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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Six Great Christmas Gifts

Like many people in this country I can't really think about Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. The perpetual "holiday creep" taking hold is so unnecessary and so blatantly led by retailers stuck with too much inventory. OK, I have that off my chest...on with my Pick 6 for Christmas.
1. Links to St Andrews - Love Letters to the Home of Golf This extraordinary 350 page book passionately compiled by Josh Evenson is an ode to the first town of golf. www.linkstostandrews.com
2. Beltology - The perfect belt on and off the golf course. With enough stretch to take in a full lunch and dozens of colors and styles to choose from Beltology belts are instant classics. www.beltology.com

3. Tin Cup - Yes, I'm biased as I have been on board since the beginning with this cool golf ball marking stencil. It's available in 150 design and and also custom designs. www.tin-cup.com

4. Best Made Co - It's just not the same unless I get something from one of my favorite online retailers. They sell cool, well made American products, like this match striker - Go see at www.bestmadeco.com

5. Lee Wybranski - Lee created the official posters for three Majors in 2015. His iconic imagery is extraordinary and his work is a fitting reminder of the great courses and memorable events played through the year. www.leewybranski.com

6. Bob Dylan's All the Songs - Maybe it's just because I really want this book that it made the list. But, if you like music then you owe it yourself to find the reason behind Mr. Zimmerman's genius. And for less than $30 on Amazon.com

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mike Malloy and Waveborn - A Man and a Company on a Mission

Mike Malloy
 (Sunglasses entrepreneur and leading Ultimate Frisbee player)

Some people are just driven. That's Mike Malloy. I was introduced to Mike at 1776, the downtown D.C. incubator firm and he is a man on a mission. His company is Waveborn and they make awesome sunglasses in a variety of styles, including a couple designs, Dockweiler and Zuma that are great for golf. I can personally attest having played a number of rounds with them.
Zuma (Polarized)

Mike and his socially responsible company are on a mission to support funding for eye cataract surgeries around the world. Mike has partnered with See International a well known charity with a strapline that explains perfectly what they do - "Restoring Sight. Transforming Lives." Waveborn gives 10% of their profits to this incredible cause. Mike is passionate about his business and about giving back and his Waveborn is growing rapidly as a result of his commitment, alongside quality products and service.

I'm honored to have recently joined his Advisory Board and am steering him through the world of golf retailing. Mike also recently announced that three time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Troy Aikman has joined the Board. That's one Board meeting I am looking forward to!

Troy Aikman

Here's the Waveborn site and I recommend you take a look at the many designs and colors available. Mike also set up a coupon code for our Blog readers. The code is "macduff" and gives you a 20% discount off all sunglasses on the site.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Wonderful New Golf Book - Love Letters to the Home of Golf

Who doesn't love St Andrews? Well, if you are a golfer and you don't love it, either you haven't been there or you haven't been there enough! It is without doubt the greatest golf town in the world.

I was fortunate to attend University in Glasgow and as a member of the golf team we played many matches at truly great courses, including, naturally, The Old Course. I have great memories of those days and also in more recent times; walking around the town, staying in the Dunvegan and The Old Course Hotels, popping into the Jigger Inn, recreating Chariots of Fire on the beach and much more!
Thistle by Michael Klein

A fine young man, Josh Evenson, a North Dakota native, who attended the University of St Andrews, has gone many steps further than simply blogging about the Auld Grey Toon! Josh, along with an A list of the world's greatest artists, golfers and writers has created an extraordinary volume about the town, fetchingly entitled Links to St Andrews - Love Letters to the Home of Golf. He puts it best in his personal description of the book,

"Links to St Andrews is about links of many kinds in the world of golf and in life: links between fathers and sons, between coaches and athletes, between the past and the present, between an undulating expanse of grass and the swing of a club, between a town and those who fall under its spell."
Josh Evenson

Josh has travelled the world compiling this mighty tome with contributions from Messrs. Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, Annika, Greg, Tom - you know, all those for whom only one name is sufficient. And it doesn't stop there; the artwork is extraordinary, as is the art direction. The stories are compelling and tell so many aspects of the centuries old town, most of which I was unaware of. So, if like me, you love St Andrews, buy yourself a present and for less than half the price of a driver (which I almost guarantee won't be in your bag in a year) you can own one of the truly great golf books produced in my memory.

