Their Own Words Bobby Jones Golf

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Editors Note: The Bobby Jones Golf Company was conceived by the family of Bobby Jones ( a group known as the Jonesheirs) and entrepreneur Walter Rosenthal. Mr. Rosenthal immediately sought the involvement of famed golf club designer Jesse Ortiz and a deal for the exclusive world wide license was secured by the Bobby Jones Golf Company.
 
Jesse Ortiz is best known as the man behind the meteoric rise of the Orlimar Golf Company. His TriMetal and Hip Ti wood designs were considered by many to be some of golfs most revolutionary advancements. He comes to the Bobby Jones Golf Company with over thirty years of design experience.

 
A Conversation with Jesse Ortiz, Chief Designer, The Bobby Jones Golf Company
 
Casey/Q:
Jesse, give us the Ortiz family history in golf.
 
Jesse Ortiz
Jesse Ortiz, Chief Designer, The Bobby Jones Golf Company
Jesse/A:
Sure, Casey. My dad started Orlimar in 1960. My dad was a tool and die maker by trade. He was a tool and die maker for a company called Pelton Water Wheel in the warehouse area of San Francisco. They made parts for large turbines for PG&E. He didnt know a golf club head from a grip to a shaft. But, he had a buddy of his who was working at a small golf company near the Olympic Club called Fernquist & Johnson. Old timers might remember Fernquist & Johnson as the company that made golf clubs for Ken Venturi and Tony Lema. They were local boys in the San Francisco area. So my dads buddy kind of got him interested in repairing and making clubs. And thats really how Orlimar got startedrepair work and making persimmon woods.
 
Casey/Q:
When did you get involved with the company?
 
Jesse/A:
I got in there when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I think that was in about 1955 or 1956.
 
Casey/Q:
And that was a natural thingfor you to start working with your dad?
 
Jesse/A:
Thats a nice way of putting it. With my dad, it was more like, hey kid, youre twelve years old. Its time to get to work. Thats the way it was with my dad. He was raised in the old country ' the Basque country in the northern part of Spain ' and thats the way it was. You were a kid, you worked. If it was a family business, you did what you could. Im fond of saying that my first job with my dad was dumping out the coffee cans scattered around the shop that were filled with rain water from the leaks in the roof.
 
Casey/Q:
So, he gave you all the glamorous stuff to work on?
 
Jesse/A:
Yeah, right. By the time I was 14 I was working on clubs. I was pouring epoxy inserts, re-epoxying sole plates, putting the score lines in irons, drilling the bore necks for the persimmon woodsall that kind of stuff I was doing. And the more I got involved the more I got in to the more critical aspects of facing the clubs and things like that. So, I guess you could say it was natural for me to get involved, but really, it was expected. Fortunately, it grew on me and I learned to love golf club repair and eventually golf club design.
 
Casey/Q:
What do you remember as your first sophisticated design effort?
 
Jesse/A:
I would say in 1978, somewhere around there, when I was in my early 20s. Thats when I started to really get in to the formal design work. My dad and I worked on a shallow-face, compact, laminated wood called the Diamond. It had a very heavy sole plate with some inverted runners. If you ever saw the original Diamond model club, you could clearly see the lineage between it and what became the TriMetal. Of course, the TriMetal came some 20 years later, however, the Diamond was the predecessor.
 
Casey/Q:
You had a great run with Orlimar and eventually decided to move on from there.
 
Jesse/A:
I left Orlimar at the beginning of 2003. When you do this all your life, golf club design, this is your life. At my age I wasnt going to start getting involved in another industry. Golf is it for me. So when I left Orlimar ' for a lot of reasons, by the way ' I knew that I was going to stay in the industry and do things on my own.
 
Casey/Q:
Towards the end at Orlimar, and this is no secret, you had serious issues with the way distribution was being handledisnt that correct?
 
Jesse/A:
I did. Even at the height of our success I learned that if you dont control distribution correctly a lot of people get a hold of your product that dont really care about maintaining the integrity of the brand. And thats very dangerous in golf. So I made it a priority in my own mind that thoughtful distribution and maintaining brand integrity would be front and center of my next golf venture.
 
