You need a lot of balls to play like I do… The Vice Golf interview

Generally players around the world are used to buy brand new golf balls for their private rounds, no matter how good their game is. A fairly costly procedure for the weekend golfers as most of them won’t finish their round with exactly that ball they started with, directly correlated to the number of hazards on the course obviously.

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Then someone discovered that scuba divers could be the solution to all that as they realised that hundreds if not thousands of balls lie at the bottom of the water hazards, ponds and lakes out there. It became business model to quite a number of companies lifting these balls, clean them, sort them and sell them again to the more cost sensitive customer. As you can imagine some of these balls were almost new, others have been lying down there for years. So effectively playing lake balls is like wearing second hand clothes, without trying them on.

Think about this when your group partner next time says something like he would never ever play anything else than Titleist balls – he might actually refer to 5-year old Titleist lake balls he just bought for a third of the original price.

For sure there are cheap ball companies as well, but for good reason very few people adopted playing with these. Golfers who strive for getting better in this game, who spend thousands for the right sticks, who pay thousands a year for a club membership… who would play with sub-optimal balls? So on the lower end of the price range the market was bleeding out due to lacking quality and missing customers’ trust.

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And then there are companies like Vice Golf, providing the golf ball market with affordable high-quality balls. Golficiency’s Alexander Rose spoke to Ingo Düllmann and Rainer Stöckl at Vice Golf and discussed their business model, strategy and targeted client base of this aspiring Germany-based golf ball company.

Golficiency: First of all thanks for taking the time to answer some questions, that’s much appreciated. Vice has managed to tap the toe into the golf ball market by providing high-quality balls for reasonable prices. How exactly do you manage that?

Vice Golf: Our brand succeeds by avoiding the middleman and selling exclusively via our own website (www.vicegolf.com). In addition, our customers receive further price advantages through larger packaging units as well as cutting out unnecessary PGA world class player sponsoring. For spontaneous buyers, there are also smaller trial units available.

There is quite some competition in the golf ball market. Brands like Titleist have a huge stake on pro tours, others dominate the club players market. What does Vice envisage in terms of market share in let’s say one and five years and how do you want to achieve that goal?

In contrast to traditional golf brands such as Titleist we are positioning our brand by collaborating with hip, high-quality, and design-oriented brands. In addition, we also focus on limited editions with individualized logo. Our aim is to make golf young and cool again. Regarding our stake in the market we will try our best and grow as fast as possible.

What is your typical target customer?

Golfers from all ages with a sense for design, focus on high quality, performance and a need for a great deal!

The team at my home club is playing Vice balls across the board. Do you envisage to treat this customer class differently? Or in other words, do you prefer competitive golfers as clients or more the weekend golfers as the ones who effectively lose more balls than others?

We love both, but in the end we sell high quality performance products which should be used also on a competitive basis.

Vice extended their product range over the last months in terms of colours, features and prices and as well offers personalization. What new products or services can the consumer expect in the near future?

Unfortunately I cannot tell you too much on this matter, but we will expand into other product categories and additionally will come out with a new ball model for 2015.

Your target client base is obviously international. What has been done exactly to attract golfers abroad to use Vice balls instead of their usual suspects? And how has the general international perception been so far?

Obviously we offer a great product for a great price. Besides that we focus on our customers’ needs. Well-designed products of the best quality available for a bargain – in comparison to what you would normally pay. Customization is also a big deal and we are proud to make this process as easy as 1,2,3. The perception in other countries was amazing! We are very happy to see that our brand also is appreciated in almost every country in Europe and also in Australia!

Vice is a Germany-based company. How is that an advantage or disadvantage, or how does this play a role in your distribution and marketing channels?

We engineer and design all our products in Munich, Germany. We pay attention to every detail and do not launch products before they are really finished! This probably is slowing us down a bit but we are proud to say that all of our products are tested until perfection is reached. Probably it’s the world class beer at the Oktoberfest (beerfest) and the beautiful golf courses which inspire us most and lead to our claim: EMBRACE YOUR VICE!

