GOLF RETAILING takes a look at the next generation of products transforming the golf industry.
The putting machine which also acts as a coach (pictured above)
Robert Slade-Baker, Head of Business Development for Hole More Putts, provides the lowdown on the product and the technology used
How did the idea for Hole More Putts originate?
The product is the brain child of colleagues and keen golfers Desmond Burke and his brother Kevin. They had tried a number of instructional putting products in the market but always found that the information they got back was just too difficult to understand and when they could decipher it they were left with the question – what now? Finding the problem in their putting game was one thing, how to fix it was another. Des has an extensive background in IT and both are single figure golfers so they decided to invent their own. It had to be easy to use and provide meaningful feedback in an easy to understand format.
How much went into the development of it?
Hole More Putts has been over two years in the making, it’s been tested by golfers at every stage and we have spent a lot of time listening and incorporating their feedback. We believe every golfer can have a repeatable putting stroke, to do that they need to see what they are doing wrong and how easily it can be fixed – Hole More Putts does exactly that.
Both the hardware and software technology is cutting edge; various elements have been successfully patented. Using infrared, this technology is rarely ever seen in a putting product which of course raised its own issues but over time and with much testing and research it’s been brought to heel and works brilliantly. To make sure we stayed on track with the instruction we brought in some heavyweight teaching pros – David and Ian Kearney. They have provided the instructional element, and their video content is simple and practical.
Do you see this as a tool that PGA Pros can use with members?
Very much so. With no wires and a long lasting battery this is a product that is easy to use, extremely portable and it can be used indoors and outside on the putting green. It enables the teaching pro to help the golfer understand their putting stroke. They can see for themselves where they are going wrong and how to fix it. This makes putting lessons more meaningful and the golfer gets more out of the lesson.
How important is it for the golf industry that companies look to innovate?
In any industry innovation is the key, there are new ideas and technology becoming available every day and it’s down to guys like us to make sure we use it for the good of the industry. Golf can be a difficult game but if we can harness technology and make the game more accessible and enjoyable through the products that we create then we’ll always provide a reason for the man and woman in the street to try this wonderful sport.
The next-generation bag holder
Mark Talarico, Ogio International Sales Manager, talks about the Ogio Silencer
How did the idea for the silencer technology first come about?
Our design team was tasked with solving the problem of clubs banging into each other when in the back of a golf cart or trolley, or when carried on your back. The goal was not to ‘secure’ the club on the shaft and to ensure it was easy to put in place and extract the club when needed.
How does it practically work?
The club is actually secured at the bottom (or base) of the bag. Silencer technology secures the club at the bottom of the handle, and the soft silicon top is more of a placeholder.
What were the main challenges in implementing the technology?
The biggest challenge to the technology was the weight factor. The initial bag with Silencer technology was a cart bag called the Chamber. It was very heavy due to the initial molds of the base of the bag. We could not initially launch this bag in a stand bag version due to weight.
How important is it to golf that all brands seek to continually innovate?
Consumers today, be it in any sport or with almost any consumer product, are influenced by things that make their experience (be it on the golf course, at work or at home) better. All brands are challenged to constantly innovate the way they do things, think about things and keep the consumer first.
Innovating to ensure that one size fits all
Industry legend Tom Wishon provides his insight into the processes behind making single length irons
What is the practical process when it comes to making Sterling Irons?
The first design consideration and the key factor in making single length irons is that the head weights are the same throughout the set. This allows us to build each club in the set with identical specifications – with the exception of loft – same length, lie and swingweight. For the materials there are three completely different head construction styles and methods within the full set of Sterling iron heads.
1) #5 hybrid clubhead. The #5 hybrid has a much lower Centre of Gravity than the #5 iron to help the golfer with less clubhead speed get the ball up to fly and carry. It is made from four separate welded pieces to form the complete head. The crown, the sole and sides are formed from 17-4 stainless steel, the face is made from a very high strength steel HS300 alloy which gives a high COR, and the hosel is formed from a very soft 304 Stainless steel which allows us to bend the lie angle +/-4°.
