B A C K G R O U N D E R . . .
You could say that Randall Henry began his career in the golf industry as a child, accompanying his father as he gave lessons to members of all three PGA tours and watching Henry-Griffits grow from a small operation in the basement of the Hayden Lake Country club to the leading manufacturer of custom-fit golf clubs. Following graduation from Boise State University, Henry returned to his roots, serving as the President/GM of Henry-Griffitts. During his ten years with Henry-Griffitts, Henry also served as Director of Business Innovations and Regional Manager for the simulator manufacturer, aboutGolf.
T H E H E N R Y S T O R Y . . .
My father founded Henry-Griffitts the year I was born, but continued to teach players on tour, so I grew up alongside the club company while also frequently accompanying my father on the road. I had the opportunity to travel from tournament to tournament, spending hours on the range watching my dad give lessons to the pros. At home, I watched my dad pioneer custom-fit golf clubs, learning as much as I could about building clubs, fitting clubs, and eventually, how to teach. Over the years, my dad’s innovation and experimentation led the company to incorporate various technologies into the business. In fact, my father and his partners created the first weight transfer machine designed for golf. After college, I began working at HG, to help achieve my father’s vision and grow the business. We partnered with a tech company and my role expanded to encompass both entities.
MATT WARD: What prompted you to make the move to Overload Golf?
RANDALL HENRY: I’m a bit of a golf generalist, as I have experience in many different golf sectors and tend to think in big-picture terms. The golf business, on the other hand, has traditionally operated with a silo mentality, where companies are focused on their individual brand—whether it be in equipment, facilities, instruction, or operations. Starting Overload Golf made sense because we are a group of people committed to looking at the industry through a wide-angle lens rather than a microscope. This allows us to search for opportunities for synergy within and between sectors to enhance the overall golf experience, a practice that we believe will lead to a new wave of innovation and help to shape the sport for future generations.
MW: What lessons do you believe those involved in the golf industry learned after The Great Recession.
RH: Golf is a sport steeped in tradition that can be slow to change. The Great Recession taught us that in order to survive, golf has to reflect the needs and expectations of a different generation. For example, a round of golf typically takes about four and a half hours to play, four and a half hours that are hard to come by in 2017. So, the question is how do you make golf accessible and how do you make people make the time for golf? The recession taught us that the answer is simple. You make that four and a half hours the best four and a half hours of the week and you do that by delivering quality from the time you pull up to the golf course to the time you leave.
MW: What is a golf incubator — and how does this fit in the golf world?
RH: Just like any industry, the golf industry needs methods to assess, innovate, and drive new business models to the market. Golf incubators, like tech incubators, find a place for that great idea or product and nurture it with expertise, networking, and funding. Our team has a combined sixty years of experience in every sector of the golf industry, which we leverage in every way.
MW: Many people agree on the key reasons why golf is not growing — what do you suggest needs to be done in order to attract Millennials, women, and minorities to the sport?
RH: The problem is there is no easy answer. There are many programs whether it be nationally, regionally or locally that do a good job but it’s not enough to move the needle. At this point we would take breaking even every year and not just a loss. This needs to be a complete cultural change within the industry, if you did not know we can be a bit stubborn in the golf industry to adapt with the changes in golfer’s life’s. Our lives are faster paced and more hectic than ever.
MW: Golf is slow to adapt to new technology — why is that and how does Overload Golf plan to change that?
RH: Golf is slow in many ways to adapt to new technology, usually as a result of the complication of the technology. Many companies focus to much on growing there individual brand before they focus on their distribution and go to market plans, this hurts their business and the technology. It must be made and designed for golf and the golfer. Complex technology can be delivered in a simple way, if you understand how it is going to be used and for who. It needs to make things simpler and in many ways technology can makes things more complex and complicated. This usually results from business’s that may have great knowledge on the technology side but lacking on the golf side or vice versa. You need to understand to create great technology for this sport and this is where we are experts. The incubator plus our ability to fund and then get to market a lot quicker is the goal for Overload Golf.
MW: It’s been said by a few key people within the golf industry — that if roughly 20% of the total inventory for courses were closed in the next 12 months or so the overall health of the industry would improve dramatically. What’s your take on the over saturation of facilities?
RH: This happened on its own, when the Great Recession hit and for years after only the strong survived within the course industry. There was over saturation, but only in certain markets, some can handle more growth. Owning a golf course is a tough business, and like in most business it’s the people you have involved with your course that make the difference. The team you have in many ways determines the strength of your course. The customers must not only love the golf course but the people they interact with at the course. Golf is a social game and this cannot be lost, or the sport would be in trouble.
MW: Where do you plan to focus your business geographically?
RH: We plan to do a lot in North America as this is where we are based and the largest target market, but think moving forward much of our business will be worldwide However, with the experience globally of our team, will find new markets outside the USA and also innovation in golf now is coming from all regions of the world including regions like Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Having Golf in the Olympics is creating new growth and interest in the game and we look forward to being part of the next stage of golf internationally. Many of these countries we have a clean slate to do things right and represent golf in the best way. Over the years we have worked with many countries to develop golf and its some of the most enjoyable things we get to do.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
RH: My dad has only told me just because that’s the way they do something does not mean that its right. Be willing to go against the grain and do something completely different, great ideas sometimes don’t happen because someone did not have the guts to rock the boat.
MW: Nike just recently left the golf club and ball business. Do you see other major companies doing likewise?
RH: I hope not, but it is a very tough business and the largest players need to have growth in the number of golfers. I think this is a sign of consolidation of a market. Nike and similar companies have to get back to its core in other markets, golf was driven by a few individuals success, this does not scale for a business like Nike. The customers are better educated on equipment at this point and expect significant improvements before making purchases. This is great and was wonderful for the smaller club companies that don’t need to you buy new product every year. For the larger companies the numbers they need to hit require all golfers to make purchases every year which is unrealistic at this point. We must focus on quality and delivering the golfer a better experience as well as better product. I am rooting for all the companies and don’t want to see anyone go out of business, but there are many things that need to be solved or I believe we will see other companies exit.
MW: In your announcement in taking the position — you speak about “finding and connecting unseen dots to accelerate businesses.” Can you elaborate what you mean with clear specifics?
RH: This is one of the most exciting things about what we do at Overload Golf, as many times there are small changes or as we see them dots that just need to be connected to be successful. Partnerships in business are crucial, when we talk at Overload of connecting the unseen dots. It’s about using our global network and applying our knowledge of what is great for golf and breaking down the barriers for new and emerging technologies or business models to get to market faster. This consists of one of three things; Expertise, Network, or Money we can supply all of the aforementioned or any one or two of them combined as needed. Sometimes a product has all we just need to identify where this product should be delivered and use our network to put it into the proper channel. Other times we may need to use our expertise to develop or modify to enable success. Other cases money may have to be put in to properly support an idea or product. Each partnership is unique but we are confident whatever the solution is we can find it, and deliver results. I like to focus on thinking of golf not as a sport but a lifestyle choice and an experience. Everything is connected to making the experience either good or bad. To improve something in golf, we want to focus on making a good connection better or eliminating/improving a bad connection.
Photo courtesy Overload Golf