Casey/Q:
How did things get started with Bobby Jones Golf?
 
Jesse/A:
Walter Rosenthal, a wonderful entrepreneur and now the chairman and CEO of The Bobby Jones Golf Company , gave me a call. Walter is a friend of a friend of mine. Walter had read an article about the Bobby Jones Company and Hartmarx Corp. ' thats the parent company that produces the Bobby Jones apparel line ' and how the people behind Bobby Jones, a group known as the Jonesheirs, were looking to expand the Bobby Jones brand in to more of a lifestyle brand that would include premium golf clubs.
 
Casey/Q:
Wasnt Callaway involved with the Bobby Jones name for some time?
 
Jesse/A:
Well, yes. Ely Callaway originally bought what was then the Hickory Stick Company and he quickly put Bobby Jones name on the wedges to give it some special cache. In late 99 or maybe 2000, I think, Callaway gave up the license rights to the name and those rights reverted back to the Jonesheirs. When Walter learned they were looking to reinvigorate the hard goods aspect of the business, he contacted the appropriate parties and started a dialog. But the Jonesheirs were skeptical initially. I remember Walter telling me they told him they were getting three or four calls a week from people looking to use the Jones name for a golf equipment business. The Jonesheirs were being very careful about their next move and even though Walter was an extremely successful and well respected businessman, they were looking for more of a hook.
 
Casey/Q:
And during that time is when Walter contacted you?
 
Jesse/A:
Thats right. He asked me if I would be interested in becoming involved. We talked at length about what kind of a company it would be, what kind of product we would make and what our distribution model would look like. When it became obvious that Walter and I saw eye to eye on many if not most of those things, I agreed to become involved. So when Walter passed my name along to the attorney for the Jonesheirs, the response was very positive.
 
Casey/Q:
That got the ball rolling?
 
Jesse/A:
Yes. We had a meeting in Atlanta with Bob Jones IV and several other key people and things went very well. In fact, in the six weeks leading up to the meeting, I designed a driver and a fairway wood that I thought would capture the classic essence of the Bobby Jones brand image we would be going for as well as incorporate the latest technology features I was working on in my shop. And I brought the prototypes with me to the meeting.
 
Casey/Q:
I take it the response was quite good?
 
Jesse/A:
They were very excited, I must say. The combination of Walters passion and commitment as a businessman together with the golf club design and golf industry expertise I was bringing to the table made for a good fit for the Jonesheirs. I believe they were comfortable that we would do everything in our power to protect the integrity of the Jones name as we built and grew the company. So, under Walters guidance, we were able to secure an exclusive, worldwide license from the Joneheirs.
 
Casey/Q:
Lets back up for just a second. When Walter initially contacted you, was it a no-brainer on your part to get involved or did you have to think about it?
 
Jesse/A:
I think instinctively I knew it was a good fit. I had learned of Walters success in business and the more I talked to him the more I recognized his passion for this venture was real. The Bobby Jones name speaks for itself. The name personifies quality, dignity, integrity and grace. My background in golf being what it is, pretty successful Id have to say, things just added up to making sense. So it didnt really take me too long to decide that I wanted to get involved in the venture.
 
Casey/Q:
Youve been involved for a while now. Are you pleased so far?
 
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Jesse/A:
Very pleased. The combination of the three elements Ive referenced ' Walter, the Bobby Jones name, and my skills ' have turned out to be something very special. The sum of the parts is very strong. And Im not just saying that because Im involved. Seeing it from the eyes of an industry veteran, looking at the situation from the outside looking in, so to speak, I think we have something very unique and special in golf and I am very excited about our future.
 
Casey/Q:
For many golf fans, myself included, the name Bobby Jones elicits almost a skip in the heartbeat when you think of his accomplishments and what he means to the history of the game. Do you feel a sizable responsibility to match the reverence of Bobby Jones name with a product and brand image worthy of the association?
 
