He’s called “The Dunning Player,” and he does everything most golfers want to do. He takes golf trips to the UK with friends; he plays once per week and shoots in the 70s or better; he relishes opportunities to carry his own bag and uses a Scotty Cameron putter. Surprisingly, this man isn’t an avatar constructed by Dunning’s marketing team; it’s a profile of the company’s actual customers based on survey results.
The Dunning Player
- 20% Travel to play golf in Scotland/Ireland
- 34% Scratch or single-digit handicap
- 30% Carry their own bag
- 30% Use a Scotty Cameron
- 56% Play 50+ rounds per year
Company founder Ralph Dunning, 52, fits the Dunning Player profile, but not as well as most of his customers. He developed a passion for golf later in life. His 12 handicap might never dip to scratch or even single digits, but the six-time Ironman knows firsthand why someone would make a sport a key part of their life.
In 1989 Dunning founded “Rip N Hammer,” a premium, performance-apparel maker for endurance athletes: namely triathletes, cyclists and fellow Ironmen. Most serious athletes want the best-performing clothes for their sport; it’s these athletes who truly need them. The best Ironmen spend 8-9 hours swimming, biking and running a distance of 26.2 miles. The not-so-good ones can take twice as long. Rip N Hammer’s apparel was enjoyed by both pros and regular joes. It was also appreciated by other companies in the space; Dunning created private-label apparel for Saucony and Cervelo, enthusiast brands for runners and cyclists, respectively.
In 2000, Dunning sold his company. That same year, he attended the annual Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, but just as an observer, so he said yes to an invitation to play golf. It was then he says he developed a staying passion for golf. Adding to his passion was the realization that he could improve on the trendy golf clothes he was wearing that week, which didn’t stand up to the 90-degree temperatures on the Big Island.
“When I finished playing that week, I told my wife I was going back to Toronto to meet with my engineering team and start engineering golf apparel,” Dunning says.
In Toronto, Dunning developed the prototypes for what would become major championship-winning apparel less than a decade later. He leveraged his background in fabric engineering to create a head-to-toe, performance-apparel line that would impress serious golfers. Key to his process was knowing exactly what serious golfers wanted, so he spent a lot of time talking to them, especially good golfers.
When he asked golfers what they wanted from their wind shirts and rain jackets, for example, it was clear that they didn’t want jackets with high collars that could distract them during shots. It was also important for them to be able to pull their sleeves over their forearms when they were hitting finesse shots around the greens.
Dunning continues to focus on details that matter to golfers, like how the company’s golf clothes adapt to the golf posture and move during the swing. He also eschews the common practice of purchasing off-the-rack fabrics, opting instead to engineer his own fabric with natural fibers that can provide performance benefits without the use of chemical treatments.
“There’s a difference between fabrics that are inherently breathable and products that are chemically treated,” Dunning says. “You want fabrics that feel good, and by that I mean on your skin and when you reach for them in your closet. At the same time, you want them to feel good on your body, and they have to perform.”
In 2007, Dunning had its big break when Zach Johnson won the Masters wearing the brand. Johnson (who now endorses Oakley apparel) doesn’t fit the mold of golfers who generally win at Augusta National. He’s not long off the tee, so he’s at a disadvantage on the course’s famous par-5 holes. The weather was unseasonably cold that year, however, putting the par-5s out of reach for many in the field. Johnson went the whole week without hitting a par-5 in two, relying on his wedge game to take him to the top of the leaderboard.
Johnson’s other advantage, according to Dunning, was his clothes. Whereas many golfers in the field were wearing bulky sweaters to stay warm, Johnson was wearing the three-layer system Dunning developed seven years prior in Toronto: a next-to-skin, mock turtleneck “base layer” kept Johnson’s core temperature up and two more slim layers of apparel — a golf shirt and vest — offered a freedom of motion that kept Johnson’s mind on his game and off the temperatures and his clothes.
Even to casual golf fans, it was easy to see the difference between Johnson’s clothes and those being worn that week by Tiger Woods, who dressed in a short sleeve polo and a thick sweater at Augusta.
Dunning doesn’t claim to have invented performance apparel, but he is widely credited for being the first to bring it to golf. It wasn’t an easy sell. In the early 2000s, he was told many times at golf trade shows in the U.S. and Canada that golf was “a cotton industry.” Johnson’s win lifted Dunning’s company to new heights, and as a result buyers from major retailers started calling: Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Dillards. Who would say no to an opportunity to be in those stores? Dunning didn’t, but it’s now clear to him why they weren’t a good fit for his company.
“It’s very difficult [for employees] to talk about our products the way we want them to at a department store … or at stores like Dicks [Sporting Goods] and Golf Galaxy,” Dunning says. “That’s why we don’t really want to be there.”
