Friday, July 26, 2013


I enjoy suggesting new categories and product to be sold in shops but obviously need to be selective both in terms of appropriateness and more importantly quality. There would be nothing worse than putting in a new classification of goods and having a member/regular come through and think to themselves or worse yet mention to their playing partner that there is a much nicer one down the street.

This was the primary concern I had after being contacted by Jana Skrabalkova (Marketing Director for RukkNet). The idea of retailing a net that would truly allow you  to practice hitting balls in the office intrigued me, but I was skeptical. When we realized we were not that far from one another Jana and I decided to meet at Bulle Rock in Havre De Grace, Md.

Jana was accompanied by one of the partners of RukkNet (Samuel Hyland) and I was excited to have Rick Rounsaville (Director of Golf and General Manager at Bulle Rock) sit in on the meeting. Rick is one of the best teachers I know and I was sure he had looked at many nets and mats in his career especially since I had heard him talk about doing some in-door teaching. The meeting moved to the range where Samuel quickly set up the net. Rick hit a couple of dozen balls into it and we talked construction and quality. When we were done Samuel said it took 10 seconds to fold up and put back in its carrying case and he was true to his word; it is incredibly portable. Here is what Rick had to say about the quality:

This net is perfect for an indoor or outdoor application where space is at a premium. It is well made, the assembly, take down and fold up is simple. It is lightweight and easy to transport. It is a great design and well thought out.

Seeing this product as both incremental in terms of retail sales and a great tournament favor the rest of our meeting consisted of talking about the best way to introduce and market this to the golf shop community as well as how to display the product in the shop and make the consumer aware of its uniqeness. This seems to me a story best told by the RukkNet principles and so we will be talking with Ryan Dickerson (founder, partner and designer) as well as Jana and Samuel who were at our initial meeting.

Ryan, tell us how you originally became interested in designing this product and the progress that has gotten you to where you are now with RukkNet.

Craig, thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about the RukkNet. It is a passion of mine and I am very proud of it. The RukkNet idea started when I lived in a tiny apartment in Manhattan. I really wanted to get good at golf so when I could I would hit up the driving range at Chelsea Piers. I couldn't do that everyday so in the evenings I would hit a foam golf ball into the wall of our courtyard to improve my swing. Having the ball roll back was just great so when I actually had a chance to design a golf net from scratch I knew it had to have that feature. 

I live in China and spend about half my time in our factory. The first net I designed was a total disaster. I used mesh which just gets holes all day long. Obviously you don't want a hole in a golf net. That is one of the biggest problems with most of the nets on the market - they give you a false sense of security!

Early on we decided to go with spring steel rather than fiberglass. Fiberglass can shatter and wear out and it is just a pain to set up. Spring steel makes a much higher quality product but you have to get it just right and it is an expensive component. Too thin and the net will collapse. Too thick and it won't fold easily. Too much carbon and it will rust. And so on. It took us several generations to get it just right but we got there and now I think we have the perfect net. It is light, portable, durable and a lot of fun to use. I use it every day.

It seems to me as I mentioned in the intro that the quality of this product is of paramount importance.

I talked with a guy from a big retailer the other day. He said "people that care about quality usually have an emotional attachment to the product, retail stores just want good enough." He is right in a lot of ways and to tell the truth I know enough factories that it would be very easy to churn out cheap products all day long. At this time in my life it's more important to make something that I care about and that I would like to have myself. There are lots of golf nets out there and I know what goes into every one of them and I'm convinced the designers of these nets never actually use them. There is no attention to detail - they don't test out -carrying the bag for long distances, etc. I can honestly say we have the best pop up net in the world right now.

The portability and ease of set-up and take-down is obviously an important selling point and design feature.

The RukkNet is not supposed to replace a driving range, what it does is offer a golfer a chance to improve his or her game as well as improve their oveerall lifestyle through fitness and activity. Most of us can't go to the golf course everyday but we can get 30 minutes of uninterrupted exercise doing something we love and on top of it improve our golf game. As you may know, when it comes to exercise no one wants to waste any time, you want to get down to it. With the RukkNet there is no wasted time setting up or putting down the net. You can take it anywhere so there is no excuse not to use it and with any exercise it is about repetition, so we have a net that can be replaced after thousands of golf balls go into it. You don't have to stop becasuse of a worn out product. You also get to do what you like which is swing. You don't have to do a lot of bending over to retrieve balls - one is all you need.

