Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Can You—and Entrepreneurs in General—Learn from a Famous Custom Golf Club Maker?

One of my readers recently asked me, “Who is your favorite golf industry entrepreneur and why?” My answer is easy. Remember the two propositions from this blog post? First, entrepreneurs tend to be successful because of their energy, focus, creativity, efficiency, and, perhaps, a little luck. Second, THE KEY TO HAPPINESS IS REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS.

With this in mind, the answer can only be Karsten Solheim, founder of Karsten Manufacturing, the maker of Ping® golf clubs. Solheim, while working as a mechanical engineer at GE, played his first round of golf at age 42. After being dissatisfied with the putters available on the market, he designed his own putter based on solid engineering and the scientific principle of perimeter weighting (that is, moving the club head weight to the outside of the club head to promote stability, rather than just following the styles of the day). His putters weren’t chrome-plated or fancy looking. Barney Adams, the founder of Adams Golf, has said that, to Solheim, “…it was performance that made clubs beautiful, not the other way around.”

Solheim went on to use the same principles (perimeter weighting, scientific design methods, and function over form) to commercialize the custom-fitting of irons for the regular golfer. He didn’t offer fully customized sets to the masses but he did recognize that golfers came in different sizes and physical capabilities, and he offered custom-ordered iron sets at reasonable prices, thus opening the floodgates for current large brand manufacturers who are following in his large footsteps by offering custom-fitted clubs.

Who more than Solheim is a better role model for entrepreneurial energy, focus, creativity, efficiency, …and probably some luck (but, in my opinion, more solid design skill than luck)? Did he have reasonable expectations? Before he died in 2000, he did seem to be a pretty happy guy to me. Check out “Custom Fitting” and “50-year Anniversary” for more information on Karsten Solheim and his custom clubs.

Next: More on custom golf clubs, major manufacturers, and independent club fitters.

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