Costco, together with its Kirkland Signature brand, is one of the biggest forces in retail. Once again, it is disrupting the golf equipment space with the introduction of the company’s very first original golf club: the KS1 putter.
In an exclusive interview with GolfWRX, Tim Farmer, Costco vice president and general merchandise manager, dug into the details behind the putter. Farmer also spoke at great length about Costco’s other golf products, including the wildly popular Kirkland Signature four-piece golf ball and the current Kirkland three-piece urethane ball, which upon the time of publication has over 17,000 reviews and a 4.5/5 star rating.
The Costco Golf story
“The approach to creating the KS1 putter was no different than creating any other Kirkland Signature product – to work with a manufacturer to create something that offers exceptional value to our customers”
First, some background on the Kirkland Signature brand, from Costco
“By taking the lead in sourcing and formulating new products, co-branding with premium national and international brands, and partnering with top manufacturers around the world, we’ve created an exclusive range of (Kirkland Signature) products that reflect our members’ tastes and exceed their expectations.”
The approach, from a Costco’s perspective, is to capitalize within a market where they believe an opportunity exists to be a price disruptor to other products currently available. The research includes talking with venders, working with Costco’s long list of approved suppliers, and visiting trade shows—including the PGA Merchandise Show.
The original golf breakthrough came with the introduction of the Kirkland Signature Tour Performance four-piece ball in late 2016. The story goes, Costco was approached by a manufacturer with its own IP on a golf ball design and the opportunity to produce a ball under the Kirkland brand. Independent testing conducted by a third party and Costco’s own internal testing proved the four-piece ball offered exceptional performance. The ball was then approved and shortly after arrived in warehouses. “That’s when things went a little crazy,” says Farmer.
The price of $29.99 for two dozen four-piece urethane balls seemed too good to be true, but in the age of social media and launch monitors, golfers were buzzing, and the balls sold out almost immediately company-wide. Demand and buzz even created a secondary market where the golf balls were selling for 4-5 times their initial price including on eBay. Costco was both shocked and excited, and the ball became the proof of concept that its own line of golf products could be in high demand by members.
The Costco KS1 putter story
Considering the number of options Costco had for potentially producing a golf club, a putter was selected for its relative simplicity and the knowledge that of all the clubs in the bag, golfers love to experiment and test putters the most.
Farmer admitted that he, (a 9 handicap) along with a lot of other employees and members of the board of directors at Costco, are golf nuts themselves, and the putter was an exciting product to develop. It was an attractive product because the company knew it was a category where it could offer the best value and performance comparable to other products on the market.
The Costco buyers approached a well-respected manufacturer in China that also produces putters for a number of well-known OEMs to help develop the KS1. After working through initial prototypes and multiple designs, the wide-body plumbers neck was the final choice based on its popularity and mass appeal.
Farmer made the point that mass appeal is a huge part of the Costco merchandising philosophy because the average Costco Warehouse is 160,000 square feet, and at most, merchandises only 3,700 items per store. When you compare that to other big box stores of similar size, they could carry upwards of 120,000 different items. Fewer products create more value, which at the end of the day, is Costco’s biggest goal.
Costco KS1 putter specs
The specs of the putter clearly reflect the greatest opportunity to offer a club to the largest part of the bell curve for the best possible value.
- Construction: 100% milled from 303 stainless steel. Also has a 303 insert.
- Length: 34.5″
- Loft: 3 degrees
- Lie: 71 degrees
- Head weight: 340g with stock 10g adjustable weights. A separate weight kit will be available for 34.99 (online only) and will come with a wrench and adjustable 5g (x2) and 15g (x2) weights.
- Grip: Superstroke Countercore
- Head cover included
- Right-hand only
One of the interesting details from my conversation with Farmer concerned the reason the weight kit is being sold separately: “Research shows the majority of golfers don’t tinker with weights and settings of their clubs,” he said. “So to offer the best value, we are making it available online.”
