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How Dunning Changed Golf Apparel

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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.

Brendan Steele wears Dunning on the PGA Tour. He's pictured in the company's "Natural Hand" golf shirt in "Mid Orange Heather." It sells for $79.99.

Brendan Steele in Dunning’s “Natural Hand” golf shirt ($79) in “Mid Orange Heather.”

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.

David Hearn wears Dunning on the PGA Tour. He's pictured in 5-Pocket Stretch Woven Pants ($99) in Tan and a Player Merino V-Neck sweater ($125)

David Hearn in Dunning’s 5-Pocket Stretch Woven pants ($99) and Player Merino V-Neck sweater ($125).

“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.

The Masters - Final Round

Zach Johnson at the 2007 Masters.

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.

The Masters - Final Round

Tiger Woods and Stuart Appleby at the 2007 Masters.

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.

David Hearn in Dunning's Stripe Yarn Dye Jersey golf shirt ($89) in light pink/white.

David Hearn in Dunning’s Stripe Yarn Dye Jersey golf shirt ($89) in light pink/white.

“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.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Rev G

    Apr 12, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    so basically “The Dunning Player” is a typical golfing snob with more dollars then sense

  2. CB

    Apr 11, 2017 at 8:08 am

    I have 3 of their garments. Not especially impressed
    2 x Polos – don’t stretch enough, sweaty and do not feel especially nice on the skin. I rarely wear them because of this.
    I also have a vest similar to Zach’s in the photo above. This is great and gets a lot of use – but you can get something very similar from another brand for less than 20$/€/Pounds.

  3. The Real Swanson

    Apr 10, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    I’ll stick to Primark. As someone else said, blatant promotional editorial like this should be more clearly identified. Shank off a cliff with a DQ thrown in for good measure in my opinion.

  4. cgasucks

    Apr 9, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    That’s nice…but I’ll stick to my Ben Hogan clothing at Walmart.

  5. setter02

    Apr 9, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Their high-end stuff was very nice, but not worth the price point they were trying to get. Still have a few pairs of the wool pants that I will wear for Spring and Fall golf when I want to break out my wingtip Icons. Poly shirts were just like everything else, tho did stretch more. Would be better to not go for top tier price point and I would think they could be more successful, as didn’t they basically go under once?

  6. John Agel

    Apr 8, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    I’ve not tried it or heard of it.
    The Best golf gear ever so far for me is Antigua. Their Desert Dri fabric is a miracle. First, it breathes. Second, even here in the heat and humidity of Georgia, the fabric really does dry during the round. Oh and unlike most “performance wear” Antigua, breathes and helps cool you.
    I do not work for Antigua.

    • ooffa

      Apr 8, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      C’mon, yes you do. I saw you at the company picnic.

  7. Jim C

    Apr 7, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Not into putting “paid advertisement” at the beginning to alert GolfWRX readers, huh?

  8. Pingback: Friday, April 7, 2017 – Flog

  9. Brian

    Apr 7, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Yeah, that all sounds very expensive. Thanks, but no thanks. It’s already an expensive game.

  10. Britt Stevenson

    Apr 7, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Tenet not tenant.

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Apr 7, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      I appreciate you catching that error, Britt. Thanks!

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Whats in the Bag

Darius Rucker WITB 2022

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PGA Tour WITBs are great and all, but what about multi-Platinum Grammy winners? The Hootie & the Blowfish lead singer is a well-known lover of and ambassador for the game. He is also the originator of Monday After the Masters, a Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation charity pro-am started by the band in 1994 and recently signed on with PXG as a brand ambassador.

Let’s check out what the four handicap is playing.

Driver: PXG 0811 X GEN4 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder Evo V 569 R

3-wood: PXG 0341 X GEN4
Shaft: Aldila NV2KXV Blue 70 R

Hybrid: PXG 0317 X GEN4 Hybrid (19 degrees)
Shaft: Accra iSeries 80i

Hybrid: PXG 0317 X GEN4 Hybrid (22 degrees)
Shaft: Accra iSeries 80i

Irons: PXG 0311 P GEN4 (5-PW)
Shafts: AeroTech SteelFiber 110cw

Wedges: PXG 0311T Milled Sugar Daddy (52, 56), PXG 0311T Milled Romeo (60)
Shafts: AeroTech SteelFiber 110cw S

Putter: PXG Battle Ready Blackjack

What other celebrity WITBs would you like to see, GolfWRXers?

 

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Reviews

Giveaway, member testing roundup: Cleveland CBX ZipCore wedge giveaway + much more!

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Our forum faithful are well acquainted with the incredible giveaways going on in the realm of threads and comments, but we want to make sure front page readers are able to get in on these unique opportunities.

Check out a roundup of our current giveaways and review opportunities below!

GIVEAWAY: Cleveland CBX ZipCore Wedge

Cleveland Golf and GolfWRX are very excited to bring you this amazing giveaway! We are giving one lucky winner the chance to win a brand new Cleveland CBX ZipCore wedge of their choice! Enter now for your chance to win and put a brand new wedge in your bag!

