A CLOSER LOOK – Fresh ideas for a centuries-old game blossom here on the range
By Susan Fornoff
“Why can’t someone come up with a golf ball that beeps when it’s lost?”
“Can’t my golf bag have a built-in cooling unit I don’t have to remember to put in the fridge overnight?”
“I love my neck warmer, but couldn’t it have a heater insert for those really cold days?”
We’ve all had those aha moments on the golf course for a business, a product or simply a better way. Here in Colorado, plenty of brave risk-takers follow through to meet the market.
The most famous and successful, of course, is GOLFTEC, started modestly by PGA instructor Joe Assell in the basement of the Cherry Hills Country Club clubhouse 26 years ago. Six years later, he patented the original coaching software, which has continued to evolve to make GOLFTEC the global leader in golf teaching technology. The tally on 26 years of lessons? Twelve million! And that was before the busy 2022 season got rolling. Today, Assell is President and CEO of the largest golf instruction company in the world.
Colorado’s other golf manufacturers and entrepreneurs, ranging across several categories, can only hope for success on GOLFTEC’s scale. Here’s a look at a few of our state golf innovators, including some bigger and some smaller, some established and some newer.
Note that the beeping golf ball is still not a thing, but there’s always hope.
When it comes to hats, Wallaroo started in Boulder in 1999 with a good idea and keeps the ideas coming with a new twist in 2022. Stephanie Carter caught on to the importance of sun protection during visits to her husband’s family in Australia, and developed a collection of hats that have brims of at least 3 inches and SPF of 30 or more. Over the years, the hats began to feature packability and wind resistant adjustable sizing. Now, a new brand called Carkella has all of the above plus a hidden magnet in the brim. “It’s designed to hold a magnetic emblem that is either custom made or one of the emblems we have designed,” Carter says. “People can also use their ball markers with these hats.”
Founders Club has been a name in golf for some time, and these days Jeff Andrews runs the brand out of Monument with an eye toward producing affordable, entry level bags of clubs for men, women and juniors. Push carts with seats have also been popular post-pandemic, and one of the brand’s more innovative offerings is the Riverdale 2-in-1 Short Game Golf Cart Bag, which has a removable insert for putter and wedges to make them more portable for those short game practices we all need.
Accessories, and more
Arvada-based Pins and Aces started making giggle-generating headcovers in 2017: Cartoon faces with hair sprouting out of them, for instance, plus representations of your state, state of mind or political views. They’ve since added shirts and novelties to the brand, endeavoring to make everything in the United States. Notable innovations include: the beer sleeve, a seven-can column that slides into the golf bag; the palm-size, magnetic Spade Bluetooth speaker; and ball markers that look like a cracker or a Samoa Cookie. “We try to have at least one or two releases every month,” says general manager Alex Bard. “And we have several very exciting releases of licensed products coming in the next six months.”
Golf Bags for Women
“I feel bad that so many businesses suffered through the pandemic, but we had our best year in our 13 years of being in business last year,” says Sassy Caddy owner and designer Emily Haythorn from Greeley. “We had several women tell us that their husband has always played, but they had never shown any interest in playing. Once the pandemic hit, they wanted to spend more time together, so wives decided to join them…and fell in love with the game too!” Sassy Caddy’s signature design remains the lemon-covered Sicily Cart Bag, but fresh ideas keep coming. New designs, including the camo Annapolis Cart Bag, will continue to have all the right pockets for women’s stuff, the velcro tack for the golf glove and matte black hardware for sophistication. Says Haythorn, “We are 85% above our profits this time last year, so we are excited to keep the momentum going.”
Moonshine Golf founder and CEO Justin Fowler got tired of changing his clothes after golf for whatever was next on the day’s agenda. Moonshine’s Hybrid Golf/Fishing shirt has proven to be a big catch. “We’ve been blown away by the early success of starting a golf apparel brand that is built for people who love the outdoors,” says Fowler, who launched in Denver in 2020. The latest line includes polos and quarter-zips designed, he says, for “everyday folks who love to get outside for a round, but the day doesn’t stop there.” Think 18 holes followed by a Little League game followed by a Red Rocks concert.
Telluride’s Sutton Schuler and Jennifer Ogilvie plunged into the somewhat daunting women’s golf clothing waters as a direct result of golf’s pandemic growth. They launched Ladies Only in the fall of 2021 with the innovation of fashion-forward “capsules,” collections rooted in a print that pairs with classics such as polos, jackets and Scottish cashmeres. Schuler describes the brand as “boutique-worthy and performance minded,” and expresses the hope that great clothes will help golf grow. “Tennis has attracted young and new players with ease for decades, in part due to its wardrobe offerings…and we hope that with fashion forward brands like Ladies Only, golf can do the same,” she says.
Judging from the visibility of companies in the CBD business at the 2022 PGA Show, this is a growing niche – especially in Colorado, where it’s legal to buy and use products with CBD and THC. Hale and Steve Irwin partnered two years ago with Swingwell Labs to market CBD lotions and potions designed to help golfers with pain, recovery, sleep and focus. One of their more innovative products: Hemp Extract Infused Kinesiology Tape, the kind of tape seen on pro golfers and other athletes to help protect and heal inflammation.
Another company, Longmont-based Cannovia, made a hit at the show with its four variants of mynd gum: focus, energy, calm, recovery, each with CBD and additional ingredients depending on the desired effect. Co-founder Trevor Baum says, “People liked that it was gum, liked that it provided near immediate effect, and liked that it was under $5 for the two-pack package.”
But marketing CBD products to golfers is not like selling them on the hot new driver. “The future is an interesting prospect with the regulatory status so up in the air,” says Baum, whose childhood battle with cancer inspired him and his father, Brian, to enter the health product field. “There is no doubt golfers are always looking for an edge, but we hope to not only improve scores but wellness too. For many, CBD is still a strange idea. Perhaps, it’s the colorful mynd pack of gum at the local pro shot that finally gets someone to try or learn about the benefits of CBD.”
A Closer Look, created by golf journalist and CGA member Susan Fornoff for the CGA Monthly, is the CGA’s on-the-course advisor on how to have more fun on the golf course. She deeply appreciates the experiences and relationships golf has brought her as she’s played everywhere from famed Cypress Point to a remote Scottish nine that had an honors collection box at check-in. Trust us, you don’t want to take swing lessons from Molly. But if you’ve got a question about etiquette, relationships or the culture of golf in Colorado, Molly will find the answer. Send your questions along HERE.