1. Interview with Steve Rider
2. Missing two-inch putt
3. Hitting spectator with drive
4. Date with supermodel
5. Missed cut
6. Winning a major
7. New Lexus deal
8. Distracted by crisp packet noise
The above logo is embroidered onto all of our carbon neutral organic cotton t-shirts & polo shirts for golf. Why?
When I was a teenager, my family lived in North Wales, on the Isle of Anglesey. My local golf course; Baron Hill Golf Club situated in the seaside town of Beaumaris, comprised of nine holes with the fairways maintained by roaming sheep. The second, third and forth holes ran adjacent to one another and when the wind blew, there was an excellent chance of being hit by errant tee shots.
My favourite hole, was the short dog-leg right 7th. You had to carry your drive, approximately 150 yards over an outcrop of rocks to reach the plateau fairway. Leaving you just a short iron approach to the green. The small green was guarded on the right by a tall oak tree, which made cutting the dog-leg from the tee a real gamble.
One wind swept day, everything was going well, with a good chance of lowering my best score. I reached for my wooden driver on the 7th tee, and aimed for the fairway. It was a good strike, with plenty of power but lacking in altitude. An almighty crack, saw my ball ricochet back towards the tee after hitting the rock face. Keeping calm, I still believed I could rescue the situation, by playing a three wood onto the fairway. Another swing, and another crack, as my ball struck the rock face again, this time deflecting at an acute angle. Three further attempts, I'd forgotten about my score and found myself smashing the driver onto the rocks, swearing and with tears in my eyes.
This is probably why today, I'm a graphic designer and not a golf pro.
At the beginning, Golf Refugees were formed to enable us and our friends, to feel more at home when playing golf, by wearing our own clothing and playing with our own balls. We were looking for an image or product that could communicate our brand identity. Whilst searching through numerous 'same as' golf magazines, we noticed they were full of big brands all claiming that their white ball travels further than a competitors white golf ball. This is where the idea for our black golf ball sprouted.
As a new brand, we initially had some media exposure through an appearance on Channel 4's early morning 'Big Breakfast' TV show, interviewed by loud mouth Johnny Vaughan and the tasty Denise Van Outen. Next, we filmed three of our skateboarding friends trying to play golf through the hazardous streets of London, filmed by us and MTV, for broadcast on their sports show called 'Balls' hosted by rapper Coolio.
At this stage, with only had a painted black ball to show the audience, but the response was so positive, that we realised we had to make the idea a reality. After talking to a golf ball engineer at Titleist, who helped us to understand the technical aspects of golf ball design, we set off with some cash to find a manufacturing partner. Wishing to find a local manufacturer, we visited Penfold in Birmingham, UK. but they refused to make a black golf ball. Ironically, Birmingham is known as part of the 'black country'. Realising that most other UK based manufacturers had closed down, their moulds shipped out to the far east, it became clear we had to look overseas. After six months, we eventually found someone willing to work with us and developed a black golf ball to our specifications. The main technical objective was to try and increase the temperature of the core, as Titleist had told us that if you can achieve this a performance advantage can be gained. From this conversation Golf Refugees developed Thermal Distance Technology ( TDT ) to produce the ultimate long distance ball. The warmer a golf ball gets, the more efficiently it can transfer energy for entra distance. Our two-piece ball, has an ultra-thin heat-absorbing black cover with a high conducting metal-mix core.
Samples were sent out to numerous style, fashion and golf magazines. It became apparent that the style magazines loved the concept of a black ball, whilst the golf industry mags were dubious, Golf World calling it 'bonkers'. Golf Refugees were open to the fact that our black ball is designed to perform in hot sunny conditions, it is more visible in the air but less visible on the ground than a traditional white golf ball. None the less, we were confident we had created an iconic golf ball.
Through a contact in California, who worked for Reeebok, our black balls were featured in GQ USA, and played with in pro-am events by Alice Cooper and NFL football stars filmed by ESPN. It won the longest drive competition at the MGM media golf challenge day. The response was fantastic and we started negotiations with Modern Amusements about including our black ball & clothing in selected stores across the USA. Mean while back in the UK, Selfridges & Dockers had agreed to stock our original black golf ball.
