In Their Own Words - Hi-Tec Golf

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A Conversation with Duncan Patmore
 
Hi-Tec Sports was founded in 1974 by Frank van Wezel in the appropriately named village of Shoeburyness, in Essex, England. Their original success grew from the design and development of the Hi-Tec Squash, a shoe that has gone on to sell over 18 million pairs. In 1982 the Hi-Tec brand was launched globally. They now sell over 500 styles of sports related shoes in 80 countries around the world. Golf is the newest venture on Hi-Tecs list of specialties. In concert with Padraig Harrington and bio-mechanical scientist Dr. Paul Hurrion, the company has developed and is now distributing a shoe called the Power CDT. According to Duncan Patmore, Global Business Director for Hi-Tec Golf, the shoe is revolutionary in several ways.
 
Casey / Q:
Hi-Tec is relatively new to the United States. Bring us up to speed. Whats the background?
 
Duncan / A:
Hi-Tec is a London based footwear company founded in 1974. Considered an industry leader in light-weight hiking shoes as well as squash and badminton shoes, the company was founded by Dutchman Frank van Wezel. The company started in the first place with a very lightweight indoor court shoe predominately focused on squash. And in the thirty years since the company started weve sold over eighteen million pairs of this one particular shoe. We also have another division which is our athletic division and the company is now selling shoes in over one hundred countries around the world. The founder of the business, a Dutch gentleman named Frank van Wezel, is still very much involved.
 
Casey / Q:
Are you traded, or are you privately held?
 
Duncan / A:
As a result of these early successes throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and in order to provide funds for expansion into international markets, Hi-Tec Sports was floated on the London Stock Exchange in June 1988, and in January 1992 successfully returned to the market by way of a rights-issue, which served to generate additional working capital for further global expansion. By the end of the 1990s, Hi-Tec Sports was a truly global, successful brand and company. In 2000, our chairman, founder and then-majority shareholder, Frank van Wezel, bought back the company from the markets, thus once again making us privately owned and managed. The company currently employs approximately 500 employees and generates global sales of more than US $250 million.
 
Casey / Q:
What kind of marketing strategy are you employing?
 
Duncan / A:
In the United Kingdom our commercial strategy has consistently been to focus on the mid-price market segment, and as a result Hi-Tec has secured wide and varied distribution to include both sportswear retailers and general high-street shoe shops. This aggressive distribution orientation has positioned Hi-Tec as one of the four unit volume leaders throughout the UK sports shoe market consistently over the last ten years. Were extremely well positioned in many countries around the world. As the worlds biggest golf market, the United States is now a main priority for us.
 
Casey / Q:
How did the relationship with Padraig Harrington come about?
 
Duncan / A:
Padraigs been working with us now for nearly ten years so hes been an in-house player for a long time. I sat down with Padraig some two-and-a-half years ago and said, look Padraig, were going to be creating a new top-end shoe and Ive got some ideas about how we can make this shoe completely unique. We had this idea of a customizable cleata directional cleat. And I proposed to Padraig that if we could come up with a practical alternative thats going to give him even more grip and more performance than a metal spike, hed consider changingand he said he would. But classic Padraig, he also said while were at it, why dont we take it a stage further and actually try and create a shoe thats going to help him hit the ball farther.
 
Hi-Tec CDT Power
Padraig Harrington helped design Hi-Tecs new CDT Power golf shoe.

 
Casey / Q:
How did the design process start?
 
Duncan / A:
We sat down and we came up with various ideas between us and we looked at the basic principles behind how the foot moves during the course of the swing. As Padraig is right to quickly say, you wouldnt expect a marathon runner to wear the same shoes as a sprinter would use. In other sports, people have footwear that is very specifically designed for their particular sport. And yet in golf, far too many golf shoe designs are essentially street shoes with some sort of cleats attached to the sole. So we set about designing an outsole that worked with the essential movements that you require in your golf swing. We then tied up with a bio-mechanical scientist named Dr. Paul Hurrion. He works with the British Athletic Team and also works closely with many European PGA golf stars as a putting teacher, including with Padraig. Together with Padraig we came up with an outsole that is now patented. And there are various other elements that make shoe achieve what it achieves. So its not down to one individual element that makes the shoe work its more of a combination of technologies we are using and how we have specifically tuned the shoe so you can get the best performance.
 
Casey / Q:
Walk us through some of the process.
 
Duncan / A:
We work with a launch-pad monitor system which is a force-pressure platform and were able to seen on screen the exact force pressures at any particular moment during the course of a golfers swingin this case, Padraig Harrington. That was the starting point of this whole development. We detected the force pressures during the course of Padraigs swing and then we created an outsole that withstood those force pressures. We also obtain extra support at key moments that work directly against the force at those same key moments to obtain the stability and thereby the performance a golfer needs.
 
Casey / Q:
What are the key moments that you found in your research?
 
Casey / Q:
If you can picture yourself fully loaded at the top of your backswing theres an enormous amount of pressure that runs down the outside of your foot (right foot for a right handed player) at that key point when you wish to start turning back towards the ball. Weve loaded up the entire lateral side of the shoe with swing bands to make sure your foot is held securely in place. At the same time your right foot is fully loaded up your left foot needs to be able to free itself up completely and roll over to the inside. So on the medial side, the inside of the shoe, weve cleared everything away so your feet you can actually roll overthat works completely in symmetry, a mirror image, when you follow through. Because as you follow through and hit the ball, at the point of impact three times your body weight goes through your left heel if youre a right handed player. You need to have the outside of your left foot fully loaded upand the inside of your right foot needs to able to roll over again, this time to the inside. So the shoes work for a right hander or left handed players.
 
Casey / Q:
You mentioned earlier getting Padraig to consider switching out of metal spikes. Did he?
 