We've discussed some things that are of importance in terms of partering with golf shops that will want to retail this product. I think we should revisit those points for the reader.

This is where our company stands out as much as this product. We make sure that every customer experience is a good one. We accept return, no questions asked. We had a woman buy one of our nets as a gift for her son and she gave us the wrong address - she had it sent to the wrong place. We sent her a new net by Fed Ex even though she was unable to recover the original net. Check our reviews on Amazon - every single one is five stars. We stand behind our products and our reputation as a company is very important to us. We understand that our retail partners and industry professionals are putting their reputation on the line when they sell or recommend our products - so we make sure that we enhance that reputation.

This product seems to me to be the perfect gift for the avid golfer and therefore also a great corporate outing or member/guest favor. Can the product be logoed and for corporate purposes co-branded?

Absolutely. There are a couple of options and we work with a great graphic design and printing partner to get this done quickly and effectively.

Ryan, Jann, Samual - thank you so much for your time. I am excited about your product and what it can provide in terms of incremental retail as well as service to the true aficionado of the game. Is there any other aspect of the product or its marketing that you would like to discuss?

I think it's best to let the product speak for itself. We were at the 2013 PGA Golf Show and were pleasantly surprised to see 3 other companies using our nets in their booths while demonstrating their products. I feel that's a huge vote of confidence. There were several companies with quick set up nets there as well and we were the only company that actually let people hit into our nets. We sold out our entire stock. I think that speaks volumes about what is out on the market right now. Golf Digest Magazine agreed and profiles us as one of the top six new products at the show.

Craig, I really want to thank you again for giving me the opportunity to present RukkNet to your readers. As I am sure you know, every small business involves a lot of sacrifice and struggle. But when I get the chance to present my design and my product it is worth every bit of it.

RukkNet is a product that serious golfers will take very seriously and that makes it a great gift item. It has an MSRP of $219.99 and the wholesale to pro shops would be the distributor price of $140.00. Jana and Samuel have agreed that they would refund the $140.00 sample price once the shop sells 5 units, basically making the sixth unit free. Any questions or concerns can be forwarded to Jana at Her phone is 302-588-4483 and clicking on the banner to the right will take you to the Dealer sign-up page on their website. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Fore the Kids

I am a grandparent and like most would rather buy something for the grandchild than for myself. It is typical I’m sure of most avid golfers and in particular most club members that there is a child in our life that we would love to buy for,  but the product has to be of the highest quality. I have been hanging around golf shops almost every day for 25 years and attending golf shows for the same amount of time and have not seen this product.

Enter Kelsey Abernathy McLean – the mother of the baby boy in blue to the left – whose husband is a member at Fieldstone CC in Delaware and whose locker is next to Vice President Joe Biden’s. She sees the niche, the need and the opportunity and designs product that one can be happy to have their loved ones wear and is embroiderable.  She quickly acquired placement at Merion and Medinah.  Kelsey will soon be shipping to Pinehurst, Pebble Beach and Sea Island and as they say the rest is history.

This is the type of product I most like to write about and the story that is most fun to tell. This is truly incremental business not only as the extra sale but more importantly for the customer/member who would not have been interested in shopping at all until they saw something in Pima cotton that had that “AHHH” factor going for it and now the range can wait a moment. There are shirts for juniors from major brands that look like add-ons and there are polyester lines designed for the young, but until now there has not been anything that you would want to take home to the toddler.

Kelsey, I did not want to steal any thunder, please tell us the story of how this started and define the customer that you are reaching out to and the size range that encompasses?

When I was about 8 months pregnant with my son, I went to the pro shop to purchase either a baby bodysuit (and or whatever other baby items) I could find that was embroidered with our golf club logo. I was disappointed and surprised to find there was nothing available for babies and toddlers.   Country clubs and golf clubs are places for families to gather, and not providing for the youngest members was a major gap in the market. We find that grandparents in particular are our biggest buyers. I was surprised to find that often clubs give away our products to members who are expecting babies. Our products range in size from newborn to 6T. We provide free logo embroidery up to 5,000 stitches on all our garments.

