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SERIES – “How I Started My Golf Company” (MAS PUTTERS)

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Today, is part of a new series we think your really going to enjoy.  Ever thought of starting your own golf company or launching your own golf product?  Well that’s what this series is all about.  We’re going to have the guys that have started their own tell their stories about what it takes and what you will need to know to start a golf business.  I think you’ll find it amazing how much work goes into launching a brand and all the things that happen between the initial “cool idea” and the first actual sale.

Why Did You Decide to Start The (MAS Putter) Business?

I started my own putter making business when collecting alone no longer satisfied my passion for putters.  I had a vision of my ideal putter and became obsessed with its design and eventually its creation.  I could not have made the progression from idea to design on paper to the physical creation of the putter and eventually my own business if not for the inspiration, motivation and support of people who I befriended along the way.  They certainly contributed to my decision to create MAS Golf.

Back in 2008, I hunted down and purchased my Cameron holy grail, which is a Studio Design 5 with a plumbers neck.  I was able to track down the original owner, Ed Meiners, who ordered it custom when that was still an option.  I started corresponding with Ed who just happened to have sold his putter collection to begin making his own, which he called Anton Putters.  After hearing Ed’s story, I expressed to him that my long-term goal was to do exactly what he was doing, although at the time I did not have the time and resources to get started.  Had it not been for this inspiring chance encounter, I probably never would  have set MAS Golf in motion.  Ed and I still catch up from time to time share our experiences along the way.

What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?

The biggest hurdle is moving from drawing to finished product.  It is very difficult to get small quantity production done reasonably and a single prototype is even harder.   The miller who made my first prototype and subsequent limited production is Kari Lajosi.   He also happens to be an incredibly nice guy, who is willing to share his wisdom and offers the unique service of one off putter making.  Anyone familiar with Kari knows that he does quality work and is always willing to help out when he can.

What was the most rewarding moment in this process?

The most rewarding moment in the process happened when I read my first online review on MyGolfSpy.  One never knows what someone will say or think about your product, especially when you are sending out prototypes and not what will eventually be readily available for sale.  The review justified the hard work put in to date, and hopefully there will be many more to come.  The quote that resonated most with me was ” With the Ackie, Matt said he was looking to create a hybrid design with both  ‘modern and classical’ appeal.  According to our test group, he absolutely knocked it out of the park.”  That was incredibly rewarding to read.

How long did it take from the original idea until the finished product?

This is a difficult question to answer because the process is not always perfectly linear, but from idea to finished product it took about 4 years total.  That said, about a year passed between the first cad drawing and the first sale.

The process for me was not that hard since I was able to create a 3D CAD model of exactly what I wanted to have milled.  I approached various millers and sent the model around to gauge cost and feasibility.  From the first CAD model to the final product there have only been a few small modifications that had to be made due to the limitations of milling steel.  I have learned along the way how design can directly affect product cost, but with the Ackie I was unwilling to make any cost driven changes that would compromise the original design.

What unexpected challenges did you face?

Honestly, there have been more unexpected bumps than I ever anticipated, so from the beginning I have come to expect the challenges.  As a designer, I did not expect fabrication and sales to be as challenging.  All millers are not created equal, and there is a definite learning curve to putter making.  Building a company by liquidating a putter collection is not easy, but I have come to appreciate that if being successful was easy then everyone would do it.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a golf business?

Don’t quit your day job!  Take a hard look at some of the companies that have survived for many years and take notice of the many that have not.  It could be years before a company becomes profitable.  I have been able to weather the bumps in the road and stick with my dream because I do not rely on MAS Golf to pay my bills, and that is what allows me to enjoy the business.  If you have the passion and can stay committed and anticipate the challenges, then you should go for it.

 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Damon April 17, 2012 at 9:13 am

Very interesting. There are so many different putter companies I can only begin to imagine how difficult it must be to stand out and become a successful (at least profitable) company. I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories in the series.

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Golfspy Dave April 17, 2012 at 10:16 am

Great story! Matt is a great guy who makes a mighty fine putter. My Ackie is definitely in the conversation every time I grab a putter to go and play. Golfspy Matt’s review is worth reading or reading again.