2) #4, 5, 6 & 7 irons are a two piece construction with a little bit lower loft than normal. The body is investment cast from soft 8620 carbon steel. The face is again made from the high strength HS300 steel alloy to give a very high COR face. The soft carbon steel body allows us to offer golfers a very wide range of lie or loft fittings.
The high COR face makes sure golfers don’t lose distance. It increases ball speed allowing golfers to hit these lower lofted irons as far or farther than they hit the same number irons in their conventional set – but they gain better shot consistency because a shorter length is always easier to hit on centre a higher amount of the time.
3) #8, 9, PW, GW & SW are a one-piece construction, investment cast from soft 8620 carbon steel. They don’t need a high COR face because the golfer’s clubhead speed at the single length of an 8 iron will not cause a decrease in clubhead speed.
What were the main issues in the production process that you had to overcome?
Investment casting a carbon steel alloy is more difficult than casting a stainless steel alloy. This is because casting carbon steel can easily result in heads with little pinholes all over the surface of the clubhead. I worked on my first cast carbon steel clubhead over 20 years ago so all the solutions to prevent surface pinholes were solved and known a long time ago. I have been working with club faces made from a thin, high strength steel alloy for a long time too, so I learned the difficulties of how to form and weld the thin faces to the body of a clubhead many years ago.
Why stick with the 8 iron length rather than longer as some companies do?
For the golfer shorter clubs are always easier to hit more on centre and more consistently than longer clubs.
Wedges are a good example – when you make the single length irons longer than an 8 iron there is a danger of making the wedges much longer than the golfer had in their previous conventional set. Wedges in a conventional men’s iron set are on average around 35.5” length. When you make them a single length of a 6 iron (37.5”) or even 37.25”as some companies do, you are asking the golfer to play with wedges that are now 1.75 to 2” longer than they were used to playing. For many golfers that means problems with distance control and accuracy because longer length equals more clubhead speed and greater distance which means more difficulty in controlling accuracy. At 36.5”, the Sterling wedges are only 1” longer than what a golfer may have been used to so they are easier to control distance and accuracy.
The whole reason single length even exists is because they offer the potential to improve shot consistency when each iron is identical in swing feel and when each iron requires the same stance/posture/ball position/swing plane. This is a major reason why Sterling single length irons are made to an 8 iron length of 36.5”.
Paul Sanders from Miller Brown has been designing golf pro shops for 25 years. He speaks to GOLF RETAILING about the state of retailing in pro shops and how innovation has changed the look and feel of them across the world.
How would you assess the state of pro shops and retailing?
We are now seeing golf pros really doing golf retailing properly. The last two to three years has seen a number of clubs, big and small, who have been saying that they need to do their shop right. Ten years ago most golf clubs wanted to do it ‘quick and dirty’ but that has changed. Now in England there are more clubs that are proprietary run rather than committee run and from a retail perspective that has been very positive because the club takes a commercial view of it and asks whether it is making money and, if not, then why not. Often the answer is that the club has ended up as a suppliers dumping ground and some pros have been talked into buying more stock than they need and that means that the shop looks cluttered.
More pros are now realising the importance of presentation – most people that go to play golf do not go there to go shopping, it is an incidental activity and so when you enter the shop you need to be taken aback by how nice it looks. By changing the look of the shop to something really appealing there is more chance of selling.
What else has changed?
The hardware has definitely moved on due to custom fit – the days of seeing a golf shop full of clubs has long gone. The innovation now in pro shops is swing rooms with launch monitors and these are a tremendous way for a pro to re-establish themselves as a ‘professional’ in their members’ eyes. It’s also important that these innovations, so nets and launch monitors, aren’t hidden away from where the members can see them.
What others things are you seeing being done differently – in store branding?
It has become more common to have TV monitors in a shop. I would say that it is really important to make sure there are a few simple statements that are being made, rather than having loads of statements going on at once. I think that internet retailing is actually going to be the rebirth of personal retailing as what will happen is we will buy things of the internet that we know precisely what they are but, if there is an element of doubt, we will go back to personal advice. A lot of pros are looking at it carefully and seeing what they can do best that the internet can’t do and how they can really appeal to their members and visitors.
How has innovation affected retail display?