It’s a smart decision that falls right in line with Costco’s directive to offer the greatest value while still creating options for members who are looking for something extra.
Availability & price
According to Farmer, the putter should become available online within the next couple of weeks. They don’t have an exact in-store date yet since pallets (how everything at Costco is moved around, stored, and merchandised) are currently in the process of being built and delivered—but expect to see them around three weeks from now.
The current plan is to have the putters in a select 80 stores to start with the potential to have them expand once the initial volume and sales data is analyzed. Like all things Costco, from mayonnaise to socks, every item has to earn its floor space. But if the putter sells anything like the golf ball, you can expect to see a potential second and third run.
The KS1 putter will be sold for $139.99 USD and the weight kit (available online only) will be a separate $34.99
The putter might just be the beginning…
Toward the end of my conversation with Farmer, the one question I had to ask is if other clubs and balls are on the horizon for Costco and the Kirkland Signature brand. I asked specifically about a rumored three-wedge set, and if they planned to update the current three-piece urethane ball.
Although Farmer was unable to provide specific details about any clubs beyond saying, “we are always working on new products that offer value to our members,” he was willing to say they are excited to see the reaction to the KS1 Putter. As for the three-piece golf ball, Costco is currently going through the testing phase for a potential replacement possibly by the end of the year.
When it comes to offering value, quality, and trust, there really is no other company in the entire consumer goods space that has the ability to deliver on a grand scale like Costco, and the Costco KS1 putter could be another game-changer for this constantly innovating retail giant.
Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (6/10/22): Nike Vapor Pro driver
At GolfWRX, we are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of 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 we all love – buying and selling equipment.
Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for a Nike Vapor Pro driver
From the seller (@beatarmy02): “Nike Vapor Pro Driver $150 – Aldila VS proto X flex shaft in overall really nice shape. Was my gamer for a season when it first came out.”
To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: Nike Vapor Pro driver
GolfWRX’s 2022 Father’s Day Gift Guide
This year’s gift guide is proudly presented in partnership with PGA TOUR Superstore.
A reminder from your friends at GolfWRX: Father’s Day is June 19. And as we do every year, we’re rounding up the best gifts for dad.
We’ve identified some basic “dad” types, like “the Purist” who loves classic golf architecture, hickory clubs, and the traditions of this game. There’s also “the Gearhead,” who in addition permanent residence in the GolfWRX forums, can’t wait to get his hands on the latest and greatest in golf equipment.
But as we say every year: There’s no better golf-related Father’s Day gift than a round of golf with pops. Be it a country club or your favorite muni, take the time to get together to play 18 if you can.
Let’s get to the gifts.
GolfPride CP2 grips
The latest from a classic name in grips is a revelation in soft feel…
“Combining high-performance technology with a soft, tacky feel, the innovative CP2 Wrap and CP2 Pro delivers comfort and control for superior performance. Featuring Golf Pride’s exclusive Control Core technology, an inner core stabilizer is specifically engineered to reduce torque. A reduced taper design allows for even grip pressure in each hand, and a soft, high-traction surface provides comfort in every swing. With the CP2, control fits in the palm of your hand.”
FootJoy Traditions – Shield Tip golf shoes
A truly classic-looking golf shoe…
“FJ Traditions offer complete traction and can be easily maintained round after round. Lightweight comfort and super-cushioned foam deliver an incredibly flexible and comfortable ride. FJ, The #1 Shoe in Golf.”
Best Grips Microperf Leather Golf Grip
Leather grips were the only option decades ago, but they are still a great option for golfers with a purist sensibility!
“Best Grips Microperf uses a perforated leather that is treated with ProTack for better grip when they get wet.”
Titleist 620 MB irons
If dad puts aesthetics and feel first…
“The new 620 MB irons stay true to everything players have come to trust from this classic model, with distinct refinements that make them better than ever. True 1-pieced forged muscle-back irons designed for the purest shot making possible.”