Dunning is currently sold at 1,200 golf shops worldwide, a number that’s rising. Growth is especially brisk in the UK, he says, where golfers are asking for the brand after being exposed to it by Americans and Canadians on golf vacations.
“I know a lot of brands that want to earn [our] reputation,” Dunning says. “When we say we offer the best performance, we can say that based on 30 years of experience in the performance space … and that matters.”
A tenet of the running and cycling product worlds is that athletes purchase their gear from specialty shops, behavior driven by the seriousness with which runners and cyclists approach their gear. These athletic boutiques pride themselves on advanced product knowledge and fitting, and because their customers demand it, they stock only the best-performing products. In the golf world, the model translates to what are known green-grass shops — golf stores generally located on golf course properties that are usually run by PGA Professionals. It’s in these kinds of stores that Dunning wants golfers to learn about his apparel, and then hopefully purchase it.
“We made a very conscious decision in 2011 to really just focus on the green-grass community,” Dunning says. “We’re going to deliver the best player-specific product while protecting our game, our industry and the golf professional. That’s what matters to us.”
Learn more about Dunning and its apparel on its website.
Bridgestone launches special First Tee edition e6 ball
Bridgestone Golf has launched a special First Tee edition e6 golf ball, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to First Tee, a youth development organization that helps kids and teens build their strength of character through golf.
The special First Tee edition ball is available now exclusively through PGA Tour Superstore and comes in both white and optic yellow color codes.
“We’re very pleased to offer this special First Tee edition e6, exclusively at PGA Tour Superstore. For decades, First Tee has done very fine work, helping young people learn and grow through the game of golf, building strong individuals and communities. It is an honor to create a dedicated product where the proceeds from the sales will bolster their charitable endeavors.” – Dan Murphy, President and CEO, Bridgestone Golf
As a reminder, the e6 is the longest-running model in Bridgestone’s current lineup. The latest model, new for 2021, features a larger, softer core in design for a more responsive feel added distance for moderate swing speed players.
The new design, which is specifically tailored to modern players who value a ball that provides a very soft feel at impact, retails for $21.99 per dozen.
Adidas unveils new Stan Smith golf shoe in classic colorway
Adidas Golf is bringing the classic Stan Smith colorway to the course, with the new unmistakable white and green golf shoe.
Building upon the new PimeGreen upper made with high-performance recycled materials1 as part of Adidas’ mission to End Plastic Waste, this version is also waterproof (one-year warranty) to help keep golfers dry both on and off the course.
The new Stan Smith golf shoe features a PU cushioning in targeted areas in the midsole to go alongside a PU die-cut sockliner in a bid to provide maximum comfort.
The shoe also contains an adiwear spikeless outsole that features lugs inspired by the shoe’s original sole design, offering some added traction for all course conditions to go along with their style.
“When we were talking about bringing this shoe into golf, the original white and green colorway was a must-have as part of our planning. The Stan Smith silhouette is known throughout the world for being so versatile from a fashion standpoint, so we’re excited to give golfers that same style and versatility for when they head out to the course, now in a more sustainable way.” – Masun Denison, global footwear director, Adidas Golf.
As an ode to the traditions of the past, Adidas has also included a removable white kiltie to provide players another way to wear their shoes and give off some added flair for their round.
This classic white and green colorway of the Stan Smith Golf will be available on adidas.com, through the Adidas app, and at select retail partners worldwide beginning Saturday, May 1.
Lob wedge or no lob wedge? – GolfWRXers discuss
In our forums, our members have been discussing the necessity of a lob wedge. WRXer ‘rickybooby25’ kicks off the thread, saying
“Do you use a Lob wedge in your current set-up or not? Players nowadays immediately default to using a LW when playing a chip shot around the greens. I currently have a LW in the bag but have been debating on taking it out completely because it creates bad habits when facing a chip shot. What are your thoughts?”
And our members have been sharing their thoughts on the subject in the forum, with some very interesting responses.
Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.
- Chadwickog: “I am in the NO lob wedge camp, it simplifies the decision making when it comes to wedge play, and all shots are still possible if you know how to hit them.”
- jholz: “I’ve always looked at the lob wedge as a specialty club for special situations. Lower lofted wedges (54* or 56*) are the ones I use for the vast majority of generic chip shots.”
- timmekang: “I’ve mentioned this in prior posts, but I carry 2 lob wedges. Not all lob wedges are created equal to don’t be afraid to bring more than 1 out on the course with different bounce/grind/etc. and see what works best depending on your lie and circumstances.”
- lefthack: “I bought one, learned to hit it, but didn’t find a need for it in my bag when there are other clubs I would use more.”
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