The slat wall has been and gone but yet some golf suppliers still want to supply accessories that fit slat walls to golf retailers. I don’t know why, because you don’t see it in the high street, so I don’t know why they are still plugging it. Golf professionals need to display their clothing range as appealingly as the high street. We have plenty of examples of pro shops where the same space is refitted with modern display and the slat wall is ripped out and the guys do really well. Retailing is about making people do different things, so getting the same members to buy things they wouldn’t do normally because it is presented better. Innovation comes in different forms; some people want to look modern, technical and contemporary but that doesn’t work for everyone. One of the changes we have seen is shops don’t want huge counters anymore, they are trying to make them more customer friendly by not having somewhere that staff can hide behind and that creates a barrier.
Has technology led to innovation?
More clubs are talking to me about going completely wireless in their shops – one club don’t even want to have a counter. They want to have cabinets around the shop and have printers concealed in the walls and the member of staff will walk towards the space that they know the ticket will get printed out as a receipt and be able to give it to the client. The great thing about doing this will be that it means there will not be that dead space which counters always create, so it will be a very free and flowing shop. That is the retailing of the future and it is great to say that it will happen in a golf shop almost as soon as it is happening on the high shop.
Information and entertainment on the move
Craig Higgs from Golf Genius on the latest technology that is bringing new information into golf cars
What were the main technological and practical challenges with providing live scoring in golf cars?
Golf Genius takes the scores entered into each cart and formulates a live leaderboard for players to view on a range of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, as well as on other GPS enabled monitors. In simple terms the E-Z-GO screen is an android tablet enabled to communicate with the Golf Genius Tournament Management Software.
What additional information is also provided?
The system offers bespoke branded live scoring and real-time leaderboards, in addition to the existing functionalities which include enhanced graphics, yardages, messaging, and food and beverage ordering.
How important is it for golf that all companies look to continually innovate?
Innovation must be married to customer demand, and not innovation for innovation’s sake. Last year we provided 200 new features across ten different software updates, the majority of which started as customer requests. Keeping in touch with customers is the way to develop the product and the reason why Golf Genius is being so quickly adopted as it resolves issues faced by tournament organisers every day. We like to think we are helping provide technology that meets up with tradition, for example, printed scorecards still have a place, as does mobile scoring. In the end it is down to what the customer wants. Our job is to provide it in an easy
to use, cloud based software solution.
Regarding Golf Genius – what other ways will the business be looking to innovate in the future?
We are constantly looking for more ways to make life easier for the organisers and more ways to make it fun for the players. We are driven by our company ethos of ‘Less Time, More Fun and More Revenue’, enabling clubs and professionals to put on the best golf events, and we have a development programme that extends out into 2018.
Give your feet a boost
Masun Denison, Director of adidas Golf footwear, on the footwear technology behind BOOST.
Exactly what is BOOST technology?
BOOST is a highly elastic thermoplastic urethane that is formed into an elliptical shaped pellet, which on its own is amazing as it has properties that are generally never together. You never get something that is both very soft and very springy. Then when this is fused together into a shape, it has added benefits beyond what adidas first imagined. It’s the holy-grail, it cushions and returns energy beyond compare. BOOST reduces the loss of energy, so you can partake in the same exercise but require less effort, or use the same effort but go further.
What makes the technology so innovative?
It is the most comfortable material out there, and the most innovative that adidas have ever used. It transcends both lifestyle and performance as it offers unrivalled comfort and energy return. BOOST is now offered not just in running shoes, but golf shoes, basketball shoes, hiking boots, football boots, snowboarding boots and many more. All athletes want the best comfort and performance possible.
Can you tell us about the Powerband BOA BOOST?
The Powerband BOA BOOST is a new generation adidas golf shoes and sits as the flagship model for 2017. The BOOST midsole offers walking comfort and energy return to help with fatigue during the round whilst the L6 BOA closing system offers micro levels of adjustability at the turn of a dial for the perfect customisable fit. climaproof leather offers lightweight durability and comfort. A slightly rounded toe shape and wider forefoot improves comfort and stability. The POWERCAGE saddle prevents and power leaks by strengthening lateral stability. With a total of eight technologies throughout the shoe, the Powerband BOA BOOST is one of adidas’ most technologically advanced golf shoes ever.