Corporate Headquarters: Pinehurst, North Carolina
James Ledford, President
Brandon Sowell, Director of Sales and Marketing
Eric Gibson, Chief Marketing Officer
Golf Pride has been a global leader in golf grip innovation and technology for over seventy years, having been founded in 1949 by inventor Thomas L. Fawick.
Now, as the world’s largest manufacturer of golf grips, with sales and distribution facilities on six continents, Golf Pride is consistently identified as the number one choice of golf grips among recreational golfers, Tour players, and club manufacturers alike.
Top 100 companies such as Callaway, PING, TaylorMade, and Titleist all opt to use Golf Pride in their standard offerings.
Golf Pride’s first major success came in 1953 with the invention of the slip-on grip. Since then, other groundbreaking advancements include ALIGN technology that encourages consistent hand placement, the CP2 line with Control Core technology, and the new CPX line designed to provide a soft grip feel without sacrificing performance.
Since Jamie Ledford took over as Golf Pride’s President in 2012, the company has continually sought to pursue that original inspiration about shaping the future of the category. It’s Ledford who has spearheaded efforts in recent years like the Golf Pride’s Global Innovation Center, its new Retail Lab, new grip technology, and an on-site research and development facility. He’s guided Golf Pride’s new direction, away from old school component manufacturing and toward a more modern, high-tech identity.
“We have just gone so deep on what grips can do for golfers and we’ve tried not to rest on our past success,” said Ledford, who joined Golf Pride a decade ago after successful executive stints at big brands like Callaway and Starbucks. “We love our history. But if we rest on that, we’re going to go the way of a lot of other golf brands. So, we’ve been really doubling down on the idea that grips aren’t just rubber handles for clubs, they’re actually performance equipment. We’ve taken it as an internal challenge to show and prove how that’s true, and use that as the basis to transform the category.
“This is a really exciting time at Golf Pride,” adds Ledford. “And in a strange way, for a really old legacy brand, we have a real rebirth going on.”
Ledford estimates 5-to-6 million golfers a year use Golf Pride grips.
Among them are the more than 80% of Tour professionals who choose to utilize Golf Pride grips in competition even though none being paid to do so.
Today, the company is engaging some of its customers in different, deeper ways. The new Retail Lab at Golf Pride’s state-of-the-art Global Innovation Center in Pinehurst is a prime example, offering an on-site retail experience for consumers and visitors. Golfers visiting the facility, which is located right next to Pinehurst’s No. 8 course, not only can get tour-like grip selection and installation with a Golf Pride’s lead tour technician, but they have access to exclusive products and merchandise.
To describe the experience, Ledford likes to use the metaphor of that college class you might not have had much interest in until meeting a certain professor whose passion for the topic pulls you in.
“That’s the way we feel about our grip category even if a lot of people don’t see it,” Ledford says. “The installation typically sits in the back of the green grass shop and grips aren’t the easiest thing to buy and install. This (research lab) was essentially an experiment for us to say, ‘What’s the best experience that we could create?’ We love grips and we love all the nuance about this category. The only question was how this would come to life?
“It’s been fantastic, just bringing it to the front of the building and making that the focus of the purchase experience and treating them like a pro. The feedback from golfers has been terrific. There’s always somebody in there engaging with our team, asking questions about our grips or getting new grips installed. It’s getting us that much closer to the golf consumer.”
Not far from the consumer experience is the design studio, where new grip concepts are whipped up. And a few steps away from that is the company’s rapid prototyping lab. It’s yet another example of the brand’s evolution – and better positioning for its future.
“When I started at Golf Pride, if we had an idea, it probably took 4-to-6 months to actually work through – create a design, tool it up, produce it, test it. We’ve reduced that substantially,” said Ledford. “Our future hope is that we can have an idea, prototype, test, validate cycle that’s one week long.
“We’re getting closer and closer to that. There’s no reason we can’t have an idea on Monday, turn it into a visualization (digital product design) on Tuesday, prototype it on Wednesday, test it with golfers on Thursday, and then sit around the table and say what did we learn about this idea?” he added. “That’s what I’m excited about. We’ve brought all these capabilities together in this 33,000-square-foot facility. It’s really an exciting mashup of capabilities that I think is going to help us sustain a level of innovation that’s going to continue making Golf Pride No. 1 going forward.”
More than 80 percent of Tour professionals choose to play the company’s grips without being paid to do so – that in itself is a strong endorsement in an age of multi-million dollar sponsorship deals.
A brand with a rich history in golf dating back 70 years, Golf Pride was an innovator with its slip-on rubber grip. Before that, grips were molded directly on to the shaft, making it almost impossible to swap them out. The innovation opened the door for efficient equipment assembly as well as a full-fledged grip replacement business in pro shops.
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