MyGolfSpy readers are familiar with TrackMan, Foresight and FlightScope but do they know the story of the upstart Korean company now headquartered in the United States that has put the launch monitor category on notice?
Ever heard of Uneekor?
Uneekor has quietly become a leader in golf simulators and launch monitor technologies by staying focused on what’s most important: Golfers.
It put together a team of sharp engineers driven by innovation and married them to a group of golf-focused executives who understand the industry and, specifically, what’s driving the launch monitor space.
Uneekor even merged with Evnroll putters this year to assist with its research and development efforts with putters and putting.
“We make golf better by making better golfers,” says Yun Lee, Uneekor’s Chief Executive Officer.
Uneekor has zero interest in soccer, football or other athletic-related simulations.
This is a golf company. Period, (Apologies, Bob Parsons.)
It prides itself on delivering fast, precise data at a competitive price point to enhance practice and playing experiences for golfers.
The goal: To make Uneekor the closest thing to the real thing.
“We like to think our target consumer is the smartest person on the golf course,” says Greg Sabella, Uneekor’s Vice-President of Marketing. “That means the individual who knows what they’re going to use it for and knows what makes a good affordable launch monitor stand out.”
Not a New Kid On The Block
For 15 years, the Korean-based company has been a mainstay of the launch monitor category.
Uneekor’s parent company, Creatz Inc., and its golf division cut its teeth on overhead launch monitors, growing the business into a global leader in the space.
“Whether you’re looking for entertainment or looking to grind, we’ve got you covered,” Sabella says. “Go online and look at SIM blogs and you’ll see that we’re beloved by the people who use our product.”
Like we said off the top, Uneekor boasts a team of top engineers, technology specialists and golf industry veterans committed to cutting-edge technology, smart design and the highest quality in its full line of launch monitors, software and hardware.
“There’s a saying that the only constant is change,” Sabella says. “For us, the only constant is improvement.”
Uneekor has four primary launch monitor products:
Eye XO – A mounted overhead launch monitor powered by the brand’s infrared and camera-based technology.
Eye XO2 – A second generation EYE XO model with a larger hitting zone and an ability to recognize a multi-terrain mat.
QED – An affordable rear-mounted overhead launch monitor with the same camera and infrared technology.
EYE MINI – The company’s first portable indoor and outdoor launch monitor.
Infrared and camera technology is its key point of difference.
The two combined optics platforms provide the brand with its high degree of accuracy and its ability to capture video pre-impact, at impact and post-impact to go along with a still image of the ball on the clubface at impact.
“If you hit a shot you think was off the toe, you can literally look down or look at the iPad app and see the ball hitting the toe, the face moving and determine the strike location, not just based on feel or a guess, but on an actual image,” Sabella says.
Out of the Starting Gate
The genesis of this company reads like a Korean-based equivalent of Karsten Solheim establishing PING in 1959.
An engineer frustrated by his golf game – and wanting desperately to fix it – embarked on dynamic measurement and specific swing testing to see if there was a correlation with his poor form.
From that weekend moonlighting project, a golf-infused agenda took shape.
Company founder Jey Suk devoted assets and support for research and development, pivoting Creatz Inc. to a golf company on a singular mission: To deliver high tech products engineered to the highest degree for the golfing masses.
“We’re a relatively new entity in the U.S. market,” says Sabella, “but the brand has 15 years of high-tech engineering and golf industry dominance in the Korean market. We’re definitely not a new launch monitor/simulator company by any means.”
Trajectory of Screen Golf
Korea is inundated by screen golf.
Since more rounds are played at indoor facilities than outdoors on traditional courses (still the only country where that’s the case), it’s reasonable to anoint the country with the title Screen Golf Capital of the World.
That was a revelation for Creatz, Inc.
Having anticipated the simulator and launch monitor category’s market potential, the company forged a well-intentioned business plan.
And it was executed to perfection.
Effectively, it provided an opportunity for anyone in Korea to get out and play the game.
“We have credibility in the market because of our engineering,” Sabella says. “It’s the pillar of why we’re able to introduce product at a competitive price point and why the company has been so successful back home. I mean, it’s not like Uneekor is just entering the category with start-up R&D. We’ve been there, we’ve done it. Our goal now that we’re established in the U.S. is to create more brand awareness and ramp up demand for our products.”
Credit Yun Lee with the company’s unique name (pun intended).
When Creatz announced it was establishing a U.S.-based headquarters in Irvine, Calif., in 2015, she was asked about the company’s expansion to America.
She emphasised to media about staying “uniquely core” to the two things the brand was noted for: golf and engineering.
Combine the two words into one and voila: Uneekor.
Launching Eye Mini
Uneekor’s successful soft launch of the Eye Mini in the spring prompted the company to green light the product’s official launch worldwide in June.
High-speed photo-metric cameras provide a full slate of metrics including ball speed, launch angle, back spin, side spin, side angle, side distance and carry distance.
Adding to its versatility, Uneekor’s Club Optix software offers users access to more advanced metrics along with slow-motion video-quality image sequences of club/ball impact and access to practice and playing simulations.
Did we mention it’s affordable? Eye Mini starts at $4,500.