Enter here. 


GIVEAWAY: Precision Pro ACE Smart Speaker

Precision Pro now has the ability to help your golf game and keep you entertained on the course, at the same time! The new ACE Smart Speaker is not only a speaker that can crank out your favorite tunes, but can also help you lower your scores and improve your course management! This customizable speaker is the latest piece of technology from Precision Pro that offers you amazing performance at a great price! Enter now because we are giving 3 lucky GolfWRX members the chance to win an ACE Smart Speaker of their own!

Enter here. 


GIVEAWAY: Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor

Rapsodo and GolfWRX are very excited to bring you this awesome Mobile Launch Monitor giveaway! The Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM) not only offers excellent accuracy, but it also offers exciting features to help you analyze every part of your game! The MLM features indoor and outdoor modes so you can improve your game during the regular season or offseason! We are giving 1 lucky member the chance to win a Rapsodo MLM of their own! Enter now for your chance to win!

Enter here.


GIVEAWAY: StrackaLine Yardage and Green Reading Books

GolfWRX is once again teaming up with StrackaLine to give five of our members a chance to get their hands on StrackaLine’s yardage and green reading books! With their precision guides, StrackaLine will help you achieve better course management and green reading.

Enter here.


The reviews are coming in…

10 GolfWRXers received early access and are testing L.A.B. Golf’s new MEZZ.1 Putter.

Three GolfWRX members are testing Callaway’s Apex UW Fairway Wood.

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Equipment

Mizuno unveils new ST-Z 220 and ST-X 220 drivers

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Mizuno Golf has today introduced its latest ST Series of drivers: the ST-Z 220 driver and ST-X 220 driver, which will both arrive at retail on February 3rd. 

The ST-Z and ST-X drivers both feature a 40% expansion of the carbon-sole area and thinning out the Titanium portion, alongside a doubling of the stabilizing back weight in design to provide excellent stability and consistency from off-center strikes.

“Any twisting or deflecting at impact due to an off-center hit is an energy loss and varies launch conditions. By working with the prior ST driver platform and familiar materials, we were able to find several adaptations to impact the internal weighting. Creating far more stable tendencies in both the ST-Z and ST-X.” – Mizuno’s Director of R&D David Llewellyn

Mizuno ST-Z 220 driver

The Mizuno ST-Z 220 driver features a balanced toe/heel carbon construction and central back weight designed to encourage a low spinning, efficient, straight ball flight.

The 460cc head aims to offer players a confidence-inspiring profile at address for elite players, while a heavier, 20g back weight creates a deeper center of gravity in design for more efficient performance, more often.

The ST-Z driver features Mizuno’s Z-Axis design with weight evenly distributed across toe and heel in design to provide a low spinning stable straight flight, while a highly resilient forged SAT2041 Beta Ti face and multi-thickness CorTech design aims to produce increased ball speeds.

In addition, an optimized Wave Sole is included in a bid to further increase ball speeds, particularly from low on the clubface, while 4 degrees of loft adjustability allows for fine-tuning of launch and trajectory.

“The ST-Z is the most played of all our drivers. It’s a modern driver for players who have grown up hitting long straight bombs rather than shaping the ball. The addition of a 20g back weight also makes it an exceptionally forgiving option,” says Chris Voshall.

Specs & Pricing

  • Lofts: Right hand – 9.5 and 10.5 degrees. Left hand – 9.5 degrees only.
  • Price: $449.95

Mizuno ST-X 220 driver

The ST-X 220 driver is a draw-biased driver with heel focused weight location aimed at players with moderate swing speeds who need help producing a more extended ball flight.

The new driver features a 20-gram heel biased back weight that creates a deeper center of gravity in design for more efficient, longer drives. The ST-X is also available as a J-Spec option with an ultra-lightweight HeLIUM NanoCore shaft for seniors and those with slower swing speeds.

The ST-X aims to deliver exceptional stability from off-center strikes via an expansion of the carbon sole area by 40% and thinning out the Titanium portion, alongside a near doubling of the stabilizing heel/back weight.

Featuring Mizuno’s X-Axis design, weight is focused deep in the heel, encouraging a higher draw bias flight, while a rounded 460cc profile seeks to offer a higher launch and mid spin performance.

A highly resilient forged SAT2041 Beta Ti face and multi-thickness CorTech design are also designed to produce increased ball speeds and the driver also includes an optimized Wave Sole, while 4 degrees of loft adjustability allows for fine-tuning of launch and trajectory.

“For a lot of golfers, the modern low spinning driver design preferred by tour players is a serious distance killer. The ST-X’s extra spin, slight draw bias and a higher flight will add driving distance for a surprising number of players.” – Mizuno’s Director of Product Chris Voshall

Specs & Price

  • Lofts: Right hand – 10.5 and 12 degrees.
  • Price: $449.95
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