Chairman/Director of Innovation
Edison Golf Company
Interview with Matt Ward
Growing up with a scratch golfer father and under the tutelage of a PGA Professional, Terry Koehler became focused on golf by the time he was ten.
Over the course of his 40-year golf industry career, he has designed over 100 putters and several sets of irons, but has become known as a specialist in the wedge category, as that has received his focus for the past 30 years.
Koehler is known as “The Wedge Guy”, writing a weekly blog at GolfWRX.com under that moniker, and received his first wedge patent in 1994 for a unique sole design that incorporates both a high and low bounce into the same sole. He has pioneered milled grooves and the re-allocation of mass to improve wedge performance. His newest venture is Edison Golf, a company focused on the wedge play needs of recreational golfers.
THE KOEHLER STORY —
I have been so blessed to be able to make my living around a game I love so much. I literally do not remember life before golf and our world seemed to revolve around that little 9-hole golf course in a town of less than 7,000. I built a relationship with my father and my brother there, and learned from a patient and understand PGA Professional named Carl Gustafson.
When I entered the ad agency business in 1979, my first solo sales call was on Ray Cook putters, based in San Antonio. That started it all. From there I added several other niche brands and was always drawn to how the clubs were made — and why. I had some great teachers along the way, who were patient with my endless questions.
I designed my first putter in the mid-1980s, and over a 100 more in the next few years, but became focused on wedges in the early 1990s, driven by my own frustrations. Since then I’ve focused all my wedge design attention on what helps recreational golfers the most, as we all have very different skill sets than tour professionals.
Edison Golf is the culmination of a dream of being able to completely focus on how to create wedges that go further, and deliver more consistent distance shot after shot after shot, especially on those we don’t catch quite as solid as we wanted.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
Living life to the fullest, I guess. But right now, every day begins with figuring out how to better tell my story of how wedges designed for the exquisite skills of tour professionals are just not serving rank-and-file golfers of all recreational skill levels. Our needs are very different.
What was the genesis for Edison Wedges?
I thought I was retiring after leading the team that brought Ben Hogan back into the equipment business. But I learned I could only fish and play golf so much. When I started writing my blog as “The Wedge Guy” for GolfWRX again, the calling to return to my days of being a wedge specialist came alive in me. With all I had done through the days of Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR and Ben Hogan, I realized I had not achieved my goal yet. So, I began to design again and Edison Golf emerged from that.
How long a time frame from prototypes to actual selling product to consumers?
With all their resources, big companies can move rather quickly, but for me and the Edison Forged wedges, it was a two-year process. We worked through multiple CAD designs, then prototyping them with 3D manufacturing techniques, and finally to our end product. We initiated tooling in late summer 2019, and received our first production heads in April of this year. Along the way we did continual robotic and live golfer testing to assure us we were getting the performance we sought.
What differentiates your efforts versus others in the same product category?
It’s about who I serve. All other wedges tout their PGA Tour credentials, but I focus on what I have learned from recreational golfers, from scratch to 25+ handicap. I’ve analyzed over 40,000 wedge fitting profiles and conducted hundreds of personal interviews, and I hear the same frustrations about ball flight being too high, distance consistency being non-existent and they all want more spin.
So the Edison Forged wedges are very different from the “tour design” approach that you see from all other companies. And the performance is markedly superior. They go further on a loft to loft comparison, to try to keep up with the distance technology in irons. The shot-to-shot distance consistency is miles better than any other wedges because of the unique mass distribution across the back of the clubhead. And the spin is off the charts because of improved gear effect.
Who is your customer?
Any golfer who want to eek a few more yards out of their wedges, and get much more consistent distance — who just wants to be more consistent inside prime scoring range. What has always amazed me is that only 2-3% of golfers think they are good enough to play tour blade irons, but 98% are trying to play ‘tour design’ wedges. I have seen robotic testing prove time and again those are the most unforgiving clubs in our bags. Why would anyone settle for that?
In rough percentages where will your marketing efforts be focused upon between online sales, green grass shops and brick and mortar retail outlets?
We have begun with online sales as our primary channel, but as we go into 2021, we hope to create a network of golf course professionals to bring demos and fitting to the golfers where it matters. I have always believed the only way to buy wedges is to test them on the golf course(s) you play, hitting the shots you face every round.
You just cannot buy wedges off of a mat and simulator, or even a driving range. You have to hit real shots and witness real ball flight and landing. I don’t see us ever going to the retail stores where that cannot happen.
Is validation at the highest levels of professional golf necessary for overall product impact with consumers and what efforts is the company doing in this regard?
For others maybe, but not for Edison Golf. I feel certain that top level players will eventually discover this wedge technology is just better, but my energies will be focused on getting awareness and trial by recreational players who want to be better on Saturday. That drives me. Edison Golf is not likely to ever expend any energy pursuing tour players, but will certainly work with them if they want to explore what we are doing to make wedge play more consistent.
Plenty of equipment companies have seen a recent spike in sales tied to the explosion of golf rounds during the pandemic. Has a similar situation happened for Edison Wedges?
We are so new, I don’t have a history to compare, and we’ve played it very close to the vest this first year. It does seem golf is enjoying a spike right now because people have the time to play. Let’s hope they get a bit more hooked and continue to play more as the world returns to normal, whatever that may be.
Throughout the golf industry there is constant touting on the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you follow.
Edison Golf considers that to be a foundational principle. We offer our online WedgeFit® process to help guide golfers to the right lofts, shafts and specs for their wedges. One of our wedge fitting specialists writes an email to everyone who completes that process, offering our assistance. I personally respond to every email I get from a customer or potential customer.
Maybe most importantly, we offer to build one or a complete set of our wedges for any golfer and let them try them for up to 45 days to make sure they are right – no one else will do this, but I think it is mandatory, as I said earlier.
As for our customer service policy? One word – “Yes — now what is it you need?”
Proper fitting has been a regular talking point for all equipment companies. Explain the approach Edison Wedges takes and how such an effort will prompt repeat future purchases?
Fitting has been overlooked in wedges. Too many golfers just choose lofts by habit, and almost all wedges are sold with a heavy stiff steel shaft that fits virtually no one. Our WedgeFit process helps us understand your game and what’s in your bag, so we can guide you to choosing wedges blending seamlessly to your irons and optimize your scoring range performance.
We believe people will return to us because our wedges were engineered and crafted to deliver better distance and more consistent results than any other wedges on the market — ever.
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