Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Scott White, the new CEO of the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company in Fort Worth. From my visit I learned that the native New Englander has been a fixture in the golf industry for 25 years and worked on the Ben Hogan brand early in his career when it was owned by Spalding.
“I worked on the Hogan business in the late 1990s when Spalding owned it,” recalled White. “I got my red, white and blue indoctrination there. I don’t remember the exact years, but in 2000 to 2001 when Spalding went bankrupt Callaway bought the golf assets of the company. They bought Top-Flite and Ben Hogan and I went out to California to help with the integration of the two brands. Ultimately I found a good job there so I packed up and moved cross-country. I spent a number of years at Callaway and then I went to Taylor-Made for a couple of years which was a relatively short stint. I spent four years at True Temper, so I’ve been around the golf industry for a long time.”
“How does it feel knowing that you’ve come full circle, returning to the Ben Hogan company?” I asked.
“It feels great and Barb my secretary and I knew each other for a number of years,” said White. “Steve Dryer and I worked together, too.”
“What were the circumstances that led to your hiring as the new CEO of Ben Hogan Golf?”
“Terry Koehler (Former CEO of Ben Hogan Golf) and I had been talking for a while,” stated White. “I had just finished a project I was working on up in Eugene, Oregon where I was working, ironically, as it was one of the only times I stepped out of the golf industry working for a company called BowTech that made high carbon composite hunting bows. It was a great experience and I learned a lot about that. I found some remarkable similarities between the hunting bow industry and the golf industry, which are the channels of distribution and price points.
“Terry had me come down to work on a couple of projects and I realized this was a great opportunity, because Hogan is such a great brand with such a great history and heritage,” continued White. “Terry continued to get me more involved and over the summer he said, ‘Hey, at some point here I’m going to take a step back and I want to do it sooner than later.’ He is still very involved with the company, but he wanted to do some hunting and fishing on his own. In late July he sort of transitioned out and I came in on a full-time basis and it’s a good marriage. We work together closely and Terry’s a serial entrepreneur and he knows he’s much more nimble and thinks outside of the box. He’s got so many great qualities about him. Most of my background has been more of a traditional established company setting so I know how policy and procedure work. I know the commercialization process because I guess I’m a little bit more classically trained. So between the two of us we balance each other out nicely.”
“Tell me about some of the challenges you’re facing now that you’ve taken over the reins from Terry Koehler?”
“It has worked out well,” replied. “It certainly has been a steep learning curve for me. I have a knowledge and background in branding and Mr. Hogan and what this stands for. Terry had built the company, focusing almost exclusively on a direct-to-consumer model, which is something he has done very successfully in his career and that has gotten us to a certain stage in our growth. I’m really focusing now on maintaining all the great stuff from the direct-to-consumer channel, but now trying to grow the business out in more traditional places like on-course pro shops. We want the Hogan brand represented in the right places. We are beginning distribution in some of the major off-course retailers like PGA Superstore, Golf Galaxy and Golfsmith as well. Thirdly, we are growing our international business. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest and fascination with the Ben Hogan name and brand in places like Hong Kong, Korea and the U.K. There is a latent demand for his product, so that appears like a great opportunity for us.”
“Down the road do you think you’ll have PGA Tour player endorsements?”
“Yeah, I think we will for sure,” answered White. “I think the tour adds some validity to your product. There are a certain number of golfers that want to know who’s playing your product at the highest levels of the game. We’ll dip our big toe into that, but it’s not going to be the cornerstone of our marketing mix. We think there’s a great opportunity for the Ben Hogan brand to separate our self from everyone else. In my mind we’re the only authentic golf brand that’s out there right now. There’s a lot of sameness in our industry and other companies chasing technology and clubs with all kinds of bells and whistles, screws and lights and flashing things, and don’t get me wrong as all of that is good. We continue to challenge ourselves to be the corporation that makes clubs for the most discerning and serious player. Not to say that we’re the only manufacturer for single digit handicappers or pros. We make clubs that 12-15 handicap can play with very successfully. Our forged irons and wedges are really the cornerstone of our business and will continue to be.”
“What were your thoughts having been a long-time golf industry insider when you first saw the loft numbers on the Ben Hogan clubs instead of the traditional numbers?”
“I was fascinated,” said White. “As an 8 handicap the only way I was able to keep track of what the lofts meant in terms of what the traditional designations were by the clubs’ length when I set them up in my bag. I put what I called the 4-5-6 iron in one slot and 7-8-9 in another. I don’t play enough golf these days for it to become second nature to me, but I think adding the traditional designations will help the casual players. We just announced that in 2017 we are going to add the traditional numbers to the club. What we’ve had difficulty with is there are a number of players out there that have told us that it’s just one more thing that they have to think about when they are on the golf course. We’ve made a modification that the fundamentals of our FT.WORTH irons and PTx irons won’t change geometrically or performance wise, but we’ve added a small designation to the hosel of the club so that you’ll have the traditional number there. So the golfer will have it either way now. I think in the long run it will be the right thing to do for our business.
“What our precise loft system does is create logical distance gaps,” added White. “We are not going to get into the game that a lot of manufacturers are into now, which is making the longest hitting 7 iron. We’re not moving away from the precise loft system because we completely buy into it. Golfers have come to understand that consistent four degree gaps makes sense, but they don’t want to think about how their 23 degree club equates to as they’re used to it being the 4 or 5 iron.”
“What can people expect in the coming year from Ben Hogan Golf?”
“We’re not there yet, as we’re still an established start-up,” stated White emphatically. “Next year we are going to offer a Ben Hogan experience, where you come in and work with our fitters, and we’ve got some of the best custom grinders like Ryan Degraw, who used to work with Mr. Hogan directly. In a perfect world people would come into town and come here to get fitted and then go out and play golf and come back and their clubs are ready. Our FT. WORTH irons are fantastic looking clubs and they’re not a traditional blade. There’s some technology in there, especially with the FT. WORTH Hi irons; the hollow option on those long irons are very easy to hit. I think at the end of the day we make some of the best golf clubs on the market.”
To learn more about how you can order your own Ben Hogan clubs and bag, visit their website at www.benhogangolf.com or call at 1-844-53HOGAN.
The Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company has teamed up with Stadiumlinks to turn Globe Life Park into a 9 hole golf course!
At every tee box you will have the option to hit our PTx irons, and you will also be able to hit our TK wedges at the chipping challenge. There is a cash purse totaling $1,000 awarded to the top three scores and $100 cash prize awarded for any hole-in-one!