There are several editions of the book including a very special edition that includes the signatures of the 100 contributors, signed on hand made paper pressed from the grasses of St Andrews (I kid you not!). Good luck getting one of those! There is another limited edition tier coming at $295 signed by the writers and artists and includes a leather slip case. Available online right now is the "standard" edition, although there is absolutely nothing "standard" about this book. This version is $150 and likely to sell out fast. Although sans signatures it has everything you need to look at and read.
A sketch by Lee Wybranski

Josh undertook this venture with a passion and integrity rarely seen in Generation X and the result speaks for itself. This is a book you are going to want to own, read, study and read again. It's for sale on the Links to St Andrews website here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The High Heat Driver - Taking on the Big Boys

It takes brave souls in any business to take on the industry leaders, but in the golf business many would say you have to be certifiable. Well, crazy or not, two gentlemen, Dean Knuth and Steve Trattner decided to take on the behemoths of Callaway, TaylorMade and Titleist and launch a very cool and effective new driver. It's called High Heat and it is already making waves in the business. I'm told their first production run is already sold out and more drivers are on the way. And that's because it performs even better than advertised.

Both Dean and Steve have a long history in the game of golf. Dean is the "Pope of Slope" and if you have a USGA approved handicap you know his work, if not his name. He's the math whiz from the USGA who came up with the rating and slope system used in modern handicapping. His resume contains many extraordinary accomplishments (you can read it here) and suffice to say it was just a matter of when, not if, he created a great driver. His business partner is Steve Trattner and for full disclosure Steve is a family friend. He and Dean worked together for many years at the USGA where Steve was the intellectual property attorney (imagine the fascinating documents that came across his desk during that time). So, you know the patents and intellectual property for High Heat were in the best of hands.
I have worked with golf club manufacturers for many years, so I try not to get too caught up in the invented buzz words and marketing speak which invariably come with new clubs. For me, it's much more about understanding the tech without getting too wrapped up in the terminology. Look and feel mean more to me and these are tough concepts to sell, but are the most important factors to me when testing a club. So, let's get the tech bit out of the way. Thankfully and rather wisely High Heat has kept the marketing speak to a minimum  - they focus on High Heat having a deeper and lower center of gravity and a higher MOI than the major brands. 

That's all I need to know, as I understand both concepts. So that should lead to improved trajectory and longer distance, right? Well, in my tests both indoors on a launch monitor and outdoors where I was simply watching ball flight, the High Heat beat my existing Callaway RAZR Fit driver by a solid 10-15 yards and the flight dispersion with the Fujikura Pro 63 shaft straightened me up too!

The other really cool element is the no groove, shiny face that allows you to see where you actually strike the ball on the club face. It had the effect on me of focusing on a pure strike, rather than simply just trying to smash it - a strange calm took over and I started swinging instead of simply hitting, with very positive results! (See below - hard to shoot a great picture, but you get the idea!) I asked Dean about the smooth face for clarification and here's what he had to say,

"Another benefit of the mirror face is that it helps to lower backspin rates. Too much backspin causes distance loss. Lastly, there are seven zones of internal thinness behind the face for increasing the size of the sweet spot zone and putting grooves over this area would have created variability in performance."

If you would like to buy this great driver, go to the High Heat site where Dean and Steve have a MacDuff Golf special. In the "How did you hear about us?" section check the "MacDuff Golf" box and you'll get a $50 discount reducing the price from $399 to $349. You will love this driver! Read more about High Heat here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The 144th Open Championship at The Old Course

It's The Open, The British, the British Open, the Open Championship - a major so good they named it four times. Call it what you will (and even as a Brit, I'm not hung up on the title), it's always very special when it is played in the Auld Grey Toon of St Andrews over The Old Course.

I was at University in Scotland (in Glasgow) and have played The Old Course many, many times in competitive and friendly matches. I even got it around in under par on one occasion. Ok, you don't really care about my score, but like all golfers I feel the need to tell you!