Vessel VLS Stand Bag
Clean, cool, simple: traits the purist values…
“Experience lightweight comfort with the next generation of our lightest, full-featured stand bag, the VLS. Crafted from heavy-backed nylon twill and specialized features, such as an exoskeletal base, the VLS was designed to reduce the weight of your load for an effortless carry. With a total of 6 intentionally placed pockets, this stand bag has storage to carry what you need, exactly where you need it. We have given the VLS a larger top that allows you to carry your clubs comfortably. The VLS was built to be carried without any compromise of quality, functionality or style.”
G/FORE MG4+ golf shoes
If dad likes a more modern look that retains clean, traditional elements…
“The MG4+ is the perfect combination of lightweight comfort and technical performance. Built upon the classic necessities of a golf shoe, but with a modern perspective; the MG4+ boasts the same properties of the MG4.1 with it’s washable, triple density foam cushion footbed and auxetic lattice midsole for rebound, paired with a fully waterproof exterior and 3D molded external heel cup for additional support.”
Scotty Cameron Special Select Newport 2 Putter
For the purist, Scotty Cameron stands tall…
“Arguably the most famous putter head shape in the world, with scores of professional titles won, the iconic Newport 2 blade leads the Special Select lineup with tour-inspired refinements to every design aspect and component including a flatter, narrower topline with an insert-free, solid milled putter head, redesigned plumbing neck that provides more visibility to align with the leading edge at address, interchangeable tungsten sole weights and a new soft tri-sole setup carrying through the familiar—yet refined—three red dot back cavity pattern in an alignment-friendly setup that ushers in the latest model of this legendary design.”
Scotty Cameron Pivot Tool
…to go with the putter, of course…
“Introduced in 2001, the Scotty Cameron pivot tool is the result of Scotty’s tinkering. This tool has been the subject of numerous magazine articles and used by many of the world’s top touring professionals. Its unique design provides more leverage when repairing ball marks and is environmentally sound for the greens. It truly is form following function. These pivot tools are milled from tumbled aluminum.”
St. Andrews Old Course Map
Say no more…
“Claire W golf course prints are unique, watercolor-style golf course art pieces that you can proudly display on the wall of your home or office. Perfect keepsake or memento for any golfer or golf fan!”
TaylorMade Stealth Plus Driver
A carbon fiber driver face? That’s gearhead catnip…
“Twenty years of development marks the end of the titanium era. The all new 60X Carbon Twist Face is 44% lighter than an equivalent titanium face, while also being 11% larger than SIM2 and SIM2 Max drivers and nearly 20% larger than the 2020 SIM driver. Sixty layers of carbon fiber have been strategically designed to optimize energy transfer to deliver fast ball speeds over a large area, resulting in optimal distance and forgiveness.”
Callaway Rogue ST Max Driver
Rogue rebooted. Color gearhead dad interested…
“The new Rogue ST Drivers represent a breakthrough in driver performance. Callaway’s industry-leading innovations, including the all-new Tungsten Speed Cartridge, Jailbreak Speed Frame, and an A.I. designed Flash Face are engineered for maximum speed with exceptional levels of forgiveness.”
Mack Made Workshop Custom Putter
If dad is ready to take the custom putter plunge…
“Mack Made makes custom putters and we don’t mean just length, lie, and loft. We are talking about working with a real craftsman to create the putter head design of your dreams! Sketch it out on a napkin and Josey will work one-on-one with you on every detail!”
All-Fit Universal Adapter Sleeve
A workshop necessity if dad likes to tinker…
“If your dad has a collection of driver heads and shafts, this universal system lets them all work together. AllFit has a shaft tip that you install on the driver shaft and sleeve that goes on the driver allowing you to use the same shaft in any brand head! Great for that club junkie dad.”
Mitchell Angle Machine
No gearhead workshop is complete without one…
This Mitchell Steelclub Machine will let dad measure the loft and lie of his irons and then bend them to his desired spec quickly. Mitchell is the name when it comes to golf tools and should last a lifetime.
