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Q&A: Air Force One launches new irons, sheds Powerbilt branding

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Succeeding in the golf equipment industry takes good science. There’s the science of engineering top-performing clubs, but companies also need to be scientific in delivering the right message to consumers.

Ross Kvinge, formerly President and CEO of Powerbilt Golf, says his company was doing the hard work of making great golf clubs, but were overlooked by consumers – at least partly due to Powerbilt’s divided brand image. While Powerbilt made high-end golf equipment through its Air Force One line, it also made budget-friendly equipment for recreational golfers.

Could Air Force One products enjoy more success without the Powerbilt name?

Ross_Kvinge_QA_AFO

Ross Kvinge, President of Air Force One Golf

Kvinge is about to find out. His new company, Air Force One Golf, will keep the nitrogen-charged technology that its clubs were known for, but leave the Powerbilt name behind. Enjoy our Q&A with Kvinge, now president of Air Force One, about the new brand, as well Air Force One’s AFX Pro Series new irons and yet-to-be-announced fairway woods.

WRX: Was it a tough decision to leave behind a company name that has been such a big part of your life since 1998?

RK: No doubt. There is a lot of heritage in the PowerBilt brand and we felt we would be able to leverage that with the introduction of the nitrogen charged patented technology. However, we found we were investing in re-establishing the PowerBilt brand in the premium market. We found that to be a bit more difficult than a clean launch of our patented technology under the Air Force One brand. As an industry veteran I grew up with the PowerBilt brand and remember the good days when PowerBilt was a leader in the persimmon wood market and forged irons. Unfortunately younger generations don’t know about those days and see the value in the brand.

WRX: Tell us about the new AFX Pro Series irons. What’s the target audience? 

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RK: The AFX Pro Series has evolved over the years mainly from input from our customers. We first introduced the Game Improvement iron with every club in the set pressurized with nitrogen. We found in the short irons, control was more of an issue than the added distance from the nitrogen so we went to a cavity back. We then saw better players interested in just the long irons with nitrogen due to the feel and distance the clubs delivered. We saw a market there, but knew we needed a club head shape that would appeal to the better player. Through that we developed the AFX Pro Series iron with a thinner top line and sole along with reduced offset.

WRX: We reviewed the Air Force One DFX MOI and Air Force One DFX Tour drivers when they were Powerbilt products, and found their performance to rival or even surpass top-selling drivers. Will anything change about them?

unspecified-4

RK: We are working on new drivers for the future, however, to help with a smooth transition we utilized the same tooling. As you stated, the DFX MOI and DFX Tour have tested quite well against the competition. We have a huge potential to increase our distribution and reach a lot of people now that haven’t had a chance to experience the Nitrogen Charged Technology. We felt the current model would position well for the new launch.

WRX: You told us there’s a new fairway wood in the works. When will it be released, and what makes it different?

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RK: Yes we do have a new fairway wood that we will introduce in late April. On our previous fairway woods we lost some of the benefits of the nitrogen technology due to the shallow face on the woods.

unspecified-2The key for the nitrogen is to get the trampoline effect and allow the nitrogen pressure to rebound the face and increase ball speed. Since it is more difficult to create the same effect on a fairway wood we went to our Air Foil dual slot technology. This has somewhat of an accordion effect on the sole and the crown that allows the whole face to move and allows for the spring back effect of the Nitrogen pressure. This will enable us to compete in distance and accuracy that we have seen in some of the most recent competitor fairway woods.

WRX: Thank you for your time, Ross.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Shank-Master

    Apr 19, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Change the brand to Titleist and all those who voted shank would be drooling and performing self gratifying acts on themselves in a circular formation at the thought of being able to buy these at 4 times the cost these clubs sell for.

  2. Jbeagle

    Apr 12, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    If you reshaft does the nitrogen leak out? or is it trapped in the head?

  3. Frank Gatazka

    Apr 12, 2016 at 11:36 am

    The end of an era! First there was Hagen, then MacGregor, now PowerBilt. The brand did not quite make 100 years. I have played PowerBilt equipment since I learned the game in high school, 42 years ago. I fondly remember their persimmon Citation woods and forged Citation irons, both in stainless and high nickel chrome plated carbon steel. They were played by some of the best including Bobby Nichols, Miller Barber, Frank Beard (I have one of his PB drivers in my collection), Gay Brewer, Charlie Coody, Bill Kratzert and Fuzzy Zoeller. The persimmon woods were simply the best crafted commercial woods that could be had at the time. I was lucky to have a custom set made in 1990 at the very end of the persimmon era and visited the then famous “Slugger Park” factory in Jeffersonville Indiana to watch them be completed. The TPS cavity back irons in their original configuration were some of the most forgiving cast clubs available. Recently, I’ve played the Air Force One irons and Air Foil 2 woods and found the irons and driver very easy to hit, and long. The only problem is that I managed to crack three of them (not due to my swing speed for sure, as it is 85-87 MPH), due to a design defect where the sweet spot has milled grooves in the already thin face, thus precipitating a fatigue crack problem (I suppose if I didn’t hit the sweet spot as frequently there would not be a problem?). PowerBilt was always there with great customer service, and I have had the cracked clubs replaced. I believe the newer models have a slightly thicker face to avoid this cracking problem. To me it is sad indeed to see the name go the way of low-cost starter sets and junior clubs (now licensed to Hireko Golf) when PowerBilt used to stand for quality, and was for many years the “pride of the pro shop”. Alas, time marches on! I wish the new Air Force One brand good luck, as the product is for real and not just a gimmick!

