During the last 40+ years, Steve Sacks has been a pioneer in golf marketing and manufacturing. He has done extensive research in the use and effectiveness of alternative materials for golf club manufacture and in golf club design. He co-founded Goldwin Golf, and was the Director of Sales and Marketing for Carbite Golf. Steve’s deep knowledge of the golf market, trends, club design and manufacturing history have made him a favorite source of golf writers seeking to authenticate stories. He is also in demand as a consultant to several golf manufacturers and national organizations.
During the past five decades, Rich Parente has been an industry leader with design innovations that have changed the way golf clubs are designed and manufactured. He was the first President of Callaway Golf after co-founding Hickory Stick in 1980, which was renamed Callaway Golf in 1982. He was also a co-owner and President of Goldwin Golf, and founded Golf Laboratories. Rich was a 20-year PGA club professional and has nearly 40 patents granted and pending.
THE SACKS / PARENTE STORY
We first met in the 1970’s and would run into each other all the time. Over the years, we’ve tried so many things, seen so many things and have come to the point now where we know pretty well what works and what doesn’t work and why it works and why it doesn’t work. We started working together to try to find the materials for our patented Ultra-Low Balance Point technology about 7-8 years ago.
In early 2018, we found investors and formed Sacks Parente Golf Company with the idea that we were going to make the best putter and not really worry about what it was going to cost. We feel the reason we’re doing our best work now is because of technology. The technology in the last 5 years has given us the materials, measuring equipment and testing equipment that’s beyond anything that was available 10-15 years ago. Now we have more tools that allow us to take our ideas and bring them to fruition and find out exactly how good they are. We’re pretty lucky that we’re able to put all this together at this time and create the most scientifically perfect putters to help golfers make more putts.
When each of you wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
PARENTE: Simply make the best putters possible with the finest, most appropriate materials and designs we can come up with.
SACKS: Similar to Rich, but what makes us different is how we approach things. Rich has his way of looking at things and I have mine, but eventually we end up in the same place. We really feed off each other in that regard.
What was the genesis for the putter?
SACKS: Rich has long been a believer in lowering the balance point. We started trying to find the materials about 7-8 years ago. It was always a challenge to find shafts and grips that were light enough to lower the balance point while still using a tour weight putter head. We had a couple of graphite shaft manufacturers help us come up with a shaft that met the weight requirement and was strong enough. Grips were also extremely difficult to develop. In short, the ability to build the proper components finally caught up to some of our long held beliefs on what makes a putter work properly. From the blade standpoint, we’ve always liked blades and Rich thought it was time to do it.
Rich sketched the first version and then we started prototyping it. Originally the weights were in the sole, then they were moved to the face. We knew it was an opportunity to work with some interesting metals and for us to develop some new methods to move head weight and take advantage of some center of gravity opportunities. The mallets followed much the same process as the blade. We are always trying to find an advantage in the design or the materials that we can take to the player and make them better. In the end we want everyone to have fun and enjoy the game so we want our technology to help them make more putts.
How long a time frame from idea generation to product prototypes?
SACKS: For Ultra Low Balance Point (ULBP) it took us a couple of days to start cobbling things together to prove the theories. The rest of the process has taken years as we had to develop all of the materials to reach our weight goals. Putters take about 60 days for a first version and then you have to start refining, keeping what’s good and throwing out what’s bad, etc. The Blade took a couple of years because we always wanted to keep getting a little better. The mallet took a while too. We started with the ramp head design and lots of structure and then refined it from there. It took us a while to find the final version.
What separates your efforts from others in the category?
PARENTE: We’ve seen and done a lot of stuff over the years. We’ve had the opportunity to try things first hand. It’s not enough to know that something doesn’t work, you really need to find out why. That premise actually leads us to what might be the main reason we’re different, we always ask each other, “What if”? What if we try this or what if we do this, etc. We’re always asking each other what if?
What efforts will be carried out from a marketing / branding perspective to separate your efforts from all the clutter that invades the marketplace?
SACKS: We understand that our Founder’s story is compelling and it is front and center in our marketing efforts. It truly resonates with our fellow golfers that we have brought our years of experience to the putter market to make a real difference in putter design, materials, and technology. Just the materials alone that we use for our components sets us above so many putters on the market today but when you combine the components with the craftsmanship and technology, golfers understand our brand identity as a premium performance putter. In addition to the brand story, we feel that our marketing efforts must tie in with a strong experiential program for our prospective customers. They need to be able to see the craftsmanship and feel the difference that our Ultra Low Balance Point technology makes in the putter response and feel.
Many companies make it a point to get associated with a touring professional in order to endorse their product for greater awareness and validation. Is that something Sacks Parente will be doing?
PARENTE: Yes, but we want more than just an association, we want players to endorse our putters because it makes a positive difference in their ability to make more putts. As designers we are always looking for validation with players at the highest level. If we’re the only people that think something is a good idea, then it probably won’t be very successful.
When Tour players can feel and appreciate the performance that sets us apart, it tells us that we have designed a product that works for people who depend on their tools to make a living. It is still a business with investors to answer to, so at some point we have to sell putters to make money but I think we have this dream where all the pros on tour learn about our technology and then want to use one of our putters. It is the ultimate validation of what we’ve designed/invented.
There are plenty of companies routinely touting customer service. Define the term and the approach you’ll be taking?
SACKS: Being called good or great at customer service is something that is earned. We would like to be really great at it. We’ll do our best and keep trying to be even better. Our sincere hope is that all of our customers not only love the putters, but thoroughly enjoy the process of acquiring one.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
PARENTE: Add a club to the 14 club limit so a player can carry two putters.
SACKS: Find ways to grow the game so it will be more accessible to all.
Both of you have been involved in the golf industry for a number of years. There’s a growing push by the major golf organizations — USGA, R&A, PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA — seeking to attract new players especially among Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counseling them what would you advise be done?
PARENTE: Build more par-3 golf courses connected to a clubhouse or entertainment center that’s inclusive of family based activities for adults and children of all ages. We think the green grass side of this is important. It may not even be 9 holes, but hopefully be inclusive of a “on course” experience.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
SACKS: If you have to work, do what you enjoy and makes you happy — from a friend who gave up a very successful career in law to follow his dreams.
PARENTE: To change vocations. Can’t remember who.
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