To say that Don Thorup has enjoyed a varied career would be an understatement. From working in banking to managing consumer promotion programs, to managing a family investment office, to C Suite consulting and working for a marketing agency, he has seen and worked across industries, services and a variety of constituent groups. But, the one constant through Thorup’s career has been the desire to be involved in, and effect, change.
The desire to innovate, adapt, change and deliver new and continuous value to new groups who might have been closed out from opportunities or information is a comfortable space for Thorup. Early in his career he was tasked numerous times to launch new services or divisions of companies targeting under-served groups, and it’s that comfort level with new ideas that change playing fields that most excites him.
SkyTrak is the latest example of this trend, as the company is delivering commercial grade launch monitor technology once available only to equipment manufacturers and PGA Professionals to golfers for use in their homes. Now, golfers have access to the same high-quality, accurate ball data used by touring pros so that they can practice, play, connect and compete on their schedules. And, it’s this disruptive change where Thorup feels most comfortable, as the company resets the way consumers interact with their golf games from their homes, on their schedules and in ways that best suit their priorities.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
Focused on providing accurate and entertaining solutions for avid golfers. This covers a wide range that includes hardware that is easy to use, an app loaded with practice features and challenges, and access to third party simulation partners for full course play. The key is that we provide accurate feedback whether practicing on the SkyTrak range or playing a simulated course from one of our partners. It’s all about making the game accessible to a consumer on their terms, and making sure the experience is rewarding, fun and helps make them a better golfer.
What was the genesis for SkyTrak?
The industry was missing an affordable solution for consumers who wanted to play golf at home. We weren’t interested in developing another toy, but saw an opportunity to develop an accurate and innovative technology system that would provide value to the golf consumer as well as the entire golf industry.
How long in overall development from product idea to actual prototype?
We’ve been thinking about a consumer-based launch monitor for at least a decade or more, as we wanted to provide access to commercial grade launch monitor technology to avid golf consumers. Basically, we wanted to democratize launch data so everyone could gain a better understanding of their game and interact with golf in a way that fit their schedules and priorities.
How does the product differ from the competition?
What separates SkyTrak is accuracy paired with affordability – you won’t find another launch monitor and simulator that consistently provides accurate data at our price point.
From a marketing/sales perspective is the primary effort being implemented through online efforts?
We’re very focused on the golf consumer, and as a result we’ve dedicated a lot of our resources toward digital and online efforts. However, we still have traditional sales channels that are more common in the golf industry and have a presence on the Golf Channel with our commercials.
Suggested retail price is what?
Plenty of companies routinely tout customer service as a paramount priority. Define the term and the approach taken at SkyTrak?
We want to maximize the SkyTrak experience for our customers. We strive to provide value above all else through frequent software updates and access to the top simulation providers. We are also active where our customers spend their time, so we engage with them on forums, blogs and social media to get feedback and ideas for product development.
Does the company have any empirical data showing golfers who use the product have actually improved their overall performance?
We have numerous testimonials highlighting the impact SkyTrak has had on their golf game. A popular feature we offer is the SkyTrak Skills Assessment, which illustrates to customers how far their games have come. One of the most rewarding times for us is when winter gives way to the outdoor golf season around the country, and we receive notes from customers telling us how they have improved their game through the winter so that they can hit the ground running when golf season arrives.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
The time required. One advantage that SkyTrak provides is the ability to play golf at your convenience and on your terms. You may not have time to go to the course and play a full 18, but with SkyTrak you can. SkyTrak helps grow the golf game by making it more accessible – we believe if golfers have access to accurate feedback at home, and then use it to improve, they’ll want to play more golf. We also believe SkyTrak offers a low-risk option for new golfers. Golf is an intimidating game to learn, and with SkyTrak they now have the option to learn and progress in a risk-free environment in their home, and then head to the course when they’re ready.
The most pressing challenges short and long term facing the company is what?
Awareness. Making sure golfers know they can have an accurate golf practice and play solution in their home is critical. Everybody knows they can put a basketball goal in their driveway if they like to play basketball, but many times golfers hear about the high cost of traditional simulators and feel priced out of the market. Or, on the other end, there are many toys and gadgets available that claim to make golfers better, but don’t actually deliver. Creating awareness with golfers to know that SkyTrak is an accurate and yet affordable solution for their homes is something we work on every day.
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