One in a weekly series of stories about golf gear to run each Wednesday.
Sam Uisprapassorn didn’t have an idea as much as he had a complaint.
He worked in the solar industry, was a recreational golfer with a 16 handicap and usually played courses with narrow fairways.
“I lost a ton of golf balls,” Uisprapassorn said. “I was the guy buying the $49-a-dozen golf balls. I was tired of losing balls to the tune of four, six, seven a round.”
He noticed brands such as Dollar Shave Club going after the low end of the marketplace. It’s Business 101 that successful brands are either first, best or cheapest.
The combination of frustration with his golf and the high price of golf balls is why Uisprapassorn, 39, became co-founder and CEO of Cut Golf, which makes low-priced golf balls and sells direct to consumers.
Did I say low-priced? Cut Golf’s marketing slogan is clear: “The best damn golf balls under 20 bucks.”
I like the attitude. I also like another message from Cut Golf’s website: “It’s time to cut the crap... Our brand is all about having fun on the golf course. Saving money is one direct way of accomplishing this… No more using crappy balls on a lake hole. And please throw away that stupid ball retriever. Golf doesn’t have to be boring, stuffy or expensive. With the money you save, buy another beer and tip well.”
That’s right. Cut Golf wants you to save money, put down the ball retriever and buy more beer. Pass me the American dream, please.
The good news is that Cut Golf balls are $19.95 or less per dozen, plus shipping. The better news is that they are, in fact, pretty good, including one top-of-the-line model that’s a four-piece urethane-covered ball.
I tested a dozen at a public course near me in the Pittsburgh area. I played two balls for 18 holes (when no one was around early in the morning) on two occasions. One ball was a Titleist Pro V1. The other was a Cut Golf Blue ball. I’m not a scratch golfer anymore, but I’m still decent; I’ve just lost some distance with age and a knee injury. I busted two drives as well as I could hit them a few times, and my drives were virtually side by side. The Cut Golf ball went every bit as far off the driver.
I didn’t see much difference in how the Cut Golf Blue checked up, but that could be because I’m not spinning approach shots like I used to, or maybe because my test course has greens that usually are rock hard. At $19.95 per dozen, you might expect Cut Golf balls to look inferior. Other than being a smidge shinier, they look like high-quality balls.
So how does this upstart Internet company undercut golf’s biggest names and compete with a zero-dollar advertising budget, focusing instead on social media and word of mouth? Simple. Many recreational golfers are just like Uisprapassorn: value-conscious. Or, let’s say, thrifty.
The hard part for Uisprapassorn and his merry band was developing the product. It required a lot of research, samples and trial and error. The group eventually partnered with some capable factories in Asia – where else? The company began selling balls in February 2017.
Cheapest is always an effective way to sell a product, as long as it works.
“We’ve seen tremendous growth since 2017,” said Dennis Chang, Cut Golf’s chief operating officer. “We got a lot of attention early by offering trial sleeves, which allowed people to try our product at a low entry price. You spend $5 or $6 for a sleeve. If you like them, great, and if not, you throw them in a shag bag – no harm, no foul.”
Golf Digest gave Cut Golf a big boost by awarding its balls a silver medal in the magazine's annual Hot List equipment report. That helped validate an unknown company.
“The main thing we’ve got to do is deliver a good product, not just something that’s cheap,” Uisprapassorn said. “We’re not going after the major brands and calling them out on price or performance. We’re a value proposition, but our balls do perform. We’ve got the TrackMan numbers. We have in-house tests, and we know anyone can make those look good.
“We’re trying to be more upbeat and fun. If playing the Cut Golf brand gets golfers out on the course more often, I’ll chalk that up as a win.”
Cut Golf has five offerings. The Blue model ($19.95 per dozen) is a four-piece urethane cover. The Grey ($19.95) is a three-piece urethane cover; the White ($14.95) and the Matte ($19.95), which is offered in three colors, are three-piece Surlyn balls; and the Red ($9.95) is a two-piece Surlyn ball.
The company’s odd name comes from two things. One, Uisprapassorn was working on learning how to hit a cut (a left-to-right fade shot for a right-hander) and losing balls during the process. Two, the business model was predicated on cutting costs, cutting logistics, cutting staffing – the whole company essentially is a group of seven friends or former co-workers – and cutting overhead, in order to compete in the most efficient way possible.
You will not see a big-name touring pro competing under a Cut Golf endorsement. Uisprapassorn, who runs the company out of his garage in Costa Mesa, Calif., joked that if Tiger Woods wanted to play the ball and get paid, he’d turn Woods down. “We can’t lose our value proposition,” Uisprapassorn said.
You may see Cut Golf show up in select retail outlets soon, but it’ll still be at the $19.95 price point.
One thing some of my fellow senior golfers like to discuss – or, should I say, brag about – is how much money they saved on their latest purchase, whether it’s a pair of $9 shoes that they swear are the most comfortable they’ve ever owned or a golf shirt for $12. Cut Golf gives them another bragging point.
“Some of our customers feel cool because they’re maybe outplaying their buddies who are using $50-a-dozen balls and they say, ‘I got this dozen for 20 bucks,’ ” Chang said. “A lot of our customers like being first-adopters, but once the cat is out of the bag on the price, it’s short-lived.”
The best damn golf balls under 20 bucks? Sometimes, there is truth in advertising.
Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @GaryVanSickle