Bobby Jones Golf
Bobby Jones hybrid golf club.
Jesse/A:
Oh, most definitely. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to do justice to the name. I mean, my name ' Jesse Ortiz ' is side by side with the name Bobby Jones right on our clubs. Are you kidding? Thats amazing. I dont take it lightly at all. I know where Bobby Jones sits in the hierarchy of golf royalty. I honestly believe that I have to make golf clubs that are more beautiful and perform better than any other clubs out there simply because of the image of the Bobby Jones brand and the legacy of his name. Quite frankly, Im humbled by the situation. I always kid around with Walter and the rest of the partners about my name being on the clubs along side Bobby Jones name. That was not my idea, trust me. Walter pushed very hard for that, though.
 
Casey/Q:
Why do you think that is?
 
Jesse/A:
I think Walter and the investors believed that it was important to link the Bobby Jones name with a name that had a proven track record on the design and technology side of the business. They want people to know that Bobby Jones golf clubs arent just pretty to look at. They want people to know that they perform up to the highest quality playing standards, as good if not better than any of the other top manufacturers in golf today. And Ive got to tell you, Casey, this is the best stuff I have ever made, without a doubt. As much as I believed in previous successful designs of mine, I believe in these new designs that much more.
 
Casey/Q:
Youve got some pretty heavy duty institutional finance muscle associated with The Bobby Jones Golf Company.
 
Jesse/A:
We do have quite a bit of firepower behind us. We have the Hartmarx Corporation and Hickey-Freeman, we have the Jonesheirs, we have a strong investment group behind us; there is a lot of business muscle there. And the most exciting thing to me about having the kind of support we have is we are being allowed to position and grow the company with a distribution plan in the retail sector that makes sense for long-term sustained growth rather than the make a quick buck scheme you see all too often in the golf industry these days. Thats the most exciting thing to me. Its very important that we do this thing right. The Bobby Jones name is too valuable to mess around with. We dont have to be the biggest company out there. However, we do have to be the best at what we do.
 
Casey/Q:
Tell us a little bit about Walter Rosenthal.
 
Jesse/A:
I wish everybody could get to meet and know Walter the way I have. Walter has more passion in his little pinkie finger than most people have in their whole bodies. He lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and bleeds Bobby Jones and the whole image of the brand. Hes been committed from the very beginning and hes taken the responsibility to heart that we are caretakers of this iconoclastic brand, Bobby Jones. His understanding of the responsibility we have to the Jonesheirs is a guiding light for how we operate. His business acumen combined with his respect for the Jones name and brand image is a very special combination.
 
Casey/Q:
I guess it could be said you translate the passion and respect for the brand to the actual golf clubs themselves. Lets switch gears and talk about the clubs now. First of all, whats your take on the explosion of the hybrid market in general?
 
Jesse/A:
I think it makes perfect sense and its actually been in the works for quite some time. You can trace it back years and years ago in Japan, actually. Thats really where hybrids first burst on to the scene because they were easier for golfers of a slight stature ' even easier than fairway woods ' to play with. Companies like PRGR in Japan were way ahead of the curve when they introduced hybrids that replaced 1-irons and 2-irons. Then, here in the United States, TaylorMade really capitalized on the initial hybrid explosion and it has spread to just about every major manufacturer at this point. And the category is only going to grow. Look at the Champions Tour. Those guys started out replacing their 1-irons and 2-irons, maybe their 3-irons. Now there are guys out there who have hybrids all the way down to the 4-iron loft. You see a huge infusion on the Nationwide Tour and even to some degree on the regular PGA Tour.
 
Casey/Q:
So the perception of hybrids being strictly of a game improvement nature is changing?
 
Jesse/A:
It really is. And rightfully so. With rare exception, the best players in the world are playing hybrids now. So, not only do they have wonderful game improvement characteristics, they can be tuned and fitted for very good players as well. Thats a very exciting development. 2-irons and 3-irons are becoming a thing of the past. For an amateur golfer not to take full advantage of what hybrids have to offer is just crazy. The category, in my opinion, is just going to keep growing.
 
Casey/Q:
Are hybrids going to replace fairway woods?
 
