If I had to use one word that applies to the people in the golf industry, and specifically the golf equipment, it would be passion. These people love the game and want to be involved in some fashion. I was one of them, and still have letters I wrote to the major equipment companies seeking employment in the early 60’s. Suffice that the response was consistent throughout. No!
I mention my personal background to clarify that I’m no different than the folks out there today with product ideas looking for a way to bring them to market. Since I’ve retired, I’ve received dozens of emails with the same theme:
“Barney, I have this great [insert type of golf club] and if you could help me bring it to market I know it would be a great success.”
My philosophy is simple. These people took the time to contact me and deserve the best answer I can provide. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always what they want to hear. Given their passion, I sometimes get a message back that goes something like this:
“You arrogant jerk! Who are you to respond that way? Just because you had some success…”
I understand their frustration. I suppose that “no” would be an easier answer to accept, but if you want to get in the golf equipment industry you have to consider the facts.
The metal woods and iron business is pretty simple. It’s a big boys game, and unless you have (many) tens of millions of dollars behind you don’t get involved. Remember, technology has plateaued and you are essentially entering a business that is tantamount to a fashion business — you’re up against established brands with hundreds of millions of dollars invested.
“I have great clubs and I’m going to sell them very inexpensively and compete that way,” you might say. My response would still be negative. Now you’re putting yourself up against discounted lines of major brands and that experiment has been done and failed.
The annual PGA Merchandise Show is where the equipment companies go to show their products. It’s a national show, so by going a company is announcing that it is ready to compete in that arena. I attended for more than 40 years and out of curiosity tracked equipment companies that attended the show between 1990 and 2000 — arguably some of the industry’s best years. I counted 129 equipment-only companies that attended the show during those years that are out of business, or at best, selling a little over the Internet.
Some of those companies were underfinanced, some had huge backers, some had good products and some products were closer to borderline. “Those who ignore the past are condemned to repeat it,” said philosopher George Santayana, and that’s my advice when I counsel people who are looking to get in the business of making and selling woods and irons. One caveat that could be a game changer: a clear, measurable, breakthrough technology as defined by improved ball flight. Oh, and with USGA approval!
OK, how about a swing training device? There are garages and back rooms full of partially used training devices. Once again, look at history; the success rate is in the 1 percent category. Look, I’m a golfer and I’d love to find a training device that would transport my swing back to an earlier era. In fact, I know how to do it. It’s called exercise and I’m holding out for the magic pill.
Your golf pro who likes your idea isn’t the market; it’s people like me. Does your training devices look weird? That’s a killer. Straps, hinges… anything that’s an easy target for teasing and a tough sell just got a whole lot harder. Given the hundreds of practice aids over the years, how many have you actually seen someone use on the range? One way to overcome that is educating the golfing public on the merits of the device and that’s media and big bucks. Success means sales of not thousands but hundreds of thousands; then issues like buying and storing inventory, shipping, billing — all the ” things” that accompany a business operation.
You say your idea is so good that an equipment company will want to pick it up and sell it? I say name one instance when that’s ever happened with a training device? Equipment companies concentrate on selling their clubs. My tip? Try developing a website and selling there. If the product is truly a breakthrough, it will be noticed. At least you get the experience of selling golf-related products.
OK then, how about wedges and putters? Everyone has different models, so that must be an opportunity. It’s a worthwhile discussion, and rather than use up several pages in this story, I’ll talk about it in my next story.
The 19th Hole Episode 170: Grassroots golf and Darius Rucker
Host Michael Williams talks about the benefits of grassroots golf programs in growing the game. Also features a reboot of his exclusive interview with Hootie and the Blowfish.
The Wedge Guy: Have a ‘Plan B’
One of the things that I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers “better” ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONE. In my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio – Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par 4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker wasn’t more than 15 yards wide, and there was a little mott of trees on the green side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least.
That hole drove most of us nuts, and double bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score and bogey wasn’t “bad” at all.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmm.
TWO. At my recent club, the ninth hole just didn’t fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time and turning over a draw was just not reliable for me at the time. That ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 160-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left to right, and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogies and doubles way too frequent. So, it dawned on me one day, finally, that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, that became my new strategy on that hole. I’m a good mid-iron player, so I’m fine with that, and that damn fairway bunker never caught me again.
THREE. My new club puts a premium on accurate wedge play. Most of the shorter holes have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, so distance control with your wedge approaches is critical. And I find that reasonably full-swing wedges are easier to control distance than those awkward 60- to 80-yard partial swings. So, I’ve learned to put a premium on club selection off the tee on those holes to leave my approach shots in the 85-115 range, so that I can “dial in” my approach shotmaking.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin or just doesn’t set up well for your game. When that happens, design yourself a Plan ‘B,’ and change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
Club Junkie: Mizuno T-22 wedge and Cuater Moneymaker shoes review!
Mizuno’s new T-22 wedges are forged from the same 1025 carbon steel with boron as the irons, giving them an extremely soft feel. Very versatile, the sole grinds allow for hitting any shot your heart desires.
The Cuater Moneymaker shoes might be some of the most comfortable I have worn in years. Tons of cushioning, exceptional traction all over the course, and they are even waterproof!
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Patrick Cantlay’s winning WITB: 2021 Tour Championship
WITB Time Machine: Justin Thomas’ winning WITB 2017 CJ Cup
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana BF 60TX (tipped 1.5 inches) 3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (15 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK...
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