As a kid, I always wanted to work in the sports industry (thats after I realized that the NBA wasn’t a viable option). The golf industry is fun to be a part of because of the uniqueness of tradition and history mixed with innovation and trends. Getting to play a part in the designing, logistics, marketing and sales of our putters has been a thrill. To see a model grow from a quick sketch on a napkin to getting played on the PGA Tour is very fulfilling. At Rife, we have a great team that works well together and tries to do things better than they’ve been done before.
Matt Ward: Rife has made major strides in the last few years — what was the tipping point for the company’s ascension?
Spencer Kraker: Rife came under new ownership a little over two years ago. Mixing new blood with the already great existing technology of the putters has made for a special time.
MW: As in other areas of the equipment industry there are some majors players — Titleist / Scotty Cameron, PING, Odyssey, etc, etc — how can smaller-sized companies attract attention of golf consumers?
SK: We’re confident that once someone rolls a Rife they will fall in love with it. The grooves speak for themselves. You’d be amazed at how many people are still using our Original Rife Two Bar they bought on an infomercial.
MW: Is it tough for small companies to get the attention of green grass shops — often many have exclusive relationships with some of the larger companies ?
SK: We’re offering great programs to green grass shops on smaller orders of 3 to 6 putters. This is a low barrier way for us to get into the shop and prove ourselves.
MW: When people are contemplating buying a putter what is the single most important factor that also happens to be the most under-appreciated and misunderstood?
SK: A famous line is “Different Strokes For Different Folks” and this rings true for putters. There isn’t one ultimate putter out there. We intentionally design putters to fit different putting strokes.
MW: There seems to be much focus now on the thickness of putter grips — how important is that dimension for people to consider when contemplating a purchase ?
SK: Rife’s still come with a standard size grip, but we certainly see many people putting larger grips on after they make a purchase. The biggest advantage is calming those “twitchy muscles” in your wrists.
MW: Not many years ago the manner by which people would buy a putter would be likely from how the club looks and feels to the player — now the club fitting dimension is a crucial element. Has personalized fitting been a plus for Rife?
SK: We have many golf clubs that almost mini “Rife Fitting Studios”. We believe that getting a putter that fits your height, weight, arm length, uprightness and vision can shave 3-5 strokes per round.
MW: Recently, the USGA and R&A jointly decreed the use of the long putter will be ruled illegal for competitions they administer. What’s the position of Rife on that decision?
SK: We’re seeing many players order “Armlock” style putters from us. This is where the shaft is leaned far forward up on the front arm. You can still get extra stability without anchoring.
MW: Do you think golf would be better served in attracting and keeping players interested if the rules of golf were split — bifurcated — between those playing in various national championships and on the respective major tours versus that of the average player ?
SK: Golf is hard enough as it is, and taking away anchored putters will make it harder now. I don’t believe bifurcation is a valid solution. I think weekend golfers will always want to play under the same rules that the pros do.
MW: Among prominent players at the PGA, LPGA and European level — who is using a Rife putter ?
SK: Last year we had on the PGA Tour 15 players with Ryan Moore, Steven Bowditch, Brendon Todd, Boo Weekley, and Ted Potter Jr. to name a few. On the Champions Tour there are 35 players with wins by Esteban Toledo and John Riegger and on the LPGA Tour with four players and a win by Shan Shan Feng.
MW: At the PGA Merchandise Show you introduced a few new models for this year — what are they and what makes them stand apart from what you have already placed on the market ?
SK: We are featuring 4 new products at the $129 price point. Such great value for a Rife Putter. We have updated versions of our popular Barbados and Iconic models. And we’re very excited about the Swtichback which features adjustable weights on the heel / toe bumpers on a blade putter.