Jesse/A:
No, I dont think so. Hybrids might replace a 5-wood or a 4-wood in some good players bags, however, the average golfer is still better off with a true 3-wood or 5-wood because the ball is going to go longer with those clubs. And average golfers are usually struggling to find distance. But as far as the 2-iron, 3-iron and 4-iron, theres no question the average golfer is better off with hybrids. Again, I say look at the Champions Tour. What we all wouldnt give to hit it as good as those guys do and they are switching to hybrids in droves. I mean, the writing is on the wall.
 
Casey/Q:
Tell us about the Bobby Jones hybrid.
 
Jesse/A:
Youre talking about my bread and butter now. A lot of my heart and soul has gone in to the design and manufacturing of our Bobby Jones line of golf clubs, not the least of which is our hybrid. With all the clubs in our line, my driving philosophy has been if Bobby Jones were alive today, could he grab one of our clubs, address a ball, and in a split second say, yeah, I can play with that. At the same time, my challenge was to satisfy the needs of a golfer trying to break 100 for the first time.
 
Casey/Q:
Are hybrids now being designed more for better players or still more for average players?
 
Jesse/A:
In the last couple of years, I think as I looked at the competitive marketplace I saw a trend going to hybrids designed for much better players. In my opinion, the thinking en masse was kind of like, well, high handicap players are going to buy hybrids come what may. But, we (manufacturers) better design hybrids that better players can play. And that meant making hybrids with a distinctly iron look. So manufacturers kind of got away from game improvement hybrids to a certain degree.
 
Casey/Q:
Are hybrids more difficult to use than they were when they first came out?
 
Jesse/A:
Some of them are by the intentional virtue of their design. They were becoming less user friendly, as it were. Even the ones that looked semi wood-likethey have kind of big fat barrel hosels. They have flat soles like an iron, the faces are flat. These are all design features that work against the average golfer. I wanted to get something that was very classic looking, more of a cleek style, and thats what people tell me about our hybrid.
 
Casey/Q:
That it looks like a cleek?
 
Jesse/A:
Well, that its got a kind of classic look to it. When you set them on the ground, they kind of look like those long nose cleeks from 100 years ago. There is a very nostalgic look, however, low and behold, that nostalgic look is very important to the playability of the club. If you look at the club ' the longish toe ' they are also quite triangular in shape. The apex of the club is slightly lowered when you look down at it at address. I have a patent on the location of the apex on the club. The particular location of this apex helps the club to be more stable on off center hits. So, even though the club looks like something Bobby Jones would be comfortable playing, it actually has state-of-the-art technology built in to it.
 
Casey/Q:
What type of trajectory can people expect from your hybrid?
 
Jesse/A:
I think a lot of the hybrids now, designed for better players, have a lower trajectory, more boring and hotter long iron type trajectory. They really fly like a traditional 2-iron or
3-iron. My hybrid is very different. Mine is designed to go much higher and land and then stop when it lands. Its also designed to be more versatile out of nastier lies. So, theres really two schools of thought out there. Guys out on the Champions Tour either tell me, Jesse, when I hit your hybrid it goes too high for me and Im not getting enough roll. Other guys say, Jesse, your hybrid is exactly what Im looking for. Im looking for a club that goes 2-iron distance but its all in the air and when it lands its like landing on a cocktail napkin.
 
Casey/Q:
The Champions Tour aside, what type of ball trajectory do you think benefits mid and higher handicap golfers?
 
Jesse/A:
I think virtually ever golfer who is a 10-handicap or higher will benefit greatly from the type of trajectory the Bobby Jones hybrid offers. Now, maybe the super hotshot low handicap golfer will go for a different style of hybrid. And thats really how I design in a nutshell. I know I have to design clubs that can be played by the best players in the world, but, I also know that the business of golf is driven at the consumer level. So ultimately, the clubs in the Bobby Jones line must appeal to the consumer. And the great majority of consumer golfers are mid to high handicap players. They want 2-iron or 3-iron distance but they want that distance to come in the air.
 
Casey/Q:
Well, this may also present you with an opportunity. Establish a retail track record with the current hybrid and then come out with a tour oriented hybrid down the road.
 
