Inspiration often appears in unlikely places. For Hal Hannon, founder of Golfology, a Carlsbad putter manufacturer, it came in a hospital bed in October 1994. Recovering from a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery, Hannon badly needed a boost.
“I was trying to think of a reason to fight,” explains Hannon. “The idea for the Golfology weighting system came to me right there in the hospital.” A month after open heart surgery, Hannon drove to Palm Springs and willed himself through 36 holes of golf in one day. “I didn’t play very well, but at that point, I didn’t care,” recalls Hannon. He was back among the living and playing golf again.
Hannon was the inventor of the PLOP putter, and pioneered the individual fitting of putters to the golfer. He eventually sold his interest in PLOP and waited out the noncompete agreement. In 1995, after a quick recovery from his heart attack, Hannon was off and running with his new putter company, Golfology.
The concept behind the club is simple in theory, but complex in execution. “It all goes back to the release of the club,” explains Hannon. “With irons and woods, a heavy club head and light shaft will promote a good release of the hands through the hitting zone. With the putter, there should be no release of the wrists at all.”
Golfology has developed a putter with a very light head and a zone weighting system in the shaft where the weight is up by the hands. This configuration makes the shoulders, not the wrists, become the fulcrum for the stroke, resulting in more consistent, accurate putting.
“Because of the physics of the weighting system,” says Hannon, “it’s almost impossible, given a reasonable stroke, to accelerate the club head past the hands.”
Many of golf’s greatest putters – the likes of Bobby Jones, Bobby Locke and Gene Sarazen played in an era of heavy hickory shafts and tiny putter heads. Hannon believes, whether by design or accident, those antique clubs had the right stuff.
Golfology has three patents on its putters, covering the weighting system, the shaft and the grip. The shaft and grip are both octagonal in shape, providing flat surfaces that are parallel or perpendicular to the target line. “You can square the putter head to the target with your eyes closed, just by using your hands,” notes Hannon.
Sales in 1996 were $800,000, 50 percent of which came from Japan. Projected sales for 1997 are approximately $1 million, with only 25 percent coming from Japan. Golfology also projects a profit for the first time this year. The putters retail in the $100 range.
When contacted at Polar Golf, Ken Bowman endorsed the Golfology concept. “It’s a great putter, and a really good idea having the weight up high in the handle. It keeps the hands quiet. I don’t really like the octagonal grip though.” Bowman notes that sales of the Golfology putter have slowed some of late. He cites a lack of advertising as the primary reason. “Advertising really drives the golf business.” Hannon agrees and is developing an advertising budget. “We hope to be on television by this summer.”
It remains to be seen whether the Golfology putter will someday become the gold standard of putters. But there is no doubt this dedicated “Golfologist” has found his reason to fight. And it looks like he’s winning.
Tony Allison has been writing about the business of sports for three years and loves to challenge area golf courses with his shrinking handicap.
San Diego Metropolitan Magazine, Apr. 1997.