Thanks for the interview.

For more information please see http://www.vicegolf.com

Sometimes everything just comes together

That’s meant in a positive way, I have to add. Until last week I wasn’t really happy with my game lately. After a long time (more than two years) I really kick-started my golf again in April/May when I returned from the UK and joined a club near Frankfurt.

The idea was to play as often as possible and as a consequence, improve as much as possible. Obviously I was looking to decrease my handicap quite a bit this year. #Project12!

But it turned out to be much more complex. As the club fees around Frankfurt are quite expensive, I concentrated on playing many rounds on the weekend. I neglected practise and range sessions, never set my foot on a chipping green or practise bunker. Overall goal was to have fun on the course – which I really had. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed the year so far, the rounds, the people I met and tournaments I played. Just the numbers were not to come down unfortunately.

This had to change! I already mentioned in another post that I scheduled in a Trackman session with a pro in order to improve on details and get rid of that dirty hook. Currently I have absolutely no confidence playing with all my woods. On one day everything works fine, straight and long, the next day all balls end up in the rough or in the woods – be it driver, 3-wood or hybrid. And I have no idea what I did wrong, which is never good.

I was pretty mad about it over the last weeks and started to think about re-activating my 3- and 2-iron of my old set. A word and a blow, I’ve put these two clubs back in the bag, went to the course, had two lousy shots with them in the beginning and then everything was a pure pleasure, at least for my skill level.

On a short 9-hole course (5 par-3s, 4 par-4s) I shot a +4, four bogeys, rest pars. And guess what: I think about going back to my 2-iron on a permanent basis. It feels awesome and is much easier to hit than most would anticipate. In my case, I really can recommend giving it a try. Sure, not every set offers a 2-iron and usually the guys will tell you a hybrid is much easier to hit, but in my case this wasn’t true at all. A shot with a hybrid is much more comparable to a drive than an iron shot and as I’m pretty good in my iron play, the 2-iron was the easiest alternative, at least for tee shots.

So in case you’re playing well with irons, but you’re struggling with all woods in your bag, it might be a good idea to go with a 2-iron to get some length out of your shots, at least to try out!

I will re-activate and (re-grip) my whole set of old clubs now in order to have something in the background which could help my play and give confidence in case something goes wrong again with the woods. Long-term obviously I try to get rid of that nasty curve with the woods and will focus on shooting straight and long again – which is the reason I bought these bloody expensive Titleist clubs in the first place!

Maybe I should get myself a 1-iron… anybody with some experience?

Quick course update of the Garmin Approach S2

It’s over a year ago that I bought my Garmin Approach S2 golf GPS watch. I mean I have plenty of watches but this one has so much functionality which I really love. It had GPS data for 30,000 golf courses around the world already stored when I bought it and just today I made a quick 15-minute update: new courses, new GPS data, new course layout, etc. – easy as that.

After the installation of the Garmin Express application it was a simple plug and install process, very easy to handle. I guess once a year is enough for an update of course material.

There is no round in which I don’t wear the watch, I literally wouldn’t leave the house to go golfing without this device. The GPS information it provides is truly inevitable. It’s a complete different way of golfing: go to your ball, check the yardage (front of the green, middle of the green, back of the green), check for specialties such as wind and then chose a club, do your normal swing and there you are: on the green (well, theoretically). But it seriously totally changes your game and takes out the guessing and unclarity of exact distance to the target. Just a simple glance on the watch which displays all relevant data (even layup distances) and there you go.

I don’t want to praise it too much, but after a while you feel you can’t play without it anymore. Truly a great device that I’m happy about having bought it. Definitely recommend it!

Update: I just finished the course update installation. Apparently there is not enough space on the device to store all world-wide courses anymore. Therefore I had to pick 2 out of 3 packages that I liked to have installed. I chose “Americas” and “Europe, Middle East, Africa” and had to delete “Asia, Australia, Oceania”. So next time I’m traveling to Australia, could please someone remind me to install that again? Thanks! #FirstWorldProblems

Extensive Trackman session booked

Every tour player does it regularly and I couldn’t resist anymore. Just like Davis Love III in this picture, I booked some time with a pro for an extensive Trackman session.