    • James

      Apr 26, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      The Powerbilt brand is not dead, it was just purchased by another company.

    • James

      Apr 26, 2016 at 5:29 pm

      Oops, didn’t read your entire post before commenting. Sorry!

  4. George

    Apr 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

    Is there a problem with the nitrogen leaking with time since there is material fatigue from use?

  5. Chuck D

    Apr 12, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Nitrous oxide has to be the next frontier for golf distance, right? Hitting it 400 has to be the next

    big thing for amateurs! Oh wait…………..

  6. Brian

    Apr 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    I game an AFO DFX and it’s really a fantastic club. The sound is a little tricky to get used to initially, but the numbers and performance are there. The only thing I wish AFO would do with the next iteration is add adjustability. My shaft selection has brought ball flight down, but I’d love to be able to control it that much more. Good luck, AFO!

  7. Regis

    Apr 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    I flirted with the idea of buying the Air Force One driver several times because it received very good reviews from a number of sites. I always failed to pull the trigger because it was never available for demo anywhere near me and I live in a densely populated area with a very big golf presence. In today’s market I just don’t see any manufacturer making substantial gains without in hand availability and that, to some extent goes for Bridgestone (clubs), Srixon , Wilson and a lot of other traditional names. What I see in a private cub environment is that one guy shows up with a new driver (set of irons, putter) he’s loving it and all of a sudden its the local rage. Changing the name is not going to be significant.

  8. Ron

    Apr 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    The first set of iron I had were Power Bilt Citation Levelumes. Should have kept the Power Bilt name!

  9. Meaks

    Apr 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

    Clearly this was an in-house branding effort. No legitimate marketing vendor would have advised them to use this name for a brand name and I wish them luck trying to compete against Nike in SEO on Air Force One.

    • Eric

      Apr 12, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      Kind of a harsh comment but I totally. The name just reeks of gimmick low end gear. Shame they didn’t at least split the brand the other way, restore the strength of the venerable Powerbilt brand and rename the low end.

  10. TCJ

    Apr 11, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Nitrogen?! Now all they need are some ball bearings…

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Whats in the Bag

Justin Thomas WITB (2020 Zozo Championship)

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Driver: Titleist TSi3 (9 degrees, B1 setting, T1)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana TB 60 TX (44 7/8”)

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw Blue 85 TX

5-wood: Titleist 915 Fd (18 degrees @18.75, C3 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2 Tour Spec X

Irons: Titleist T100 (4), Titleist 620 MB (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design Raw SM7 (46-10F @47.5, 52-12F @52.5), Vokey SM8 (56-14F @57), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks (60T @ 60.5)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 (52-60)

Photo c/o Aaron Dill

Putter: Scotty Cameron X5.5 Tour Prototype
Grip: SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

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Equipment

GolfWRX Classifieds (10/23/20): Mizuno ST200G, Custom TP Mills, Raw Cleveland irons

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At GolfWRX, we love golf equipment plain and simple.

We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment for the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball, it even allows us to share another thing – the equipment itself.

One of the best ways to enjoy equipment is to experiment and whether you are looking to buy-sell-or trade (as the name suggests) you can find almost anything in the GolfWRX BST Forum. From one-off custom Scotty Cameron Circle T putters, to iron sets, wedges, and barely hit drivers, you can find it all in our constantly updated marketplace.

These are some of the latest cool finds from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

Member Fatrambo – Raw Cleveland 588 Forged CB

Just WOW! This is not a set you see often, and for those looking for a bit of history surrounding this set, the Forged 588 irons were the last set of forged irons produced by Cleveland before they left the “players iron” market behind.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: Raw 588 CBs

Member EVandy – Custom TP Mills Putter

There’s custom, and then there is CUSTOM, and this TP Mills is a perfect example of a handmade, built-to-order beautiful putter.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: TP Mills Putter

Member bigdaddy78 – Mizuno ST200G driver

We recently spotted what looks to be the next drivers from Mizuno on the USGA conforming list, so expect to see a few more of these pop up as golfer start prepping for 2021. But if you are someone still looking for a current. model at a great price, snag this one quick.

To see the full listing and additional pictures check out the link here: ST200G

Remember that you can always browse the GolfWRX Classifieds any time here in our forums: GolfWRX Classifieds

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Whats in the Bag

WITB GolfWRX Members Edition: Flybyublue

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Recently we put out the call for our members to submit their WITBs in our forum to be featured on the GolfWRX front page. Since then, our members have been responding in numbers!

Now it’s time to take a look at the bag of Flybyublue.

*Full details on the submission process can be found here, and you can submit your WITB in this forum thread.*

Member: Flybyublue

Handicap: 1.8

Flybyublue WITB

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Subzero Triple Diamond (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Tour AD DI-6x

3-wood: TaylorMade ’16 M2 (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Oban Kiyoshi Purple 75g 05

Driving iron: TaylorMade UDI Tour Preferred (19.5*)
Shaft: Tour AD AD-85 x

Irons: Srixon Z545 (4-PW)
Shafts: Nippon Modus3 Tour105 x

Wedges: Vokey SM8 (50-08F, 54-10S, 58T raw)
Shafts: True Temper AMT Tour White S400

Putter: Odyssey O-works Black 3T (WH Insert)
Grip: Odyssey SX Black

Golf Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV

Grips: Golf Pride MCC Midsize

Get submitting your WITB in our forum as we’ll be publishing more and more of them on our front page over the coming days and weeks.

Feel free to make it your own too by including some thoughts on your setup, your age, handicap, etc. Anything you feel is relevant!

Share your WITBs here.

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