Vice Golf interview: 'golfers have been brainwashed'

Vice Golf founder on their modern approach, converting 'brainwashed' golfers, potentially teaming up with a top-20 pro. 

Charlie Lemay's picture
Wed, 27 Jun 2018
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Vice Golf make what they believe are the best golf balls out there, for a significantly lower price compared to other premium products.

How do they do it? Sell direct to consumer, allowing them to cut out the middle men.

This approach has seen the young German company flourish, evolving their brand into one of the most exciting in golf. And we can rubber stamp the quality of the balls - we've had them in play, and are shocked by their performance. 

We spoke to Vice Golf's Ingo Düllmann.

VICE WORLD CUP GOLF BALLS


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Why have you called the company Vice?

When we started in late 2011 with our company there were a lot of names popping up. We were searching for a short name, one which sounds a bit edgy and had some connotations. There’s a few reasons - Miami Vice in the 80s...playing golf is a vice and we really enjoy it. You know instead of staying with your family you go golfing, everyone has to understand golf is your vice somehow. We thought it was a great name for a brand, a lifestyle we were trying to set up. It matches the way see, play and live golf.

VICE INTERVIEW: THE BALL THAT PLAYS LIKE THE BEST, BUT DOESN'T HURT YOUR WALLET

I think it’s fair to say your brand goes after younger players?

Looking at the global golf market there is a problem with getting younger people into golf. I can’t say we started this, and say we are the ones trying to make golf cool.  

From a brand perspective we target younger people. But our range goes from a 14-year-old who has just started to an 86-year-old player that is still going. We have a product that is dedicated to being played by all.

If you see a Porsche advertisement you don’t see the 68-year-old driving it you see a younger person. That’s what we do at Vice - everyone wants to be young again, and be young on the golf course, and that’s why we attract all age of players.

We are not a historic brand, we are young and we do things differently.

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How are you doing things differently?

We have a more modern approach compared to the traditional brands. The way we sell, the attention to details, we don’t compromise on quality, we try to sell for the best price which are all differentiators to the other brands.

We don’t have the pressure of retail, which means we can spend out time on developing new products. We can take more time because we don’t have to throw something out quickly. The quality is good, the style is matching our brand, it allows us more freedom to develop things until we think they are done. This is a huge advantage on traditional brands who have to comply to certain timing difficulties.

Let’s talk cost - if you didn’t sell direct to the consumer would your product cost the same as other premium balls?

Yes, totally.

When we started everyone said we couldn’t sell just online we had to go through golf shops and so on, but when we did our calculations we thought we didn’t want to have to raise our price for the shop.

We saw other brands in other areas - sunglasses, razors etc - selling direct to consumer and we thought no, we can do that in golf with a great product and great design.

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Would this model work for other products in golf?

Some people have tried, but I don’t think in the right way. If done correctly it could work. We’re not sure if we want to go that way, we are balls at the moment. But you never know. If we do you can be sure we will do it differently to everyone else.

When we see an opportunity to improve something, we do it. If we see currently a service is OK and it can’t be done better we don’t do anything. We’re not just doing things to be different, it has to be better.

Have you found it hard to get golfers trying your balls?

Great brands like Titleist or Callaway have been out there for decades and have spent millions on advertising and brainwashing golfers, which is understandable.

From a customer standpoint I understand why they think the product they play is the best, which makes it more difficult for younger brands or brands like us which have a different approach.

Those traditional brands target customers differently from how we do through retail, through traditional media, and nowadays with social media and the other ways you can market products, you can address golfers much more privately and in a more dedicated way and easily show them a product like ours doesn’t need to be of lower quality just because it is a lower price.

It’s an educational thing, it’s not just with golf balls there are lots of products like that.  So we are working to convince people ours is as good as any product out there.

 

Are you going to team up with any pros?

We're not saying no, and we have been in contact with a group of players in the top-20 on the PGA Tour, but we haven’t found the right time.

Those players cost a lot of money, and we think just because you have a player using your ball that doesn’t mean your ball is better...it’s just a marketing exercise. We think it’s more valuable to do things like winning the gold medal in Golf Digest for the third year in a row. They do it in an objective way with robots, with no sponsorship or anything. This builds trust more than spending a tonne of money on some players who play great golf but can’t tell you more about the quality of the ball compared to someone from a lower Tour.

When the time is right and we find the right player, one we think not only matches just for reach but their mentality and style, then we might consider it. Hopefully we have enough money to do it!

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How has the reception been in Germany?

We started here in 2012. It’s our home market, we have been successful for a long time, we’ve become the official golf ball of the German league system, both pro and amateur. This was a huge honour.

But Germany is a pretty small market, so we started growing into German speaking countries and then English speaking countries, as well as France and Sweden, and eventually the US.

At this point the US is our biggest market, followed by the UK, and we are growing in those two markets exponentially. We have experienced nothing but good feedback from those markets, which has been phenomenal.

Those two markets live golf in a different way. In Germany golf is still an elite sport, people try to hide from it. Politicians, even if they play golf they try to hide it. It’s very different. We want to change that.

There are many different approaches to the game of golf. There will always be elite clubs and that’s fine, but there should also be public courses where you can get into the game and just enjoy hitting the ball.  There is still some way to go, but golf is evolving.

 

What’s new from Vice?

In 2018, we have launched updated versions of almost all our balls. They are doing really well especially our Pro, Pro Plus and Pro soft models which  are selling crazy.  For this season we launched tees which match our balls which have low friction and are ecological.

For the majors we will have special hats and balls, and we will be launching more stuff in our bag series. We adjusted our successful stand bags with features our customers are asking for which went into the 2.0 versions of our bags. We will also have some apparel items coming up in early August. As always, all are great quality and price.

Any future collabs we can look forward to?

We did our first collaboration with the NBA. It’s been interesting as we have lots of people in the company who are big basketball fans so we will continue this. We have been talking to a lot of the big brands too, and there are a few who want to do some work with us - but I can’t say who. But you can expect a lot of new products from us.

Head to the Vice website for more. 

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