We were flying high, until news from one of our USA customers e-mailed us of the imminent arrival of a Nike black golf ball. Reports ranged from it just being a PR stunt to help launch their new white golf ball called Nike One Black, because of it's black graphics. However, it soon became a reality that Nike had manufactured a black ball, given it to some of their golf professionals and started a media campaign. What had taken us nearly two years was all undone in a matter of days. The Nike black ball was splattered across all forms of media, we'd been buggered by the mighty swoosh.
Nike perhaps did something that we couldn't of done. They made the idea of a black golf ball legitimate with the golfing media. The golf magazines who thought our original black ball was bonkers, we're all soon lovin the Nike black ball. The same magazines were not too keen to mention, let alone test and compare our original black ball to Nike's. Understandable, considering the amount of money Nike spend on advertising, editors had to protect their revenue streams, still it was a bitter blow to us. One glimpse of light was freelance golf journalist, Tom Cox, who agreed to play with both black balls, albeit on a cold and damp February day and write an article for The Times newspapers, where a Nike executive is quoted as saying 'never heard of Refugee Golf black ball'
Let me try to explain why, we're all hackers, personally, I may of broken 90 a couple of times, but breaking a 100 is always a triumph. It's difficult to relate to winning a major championship, let alone multiple victories. If in a similar position to Tiger, would we of sold out to Nike and dressed like an old man? Who knows. For these reasons, Tiger just isn't a suitable golfing hero for us.
Now Maurice; Maurice Flitcroft, a chain-smoking crane driver from Barrow-in-Furness, did something that all of us hackers could have attempted. He used his guile and sense of humour to enter the qualifying rounds of the Open championship. Maurice posted the highest recorded score of 49 over par for the first eighteen holes, before being banned for life by the men in blazers from the R & A. He was to return by outwitting the authorities by using cunning disguises and taking the name of his Alsatian dog.
Maurice Flitcroft is our true golfing hero. Below is a tribute video by Golf Refugees to Maurice.
There are now hundreds of convoluted rules for golf. With a few more added for each new year.
What's wrong with 'play the ball where it lies'?
As with most organisations, the governing bodies of golf in the UK ( R&A ) and across the pond ( USGA ), have set about, successfully, expanding their ranks, to increase their own importance. This has led to an army of blazer wearing middle aged men, who sit at their desks dreaming up new rules. Where you need to ascertain what type of animal has made the marks, your ball now rests, before you can find the appropriate penalty. This rule, was probably dreamt up by a blazer after watching the Natural World on TV. Enough is enough.
For 2009, let's re-write their job descriptions and ask them politely, to start reducing the number of rules in golf to a level, where most golfers including professionals, can understand and remember what they are.
I recall with with a smile on my face watching Bernard Langer hit a ball out of a tree. Let's see more of this. Do we really need all these specified drop zones? How about removing a free drop from golf?
If a professional golfer hits their ball next to a television cable or adjacent to a grandstand and deems the ball unplayable, it should be a penalty. The cables aren't strewn down the centre of the fairways or the stands built in the middle of the greens. They know where these tournament hazards are, after all the practise rounds.
The game of golf is being suffocated by a plethora of unnecessary rules.
Some commentators were concerned about whether you can trust a new idea from a relatively unknown brand?
Tiger Woods used to play and win with a Titleist ball, until Nike decided to pump lots of marketing money into the game of golf. Their strategy was to sign up the best players, and they duly offered Tiger a very lucrative sponsorship deal which others refused to match. At that time, unlike Titleist and Callaway, who set up their own golf ball manufacturing facilities. Nike used Bridgestone golf balls, they were simply transported from a Bridgestone factory and adorned with a swoosh to make them a Nike product. A while later, Tiger has continued his winning streak, now using Nike golf balls, and Nike have significantly grown their market share.
To me, this poses the question, why do people trust the larger brands? It's all just marketing, either by product endorsement or advertising or both. Tiger can win with any golf ball.