As an industrial designer I can’t help but look at things and imagine how to improve them. Before we formed Sentio, my partner Bryan and I would sometimes pick a topic and brainstorm for fun new ideas about it, and one day, much to my delight, we chose golf. At the time I was putting with an old Odyssey White Hot #9 and we asked ourselves — what would happen if the polymer were on the inside? I didn’t realize it at the time, but that little spark marked the beginning of my golf career.
MATT WARD: What was the impetus in creating Sentio Golf?
JIM VARNEY: That initial spark quickly morphed into the idea of floating the whole front face over a polymer core. We created some simple proof-of-concept mock-ups to test what would happen, and the results were really compelling. We were able to predict how far the ball would roll just by changing the polymer thickness and hardness, nothing else. This is when we realized the link between “feel” and distance control — and the technology started to take shape.
MW: What is the void missing from existing putters your efforts resolve?
JV: Much of the discourse in the industry seems to be around swing arc or face alignment or MOI, but feel is largely ignored. Feel is so important but hard to define, so the state of the art hasn’t really evolved much since the insert. We wanted to give golfers the same kind of intuitive system for selecting feel as other putter companies have for — say — swing arc. It just so happens our tech delivers excellent MOI and alignment too.
MW: How long did the process take from initial ideas to actual prototypes?
JV: The early research and development of the technology took place over about 2 years, during which time we were exploring several potential designs to build as a prototype. The Sierra 101 model is the result of another year or so of multiple prototype builds and testing to dial in the performance and feel, so, in total — a little over 3 years from start to now.
MW: What were some of the major challenges in getting started?
JV: Our background is in product development so we have a lot of experience with R&D and know how to make things, but as industry outsiders we had a lot to learn. Luckily, we met some fantastic advisers with long careers in the industry who have helped us through this process, which has been so crucial. I think our “outsider” viewpoint has actually proven to be a strength as this has allowed us to approach things from a fresh perspective, keeping the things that make sense and discarding those that don’t.
MW: Your product line really carries forward the concept of “customization” now on the putter side. What values will golfers receive from that?
JV: Basically, it makes you more accurate. Matching the “feel” to the player makes judging distance on putts more intuitive and seemingly effortless. Giving golfers a range of response levels helps make that possible.
MW: Where can golfers get your product now?
JV: Golfers in the US and Canada can purchase our putters directly through our website www.sentiogolf.com. We offer free shipping and a 30 day return policy. We are working on distribution in other international markets so stay tuned.
MW: Do you have plans for an active presence in green grass shops — big box retail? Approximate retail price?
JV: We are focused on getting into retail partners that can offer a level of service and expertise to their customers, such as pro-shops, custom fitters, and smaller specialty chains. We believe this is the best fit for us since there is a level of education required for the customer to understand the benefit of our technology and the levels of feel we provide. We estimate the retail price for the Sierra 101 line will be $250-$300.
MW: Are there any plans to get key players on the PGA or LPGA Tours to actively use your products?
JV: We are working on that at the moment. It’s definitely in our plan. We have already put several in play with some unbelievably talented youth golfers, which we are excited about. We made a very good impression with some very influential people at the PGA show, so we will see where it goes.
MW: There have been other companies that got started on the putter side — then expanded to other clubs. The classic example is PING. Do you envision remaining a putter company or evolve into other areas of club development?
JV: Our focus in the coming seasons is to flesh out our product line with many different putter head shapes and styles along with new ideas to improve putting feel and performance. The putter market, to me, is more starved for innovation than other segments like drivers. That being said — Sentio is a company built on innovation so I can easily see expanding into other clubs and golf products where opportunity arises.
MW: You had a presence at the ’16 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando for the first time. What was that experience like? Was it what you thought it would be?
JV: It was amazing. The response we got from everyone was beyond anything we hoped. At the show there are so many people and interactions that it can be overwhelming at times, but the feedback was so positive that we left there more excited about the future than ever before. It’s going to be a fun ride.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?