In the late 70’s, I owned a practice range in California where I sold tokens for buckets of balls and gave some lessons. I kept seeing these tattered, heavy golf bags showing up at the range every day and thought that there had to be a better way. A highway expansion was putting my range out of business so I was looking for new opportunities.
I started looking at the construction of other sport bags, like backpacks. I studied the materials and construction techniques and applied that to the needs of a golfer. I started
tinkering in the garage and after a lot of trial and error – the first lightweight golf bag was born.
I was working with contract sewers and assembling bags in my garage and selling them to pros out of the back of my station wagon.
In 1986, we made the first golf bag with built-in legs — an invention considered by most to be the single biggest breakthrough in the modern golf bag. The stand bag was born, and we called it ECLIPSE. The next several years were a blur as we worked to keep up with the unbelievable demand created by the ECLIPSE and the creation of the stand-bag.
MATT WARD: What’s your take on the golf industry for ’16 — bullish or bearish and why ?
RICK REIMERS: I tend to be watchfully bearish, in general, with hopes that a bit of introspective paranoia will help me spot new opportunities for growth.
MW: What distinguishes Sun Mountain golf bags from your main competitors?
RR: Our primary point of differentiation is that golf bags are the foundation and main-stay of our business. We’re not designing clubs and looking at golf bags as a branding opportunity. We’re in the shop everyday working with new materials and new designs and listening to our customers to build a better golf bag.
MW: How do you gauge customer satisfaction?
RR: Well, it’s generally pretty easy to gauge customer satisfaction. Our customer service folks hear about it when we mess up and our sales show it when we hit a homerun.
MW: What impact does customer feedback have in terms of shaping new product development or enhancement of existing items?
RR: Feedback and careful observation play a huge role in the continuous improvement of our products. We watch and listen to learn how people are working around less than optimal design and then we look for solutions. As one example, we saw golfers reaching into the top of their bags to pick the bag up between shots. And we thought, there has to be a better way. That led to the Roller-Top handle, which morphed into the handle molded into the bag top which has now become an industry norm.
MW: What’s the percentage breakdown of overall sales — retail, green grass shop and online ?
RR: Boy, that’s a moving target with retailer mergers and acquisitions and the continual growth of selling on-line. No doubt the lion’s share of our accounts are green grass shops.
MW: Golf has stagnated in recent years — millennials are not following past generations into the game as others have. If you were advising some of the major stakeholders such as the USGA, PGA of America, National Golf Course Owners — what would you recommend?
RR: Pace of play is a major issue in my opinion. The pace at which people live and recreate is constantly quickening and the game of golf needs to move with it. As with most things, it’s doubtful there’s one easy solution. Rather it will be a combination of factors. People are obviously willing to wait and pay a premium for quality – just look at the lines at the favorite coffee shops. So, it’s not totally about cost and time. It’s about making the experience worth the cost and the time.
MW: You can change one thing in golf — what is it?
RR: One thing? How about the incessant practice swings some take before each shot. I think one or twois enough. That seems like a reasonable change.
MW: What’s the biggest pet peeve you have when leading your company and how do you reinforce its importance to your team?
RR: How’s the saying go, “There never seems to be time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over”? Let’s take the time and get it right, the first time.
MW: What are the key trends you see developing for companies like Sun Mountain and what are you doing proactively to respond?
RR: Walk around the PGA Show. There’s a lot of copycat products out there. We always have and always will strive to be an innovator.
MW: Curious to know — best advice you ever got — the circumstances related to it — and who provided it?
RR: My dad always said, find something you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.