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Mike April 17, 2012 at 8:52 pm

How do you make a small fortune in the golf business?—–Start with a large fortune! Good luck to you Matt! Remember that Karsten Solheim and Gary Adams (Taylor-Made) started out tiny also.

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nipper April 19, 2012 at 5:51 am

Good looking putter, anyone know their website?

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Golfspy Matt April 19, 2012 at 9:41 am

http://www.masputters.com

You can also click any of the links in the article.

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Jerry Foley April 19, 2012 at 10:17 am

Cool logo! I suppose making putters would be easier than a full set of irons for many reasons. Think back to the classics including “Calamity Jane” and then the “Bullseye” and you see that good designs have staying power whereas irons require “new tungsten anti-vibration” inserts every season along with lowering the center of gravity and perimeter weighting, yadda yadda. Putters are personal things that need no explanation among golfers as to why they play one over another. So starting a putter company is a cool idea especially if you can get a tour player or two to use it without compensation.

My company, EvolSwing is in its infancy although I’ve been at it for over 7 years now. We can’t reveal our technology for obvious reasons and patents don’t protect you unless you are also a lawyer with spare time. The “next big idea” is always the carrot on the end of the stick and usually every inventor thinks his idea is the “end-all”. The teaser I would throw out there is almost every idea has been thought of before. What usually isn’t thought of is a new solution to solve the problem. We all know what the problem is but we all also go about solving it by extending existing technology rather than innovating differently. Steve Jobs was a “new learner” and that set him apart. He looked at solving problems as though he didn’t know anything rather than coming at product development as the expert he really was. This gave him the advantage of not prejudicing Apple’s new ideas. He realized if Apple did what say HP did the products would just become stale and eventually “me too”. So he completely re-looked at cellphones and the idea of a tablet computer and asked “what do people really want?”. If you own such a device ask yourself why no one thought of these things before? “Touch screens, Apps, instant-on” are all taken for granted now only a few years apart from Windows technology. Wow!

So EvolSwing is approaching solving golf swing problems in much the same way. Do you really need to have another device analyze your swing? You probably already know what’s wrong with it, right? Your problems is more “how do I fix it”? Can you take any of the 1000′s of golf inventions out on the course as you play? Would your playing partners mind if you did? Will you distract them or worse yet, will you be able to concentrate on your own shots? And lastly, when do you need help with your golf swing? After you have hit your shot? Seems like that’s a little late since your ball is screaming into the trees on the right. I’ve yet to meet a golfer who didn’t know what his swing fault was. Tiger knows what his is. He just can’t stop repeating his swing mistake under pressure.

So what’s the answer? I’ll tell you doesn’t work for most golfers. Trial and error. Yup, sad to say “T&E” would work if golfers always could repeat a consistent swing. But the human brain throws in the dreaded “compensation”. This anomaly is natures way of helping us ostensibly but actually hurts us in golf. An example in every day life is twisting your knee or getting a blister on your foot. In a matter of milliseconds your body makes off-setting corrections to have you walk a different way to alleviate the pressure or pain. The same thing happens when we play golf. You can see this when they do “BizHub” replays of Pro’s making a swing error. The classic is the “double-cross” when even a tour player feels himself coming over-the-top he will instinctually attempt a mid-swing correction. The rest of us do similar things but if we end up with a decent result we usually don’t care. But that compensation takes our swing in a different and unwanted direction and often by round’s end we say “the wheels came off”. We don’t see it coming but our swings change and frustration sets in. Hell, Tiger’s collapses are a good thing in a way. It teaches us that even someone as gifted as him can suffer problems we all do. Although I’d rather be Tiger than me, but I digress.

Recently a company announced a new technology for “photography”. The technology is called “light field” and apparently the simple camera does not need to be focused and you just snap a picture in the general direction of what you want. You download a somewhat blurred image on your computer and download some software and you can zoom in on anything in that picture, highlight it and make a focused image of, for example, an individual within a crowd. Or focus on a leaf on a tree in the background and do a close-up. Now photography is one of the oldest arts there is yet someone came up with a new way to do it! This is what I am attempting to do with my company and our product innovation. I saw what wasn’t working and set out to find a new and different way to solve the problem. Anyway, that’s my story so far.

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