Jesse/A:
Thats exactly right. I spend so much time out on the tour now I see what these guys really want. Now again, I think about half of them want the ball flight my hybrid offers now. But, the other half of them want that iron like trajectory. So, I think I can design a hybrid down the road that will satisfy their needs as well. Now, trajectory aside, I do think my hybrid performs out of the rough and out of difficult lies as well if not better than anything else out there. Thats where the unique shape really comes in to play. I dont know if there is another club out there that rivals the Bobby Jones hybrid in terms of coming out of difficult lies.
 
Casey/Q:
Ive heard you talk quite a bit about hosel neck thickness and length. What have you done with that in your current line?
 
Jesse/A:
My hybrid has a very thin neckits a very short neck. All these other hybrids have iron style necks. You dont need a bunch of weight up there. You dont need 30 or 40 grams stuck way above the ball. The whole purpose of a hybrid is to get a club in your hands that has a much lower CG than your iron. So when you design a hybrid, why not make it with absolutely the lowest and deepest center of gravity you can produce because thats what is going to give you the highest trajectory shots with the softest landing. I think every average golfer can benefit from that. Thats what they need. They dont want to be hitting hot shots and they miss it a bit and it hits off the side of the green and goes 20 yards to the right in to some crap. They want the ball, if they miss-hit it, with my club, the distance will be about the same but it will land soft. So if they are off line, Casey, its going to be as if they took a drop.
 
Casey/Q:
What materials are you using in your hybrid?
 
Jesse/A:
Well, thats another thing that is special about the Bobby Jones hybrid. No one else is making it the way we do. We still have the same maraging face that we had with the
TriMetal only its even thinner. Its now about 1.6 millimeters. Thats the thinnest face in golf. No one else is making a face that is thinner on their hybrids or fairway woods.
 
Casey/Q:
Is that to make it a hotter face?
 
Jesse/A:
To make it hotter? No. A hybrid face is so shallow and small that youre not getting any trampoline effect of any significance. The reason I make the face so thin is because I want to move weight away from the front wall. There are three places where weight is an enemy to a golfer. One is the hosel and thats why we have a very thin, very skinny, very light hosel. The other place is the face. If I can make my face 1.6 millimeters and still keep it strong enough that it wont collapse, versus 3 millimeters like many of the other hybrids out there, then that means I have half as much weight on the front wall. The crown is the third place I look to keep light. Our crown is made out of a maraging steel that is forged. And its forged to the thickness of a thin business cardits only 1/3 of a millimeter. It only weighs 10 grams. It weighs what the equivalent piece of graphite weighs. So youve got a 10 gram crown instead of a 40 gram crown. Youve got a face thats only 1.6 millimeters instead of around 3 millimeters ' thats about half the weight. Our hosel is also considerably lighter. You put all that together and it means I can put a lot of weight in the sole and in the rear portion of that sole plate. With the design of the sole plate the way it is, the added weight sitting very low helps you cut through long grass when youre in the rough. And from normal lies, the ball is going to get up in the air quickly. And thats what average golfers should expect from a hybrid. Otherwise, you know what? They might just as well keep their long irons in the bag. Thats my opinion anyway.
 
Casey/Q:
The brass Jones medallion on the bottom of the clubis it weighted for performance or is it cosmetic?
 
Jesse/A:
Its really cosmetic. It weights about 3 grams or so. Its not really for weight. The reason the medallion is on the clubs is as a tribute to Bobby Jones. A lot of people dont know that Bobby Jones was born on St. Patricks Day. So, in all his tournaments, he used to carry a little medallion that had a four leaf clover on itthat was his good luck charm. What I did is I took a replica of that medallion and superimposed his swinging golfer likeness on it as a tribute to the great Bobby Jones. I think its a classy looking additional cosmetic feature to our clubs.
 
Casey/Q:
The whole look of the clubs ' Jaguar green color, the specially designed Winn grips, the old style cloth head covers ' you paid a lot of attention to the appearance and presentation of the clubs.
 
Jesse/A:
The colors of the apparel company are dark green, burgundy and gold. I think these colors are very rich. The club heads are this dark Jaguar green and the lettering is gold. The shafts, which we had custom designed for us by Graphite Design, are also green. These are high performance shafts that really enhance the playability of our clubs.
 
Casey/Q:
How did you decide on Graphite Design?
 