For the ones who don’t know, Trackman is a radar device which analyses golf swings seconds after a shot. It instantly tells the user details about the swing speed, plane angle, club face angle at impact, spin rate and indicates the ball flight providing information on distance, trajectory and spin.

All very useful information for players to improve on details within the swing process. Be it hand rotation, level of the swing plane, speed or just overall coordination. Sure, these are just numbers and everybody has to interpret these for himself, but with the support of an experienced pro I believe players are able to adjust their swing for the better, with less trial and error, instead relying on numbers as a matter of fact. I’m really very excited about this!

As a frequent reader you might know that I’m playing a constant draw which from time to time (or more often unfortunately) comes out as a hook. To avoid this I booked two hours with Robert Schmalfuß today, a young PGA pro based in Friedberg, north of Frankfurt. Apparently he’s a Hank Haney Associate Pro (whatever that encompasses), Healthy Swing instructor, golf physio coach and generally knowledgeable in terms of using high-tech to support the practice sessions, be it the Trackman system for the long shots or the Zenio device for putting.

Something I’m looking forward to also is the video recording of my swing. Yes I could do that myself, but I want to rely more on a high-speed camera showing exactly my wrist action at impact, swing plane and a comparison to the “ideal swing”. I think I’m one of the visual learners and once I see my problems on screen I might be able to address them more properly.

Can’t wait for my high-tech golf practice session, have to wait until September though – this guy is pretty booked out! And I will let you know afterwards how it was and whether you should do it as well! #Project12

Continue reading Extensive Trackman session booked

Vice Golf Alemão Edition, for the FIFA World Cup addicts amongst you!

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I recently came across this cool thing: Vice Golf created two nice limited sets of golf balls – the German team and an international team. So for those of you who currently can’t decide what’s more important, football or golf, why not go golfing with football players’ heads printed on golf balls – a fair compromise I reckon :)

If you like the idea, check out the International Edition here.

Today I’m checking out these little white beasts!

I got myself a treat and was convinced by some of my golf buddies to check out Vice Golf balls. Look and feel is excellent, quality is supposed to be equal to other brand names and the cost-benefit-ratio is unbeatable, even compared to my usual lakeballs. I’ll give it a try today.

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Look what I found in my mailbox today! #vicegolf

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What they lack however is a golficiency logo on the side…

The team at my new home club, GC Bachgrund, plays Vice as well in their league games. Let’s see how my game can benefit from it… #Project12

Vice Golf – A brand with the right sense for price, performance and aesthetics

In terms of golf brands I’m pretty much settled I reckon. Titleist is always my choice for drivers, woods and irons, wedges are made by Bob Vokey and for putters I trust Scotty Cameron. So I’m pretty much a Titleist guy in golf, as I am a Canon guy in photography.

Furthermore I choose FootJoy for shoes and gloves. So again the Titleist, i.e. Acushnet family which I rely on.

For balls however, I was always switching around, never sure what to use, what impact to expect and struggled in general to sense much difference between balls – my game was just not constant enough. Boy, I know some people, either extremely young or with a handicap of 36 saying “I only play Titleist Pro V1″… and although I really appreciate Titleist, this attitude is totally rubbish in my opinion. A head shake was all I had for these type of guys.

So in my past I played everything which was not the cheapest but at the same time not as ridiculously expensive such as the Pro V1 or Pro VX1. I bought lake balls, played cheap Bridgestones or the Noodle, I’ve ordered hundreds of Nike and put my Golficiency logo on it.

But now I found another great alternative: Germany-based Vice Golf produce high-quality balls with a great price-performance ratio, plus the overall appearance of the brand is very much eye-pleasing. So exactly how I like it.

