the brass provides is a very, very soft feel.  We know that wedges are a feel tool, if you will and are important.  It’s very soft, it does help maximize spin, cosmetically it’s striking because of the difference across the face, but again as far as mechanical construction, it is a mechanical fit like the titanium insert.  

7:47 – GolfWRX:  Okay, now with all that in mind, do you mill these wedges?

7:51 – Larry Edlin:  We do not mill those, those are polished faces and then the grooves are CNC’ed.  Our tolerances on the face being very, very flat are tight, so there’s no question that they’re flat, consistent faces, but they are not milled.  

8:14 – GolfWRX:  Larry, what do you think about the USGA and R&A’s proposed groove rule for wedges and irons?  What impact will this have on your clubs?

8:26 – Larry Edlin:  Well, it certainly depends on what the USGA and R&A do with the existing sets in the field.  It’s our impression, or at least what they’re talking about initially is taking everybody’s sets that are in the market right now – meaning what everybody has purchased – and grandfather those in.  In other words, they’ll never be outlawed for the average consumer which is good.  They’re probably going to choose a date, could be 2009, for which manufacturers are going to have to go to their new form of measurement.  Again, I’m speculating because the USGA hasn’t put anything out.  What will be interesting is what they choose to do and to dictate for their own championships and what the PGA Tour chooses to do and how soon they choose to do it.  Their study, I know there’s some controversy with it as to was it done fair?  I think they did it in the most subjective and objective way they knew to do it.  It basically showed they could get as much spin from standard rough, I’m not talking U.S. Open rough, as you could out of the fairway with certain types of golf balls.  That has changed the way Tour players of today and better players of today attack the golf course.  They’re less concerned with fairway and more concerned with teeing it up and letting it rip.  The average golfer is probably not going to notice a tremendous difference.  The average golfer is not generating the angles and clubhead speed to notice a difference, but as you get into competitive players, then that’s where it’s going to get interesting.  It’s going to be interesting to see if Tour players change the way they play the game, start backing down, if accuracy becomes more of a premium.  Of course a lot of that depends on which golf course they’re playing.  We have heard that some companies are going to go ahead even with their next models and begin to produce them with the new groove configuration.  We don’t feel that’s necessary at this point in time because at least we are under the impression that they are going to allow the clubs that are in the marketplace that have been purchased to be grandfathered in.  Until we hear something different, we probably won’t change that.  

11:28 – GolfWRX:  Larry, can you describe the cup face construction used in the woods and hybrids?  What advantages does cup face construction provide for golfers?

11:37 – Larry Edlin:  Yeah, I sure will.  It’s a little hard to do without us being able to hold one in our hands and talk about it.  Some of the titanium that’s in the marketplace or even some of the stainless, it’s a series of weld lines.  Many titanium drivers, for instance, are a series of three or four piece designs where you’ve got three or four pieces welded together.  If you look at the top line of a wood, many woods are welded right at that top line, in other words right where the crown meets the face.  When you do that, you have a thicker area of weld right on the top of that so it creates more rigidity.  What that does, I guess I’m trying to put that in simple terms, what that does is make your sweet spot smaller in the center of the face because as you go to the extremities of the face the club becomes more rigid.  A cup face design takes that face area and actually creates a lip that goes over the top, goes into the crown, and goes all the way into the diameter of the golf club so that the rigidity is further off the face.  What that allows you to do is thin the face further out from the center of the face, creating a larger sweet spot.  It also adds to durability.  Many clubs that have been welded that close to the intersection of the face and the crown can actually break along there, especially for someone who hits high up there, skies it a lot.  With a cup face you don’t have to worry about that.  It takes the rigidity further off the face, and it also adds to durability so you’re getting a higher MOI across the face regardless if it’s a hybrid, fairway wood, or a titanium driver.  It truly is the optimum design for woods – cup face technology.

13:51 – GolfWRX:  Larry, what do you feel is the biggest innovation in the golf industry in the past five years?  

13:58 – Larry Edlin:  Well, in the past five years, certainly titanium – well it was before that.  I think it’s the maximization of titanium and the larger head size on woods.  You had much higher tensile strength titanium to come to the marketplace which allows for the larger woods.  You truly do have hotter faces across a larger area of the driver face.  That’s been exciting and good for golf because people have – as golfers if you look at it in the truly statistical form, we should be out spending $400 on putters because they’re truly scoring clubs and you use them more than drivers which might only use 14 times a round.  But people love hitting the ball long and love hitting the ball with the driver, so that’s what brings excitement to the game.  Like I said earlier, hybrids are just phenomenal.  We have all struggled with 2-iron, 3-irons, and 4-irons and to get a market acceptable design to replace those has been outstanding and you’ve got people chipping with them as well as hitting them 200 yards.  I think that’s been outstanding.  Iron designs have been a little bit slower of an evolution but I think we’re going to see a lot more changes in that over the next five years.  I think we’re due for some things in shafts.  I wish shaft manufacturers were a little bit more proactive in design.  You’re starting to see some of that with the Epic shaft that is out which are combinations of composites and graphite and we’ve seen some of the work Grafalloy did with Adams with some of the combination shafts.  We pay a lot of attention to the melding of different materials even in our baseballs business.  One of our hottest bats right now is what we call an Exogrid and it is a combination of graphite and high-tech aluminum in the handle and goes up to a pure aluminum in the barrel.  So you’ve got weight taken out, it’s very cosmetically appealing, it puts more weight at impact to the baseball.  I expect that’s the same type of things we should hopefully see more of over the next five years in the shaft categories.  

