By Tony Dear
Big brands budget big bucks to ensure media saturation. Lost sometimes are smaller brands which don’t have much spending power, but which still create excellent products. Here are five brands you may not be aware of, but should be.
Colorado’s Carbon Putters has enjoyed critical acclaim without hitting the big time… yet. The company remains family-owned with four core employees—Terri Kurtenbach and her three sons: James, Dan, and Dave. Four models are currently available: Holliday, Ringo, Ringo ¼, and The Kid—all blades forged from carbon-steel billets and finished using obsidian, making them both durable and elegant. Together this quartet makes up the Project Roulette series.
James Kurtenbach says 2018 will be a year of significant growth for the company as it takes on more machinists, completes the Project Roulette line (adding the Cassidy, Clanton, Oakley), and introduces the Bandit Series of mallets. “Not only are we introducing new models,” he adds, “we’re also targeting high-end fitting centers to offer Carbon Putters in a retail environment.”
The concept for this Willowbrook, Ill.-based club-fitting company came from Nick Sherburne, an experienced fitter with an entrepreneurial spirit who teamed with Chicago-based venture capital firm KB Partners in 2010.
Five years later, Sherburne and the company’s CEO, Joe Lee, felt the time was right to go national. “We knew we’d hit on a good concept,” says Lee, “and we’ve been opening new locations at an accelerated pace ever since.”
Club Champion’s typical floorplan is approximately 3,000 square feet, and includes two Trackman-enabled fitting bays, a SAM PuttLab, and a build shop. The equipment wall holds enough shafts and heads to give customers 35,000 hittable combinations, and is where “a lot of the magic happens,” says Sherburne, who now oversees employee training and inventory selection.
By the end of January 2018, Club Champion will have 28 U.S. locations with plans to add 11 more by the summer.
The market for high-end clubs has grown significantly over the last few years, bringing Epon into the spotlight—okay, nearer the spotlight. The house brand of the Endo forging house, located in Niigata, 200 miles north of Tokyo, Epon began building clubs for Japanese golfers in the late 1970s and now has a U.S. distributor, Swing Science based in Zionsville, Ind.
For decades, Endo produced clubs for several OEMs including Titleist, Mizuno, Hogan, Bridgestone, and Nike, which all imposed certain limitations on design and cost. Endo, however, is able to produce its Epon irons without restrictions. The result is as pure a forged iron as exists. The current AF series includes the handsome AF-Tour blade, forged from soft S20C steel. Casual golfers will balk at the $2,500 price tag; the cognoscenti say it’s money well spent.
A division of NTPT (North Thin Ply Technology), a high-tech manufacturer of laminate composites headquartered in Switzerland, TPT Golf was established in 2013 and claims to make the “most accurate, technologically advanced shafts available” using a process called “Thin-Ply Winding.”
Laying thin carbon plies concentrically results in a shaft with no seam or spine—inevitable consequences of the more common “roll-wrapping” technique. This, says TPT Golf, results in a shaft with more consistent torque, better feel and, ultimately, tighter shot dispersion.
At the PGA Show in Orlando, TPT Golf will reveal the 15LKP-LT-LW Shaft which has already been used to win three Tour events (the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, Turkish Airlines Open, and Indonesian Masters). Just making driver shafts for now, the company has plans to develop fairway wood and iron shafts.
In 2009, True Linkswear introduced the True Tour—a spikeless, flat-soled, wider-than-average shoe designed for the walking golfer. Extremely successful, it was largely responsible for the explosion in the spikeless golf shoe market. Ryan Moore wore them, and had a stake in the company. All was good.
Things went downhill, however, when True began making shoes for the mass-market. The company’s message got diluted.
Last year, it made a welcome return to what it does best—making shoes for the core golfer. There are now just two models on its web site, the Original and the Outsider (which Ryan Moore will be wearing this year), priced at $149 and $169 respectively. “We’re laser-focused on making the most comfortable shoe available,” says Jason Moore, Ryan’s bother and True’s Creative Developer. “No more wasteful spends on PR and advertising. From now on, we’ll let our customers do the talking for us.”
What other small golf brands should we have included? Let us know in the comments below!