Duncan / A:
In fact, yes. Weve got the worlds first customizable traction system with our directional cleat. We have invented a cleat that gives you a direct gripa maximum gripin one particular direction. And theres an arrow on the cleat that shows you the direction that you get the most grip. Weve worked with Dr. Hurrion to look at Padraigs swing on this forced pressure platform system and we have worked out the exact angles that these cleats need to go in order to give Padraig the maximum amount of support, balance and stability during the course of his swing so he can get the most efficiency out of his weight transfer.
 
Casey / Q:
Having met Padraig several times, he seems a good candidate for testing and feedback.
 
Duncan / A:
Our good fortune was that we hooked up with a guy that has an extremely high knowledge of the science of the golf swing. And he fully understood how important your footwork can actually be. Padraigs great quote is, Your power comes from your feet. A good visual representation here is how far would you expect you could hit a golf ball if you were standing on ice instead of standing on grass? Another great visual, I think, is you wouldnt fire a canon from a canoe. These visual images give you some kind of an idea as to what were trying to achieve with these golf shoes. We believe, and theres test data from Padraig to support this, you can hit the ball harder wearing these shoes because of the scientifically determined optimization of force loading and unloading relative to how the body works during a golf swing. And let me clarify something. You dont automatically hit the ball farther just because youre wearing the shoes. But you can hit the ball harder without losing your balance and therefore more of the force of the swing is being imparted to the ball. Thats why they talk so much about balance at finish in the swings of pro golfers. Most of them finish in such beautiful balance because all the force has been imparted to the ball and isnt being lost outside the zone of impact.
 
Casey / Q:
How have you been received in the United States?
 
Duncan / A:
Weve been serious in the United States for the last two years. Were still very much in our infancy in your market. But already, I think, in some of the recent industry stats, I think weve jumped straight in on green grass in fourth or fifth position. And suddenly our competitors are sitting up and looking at what this quirky little British brand are starting to achieve. For example, we have a very good relationship with the Edwin Watts guys and they are a highly switched on group of people. We have a very unique angle with CDT Power and we want very much for that to be the cornerstone of our business. However, we do also make extremely comfortable, light weight golf shoes at remarkably good value for money. So we do have a very firm platform from which to build our business regardless of the CDT. But, I must say, since the CDT has come along, the Edwin Watts of the world and many other retailers have felt compelled to give us a go.
 
Casey / Q:
Getting back to the CDT Power, do you consider the shoe a model for better golfers only? I mean, Padraigs got one of the best swings in the world.
 
Duncan / A:
Weve done testing with the likes of Padraig Harrington at one extreme. Weve also done testing with single digit handicappers, players with handicaps in the teens and even beginner players. We see different types of benefits all the way through but the essential thing is if youre going to get more balance during the course of your swing then that means youre going to arrive at the ball in the same good position on a more regular basis. So there is a definite benefit to every golf out there. The thing is that the lower handicap golferspeople who have better feel and a better understanding of their swingwill probably note the difference if theyre looking out for it. We have many examples now of people who have been wearing the shoes and have gone straight out on the golf course and played and said, well, we dont really notice the difference instantly. But then when they look back over the last couple of weeks they say, well, hang on a second, Im actually hitting the ball more consistently and my scores have started to drop. And now that you mention it, maybe the shoes have had something to do with it.
 
Casey / Q:
What about testing the shoes with players in a controlled environment?
 
Duncan / A:
Excellent point. The time that youre going to notice the instant difference is if you go to a driving range and you hit six shots with the old shoes on, change them over, and hit six shots with the CDT Power shoes. You will feel and see the difference. And thats what we eventually did with Padraig for him to initially realize the difference between the two products. So its not an earth shattering difference the first second you put the shoes onyoull feel that theyre comfortable, youll feel that they give you great support and great tractionits not until you spend some time playing in the shoes and try and understand how you can get the benefit out of the shoe that youll see the full difference.
 
Casey / Q:
Whats Padraig tell you about his experience with the shoe?
 
Duncan / A:
Padraig Harrington started wearing the shoes at the U.S. Open this yearand every year he takes part in the statistics to have his ball speed measured. In previous years, Padraigs ball speed had been 163, 165, 166theyd been around the same mark. The first time he wore the CDT Powers for this test his ball speed went from 166 to 173. Its the biggest single increase that theyve seen in the stats and the only change in his equipment from the previous year was his golf shoes. I think that speaks volumes.
 
Casey / Q:
What type of tour strategy do you have?
 
Duncan / A:
We dont have the marketing bucksor I should say, we dont choose to use our dollars throwing tons of money at the various tours around the world trying to compete with Footjoy and Nike on the shoe count. Thats a strategy that works for them. It doesnt work for us. We want to establish a good firm platform in the green grass accounts of the USA, work with the higher profile off-course accounts that are quality partners for our business and thereby grow a business thats going to be here and successful for many years to come. We have no intention of being one of these fly-by-night golf companies that come crashing in to the US golf market with tons of cash and some seeming wonderful new technology and then before you know it theyve disappeared never to be heard from again. Weve been around for thirty years. We have a growth system that works.
 
Casey / Q:
Duncan, sum it up for us.
 
Duncan / A:
Right. Number onewe developed the shoe with and for Padraig Harrington and since hes been wearing the shoe he has picked up considerable yardage off the tee and in his game in general. We have the worlds first customizable traction system. There are a bunch of different configurations of how you can put these shoes togetherhow you can play around with the cleatsto find a configuration that suits you. And its not just about power. Its also about consistency. Youll be more consistent because youre hitting from a more stable base. And if you want to hit the ball harder you can go after it harder because youre not going to lose your balance as easily. The basic scientific formula is that the increase grip and torsion control that you now get gives you more stability and balance which then leads to extra power and control.
 
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