The Equipment Insider

Break Even Golf parlays pandemic into prosperous putter pitch

Break Even Golf’s Pyramid Putter found new life during period when golfers were at home and online. Derrick Dobbin, BEG's managing principal, said the company capitalized on the down time with creative content to attract consumers

A good product isn’t always enough to succeed in the ultra-competitive golf equipment business.

Often, a new golf company needs a good break to make it. Or good timing.

In 2018, Pyramid Golf built what seemed like a classic better mousetrap — the Pyramid Putter, whose diagonal grooves create a gear effect that keep a putt on the intended line even on off-center hits. “Corrective lenses for putters” is what I called the concept in a story then.

But a marketing deal with Golf Channel and Golf Revolution was dissolved after Golf Channel restructured its business units and eliminated its Golf Revolution division. So Pyramid Golf was suddenly back to square one.

The company relaunched the Pyramid Putter in March under the Break Even Golf brand name and suddenly got just the break it needed: The Covid-19 pandemic.

“It was perfect timing,” said Derrick Dobbin, Break Even Golf’s managing principal.

Folks hunkered down, many golf courses closed but name an avid golfer who can’t find a carpet to practice putting somewhere in their house.

Pyramid Putter
The difference between the Pyramid Putter and its competitors are the diagonal grooves that help keep a putt on the intended line even on off-center hits.

“People were locked down and on their laptops at home,” Dobbin said. “They read their emails, they were on Facebook and they saw our display ads there. We came up with some creative content. If you don’t have something unique in the first 15 words or the first five seconds of a video, you’re not going to grab the viewer’s attention.”

Dobbin used online data to track his advertising, something called MER — Media Efficiency Ratio. It tracks how many dollars are spent and how much the advertiser gets back in sales. For a direct-to-consumer business online, the standard is $1.60 to $1.70 in sales for every $1 spent in advertising.

Dobbin stepped into the ad campaign cautiously, risking a few thousand dollars a day. The pandemic hit and customers hit the Internet.

“Our first week, our MER ratio was 2.4 ($2.40 in sales per $1 spent on ads). We weren’t expecting that,” he said.

That’s stunning success any new online product can only dream of, thanks it part to some creativity. Pyramid Putters did a recent blast on GolfPass with this stark headline: “When your putting makes you miserable, you are miserable on the greens. Most golfers are and it’s not your fault.”

Said Dobbin, “That grabs more attention. You’ve got to have a difference-maker that resonates.”

Another difference-maker is a 60-day return policy, no questions asked. That has Dobbin checking the daily returns more intently than checking the sales.

His company is virtual. He is based in the Denver area, as is Matt Stephens, the designer who created the Pyramid Putter. There are no other employees, only contractors, and only one of them, a tech guy, is full-time. This company is leaner than a greyhound on a diet.

This newfound success is a completely different model than the golf business of even a decade ago.

“It’s a total paradigm shift,” said Dobbin, who had success selling the F2 wedge in the 2000s. “When we were growing back then, we thought, ‘We need to get into retail, we need to get into big box stores like Golf Galaxy and Dick’s and all the green grass accounts.’ We had 1,100 retail accounts to manage. Those retailers were living off our advertising, and we paid half of our margins to them for the privilege.

“Plus you had to float the inventory for 30 to 60 days and you had some uncollectable accounts. It’s hard to run a business that way unless you’re highly capitalized like one of the big golf companies.”

Since opening a new website in mid-March, Break Even Golf has doubled Pyramid Putter sales every month. The fast start was shocking, turning what looked like plenty of inventory for three months into a situation where putters were back-ordered three weeks from the factory in China. Dobbin was air-shipping 2,000-3,000 clubs a week from China by the second week of April.

Break Even Golf's Derrick Dobbin and Matt Stephens
Derrick Dobbin, Break Even Golf’s managing principal, left, with Matt Stephens, who designed the Pyramid Putter.

The pandemic hurt production in China and distribution in the U.S. But interest in the putters has continued.

Why not? The science made sense in 2018 and it still makes sense. While with F2 Golf before, Stephens and Dobbin put money into a Hamilton putter that had micro-dome technology using tiny domes on the clubface that assured more surface contact with a golf ball than a standard flat-faced putter.

Stephens later came up with a better idea. He showed his prototype to Dobbin, who saw the triangular section on the clubface featuring diagonal grooves around a horizontally-grooved center area and said, “You know what? The face of the putter looks like a pyramid. That’s how the name came about.”

The horizontal grooves impart over-spin to get the ball rolling on the ground quicker, the diagonal grooves on either side create a kind of gear effect that imparts spin to send the ball slightly back toward the target line. Off-center hits self-correct, up to an extent.

There used to be a video on the old company website that showed a robot putter, dubbed Steady Eddie, hitting putts off the toe and the heel with a regular flat-faced putter. Those putts missed the cup. Steady Eddie switched to a Pyramid Putter and the toe- and heel-hits curved back on track and went in the hole. It was a pretty convincing video. The science works.

The Pyramid Putter comes in two traditionally shaped mallet and blade styles with nice alignment lines on top and sells for $199 on the website.

It’s a putter with a lot of potential. But it took a global pandemic to get the Pyramid Putter global attention.

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