TaylorMade Spider Tour Putter
For gearheads, there’s something about the Spider’s high MOI design…
“The Spider Tour Black with Sightline delivers Tour-proven performance to every golfer. With perimeter weighting for added stability and an added sightline to zero in the player’s focus, Spider Tour Black with Sightline provides a stroke of confidence to help golfers drain more putts when they matter most.”
Swing Science Callaway Fairway Wood Adapter
If you don’t own and adjust adapters, are you even a gearhead?
“Callaway OEM Wood Adapter for Driver and Fairway. Fits the following models: Rogue & Epic.”
Titleist Pro V1 Play Number Golf Balls
Standard numbers simply won’t do…
“The New Titleist Pro V1 golf ball is designed to deliver longer distance, even more greenside spin and control and softer feel. Featuring new aerodynamic, cover, casing layer and core technologies, these dramatic performance improvements are the result of rigorous development work by Titleist Golf Ball R&D. Total performance to help all golfers shoot lower scores.”
FootJoy Limited Edition HyperFlex BOA “Sea Change”
Gearhead dad will take his golf shoes with an extra helping of technology, thank you very much…
“Get ultimate athletic performance with HYPERFLEX golf shoes for men. Featuring innovative materials like the engineered mesh upper, HYPERFLEX men’s golf shoes deliver lightweight support and cushioning so you can play at your highest level. FJ, The #1 Shoe in Golf.”
LAB Golf Mezz.1 Putter
Irresistible technology story for the gearhead here…
“Looks are important, but so is science. That’s why MEZZ.1 looks pretty much like a normal putter. But unlike normal putters, MEZZ.1 actually helps you hole more putts.”
SIK Pro C-Series Satin Armlock Putter
A new putter face technology, you say?
“The Pro C-Series Armlock is the putter that Bryson used to win 5 times on the PGA Tour, 1 on the European Tour from 2017-2019. The head weighs 370 grams with the Armlock-Plumber’s Neck.”
Bushnell Launch Pro
If you have the budget, this will blow your tech-loving father away…
“Your pursuit of longer drives, more accurate carries and lower scores requires knowing the critical data points of your swing. A personal launch monitor will give you these data points, however, not all launch monitors are created equal.”
Blue Tees Series 2 Pro Rangefinder
Value and technology in a laser rangefinder…
“The confidence you need to play from the Blue Tees, Series 2 Pro expertly dials in your distances and makes club selection easy. Simple to use, this golf rangefinder is the perfect combination of size, accuracy, and advanced technology. Designed to change the way you see the course.”
Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
Your tech-loving father surely knows of the MLM, if he doesn’t have one, he wishes he did…
“Rapsodo has harnessed the power of your mobile device and combined it with our professional grade machine learning to create the Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM) . You will be able to work on your game like never before with professional accuracy for shot distance, ball speed, club speed, launch angle, launch direction and shot shape.”
Shot Scope Pro LX Laser Rangefinder
Just look at this thing. If dad loves tech, he’ll be smitten…
“The Shot Scope PRO LX+ is perfect for golfers that want it all – a fast-firing laser optimised for stability and accuracy, along with a GPS loaded with 36,000 courses and built-in performance tracking.”
Bushnell Wingman GPS Speaker
Both technology dad and his foursome can enjoy…
“This “first of its kind” product combines high quality audio with the ability to receive audible GPS distances, conveniently mounts to your cart bar via BITE magnetic technology.”
Irresistible wrist ornamentation for techie dad…
“We’ve got your game with Approach® S62, a premium GPS golf watch that puts critical information from more than 41,000 full-color course maps worldwide on your wrist. It sports a large, easy-to-read 1.3” color touchscreen and a style that goes beyond the clubhouse. The PlaysLike Distance feature accounts for uphill and downhill shots, and Virtual Caddie takes into account wind conditions and past swings to select the best club for each shot.”