For the more personal touch, Vice offers an online configurator to offer prints and personalisation. I’d advise you pals, check out this film for a short introduction to the brand and give the website (link below) a chance. It’s worth a try!

Continue reading Vice Golf – A brand with the right sense for price, performance and aesthetics

Amateur live golf scoring made easy!

A while ago I spoke to a golf-savvy colleague and mentioned my blog and all the stuff I do for Golficiency. He was impressed and provided me with a youtube link, saying he could be found on the internet doing some fancy golf stuff, too.

vparlogoThe video he showed me was a short promo for a company called VPAR. He was interviewed on-course and gave a statement how he liked the system.

And this is what it does: If you ever attended a golf tournament on-site you might know what I mean when I say you can watch a golf tournament in three ways: (1) strolling along the holes, looking here and there but nowhere in particular, (2) following your favourite player around the course 1-18 and (3) following the action on the leaderboard, i.e. follow the guy in front because this is where the action is and where people play for money and trophies.

For professional matches – fair enough! For private rounds and tournaments this is different though. When you are playing in a society or in the monthly tournament you basically have no idea what’s happening behind or in front of you. You might have a feeling for the guys in your group but you generally have no idea whether you are the loser of the day or the big match winner being 2 strokes in front. Would that information change the way you would play the next holes? Yes it would indeed! What about the players already in the clubhouse, they can only sit back, have a beer or two and wait for the winning ceremony – there’s no possibility for them to check their own position against everybody’s else in the field.

gamebooklogoWell, actually there is. VPAR is exactly made for that and another app I came accross in the app store is GameBook. Both are systems that players use on the course to track strokes for themselves and the group and that automatically consolidate the data for all players who are connected. It synchronises the data with terminals in the clubhouse or with players using their own iPhone or iPad. With that everybody in the 19th hole is aware of what’s happening on the course.

I’m 100% sure this excites everybody more than just sitting around waiting for the last group coming in. But the biggest impact for sure is on the course. Imagine you are co-leading the tournament and you are just aware of that through the application in your hand, there are only 3 holes to play for you – you will definitely change the mindset for the upcoming strokes to play. Players will definitely adapt and will change playing behaviour when they are aware the winning pot is reachable with just a little risk more.

I can’t wait to test the systems over the next rounds. I will keep you posted. If you already have some experience with it, please feel free and share – just leave a comment below.

These are the systems you should take a look at. Both have their own iPhone/iPad apps available in the Apple app store:

GoPro action cameras work very well with golf

This video might be another proof that GoPro action cams work very well with golf, not only for surfers, scuba divers, skiers and wingsuit jumpers. I own a GoPro Hero 2 myself and used it a few times for golf (see the Stoke Park video for instance) but always felt a bit weird around the green carrying a small tripod with an action camera mounted. It is obviously something relatively new to the game of golf.

But I have to say, when you are out with the right buddies and you have some fun – why should someone be bothered by a camera, especially when the result is a nice short film that captures the perfect day in HD for the rest of the life.

So golfers, embrace the new wave of high tech even on the golf course, get armored with GoPros, head mounts, tripods, poles and creativity and create something similar to this:

This is an official GoPro video by the way, which underlines that GoPro starts reaching out to the target group of tech-savvy and young at heart golfers. I for one will keep going with my cam and try to come up with some nice golf footage in the future… who knows: the Australia trip is just around the corner – might get some nice shots over there!

What’s in my bag 2013

So far no new additions other than accessories and balls. Therefore the set more or less equals the 2012 setup, which is totally fine, I really like my clubs and have currently no intention for major updates.

Driver: Titleist 910 D2, 9.5°, Diamana ahina stiff
Woods: Titleist 910 F, 15°, Diamana ahina stiff
Hybrids: Titleist 910 H, 21°, Diamana ahina stiff
Irons: Titleist AP2 712, 4-PW, ProjectX 5.5
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Spin Milled SM4 (52.08, 56.08), ProjectX 5.5
Putter: Scotty Cameron California Del Mar 2012, 34″