You can change your ringtone and your screensaver, so why not the color of your golf shoes
You can change your ringtone and your screensaver, so why not the color of your golf shoes?
Jack Grace USA, a Tempe, Arizona startup, makes golf saddle-shoes with interchangeable saddles.
Wear red one day to match your outfit, blue, stripes or paisley the next, and Pittsburgh Steelers black and gold the day after that.
The secret is a patented Velcro-and-magnet attachment system that lets you swap out the saddles and laces. Like anything made with Velcro, you just rip the saddles off and put a new one on.
Jack Grace’s custom printing system allows the company to make saddles in any color or pattern, including corporate logos, and even pictures of your kids and pets.
The company’s full-grain leather shoes come in white or gray with black saddles and sell for $150. Extra saddles cost $30 to $40 each. Making custom saddles from customer provided art costs an additional $50 set-up charge.
Bart Walker, Jack Grace’s 39-year-old founder and CEO, said he got the idea in 2015 while packing for a golf trip. Finding room in his bag for several pairs of golf shoes had become a problem.
After experimenting with methods of shoe construction, materials and inks, he had a patentable prototype after about six months and began marketing his shoes in May 2017.
His 13-person company – named for two of his three children, Jack and Grace – has sold 4,000 pairs of shoes to date and recently began making and selling custom belts.
“Women seem to get the idea immediately,” Walker said. “People who travel a lot for golf like the idea because it gives them multiple looks.”
“In 2019, people want something no one else can get,” he said. “I have a pair with a design my 6-year-old daughter made with Magic Marker.”
Walker, a mortgage banker before turning inventor, says his typical customers are men over 50. He’s started going after corporate event organizers as well as pro-am sponsors seeking something unique to give their participants. Mohawk, the carpet and flooring manufacturer, recently signed on for 100 pairs bearing its corporate logo.
Although he doesn’t have the rights to produce shoes bearing NFL logos, he does offer a “gridiron” line of saddles in all 32 teams’ colors.
In his office in Tempe, Walker shows off early prototypes for visitors. “I started with some scraps of leather and went from there,” he said.
His testing regimen included leaving shoes outside in the Arizona sun for months to evaluate the materials and colors for UV-resistance, drying and cracking.
The use of Velcro as the basic attachment system was a no-brainer, but the
addition of magnets in the saddles and the welt – where the vamp meets the shoe’s sole – was the design element that guaranteed they would stay solidly attached.
No touring pros wear his shoes in competition yet, although he’s persuaded a couple to show them off on the practice range to generate some buzz. “I wouldn’t have the money to pay them to wear them,” he said.
Walker’s immediate concern is finding enough capital to develop the company’s marketing. Another is how to appease his 3-month-old son, Henry, when he’s old enough to realize his older brother and sister have a company named after them.
“I guess I’ll have to keep innovating,” Walker said.
Dan Vukelich, a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and Golf Travel writers of America, is editor of newmexicogolfnews.com in Albuquerque, N.M.