When the material or fit is off, headcovers can be a scourge to a golfer’s patience. Maybe the aesthetic is nice, but is it worth the battle every time to rip the headcover off or stuff it back on?
This cost-benefit analysis has never been part of the equation for customers of Sunfish, a company that has specialized in homemade wool head covers that offer a vintage feel and a comfortable fit around the club head.
The customer need for customization has long been satisfied by Sunfish, and the company prides itself on affordable prices without diminishing the product in the process.
“We don’t have a mission statement,” Sunfish co-founder Alonzo Guess said. “But the closest thing to it would be providing tremendous options, excellent quality and excellent pricing.”
But Guess and fellow co-founder David Riggs are no longer content in dealing solely in the wool business (the company also produce wool hats, scarves, beer holders and animal head covers). Sunfish is attempting to conquer a different frontier: leather.
In the headcover business, companies usually deal in either wool or leather, not both. Guess and Riggs are bucking that trend.
Seven months ago, the pair expanded beyond the company’s wool offerings, moving into leather headcovers a year after first contemplating the extra option.
The decision wasn’t born out of financial strife. It’s the customer that Sunfish goes great lengths to appeal to, so when Guess and Riggs realized their consumer base could benefit from more options, the choice to expand was simple.
“We just wanted to have another offering for customers,” Guess said. “Not everybody wants a knit wool cover, and not every customer wants a leather cover. But I guarantee you if you offer both of those, you’ll be able to make a lot more people happy.”
Guess hasn’t noticed a huge divergence in the demographics of those who buy leather versus wool, but the former does have a more modern look and thus tends to appeal to a younger audience.
Leather is also more resistant to wet weather, although Guess notes that neither material in their headcovers is severely affected by rain. And for those looking for a shorter headcover, leather is the way to go.
Additions in leather go beyond headcovers for Sunfish, as the company now also sells leather scorecard/yardage book holders.
Sunfish debuted that product at the PGA Merchandise Show in January, and it has caught on quickly. The scorecard/yardage book holders are a higher-end product, but Guess says they are beloved by club professionals and serve as useful alternatives to the same old goodies found in club tournament gift baskets.
And once golfers have it in their hands, the convenience is clear.
“People like to have their scorecards and yardage books in some sort of holder so they don’t get all crinkled up,” Guess said. “There’s also a pen or pencil holder built into each one. You can also flip over the holder and it gives you something hard to write and make notes on. It’s an all-in-one package.”
Sunfish is a two-pronged business model on the golf side, selling headcovers or headcover sets (both customized and not) to individuals from its website and producing freshly-logoed headcovers to some of the nation’s top courses, who can then price out the goods (or gift them) to their members.
Guess estimates that Sunfish is in business with 30 of the top 100 courses in the United States. And he believes the company produces about 50 percent of its sales from each sector.
Sunfish is a growing entity with overwhelming customer satisfaction. But staking one’s reputation to brandishing the every whim of the consumer can be a bit of a double-edged sword. It means that Guess and Riggs are constantly implementing new features based on customer feedback.
“We take seriously customer feedback whenever we develop a new design,” Guess said.
In addition to the move into leather, the duo expanded on their headcover sets in recent months. In past years, headcover sets from Sunfish comprised driver, fairway wood and hybrid.
Four months ago, at the behest of customer feedback, Sunfish started selling blade putter covers ($34.99) in wool and leather.
And still the tinkering is not done.
“[There’s the] customization of leather head covers, via the custom leather head cover builder” Guess said. “We’ll be able to build you exactly what you’re looking for [when it comes to leather].”
The leather headcover customization is a recently launched feature on Sunfish’s website and involves several avenues at unique designs, including a list of different colors and striping options, and implementation of monograms, logo embroidering or piping.
Oh, and Guess and Riggs are in the (careful, meticulous) process of developing mallet putter cover heads that suit the wide array of shapes and sizes that comes with this type of flatstick.
The success of leather is the main focus for Sunfish, though, for the time being. The seven months in leather have netted great sales and fantastic reviews. Wool remains the paramount seller for Sunfish in the present.
Guess is planning on that changing in the near future.
“We’re hoping to get the leather up to the same marketshare for us as wool this year,” Guess said. “2015 is the year we do as much volume in leather as in wool.”
A lofty goal, yes, but so far Sunfish has found positive results in every venture it has attempted.