Jesse/A:
Listen, the high end graphite shaft companies are all producing great products these days. I have a personal preference for the Japanese designed shafts because I think they have their fingers on the cutting edge technology of lighter weight graphite shafts. Thats what their market demands. Ive worked with Fujikura, I know Mitsubishi makes very fine shafts, but, I have the most experience working with Graphite Design and I was confident they would give me a shaft that would really enhance the performance of our particular clubs in the Bobby Jones line. So we went with them for our stock shaft.
 
Casey/Q:
And as far as your grips go?
 
Jesse/A:
I have seen more and more guys on the tour switching to Winn grips. And that got me interested in learning more about Winnlearning about the performance characteristics. And I liked what I learned. The grip also has a certain look to it that I felt worked with the look we were going for. Its an elegant looking grip and Winn is able to do some really nice things with colors that match our color scheme at Bobby Jones Golf. I realize its kind of a love or hate thing with Winn grips. I happen to love it on our clubs and most people Ive talked to are big fans of the grip. So, as our stock grip, I just like the cache of the look of that grip. Most average golfers seem to like the softer feel of the grip. Its a little more user friendly for them. But certainly, a lot of hot shot golfers or better players are going to want a firmer grip. So we do offer the Golf Pride Tour Velvet grip as an option as well. Overall, though, Ive had a lot of great reaction on the Winn grip.
 
Casey/Q:
What are your loft options on the hybrid?
 
Jesse/A:
Im glad you asked because that is really important. Starting next month, each of the hybrids are going to have a decal on the toe that reads H2, H3, H4 or H5that represents a hybrid that will replace a corresponding iron. So, the
19-degree, which is the most popular one on the Champions Tour, replaces the 2-iron or 5-wood in good players bags. The 21-degree will probably be the most popular for average golfers and that replaces the 3-iron. The 25-degree replaces your 4-iron and the 30-degree will replace your 5-iron.
 
Casey/Q:
Give us a sense of carry distance with the different lofted hybrids.
 
Jesse/A:
The 19-degree will probably carry anywhere from 205 yards to about 220 yards depending on how much of a hit you can put in it. The H-3 or 21-degree for most amateur players will go somewhere in that 195 yards to 210 yards range. Again, all this is carry distance. The 25-degree will get you in that 185 yards to about 200 yards range, again, depending on what kind of club head speed you are swinging with. The 30-degree is going to fly about 170 yards to about 190 yards depending on the players. Personally, for the average golfer, I think the 25-degree is the miracle club. This is the money club for most amateur players. Its right in that range of carry distance where players are hitting second shots in to challenging par foursthe danger zone I call it. So instead of just getting somewhere close to the green with a 4-iron and then having to hope to get up and down, youre going to hit more greens with this 25-degree hybrid and then youre looking at a two-putt for par. I think this club is virtually on remote control from 185 yards and out. People should do themselves a favor and try this club.
 
Casey/Q:
So listen, Jesse, youre optimistic about the future?
 
Jesse/A:
Oh, Casey, absolutely. Listen, I know what I make. Please, believe me, I dont want to sound arrogant. But, I know how good these clubs are. Its what I do. We havent had much money to advertise, however, the playability tests done by the magazines and the results of those tests is staggering and very humbling. Weve had nothing but just outrageously positive reviews from everyone. I just believe, and the people behind Bobby Jones Golf believe, that if I can just keep making special stuff, the word is going to get out there. And the great thing is, we dont need to be a 100 million dollar company to do very well. And just as importantly, to be happy. Believe me. Ive been at the top of the mountain and Ill tell you, the view isnt everything its cracked up to be from up there. Well be happy to have a mid-size golf company that delivers the best possible performing product at fair prices using a distribution methodology that keeps our company and the golf industry healthy. All the while protecting the integrity of the Bobby Jones name. And I think we have a great shot at doing just that.
 
Casey/Q:
Jesse, its been a real pleasure to talk to you. We wish you all the best.
 
Jesse/A:
Casey, thanks. This has been great. I know Ill see you out on the Champions Tour one of these weeks.
 
Casey:
You bet. See you out there soon.
 
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