The real reason for this quick blog is to highlight my friend, Lee Wybranski's latest Official Poster for the Championship. Featuring a wonderful view down the 18th highlighted by The Swilcan Bridge, R & A Clubhouse and Hamilton Grand, it's a gorgeous addition to any golf collection. You can buy a signed copy here on his website.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The 2015 U.S. Open Poster by Lee Wybranski

The U.S. Open is almost upon us again and this year will be a fascinating test at Chambers Bay in the Pacific Northwest. This is the first time for the national championship in that part of the country and the USGA should be congratulated for their bold choice. The players, naturally, are already moaning and groaning about the golf course - most notably, those who haven't visited the site! Listen, I represented professional golfers for over a decade and have literally never been to a golf course where one of them wasn't complaining about something! Once they get there and see the Robert Trent Jones II golf course, which resembles, but isn't, a links golf course, all will be forgotten. These guys are so good that they can play anywhere, in any conditions and once again a champion will be crowned. I do know it's a tough walk for the crowd, so I'll be enjoying my Father's Day watching on television.

So, all of that brings me to the magnificent official poster for the event created by my friend, artist Lee Wybranski. Lee is based in the delightful town of Flagstaff, Arizona and this is his eighth poster celebrating the USGA' s premier event. Lee has always said that "the poster is an advertisement" and uses iconic imagery, as well as using strong copy lines to tell the story of the course and area. This year's story features the 16th hole and captures the Sounder train running along Puget Sound with the iconic "Lone Fir" tree in the distance. Look even closer and you will see a Seahawk in the clouds above the golf course and the snow capped Olympic Mountains in the distance. The poster is wonderfully observed and beautifully executed.

For the last couple of months we have been working with Lee to re-design his website and you can now see many originals, posters, prints, as well as his extraordinary brand and logo work on his new site here. The talent of Lee and his team knows no bounds and the depth of his work in the golf business is amazing. You may also be surprised to see his non-golf and special commission work that includes many special events and bold contemporary work.

You can visit Lee's new site here and buy the 2015 U.S. Open poster here.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cool Belts for Golf - Beltology

The golf season is off and running, so you need to get your best golf pants on and keep them up in style. There's no better way than with stylish belts from the US company, Beltology. Several PGA and European Tour players are now wearing Beltology and with more than 40 styles and colors to choose from they are finding the perfect accessory for their daily outfits.

At Beltology, they believe belts should stretch and their belts are different from traditional leather belts. There are no holes as the prong passes smoothly through the webbing, allowing for a comfortable and adjustable fit. Beltology uses premium stretch webbing, top quality buckles and 100% genuine leather trims. I have been wearing the belts non stop now for about six months and can attest to the quality, finish and comfort.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ryder Cup captain announcements (and why Europe is going to win again!)

Well, the European and United States Captains announcements are now official. Hopefully we will not hear about the Ryder Cup for another year....fat chance of that!

So let's take a quick look at the process followed by the Euros and the Yanks to decide who will wear the inevitable checked jacket into battle at the 86th ranked American course, Hazeltine National.

The US choice, as you know by now, is the losing 2012 captain, Davis Love III. And the first choice of his four assistant captains is the losing 2006 captain, Tom Lehman. So, the much vaunted "Task Force" has made two decisions both of which are beyond comprehension. Nothing personal and both are very nice guys, but clearly not very good at leading Ryder Cup teams to victory, which would seem to be fairly high on the "Ryder Cup To Do" list. It's right up there with "Don't choose leaky rain jackets" and "Let's visit the golf course ahead of time and practice together!".

So why didn't the "Task Force" pick Fred Couples? He is universally liked (by the players) and has captained three Presidents Cups - oh, that's right and they won all three of those. But, and this is huge, The Presidents Cup is a PGA Tour owned event and the Ryder Cup, when played in the US, is owned by The PGA of America. In the alphabet soup that is professional golf administration, handing the captaincy to Couples would be tantamount to admitting that the Tour was right and the PGA of America was wrong. Forget about winning, this is about something much more important, golf politics.

And in Europe what did they do? That's right five officials and players got in a room, had a beer and decided in two hours that Darren Clarke was the right man for the job - a passionate Ryder Cup loving Irishman, loved by the players and the public. He bleeds Ryder Cup and is the anti DL3 - fun loving, beer drinking, inspirational and all set to continue the European dominance of Samuel Ryder's trophy.

So, once again the European Team find themselves one up and the match is still 18 months away!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Top 5 from the PGA Merchandise Show

Another year comes and goes in Orlando at "the show". There were several positive innovations at the show, notably free wi-fi for all and an excellent App from Reed Exhibitions that made finding a booth easier than ever. The familiar inch thick Directory is not long for this world and a few more trees will be spared!