17:08 – GolfWRX:  Larry, your putters, the Citation line look phenomenal.  What sort of research goes into producing your putters, and are all your putters CNC milled?

17:21 – Larry Edlin:  Well, certainly all of our Citation putters are CNC milled.  We’ve got four different lines of Citation putters, some you would see on line, some would be non-catalog ones.  We’ve got a beautiful line of what we call the One Putt series.  At retail they’re the $39 price point, they’ve got inserts in them, they’re all stainless and they’re a real popular design.  When you start to get up into the Citation line, you’ve got some beautiful finishes, you’ve got milled faces all the way across, we have some weight we’ve taken out of the toe.  Certainly research has showed that most golfers begin to try to shut the face down too early on putters, so by taking some weight out onto the toe, it’s actually helping to square it up at impact.  That’s all part of the TL-315 line.  Mallet heads, they’re milled.  We’re actually seeing a movement away from some of the larger designs that have been in the marketplace over the last two years.  I think you’re seeing a little less tour usage with those, people are starting to want alignment features but they want it in a little bit less of a head size.  Putters are very fashionable in a lot of ways, so the mark’s constantly moving on putters.  That’s good for consumers, again, that’s the area of the game where at least 99% of us are not overly thrilled with, we’re always looking for answers with putters.   There’s a lot of cool new materials, the alignment aids have been fantastic over the last couple of years, USGA has changed the regulations to allow – got rid of the plain in shape and allowed for a little bit more leeway on putter designs.  We’re proud of our putter lines, the Citation ones are all CNC milled, and again you can find great value in our One Putt series at $39 out there.  

19:40 – GolfWRX:  You mentioned the TL-315 has weight out of the toe, what about the CS-400 and the A-340, what are the characteristics of those models?  

19:54 – Larry Edlin:  Well, CS-400’s, those are your heavy weight putters.  That’s where you’re taking a lot of weight and putting it into the head and trying to create a consistent stroke with weight.  That’s been very, very popular in the marketplace.  Putters are very, very, much like wedges and even drivers, are very individualistic.  You’ve got to like the way they look and they’ve got to fit your putting style.  We’ve all talked about, through the years, different weight putters for different types of grass, different grains that are out.  So we try to create a variety that will meet the needs and the likes of a lot of different styles of golfers.  That’s really the A-340 series is the same kind of thing, they’re really a larger milled alignment style putters.  It’s really just three different styles of high end putters that offer golfers choices as to what they like as an individual.  

20:58 – GolfWRX:  Larry, I’m going to put you on the spot.  I can’t let you go without finding out what’s in your bag.  

21:08 – Larry Edlin:  No problem.  We’re starting off with the Citation current model SP-700 face driver.  We use our proprietary Aldila shaft which is a great 72 gram shaft, it’s got Winn grips.  Fairway wood is the matching Citation fairway wood.  I stop there, then I go into hybrids.  For simplicity I have a 2, 3, and 4 hybrid which is the current Citation line.  Then I have the new Citation cavity back investment cast irons we were talking about earlier with the titanium face.  I have those all the way through a pitching iron.  I have a sand wedge that has a special plate on it we actually developed for the European market.  It’s very traditional shaped, not currently being sold in the U.S. market, but it’s a very, very attractive, traditional sand wedge.  Then I have our alignment style A-series putters.  I’m orange all the way through, you won’t find anything other than orange in the bag.  I’m looking forward to hitting the set Fuzzy designed.  When I was in high school Frank, I was a 2 handicapper and playing all the time.  Now I do a lot of traveling, I’ve got three daughters, and maybe I get out there three times a month if I’m lucky.  My game is much more of a cavity back, game-improvement game than a forged game.  I enjoy our new Citation, I like them as much as any set that we’ve designed to date.  I’ve had some favorites in the past, but I’m really enjoying this set.  

23:17 – GolfWRX:  Great, Larry, I’ve got to say it’s been a blast talking with you.  I feel like I’ve been re-introduced to your company and your clubs.  I’m looking forward to checking out your new technology and I have a very strong feeling the rest of our playing field at GolfWRX has the same feeling.  I want to thank you on behalf of GolfWRX for taking time out of your busy schedule to come visit with us and share your story and the Powerbilt story.  Thank you so much.

23:50 – Larry Edlin:  Well Frank, thank you.  We do appreciate the opportunity.  It’s through venues such as yours that we get to be a little bit closer to the consumer and really tell our story, much more so than you can do through a four color add or even a thirty second spot. It’s part of the new technology that benefits companies like us.  Again, it’s part of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.  We thank you for your time.  We’d love to answer any questions your viewers have and we can get together and figure out what’s the best way to do that.  Thank you.

24:37 – GolfWRX:  I’m sure this won’t be the last time we’ll be visiting with you and I appreciate you answering all our questions this time and we’ll stay in touch and we’ll be back at you soon.

24:48 – Larry Edlin:  Thanks Frank.  

24:50 – GolfWRX:  Thank you sir.

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