Arccos Caddie Smart Sensors
Any tech-loving father ought be tracking his shots. This is the best way…
“The 3rd-Generation system features 14 sensors – one for every club in your bag – and access to the award winning Arccos Caddie app.”
Hyperice Hypervolt Go 2
If your father loves technology and hates the aches and pains of aging…
“The Hypervolt Go 2 by Hyperice is the ultimate portable percussion massager. Lightweight, versatile, and sleekly designed, it offers relief on-the-go – massaging away stress and tension, loosening muscle knots, and targeting fatigue. It’s more than just an ordinary massage gun – it’s designed for go-getters like you to help you do what you love, more.”
FootJoy FJ Hydrolite Rain Jacket
A superb rain jacket for a discerning dad…
“FJ HydroLite Golf Rain Jackets are constructed from advanced technology-packed materials that deliver 100% waterproof, breathable protection for golfers in cool, windy and rainy conditions. Make Every Day Playable with Tour-Proven FJ Golf Outerwear.”
Linksoul Waffle Hoodie
If dad’s a clotheshorse, he’s doubtless taken the golf hoodie plunge…
“Constructed with cotton-cashmere fabric found in our classic sweaters and knitted with our unique waffle texture, this eye-capturing layer will keep you comfy all day. The true people’s champ of hoodies.”
Polo Bear T-Shirt
The RL bear, a clever clotheshorse favorite…
“Part of our collection for the 2022 U.S. Open, this jersey T-shirt features our iconic mascot in Polo Golf apparel.”
FootJoy ProDry RollTab Patriotic Stripe Sock
If dad’s a clotheshorse, he’s always keen to add a twist on a classic…
“ProDry golf socks with DrySof Technology wicks moisture off your skin, allowing for a drier, more comfortable sock.”
FootJoy 2022 U.S. Open Polo
A bit of a callback to Brookline Ryder Cup gear here that dad will appreciate…
“Gear up for the 2022 U.S. Open with limited edition apparel celebrating the return to The Country Club and Francis Ouimet’s historic 1913 win.”
Barstool Golf Tiger Tee
If dad listens to what is, arguably, the most popular podcast in golf, he’ll love this shirt…even if he doesn’t, he still might!
“Barstool Golf Tiger Tee from Barstool Sports‚ Riggs, Frankie and Trent from the Fore Play podcast.”
Barstool Ain’t No Hobby Printed Polo
Dad will like the backstory and love the print…
“Barstool Golf Ain’t No Hobby Printed Polo from Barstool Sports‚ Riggs, Frankie and Trent from the Fore Play podcast.”
Adidas Ultimate365 Core 8.5″ Shorts
A golf wardrobe staple for clotheshorse dad…
“Pull on these adidas golf shorts to keep your cool through warm weather rounds. Their lightweight, breathable fabric delivers dependable comfort on the links. A water-resistant coating sheds damp weather with ease.”
Under Armor UA T2G Polo
Simple. Classic. Pick up a couple for clothes-loving dad…
“Smooth, soft anti-pick, anti-pill fabric has a textured, printed finish. Material wicks sweat & dries really fast.”
Titleist StaDry Performance Bucket Hat
If dad is a genuine clotheshorse, he can pull off the bucket hat in rainy conditions…
“New look, classic style, waterproof lightweight design.”
Ben Hogan, the scientist: Our Q&A with Ben Hogan Foundation CEO Robert Stennett
In case you missed it, GolfWRX posted photos of Ben Hogan’s old experimental prototype clubs in our forums during the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge. We also took a deep dive into the innovative clubs over on PGATOUR.com’s Equipment Report.
Hogan’s experimental clubs were previously locked away in a safe, but thanks to Robert Stennett (CEO of the Ben Hogan Foundation), GolfWRX got a rare in-hand look. Stennett also took the time to explain what makes the clubs so special, how he got a hold of the clubs, and more about the Ben Hogan Foundation itself.
