DELRAY BEACH, Florida – The history of the Ben Hogan Golf Company is as captivating as the career of the man himself. Consider that Hogan was one of the greatest golfers in history. He won nine major championships, a total of 64 PGA Tour events, had a golf swing for the ages, and in 1949 survived a near-fatal head-on collision between his car and Greyhound bus. Oh yes, in 1953 he won the Triple Crown of major championships – The Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.
The Ben Hogan Golf Co., founded in 1953, was one of the more successful golf companies of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Its forged blades – and later cavity-back forged irons – were some of the more popular clubs among Tour players and everyday players. Although he sold the company to AMF in 1960, Hogan watched over it, as chairman, from his table inside the clubhouse of nearby Shady Oaks Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
In 1984, AMF was acquired by Minstar, which four years later sold it to Japanese businessman Minoru Isutani’s Cosmo World. That began a series of convoluted business deals (at one time the Hogan Co., owned Pebble Beach Co., through Cosmo World) and owners that included Richmond, Va., business mogul Bill Goodwin, Spalding Sports Worldwide, and from 2003-2008, Callaway Golf Co.
The Callaway-Hogan marriage was never a good fit. In 2012, Callaway sold the Hogan name to apparel company Perry Ellis. Two years later, a group of Texas-based investors attempted to re-boot the Hogan Co., on the equipment side. In 2016, the group brought in Scott White, who had worked with the Hogan brand at Spalding, as a consultant. When the investment group filed for bankruptcy in early 2017, it retained White to guide the company through the bankruptcy process.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to stay in business,’’ said White, now the company’s president and CEO. “But we knew that if we wanted to make a go of this thing, we couldn’t do things the same way as they had been done.
“While we were trying to figure this out, I went to the investor group and suggested we use our rather robust (customer) data base and see if people wanted to buy directly from us with no retail mark up.’’
The answer was an overwhelming “Yes,’’ which caught White and his small team by surprise.
“Kind of naïve on my part,’’ White said. “We didn’t have a web site or customer service team. We had a couple of phones. The moment we sent out the email, the phone rang nonstop for a month. We had a couple guys, myself included, taking orders over the phone. It was chaotic, but it proved to us that this direct-to-consumer play could really work.’’
Indeed. So well, White said, that sales have increased 50 percent year-over-year for the past three years.
“In 2017, it was a pretty steep learning curve,’’ White said. “We made our share of mistakes. But since then, it’s been kind of a rocket ship ride. And it’s been a lot of fun to take advantage of modern commerce. People are used to buying products online.”
“Obviously, the Hogan name resonates with serious golfers, but we still needed to be very conscious about Hogan history and heritage. If we had come out with inferior product, this wouldn’t have worked. We’re still doing classic, forged irons and wedges, reminiscent of designs from the past 65 years. That part has been easy. We haven’t had to figure out who we are.’’
The most successful product in the Hogan line, not surprisingly is an iron. The PTx Pro is a clean, classic Hogan-design forged iron popular with a wide variety of players. White calls it the “workhorse’’ the Hogan iron lines.
The product that has captured considerable attention the past few months, however, has been the company’s new GS53 MAX driver. It’s a 460cc version of the Hogan GS53 that was introduced two years ago and proved popular with better players. The GS53 MAX, which uses forged titanium, tungsten, and carbon composite materials, as well as the Hogan Speed Slot, is primarily aimed at average players with slightly slower swing speeds.
“It’s clean – not a lot of graphics – and it performs very well,’’ White said. ‘It’s taken us a while to educate consumers and to say we’re still around and you can only find us at www.benhogangolf.com. But people are excited about buying a brand they know and basically without any retail mark up. They’re getting some of the best equipment in the world for about half of what they are getting it from other companies.’’
Look for the company to launch a new wedge line, along with a new game-improvement iron, in the next few weeks.