Scott White is the President and CEO of the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company, a role he assumed in 2016 after consulting with the previous management team and ownership group for a period of time. Mr. White is a 25 year+ golf industry veteran, having worked in various marketing communications, product management and business development roles at companies such as Callaway Golf, TaylorMade-adidas, and True Temper Sports.
Scott became fascinated by the Ben Hogan legacy while working at Spalding Sports Worldwide as a Product Manager early in his career when the Hogan brand was owned the Company. As Product Manager, he was part of the team that introduced the highly successful ’99 Apex blades, Apex Plus and Apex Edge iron product line. He, and his team based in Fort Worth, are committed to the values and principles Mr. Hogan set forth when he founded his golf club company in 1953.
The White Story
I’m a native New Englander and, yes, a hard-core Patriots / Red / Sox / Celtics fan. I grew up playing mostly team sports, and didn’t really ‘discover’ golf until high school. My Dad was a decent stick, and I enjoyed caddying for him on occasion. Some of my fondest memories are learning the game while playing with family and friends on Cape Cod.
When I graduated from college with a degree in marketing, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I spent some time working at a number of great advertising agencies in and around Boston which worked out well for me. As an Account Executive, I had a lot of different clients in high technology, banking, mobile communications, etc.. I knew pretty quickly that I didn’t want a career in any of those categories! Luckily, I was assigned to work on the Spalding account after a while.
I loved Spalding and, apparently, they liked me. I made the transition and joined the Company after a period of time. I ran the Top-Flite and Strata golf ball businesses, Etonic Golf Shoes, but my favorite role was managing the Ben Hogan golf club category. Everything about Mr. Hogan’s playing career — his struggles and triumphs resonated with me. I was more intrigued, though, by his business acumen and focus. Among other things, I was amazed Mr. Hogan could start a golf equipment company in the same year he won The Masters, The US Open, and The Open Championship.
We are working hard to re-establish the Ben Hogan brand. We need to remain patient and focused. Eddie Binder, formerly the VP of Spalding told me long ago that “If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll soon be nothing to no one.” I think about that every day. That I’m fortunate to be part of the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company. We are laser focused on who and how — we are selling the best golf equipment in the world.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
To re-establish the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company with serious, committed golfers by continuing Mr. Hogan’s commitment to produce the highest-quality golf equipment in the world. We’re not trying to be the biggest OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), just the best.
The Hogan equipment company has gone through a number of ups and downs — what’s different this time around?
Focus. In the past, it seemed like the company was following the traditional golf equipment manufacturer playbook — make products for every type of player and sell them everywhere. We are committed to only producing the best-performing and best-feeling equipment — knowing our heritage is forged irons and wedges and selling them exclusively through our factory-direct model.
Given the range of club offerings from the leading companies — how does the brand make key inroads for game improvement players and those in the lower handicap range?
We aren’t really interested in having the broadest product line in golf. We are dedicated to the most passionate players — those that play the most golf and are committed to the game. Typically, those are above-average players. Regardless of their ability level, though, these players appreciate well engineered, quality equipment and can see through gimmicks and marketing hype. That said, we do plan to launch some products in the Spring of 2018 appealing to mid-handicap players so we expand the appeal of the Ben Hogan brand.
So many companies talk about customer service and its overall importance. Define the term and the company’s approach?
Customer service is critical to us, especially given our factory-direct distribution and pricing strategy. It’s much more than answering the phone politely or making sure an order is done correctly. It’s all-encompassing. Making sure every experience the consumer has with the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company is consistent, and positive. It’s being proactive instead of reactive and doing everything you can to develop a relationship with consumers. Are we the best? Absolutely not, but we are working to be best-in-class every day.
What role does customer feedback have and how do you incorporate it into your future decisions?
We are in a unique situation because we talk to consumers — the people who buy and use our product — every day. We don’t sell through retailers, so we have a direct line of communication. Consumers call or email mail us to order products and then provide thoughts on their experiences with it. In some cases, we get negative feedback or complaints. Those are the one we pay most attention to and learn from.
The specific focus for Hogan will be where — retail outlets, green grass shop, online?
Online exclusively. We are bypassing the middlemen via our factory-direct business model. Consumers can purchase our products only at BenHoganGolf.com. It’s a very progressive way in doing business for an established brand — especially one with a 65-year history.
Do product endorsements from leading tour professionals still resonate and what is the Hogan company approach in this area?
They are important — to an extent. We recently entered into an agreement with J.J. Henry. He provides our product and brand with a certain sense of authenticity and validity. Serious golfers want to know your products are good enough to be played by the best players in the world. Our relationship with J.J. though and likely some other professional golfers we will bring on board in the upcoming months isn’t a traditional endorsement agreement. We strive to develop ‘partnerships’ more than endorsement deals with people who represent what Mr. Hogan and, in turn, his brand stand for — integrity, honesty, hard work, commitment. J.J. is a true gentleman, and will help us not only in the area of product development, but will provide strategic counsel as well.
You can change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why?
We need to make the game more affordable and approachable. It is a great game; one no one can ever master or conquer. The problem is, there are such high hurdles to overcome to engage with the sport. To walk out onto a course these days for the first time in prohibitively expensive for a lot of people. A set of decent clubs, shoes, apparel, bag, maybe some lessons and green fees is going to cost the first-time player well over $1,000.00. Believe me, I don’t have all the answers, but I think this is the area that OEMs, golf course owners, The First Tee, etc. need to focus on.
The leading golf associations — USGA, R&A, PGA TOUR, PGA of America, LPGA — are all attempting to attract new players — especially juniors, Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counseling them — what would you advise and what will be the Hogan company doing in that regard.
Again, make the game more affordable and approachable. It’s nothing new, we, as an industry, have been talking about it for years. We need to find way to make access to courses easier. At the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company, we are trying to lower the cost of quality golf equipment with our factory-direct model. A set of our premium, forged irons for example, cost about $700.00. Yes, that is still a lot of money — but competitor’s sets sold through traditional retail channels cost $1,200.00 or $1,400.00. In some cases, $2,500.00 plus! We are trying to lower the cost of ownership so people entering the game will have money left over for lessons, green fees, etc.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from. Looking back to those just getting started in their careers — what advice would you offer?
Early on in my career, when starting in the Advertising Agency business, a Creative Director named Harvey Gabor told me “If you don’t fail, you aren’t trying” — or something close to that. It was kind of a passing comment, and I’m sure he wouldn’t remember telling a 22-year-old junior Account Executive like me. He was trying to make the point to me that I needed to push myself, challenge the status quo — try new things. Over the years, that thought or idea has been invaluable to me. The tried and true road — while safe — rarely pays dividends. I always encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones on occasion, and not be afraid of failure.