Director of Research and Development
Srixon/Cleveland Golf/XXIO North America
Jeff Brunski was born and raised in Upstate New York and began hacking his way around local courses around age 13. After receiving a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, he accepted a position as a Performance Research Engineer at Cleveland Golf. Fast-forward twelve years and Jeff is now leading the product-development team – helping to create innovative products like the recent award-winning Cleveland Golf RTX-3 wedges and Huntington Beach Collection putters. Much has changed in the golf industry over the last decade, but Jeff and the Srixon/Cleveland Golf/XXIO team remain steadfast in their passion for creating best-in-class products to help golfers everywhere score better and enjoy the game more.
THE BRUNSKI STORY —
I spend my day working with passionate, creative, and fiercely competitive product-developers, seeking to push innovation in golf equipment. I feel lucky to work in such a fun industry. When I was a freshman at college, I learned about golf club engineering in a freshman seminar on the design of sports equipment, and four years later I found a job doing just that. I love working on products that combine such rigorous engineering and manufacturing with beautiful and innovative design.
MATT WARD: Over the last several years Srixon has made major moves in the equipment and ball areas. Elaborate on the progress being made.
JEFF BRUNSKI: No way I can touch on everything, but here’s a highlight reel. Srixon led the way into optical technology with Tour Yellow – an offering that’s been copied by most major competitors. The same thing is now happening with Spin Skin – the ultra-flexible, high-friction coating we apply to the golf ball to produce more greenside spin. We’ve continued to make some of the thinnest and softest covers in golf, our Energetic Gradient Growth (E.G.G.) core technology produces superior launch conditions and ball speed, and our tenth-generation Soft Feel golf ball continues to be one of the most successful low-compression offerings out there. When it comes to equipment, nothing touches our irons when it comes to incredibly soft forged feel, with the new Tour V.T. Sole a favorite on Tour. Srixon woods feature some of the most aggressive cup faces in the market, producing outstanding distance in a traditional, players shape.
MW: Nike left the equipment / ball side in 2016 — what will that mean overall to those remaining in the respective categories?
JB: It’s an opportunity. Nike was particularly strong in 2-piece game improvement offerings, and Srixon makes excellent golf balls in the Soft Feel and Q-STAR. Those two golf balls are basically 2-piece balls which play like a 3-piece due to the E.G.G. core technology. We are aggressively pursuing those Nike customers who are now looking for a new, high-performance, affordable golf ball.
MW: Equipment and ball companies are in an area monitored by both the USGA and R&A. How would you assess the role both organizations are doing in regards to regulations tied to equipment and balls used?
JB: Very challenging question. As governing bodies, they are serving in roles to effectively enforce the rules and regulations on golf equipment. I wouldn’t say they have a perfect track-record of doing so in a completely fair and straightforward manner, but nobody is perfect. When it comes to acting in the best interest of the game, I am optimistic to see recent efforts in making the game faster, simpler, and therefore more welcoming to average players. I appreciate that there is a difficult balance between preservation and adaptation, and for the most part, I think those organizations do their best to walk the line.
MW: In a scale of 1-10 with 1 being very low and 10 being very high — how would you assess the communication skills that both the USGA & R&A are doing in working with equipment and golf balls companies today?
JB: This feels like a loaded question! I would rate them around an 8. In general, it’s very easy to communicate with the folks at the USGA; they are truly a phone call away at any time, and they make efforts to ensure we see their changes coming a long way off. I can’t give them a 10, though, because there’s always room for improvement!
MW: How important is it for providers of clubs and balls to have world class players use such items when competing?
JB: Their feedback is truly crucial to our design and development process. With some exceptions – such as more of the game improvement products – we begin the research phase by gathering Tour feedback. We can dissect performance very scientifically in the laboratory with microscopes and robots and simulation analysis, but there is nothing in the world which can replace the feedback from the best players in the world.
MW: If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally what would it be and why?
JB: Bifurcate the rules on equipment. The game is very challenging; people should have the option of using equipment that makes it significantly easier and more fun, beyond what’s possible within today’s rules. Manufacturers can technically make this equipment today, but with the rules in their current form, there is both the potential for confusion in the marketplace and a negative stigma surrounding non-conforming products. I think it would be a win-win to update the rules and bring more people into the game.
MW: Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
JB: Work hard and be nice to people. Anthony Burrill. Pretty straight-forward.
MW: Fitting is a major emphasis point in today’s golf world. What approach does Srixon take in this area?
JB: Innovation in fitting is something Srixon takes seriously. We can put all kinds of technology into our golf balls, but if you’re playing the wrong one, you’re not going to reap the right benefits. Our approach to fitting is to first acknowledge the fact that players of different ability should be playing different golf balls — not everyone benefits from a tour golf ball. Beyond that, something we’re trying recently is to seed 6-pack promotional packages in retail accounts in advance of our new product launches. By pricing these promo packs extremely aggressively, we give consumers a very inexpensive way to test the ball on their own time during an actual round. Nothing compares to putting a ball through the paces from tee to green to understand if it’s working for you.
MW: Another element for companies today is customer service. Explain the approach taken by Srixon and how it goes beyond what your competitors are doing?
JP: Srixon is beefing up their sales and customer service force while other companies are actually downsizing their “feet on the ground”. This is important especially as it relates to field events, which help to create demand for products as well as help our accounts sell through their current inventory. In addition, we are actively focusing on and dedicating more resources to the type of smaller accounts being ignored more and more by other companies. On a daily basis, we focus on servicing accounts that typically never receive a phone call or an opportunity to receive the same customer service as the “big guys”.
MW: What likely advances do you see happening in the years ahead for both clubs and balls?
JP: The availability of data is exploding right now. I think golfers in the future will have access to all the data available to professionals right now: swing data, launch conditions, full flight data, on-course shot data, etc. And, as manufacturers, we can use that data to improve our product offering and fitting services. I expect that to allow us to identify and target specific players or player segments more effectively — providing advancements in product performance through better understanding of player needs.
* * *
WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?