If there is a bigger and more knowledgeable Ben Hogan fan than Terry Koehler, I’d like to meet him. Koehler grew up in Texas when every kid played at least a little golf; Terry played a lot, learning the game from his father, who was the big Hogan fan first. “He played with Mr. Hogan before the war and considered him a true hero, so I did, too,” said Koehler, who played Hogan clubs from his earliest cut-down, hand-me-down irons, and scrupulously studied Power Golf and Five Lessons. No surprise, he went into the golf business, eventually working for the Ben Hogan Company as its Director of Marketing.
And now, seven years since any true Ben Hogan clubs were produced—and 60 years since the first Hogan irons were introduced in the fall of 1954—Koehler is joining with Perry Ellis International to launch the new Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company.
“It’s beyond a dream come true,” says Koehler, 62, who also created and runs SCORGolf, a great little company that builds matched sets of custom-fit scoring clubs (short irons and wedges). “It wasn’t even on my radar screen until last fall and now we’re going warp speed.”
As a Hogan aficionado and former employee, Koehler is well aware of what the great man thought was important when it came to equipment. “Ben Hogan Company was always about irons. That was the anchor,” he says. “So our first clubs will be a full set of irons. We’re studying the Hogan Company irons all the way back, talking to lots of different people who were around back then, digging into old Hogan designs. We have access to every production model of every iron they ever made. We know what Mr. Hogan liked and why.
“I feel like Indiana Jones uncovering all these things that no one ever talked about as to why Hogan clubs were the way they were, things they talked about but never promoted. There was a lot of performance brilliance over the years. Mr. Hogan was dogged in his determination to make clubs better.”
The first set of irons may be available by this Christmas, by early 2015 for sure, but Koehler says he’s less concerned about setting a schedule than about getting them “dead-on right.” And, of course, the first set of irons will be forged.
“Mr. Hogan was a total believer in forging because he was all about feel. We’ve got a bunch of different principles we are looking at in design and performance. We’re exploring different metals, finishes, weighting schemes, and more to get what we’re after. The benchmark for us will be repeatable precision in how they are made and how they perform.
“Our goal will be to make the most accurate shotmaking iron on the market today for the largest spectrum of the market. And in doing that, we will return to the values of great equipment, customer service, pricing, and everything else that Mr. Hogan exemplified.”
While Koehler expects the best players to want these clubs—“my goal is to help the Tour player hit 90% of green rather than then two-thirds he is hitting now”—he also sees an opportunity in the golf business’s misjudging of the market.
“I think the industry has pigeon-holed players as good and bad. But in my opinion, anyone with a handicap of 16 or better is a really good player. That guy probably isn’t that handy around the greens, doesn’t putt well enough, doesn’t think well enough. But hey, this is a damned hard game we play, and if you can shoot in the low to mid 80s, you are a good player!”