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Bob Burns – A Brief History

Hi everyone and thanks for stopping by! It’s Super Bowl Sunday but our Chargers aren’t in it so I’m not really paying too much attention. The guys over at Bob Burns Golf sent over a really interesting article on Bob Burns and the history of his company. I had a chance to meet Bob at the PGA Show and he is a great guy. I thought I’d pass the article along for all of you to have a look at. There is some cool information on the beginnings of TaylorMade and the Hippo driver.

Bob Burns – Born and raised in Gary, Indiana starting working as a bag boy at the Gary Country Club where he later became caddy master. While at Gary Country Club, Bob was introduced to club repair, which became the foundation of his present success. Bob attended Northwood College where he played on the golf team all four years. After College, his dreams became reality; Bob became a PGA Golf Professional and landed his first pro job at Ravisloe Country Club in Chicago as an assistant. In 1970 he moved to Appleton, Wisconsin to take the head pro job at the brand new Chaska GC. At the time, Appleton was small town with a rapidly growing economy. Bob saw that the Appleton area was lacking someone capable of club making and repair and banking on his success at Chaska, he founded Bob Burns Custom Clubs, in 1975.

Bob designed and built the exclusive line of Bob Burns Custom Clubs, which were individually designed for each customer, his real talent was Persimmon woods. These woods were fit not just by length and flex, but because Bob had the machines and the ability to bore the club head more upright or flat, customize the loft, face insert material, adjust the overall weight, etc. A customer could even select from one of more than twenty colors. These woods made their niche among golfers of all types. In addition to club making and custom fitting he offered lessons at Chaska and in the winter months, taught at his downtown pro shop. The result was that golfers from all over the state came to see Bob and his facility.

In early 1978 Bob’s close friend Gary Adams who at the time was a sales rep in Wisconsin. Adams introduced the industry’s first metal wood and launched his new company, Taylor Made. The Taylor Made product line consisted of a single 12-degree lofted driver and a set of irons, all of which were assembled by Bob and his staff in his Appleton shop, from the early prototype stages until their move to Chicago. The company experienced immediate popularity and opened an assembly plant in Chicago in the fall of 1979. At the time, Bob was unwilling to sell metal woods due to their lack of customization. Although persimmon woods required much longer manufacturing time and cost much more to produce, he felt he could bring more satisfaction to the golfer by building clubs to fit his customers’ game.

Through many years of observing and teaching golfers, Bob knew that many golfers didn’t always have the time to take lessons and practice. He saw the instant success Adams had with Taylor Made and with that in mind, he developed a line of clubs to help golfers with the most common ailment in the game – The slice.

In 1987 Bob acquired the plant assets from the Wilson Sports Goods wood-manufacturing plant in Tullahoma, TN. The heavy machinery was purchased to mass-produce persimmon woods. With the evolving trend of metal woods, companies such as Wilson and others were leaving behind all thoughts of persimmon woods in hopes that metal woods might revolutionize the industry. The decision to switch by many companies wasn’t based solely on technology. Manufacturers were realizing lower costs, quick production time, assembly and less-repair. Bob believed persimmon woods could remain viable with simple changes and advancements in technology. He also thought the move to metal woods might handicap the ability to fit clubs to all types of golfers.

Bob was able to withstand the greatest technological change in golf, and still continued to build custom persimmon woods. In 1995 Bob introduced the “Hippo Wood”, his personalized answer to the metal wood.

The Bob Burns Hippo was an oversize persimmon wood driver with a 5 degree closed face. As with any wood club, the Hippo could be entirely custom made to the individual. The Hippo driver became extremely popular as golfer of all types found them easy to use. In 1995 Bob knew that metal woods were here to stay. He attempted to jump ahead of the metal wood craze. By designing his first Titanium driver, the “Hippo Wood was the industries first Form Forged Titanium Driver. “Golf Shop Operations, June 1996” At the time, this 230cc driver was extremely oversize and featured a 5-degree closed face for extreme playability. The driver was featured in Golf Shop Operations and Golf World Business. The same year, Bob completed his master’s thesis written on: club making, design, and repair and was named a PGA Master Professional. With his credentials and reputation, Bob’s metal Hippo driver gained popularity and caught the eye of a popular European based Manufacturer. The club company named HIPPO Golf is well known in both the U.S. and Europe. At that time, the company was attempting to enter into the prominent U.S. golf market. The company had only one problem – Bob Burns. Bob owned the U.S. trademark rights to “Hippo”, which made it impossible for the European company to enter the U.S. market. The owners of the European company were persistent in entering the market and made several offers to buy the trademark rights. Bob was quick to decline, but after several months and several uneasy visits later, the owners made Bob a satisfactory offer he couldn’t refuse.

Bob knew his ideas drove his technology and his product. The technology is what pioneered the idea. The idea could easily be renamed. In 1997, Bob did just that and decided to continue producing his persimmon and titanium drivers, retooling and renaming it “No Bananas” a golfing term which means, “no-slice” This is where the No Bananas story begins.

In the late 1990’s, the golf industry continued to evolve. Titanium and other metals were used in club head manufacturing. As the demand for persimmon wood continued to decline, Bob manufactured and later developed the first line of the oversize Titanium No Bananas drivers in 2001. One, offset and the other draw bias to better fit the majority of golfers. This same year the USGA and the R&A set the legal C.O.R. and head size limit.

The No Bananas driver and irons reached an unexpected level of popularity and satisfaction in a short time. While the popularity was gaining, the industry was making great technological advancements. Bob introduced a 360cc No Bananas driver and just months later, the 430cc No Bananas driver.

After several years of ups and downs, Bob finally caught his big break. The No Bananas generated great worldwide media buzz in middle of 2005, when Mike Stachura, golf equipment editor of Golf Digest, called Bob one snowy morning. He asked if the company would be interested in testing our No Bananas drivers at the Golf Digest laboratories in San Diego. Mike explained that golfers of various handicaps would be testing and commenting on divers considered “anti-slice” or “draw bias” he said:” Do you think your clubs are up for the test?” he asked, Bob replied “Yes” and immediately shipped a dozen No Bananas drivers and patiently waited 5 months for the results.

When the 2005 June issue of Golf Digest was published, its product test results revealed the Bob Burns No Bananas driver was best for reducing slices. The article was the first of three in 2005 and was responsible for an increase in sales by more than 30% for the year. January 2006, Bob and his staff decided to exhibit at the PGA Merchandise show for the first time in the history of their company. The show helped the company create over 20 accounts wo
rldwide, including GolfSmith, the world’s largest online golf retailer and Herrington Catalog, a leading upscale specialty catalog.

During the 2006 golf season the Bob Burns Golf Company introduced and completed a full No Bananas product line. This line consists of five types of drivers, fairway metals, hybrids clubs, irons and wedges. All share the same anti slice and game improvement technology as the driver. In addition to equipment, the company has diversified by introducing a full line of training aids. A new product, the No Bananas training glove and bag line are set to debut in 2007.

With the explosion of press coverage the No Bananas line has become a recognizable name. 2006 sales have increased an additional 25% from 2005. Bob Burns expects sales to increase an additional 5% before the year-end. The 2007-golf season is just around the corner. Bob and his sons have accomplished more than they’d dare to dream a decade ago, but they continue to set their goals, and their plans to reach them.

Now into 2007 Bob was name to the Golf Range Association Top 50 Instructors for a third consecutive year. In addition, the Bob Burns Golf Learning Center being named to the 2006 Top 100 Ranges in America.

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