For those who wanted a more extensive dive into our conversation with Stennett, we wanted to release the full written portion of the Q&A (we’ve slightly edited the conversation for brevity and grammar).
Enjoy the interview below, and click here to learn more about the Ben Hogan Foundation.
GolfWRX: First things first, how did you get your hands on these clubs? Did someone donate them? Did they come directly from Mr. Hogan?
Robert Stennett: In the office we probably have maybe 300-400 of Mr. Hogan’s drivers, 3 woods and 4 woods, sets, and iron sets. When Mr. Hogan passed, the family left all the clubs in his home, which were substantial, to the Director of Golf at Shady Oaks Country Club, Mike Wright, who subsequently donated them to the Ben Hogan Foundation when it was established in 2007. They donated all the clubs to the Ben Hogan Foundation. Similarly, when Spalding closed the Hogan Company, all of the clubs that were in Mr. Hogan’s office were donated back to Mike Wright and Shady Oaks, and we’ve taken possession of those, as well. Basically, these were all the clubs that were either in his home, or all the clubs that were in his private office at the Hogan Company.
You know, Mr. Hogan was the Iron Byron. He didn’t have a hitting machine in his day [to test equipment]. He would go into the factory, he would go invent, he would go tinker with a club, and he would bring it out to Shady Oaks and he would be the Iron Byron. He would test it, take it back to the factory, tweak it, and these are some of the experimental clubs Mr. Hogan was tinkering with. Most of them subsequently became very famous clubs.
That’s why we try to say people don’t realize how innovative Mr. Hogan was. Mr. Hogan the scientist. How innovative he was in golf club design. And a lot of people know Mr. Hogan’s dad was a blacksmith. Even though he lost his dad at a very very early age, a lot of folks can make a pretty compelling argument that Mr. Hogan’s love of tinkering with things and bending irons and stuff like that came from his early childhood days of his father being a blacksmith there in Dublin, Texas.
How were these clubs getting made? How were they going from idea to product?
He created his own company, and my own substantiated belief is he did that because his previous company couldn’t stay up with how rapidly he was making design changes in equipment. So he created his own company in 1953. He had his own scientist. I’m sure he would draw something out on paper, send it in, they would bring a mockup to him, and then they would go back and forth as they were creating new equipment designs.
Gene Sheeley was one of his early scientists. He was there for a long time. Then after Gene, a guy that’s still around and a good friend, Tom Stites, was his chief scientist. Tom’s stories are really fun, talking about Mr. Hogan’s ability to see and feel things in a golf club that no human could do. He could pick up a golf club and say, “Well this is wrong…this is too heavy.” And Tom would say, “No sir, we just put it on a machine.” They’d put it back on a loft machine and they found out Hogan could identify something no one else could.
How would you say Hogan’s clubs stand out? How are they different, and what makes them unique?
That’s a good question. What probably makes Hogan’s clubs unique was Mr. Hogan was a perfectionist in everything that he did. That was his commitment in his letter that he sent out to his friends that he was going to create the best golf club known to man, and that his quality control was going to be such that he was going to measure a golf club that was better than anyone else’s. His tolerance for imperfection was very small.
You know with Hogan, everything Mr. Hogan did was with purpose, from the extra spike in his shoe, to the way he dressed, to the way he practiced. It carried forth into his business, and the equipment design. A lot of people know the first batch of irons that he made…he had them all destroyed. And he lost a business partner. They spent, back in the day, $100K on making those irons, and they were not to his standard. He made them destroy all of them and start over again because they weren’t perfect. My understanding is they were chopped up. He said, “These are not acceptable.”
Now that sets a pretty good tone when you’re starting a company and you have a certain amount of seed money, and you take that seed money and make your first sets of irons, and you say these are not acceptable to be sold to the public, and you chop ’em all up and start over. That sends a pretty good message to your staff of what you’d expect as a leader.