We premiered at the PGA Merchandise show in January of this year, and were thrilled with the response and orders we received.

Tell us about the quality that you are building into this product and some of the design considerations that I know to be incredibly important to you?

I wanted to provide the absolute best quality garments, timeless classic —no crazy colors or trendy styles.  30 years from now, the babies and kids won’t look goofy in photos while wearing our clothes! Our products are made of either 100% Peruvian Pima cotton or 100% Pima cotton and are the best quality textiles we can find. I wanted the products to withstand the rigors of heavy usage and still look beautiful. It has been a challenge to provide such high quality garments while still keeping an eye on cost, but we have managed to make that happen.

ForeKids Golf is less than a year old and already is in some great shops, has had some great testimonials and attracted some great reps. Other than the quality and value of the product what are you doing to partner with the shops that you are dealing with?

We strive to provide excellent customer service.  We provide child size mannequins and child size hangers to all our buyers.  The products must be seen to be sold! They need to be featured beautifully and hung on appropriate sized hangers to showcase the garments. We also advertise through Facebook and showcase some of the clubs (with their approval) where our products can be purchased.

Our sales reps have been thrilled with the product and sell-thru, they have all said this is something that has been needed in the market place for a long time. Our reps are carefully chosen and have all been in the business for a number of years and know how to help partnering shops with orders and merchandising.

Margie Kestner of Deepdale Golf Club, Manhasset  - "The quality of the fabric is what attracted me to the product. Most kids clothing is poor to mediocre quality. Fore Kids Golf uses Pima cotton and it feels like high-end clothing from Madison Avenue. The ability to logo a garment is crucial for me. Nothing is cuter than a body-suit or romper with a club logo….. The members melt when they see it."

Jay Sutherland (PGA Professional at Buffalo Country Club NY was quoted in PGA Magazine as saying -
"Since bringing children's apparel from Fore Kids Golf into the shop this spring we have been thrilled with the sell-through. We expected that they would make great gifts around the holidays. but they have been a very consistent seller the entire season. They offer the quality and classic elegance that fits with the demographic of our club."  

 I have mentioned my desire to buy for my granddaughter rather than myself but what other opportunities are there for the retailer to consider? Have any clubs instituted a Grandparent’s Day for example?

A lot of the clubs feature our items on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and events for the women golfers and special events.

I think that it is important to point out that your target customer and current distribution is “green grass only.” As the line continues to succeed what are the plans for the future?

Our most important goal is to provide and continue to provide exceptional quality and customer service. So far, we have delivered our shipments two or three weeks early. As long as we can provide that kind of service and support, the sky is the limit!

Kelsey, it has been a pleasure to spend time with you and come to know your passion for this project. Is there anything else you would like to tell the industry about Fore Kids Golf?

We have just added a few new items to our catalog, as well as the “Topher the Gopher” doll, which is 18” tall and quite a colorful little guy! He has a story that comes along with him as well—so far the kids have gone crazy over him! We  currently provide baby bodysuits, footed coveralls, Polo’s, Rompers, a hooded spa robe,  baby blankets, burp cloths, baby towel with washcloth, giggle hats  and bibs—all are designed to be logo embroidered. New items to be added soon!

Sizes: Newborn to 6T
Suggested retail price: $20 to $65

See our online catalog and more information at

We have just joined the AGM (Association of Golf Merchandisers) this month and are thrilled to be a part of their organization.

Upcoming Shows where our products can be seen:

Dawn Houze, Maryland, Virginia, W. Virginia
  • Sept 10 and 11 – The Rockville show
Debbie Forrest, South Florida
  • The President’s Country Club Golf Show July 30th thru August 2nd
  • Estero Golf Show August 13th thru August 21st
  • PGA National Golf Show August 19th thru August 21st
Kelsey Abernathy McLean,
  • Philadelphia Golf Sales Association Spring Merchandise Show, Aug 27-28
Joe Jo Gittleman, Hawaii
  • HGRA Show at Marriott Waikiki, Oahu, August 13-16

It is hard to imagine a member's club where this type of product would not be successful. It is also easy to make the case that almost every sale in this category would be incremental.This to me is a no-brainer that Kelsey and the team that she is putting together want you to succeed with and a quote like Margie's from Deepdale - "the members melt." It just doesn't get any better.