It's become a tradition for me to seek out my favorites from the show. I wander the massive Orange County Convention Center, so you don't have to. Here's what my 10,000 step days uncovered.

1. Arccos

I have written about Arccos before and it's so good, it deserves another mention. The first iteration had a couple strange software glitches, especially with the putting, but these seem to have been resolved now. Arccos comprises 14 screw in devices that pair with your iPhone and record each and every shot you play on the golf course. The App then compiles all of this data into cool charts that allow you to study your stats and see how good (or bad!) you really are. They weigh a couple grams each, so don't impact your swing weight or golf swing. After a couple rounds you will actually forget you have them on your clubs. The only downside is the need to have your phone in your pocket and of course to make sure the phone is charged - which for me is always a challenge! But the stats and ability to compare rounds far outweigh the shortcomings of smart phone batteries - and that's not really Arccos fault is it! The website is www.arccos.com.
2. Royal Albartross Shoes

Made from English leather and handcrafted in Italy, these beautiful golf shoes are a throwback to another age. They come in several styles for men and women and fall in the category of "if you have to ask the price you can't afford them". Retailing around $500, these are shoes built to last and ideally meant for use in good weather. They are statement shoes and will no doubt be seen at the best private clubs in the country once the season kicks off. The website is www.albartross.com.
3. Ben Hogan Irons

The iconic Ben Hogan name is back on a set of golf clubs. And they are gorgeous as one would hope, forged from premium 1025 carbon steel. These clubs are definitely for the more accomplished player. I particularly liked the degrees of loft shown on each "Fort Worth" iron varying from 20 degrees to 47 degrees. It's possible to buy irons in every loft, which will be great for the player, but could play havoc with inventory! To buy the clubs you simply choose the lofts that hit the ball a certain distance during their recommended fitting process. So for example, the 43 degree iron is (was) a 9 iron. Once you know that you just hit your 43! It's a little bit of a gimmick yes, but good fun and will confuse the hell out of your opponent! TK 15 Wedges compliment the set and come in lofts from 48 to 60. The website is www.benhogangolf.com
4. DST Golf

This is a cool one. A charming Englishman called Bertie Cordle came up with the idea, having studied the very best professional golfers and observing a move they put on the ball that is obvious when pointed out. His training club with a unique, curved shaft puts the players hands in the right position to create the perfect feeling at impact. DST stands for "delayed strike technology" and the curved club trains the golfer to locate, train and perfect the optimal impact position. I'm not generally one for training clubs, but instantly understood Bertie's observation and believe this would be a major help to most golfers. The website is www.dstgolf.com.
5. 2 UNDR

Well, I wasn't expecting to write about underwear as one of my Top 5 (actually, I don't think I have ever written about this subject!). Truth be told, these Canadian guys created a huge buzz amongst exhibitors and visitors to the show. Brilliantly engineered and using state of the art fabrics, the mens underwear is comfortable in all the right places, if you know what I mean. The owners have an exceptional design pedigree and clearly their marketing skills are equally good. I love this expression in their brochure "Sewn inside each pair of 2 UNDR is a soft and comfortable penthouse condo for your most valuable assets - we call it the Joey Pouch" - Genius!
2 UNDR is a great name that actually serves several masters - from the expression in motocross world where "two under" refers to the two wheels under the rider, that was the early adopting sport for the brand. The cross over reference into golf was unintentional (but perfect!) and I think you'll be able to work out the other one, er two! The website is www.2undr.com.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Top 10 Dos and Don'ts at the PGA Merchandise Show

I have been going to "the Show", as everyone calls it, since 1989 and yes, it is golf's Groundhog Day but I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's an opportunity to meet old friends, make new ones and see the latest and greatest equipment from the big manufacturers and from those one-man bands that just might strike gold with their latest product. Here are my Top 10 Do and Don'ts for the PGA Merchandise Show.

1. Don't try and sell on other people's booths. They have spent thousands on the space and months preparing for the show. You would be amazed how many people try and do this - it is just not cool. There are plenty of other spaces and occasions to sell your wares.

2. Don't make meetings just for the sake of it. Everyone is busy and aren't impressed that you have appointments every 15 minutes! Take your time and everyone will benefit.