Can you go through some of these clubs, and tell me what you know about them, whether it’s materials or the idea behind them?
What I did was I just brought 5 examples here. It’s one thing to hear my words how creative and how innovative Mr. Hogan was. It’s another thing to show you a club that no one knows about that was perhaps invented 20-30 years before you’ve heard of the club.
I’ll take this [hybrid] for example. You can see there’s no number on it. He never made this. He just built this experimental club, took it out to Shady Oaks, hit it, tinkered with it, but here is what I believe to be the first hybrid ever known to man. This was made probably 20-25 years before you ever heard of a hybrid.
If you look at it, and look at the shaft and set it down, it’s a hybrid. There’s no doubt. They didn’t have that name at that time, that’s just what he was inventing. He was experimenting and creating a hybrid 30 years before you heard the word hybrid. I think this was in the early 1960’s. Most of these clubs were from the early 1960’s.
When did you first hear the word hybrid? Mid 80’s? Late 80’s? So, 25-30 years before you heard of a hybrid, here’s Mr. Hogan inventing a hybrid.
Here’s another example that we brought. You see again, there’s no number on this. It was an experimental club. I believe that this was perhaps the first metalwood ever made about 20-25 years before people started creating metalwoods.
You can kind of see the reflection, it does actually have Hogan’s signature on top of it. It doesn’t have a number on it. He never produced it for the public’s consumption, but he was experimenting with different metals on woods.
Similarly, here’s an iron. He never made it. It’s made out of, I think, aluminum. It’s about half the weight of a normal iron.
I’m sure he was experimenting with swing speeds. I don’t know what the 5+ means on there, but this set of aluminum irons that we have, each one of them has a different groove design on it. He was trying to see if that could somehow effect spin and club head speed with different metals.
Here’s what I believe to be the first bore-thru shaft that Callaway made famous with the Big Bertha in the early 90’s or so. Here’s a bore-thru shaft that Hogan was making in the 1960’s before you heard of the Big Bertha.
It’s the most widely sold club, maybe to date, and part of their design was the bore-thru shaft.
And we have a…this was a different kind of putter. I could also bring you a counterbalanced putter that Mr. Hogan made 30 years before you heard of counterbalance. He filled this whole top part of the club with lead. It’s so heavy you can’t believe it. He was experimenting with counterbalance on putter 40-50 years before you started thinking about distributing the weight differently in a putter.
I feel like Hogan was basically Bryson DeChambeau before Bryson came along, except he had his own company to build designs, try things out, and chase perfection.
All pros today build a golf club around their swing…they have all the technology. You think about 70 years ago, they didn’t do that. Mr. Hogan built golf clubs he couldn’t hook. He put a Apex 5 shaft in, he tipped it, he set the grip on it, he put a reminder in it, he set the grip in it where the club was sitting 4.5 degrees open. He built a golf club that no human could hook. He started building a golf club around his swing in the 1950’s. Now, everybody does that. But 70 years ago, nobody did that. That was part of his scientific approach to golf.
What was Hogan’s background like? Did he have any engineering or science background? I know his dad was a blacksmith, but did he have any qualifications other than curiosity and knowing the golf swing better than anyone else in the world?
I think you probably hit it. Mr. Hogan did not have the opportunity to pursue his education. He was obviously a brilliant man, but he had to drop out of school in 10th grade to sell newspapers and to go loop at Glen Garden Country Club to get that 65 cents to give his mother so they could eat. And Mr. Hogan always believed in education. That’s why the foundation gives out scholarships, because he always believed in an education…but he did not have that privilege. He always respected it. He was a brilliant guy, but he did not have the opportunity to pursue a formal education.
His attention to detail was so amazing and he was so meticulous, and he spent so much time investigating and learning the golf swing that equipment design naturally flowed to his love of golf and his interest in pursing perfection.
Can you tell me a little about what the Ben Hogan Foundation does?
Thank you for asking. We created the Ben Hogan Foundation in 2007, so we’re relatively young. I was fortunate to know Mr. Hogan. I guess I first met Mr. Hogan when I was 14, as a teenager. Then I knew Mr. Hogan until he passed, when I was in my mid thirties or so. So forbout the last 20 years of his life. I didn’t know the great golfer. He was more in his grandfatherly stages.
I had the opportunity to see Mr. Hogan hit golf balls later in life and it was astounding how well he could hit it as an old man. But I knew Mr. Hogan more as a gentleman. The stories that you hear Mr. Hogan being aloof and difficult etc., I didn’t see that. Mr. Hogan would walk into the 19th hole and he would always be the first to speak. He’d pat you on the back and he’d say, “Hi, fellas!”
When you were touched by the hawk, you’d say, “I’m going low today, boy. I’d been touched by the Hawk.”
But I knew Mr. Hogan later in life, and I knew him as a very kind man. And that’s what we do with his foundation. Mr. Hogan’s word was his name and his words were so important. Hence, our interest is in working with the First Tee organizations across the country and building Ben Hogan Learning Centers. People think the First Tee teaches kids golf, and it does, but more importantly, it teaches kids about core values, the importance of honesty and integrity, and perseverance and hard work. We think that’s something Mr. Hogan would want us to do.
Then we have about five different scholarship programs that we do. As I said, Mr. Hogan wasn’t able to pursue his education, but we have scholarships to help young people pursue their education, because he didn’t have that opportunity.
The final element that we do is when Mr. Hogan was winning about a third of the tournaments he was entering, he left the PGA Tour and joined the Army Air Crops and he proudly served his country in World War II for three years. I knew how patriotic Mr. Hogan was, so we do a military appreciation event each spring at Fort Hood to thank our soldiers for their service. Everything we do, we do because we think it’s something Mr. Hogan would want us to do. Teaching young people core values, helping young people pursue their education, and thanking our military for their service to our country. That’s what we do with Mr. Hogan’s foundation.
Just for a general consumer, if they’re interested in seeing these clubs in person, do you have a facility where people can go and look at his old clubs and merchandise?
These, they can’t. These are special. They go into a locked safe. These are irreplaceable. We’ll bring them out here like we do at Colonial when we have friends contact us. We want people to know the Hogan story. We want them to understand all the interesting elements that made Mr. Hogan so special. We have a small museum that we support in his hometown of Dublin, and we have some clubs on display there. We do some displays at Shady Oaks Country Club, or if somebody wants to contact me, they can come by the office and we can show them Mr. Hogan’s collection. A little private tour.
Any final words you may want golf fans to know about the Ben Hogan Foundation?
Thank you for giving the foundation a platform. That’s important. If you’re not actively, especially as fewer and fewer people know Mr. Hogan, if you’re not actively trying to maintain that legacy, people can forget. Byron Nelson is a good example. I can’t believe how fast his legacy is going away for being one of the absolute greats of the game. I don’t think Jack’s or Arnie’s legacies will diminish because of their Children’s Hospitals, that will really keep their legacies there. But it’s important, and it’s important for these young pros out here to learn about Mr. Hogan.
We just signed an agreement with one of the biggest collegiate golf tournaments to move here to Colonial every year. We just signed an agreement to put that tournament in Mr. Hogan’s name. It will be called the Ben Hogan Collegiate Invitational. It will have the 15 best golf teams in the country here, and as a part of that, as I was visiting with our friends here at Colonial, one thing is to put Mr. Hogan’s name on it and create a Hogan-esque trophy, but the other element of that is these kids are in college to get an education. Every time they come here, they are going to get and education on Mr. Hogan. It won’t be painful. We’ll have Bruce Devlin or one of his friends tell fun Hogan stories, or the guys that were around and shagged range balls for Mr. Hogan. It’ll be a fun thing for them. It’s important they learn about Hogan and learn about the history of the game.
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