3. Drink plenty of water. The free Pepsi isn't going to help your hydration! There are water fountains and it may well be the only free thing in the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC)!

4. Wear comfortable shoes...this is no time to break in your FootJoy teaching shoes.

5. If you want to do business, dress appropriately. Smart casual is perfect and don't dress like you are on Tour...you're not, or you would be in California or Abu Dhabi and not schlepping around the OCCC like the rest of us.

6. Eat a good breakfast at your hotel because the food in the OCCC is like a hot dog in a movie theater...overcooked and overpriced. It still beggars belief that there is no recognizable food brand represented in the hall.

7. Be very specific about where to meet your appointment. Pick a booth, preferably a small one so you can't miss the person you are meeting. Confirming your 1030 at the TaylorMade booth will almost certainly guarantee you'll still be looking for one another 20 minutes later. And remember there is nowhere to sit down in the Hall, so be prepared to stand and talk. (See no. 4!)

8. Give yourself time to move about the floor. It's a long way from the 1000 aisle to the 6000 aisle so don't make three appointments in 60 minutes in three locations. It's like trying to get from uptown to downtown in Manhattan at 4 p.m. with no cabs - all the stars need to be aligned and it still takes twice as long as you think.

9. Be patient. Everyone is busy and often running a few minutes behind. Whether you are buying or selling they will come.

10. Take some time to wander the floor. Go see the New Products section and marvel at the craziness of this business of ours. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

5 Things NOT To Ask At The PGA Merchandise Show

The PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando is just around the corner and we are in final planning for clients and meeting schedules. Last year I wrote about "What not to ask at the Show" and it's worth revisiting with a couple of updates. Some have remained the same - Numbers 1-4 - please, please avoid asking these!,  No. 5 is still in play after Tiger's injury prone 2014 season. I wouldn't bet against it, but the young guns have no fear factor with Tiger the way that the previous generation did.

1. Are you having a good show? The answer is always, yes

2. When did you get here? The floor show starts on Wednesday, so as always everyone gets into town on Tuesday!

3. When are you leaving? Always a strange one that one - didn't I just get here!?

4. Where are you staying? Your chance for oneupmanship...just say The Hyatt (though everyone still calls it the Peabody) and move on. Please don't say the Comfort Inn on I Drive at $59!

5. Will Tiger ever regain his Number One spot in the World Rankings?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Sun is bad for you!" Two great new brands to help protect golfers from the sun

"Sun is bad for you. everything our parents said was good is bad, sun, milk, red meat...college" Woody Allen in Annie Hall.

As a golfer for many, (many) years my consciousness about the dangers of the sun have increased dramatically over the years. Our friends down under have know about the perils of being out too long in the sun for decades. It's common to see Aussie golfers and others playing sport outside to be covered in sunscreen, wearing a hat and sunglasses. This awareness is increasing in the US and not before time.

The are a couple of new sun related brands I wanted to highlight that are serious about their intentions, are cool and have a great story to tell.
The first is Golfersskin, a sunscreen brand specifically aimed at golfers. Tour players have caught on to the brand developed in New Zealand and the green packaging has become familiar on the first and tenth tees at PGA Tour stops. The product is non greasy and is ideal to use just prior to teeing off. Don't even think about playing golf in the sun or seemingly overcast days without sunscreen. One trip to the dermatologist and their little freeze gun will have you reaching for this product! Learn more here.

The other readily protectable area is your eyes. Good sunglasses protect the wearer from UVA and UVB rays which help prevent wrinkles around the eyes and many more serious potential eye issues.
I recently discovered a great new brand called Waveborn. They are an interesting company with great sunglasses and a worthy social mission. Rather like the Tom's Shoes social responsibility model, Waveborn works with non-profit partners, Unite for Sight and Surgical Eye Expeditions (SEE) International to donate prescription eyeglasses and fund sight-restoring cataract surgeries around the globe. So, how are the sunglasses?  Having just returned from a golf and beach trip I can attest to the quality and performance. They have top quality Carl Zeiss lenses, the frames are made in Italy and come in a plethora of styles and colors. With a hard or soft case they are available online here or at an increasing number of retailers.

My frame of choice for golf was the Zuma - it's a great wraparound frame which I found ideal for hitting golf shots and reading greens without light leaking in (and great for the beach!). Go take a look at their site www.waveborn.com. It will help your eyes and also support an amazing cause.