“We didn’t want to come in at a lopsided price point where our first portable launch monitor was priced at $15,000,” explains Sabella. “The goal was to price it so more people could purchase and experience the benefits of the feedback and simulations while having the ability to play golf 365 days a year, especially in places where the weather turns and you have to hang it up for the season.”
Why Roll with Evnroll?
In April, Uneekor acquired a 70-percent ownership stake in Evnroll putters from Guerin Rife.
A reported $15.2 million was shelled out for the California-based putter brand, decorated multiple times with MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted, Best of the Best and Editors’ Choice awards.
Evnroll, by the way, just happens to be one of Korea’s top-selling putter brands.
OK, cool portfolio add, well respected by avid players and entrenched with consumers back home including followers of MyGolfSpy.
But the business synergies didn’t line up.
Why would a high-tech Korean simulator/launch monitor company – where the full swing is paramount – want to merge with an American putter brand?
1) To assist Uneekor in gaining more U.S market traction.
2) To give the company’s evolving putter analytics technology a solid foundation.
More Alike than Different
Doing its due diligence on Evnroll’s culture, operations and technology-driven footprint, the Uneekor team realized it had a shared philosophy with the putter brand.
Evnroll’s authenticity and singular focus on putters aligned with the undivided attention Uneekor devotes to launch monitors.
“Evnroll was founded on delivering real innovation and technology that enhances every aspect of putter design and performance. Uneekor has the same vision for full-swing analytics,” said Rife in a news release.
And, in time, putter analytics, too.
Buttoning up ‘the game within the game’ gives Uneekor a key pillar as it ramps up research and development of the space.
“We feel that Evnroll, as a 100-percent U.S.-milled and technology-driven putter line, is a great fit for Uneekor’s precision analytics in the launch monitor space,” says Eddie Lee, Creatz Inc. Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. “Together, Uneekor and Evnroll will present the highest level of game improvement, encompassing the full spectrum of performance-enhancing technology tee to green.”
Maeil Business News Korea reported in April that Uneekor’s acquisition of Evnroll was motivated, in part, by TGL.
That should not come as a surprise.
The tech-infused Monday night screen golf league, jointly founded by Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Mike McCarley, will debut in January.
Acquiring an established award-winning American-based putter brand to help push its simulator and launch monitors as TGL prepares to tee off in a few months seems ideally timed.
Off course and indoor golf – which includes the home simulator category – was up 12.6 percent in 2022 according to the National Golf Foundation.
Seeking to become a key player in the U.S. simulator/launch monitor market, Uneekor’s executive team came to a business crossroads this year.
On the heels of its merger with Evnroll, changes to the day-to-day had to be made.
Operations were restructured into four distinct business segments: sales, marketing, people and culture, and operations and development.
Transitioning to specific business units had an immediate impact.
It positioned Uneekor to better engage customers on specific needs, be more efficient and timely with its service and it allowed the engineering team to remain focused on simulation and launch monitor development.
(Golf) Talent Additions
What it meant, too, was a major investment in human resources.
Brought in to assume important leadership roles were six golf industry veterans:
- Aaron Waltz – a professional golf instructor who had been with TrackMan was hired as Vice President of Sales.
- Shan Jiang, formerly with Amazon, assumed the role of Director of Operations.
- Thomas B. Larsen – hired as Director of People and Culture following two decades of human resources experience.
The other three hires were brought in specifically to prop up Uneekor’s North American marketing efforts:
- Greg Sabella – a 17-year veteran at Callaway, took over as Vice-President of Marketing
- Justin Meyers – previously at Golf Genius and a PGA professional, was named Senior Director of Marketing
- Jacob Howes – formerly with Golfzon, assumed the role of Senior Manager of Marketing
According to Sabella, “as the company matured, the executive team said, ‘Hey, we need some people entrenched in the business to take Uneekor to the next level in the marketplace.’ The goal was to build an authentic golf team comprised of industry people but also specialists in the launch monitor area, tech area and the marketing area. It’s a great atmosphere to work in.”
Signing Cameron Champ
Touring professionals remain a fixture of the current and future marketing plans.
Three-time PGA TOUR winner Cameron Champ joined Team Uneekor in 2020.
“Cameron’s relentless passion to master his game on the golf course and his passion to give back to the community aligns with Uneekor’s mission and values,” said Yun Lee, who was pleased Uneekor could donate its golf simulator technologies to the Cameron Champ Foundation (to help foster an environment for academic achievement and healthy living for children and youth from underserved communities) as part of the partnership.
Adding Muni “Lily” He
Last month, Uneekor secured its first LPGA Tour player.
Muni “Lily” He, a native of Chengdu, China, who grew up in Canada and San Diego, signed a multi-year agreement with the company.
Along with her playing ability, her social media reach figures to be an asset.
The one-time University of Southern California Trojan has more than 500,000 Instagram followers as a golfer, fitness and fashion influencer.
“I’ve learned how critical understanding data is to improving aspect of my golf game,” said He. “In my search for finding the right technology to take me to the next level, I found Uneekor to be the most accurate launch monitor in the industry.”
Uneekor’s tour presence also includes a number of players signed from the Korean Ladies Professional Golf Association.
“I’m having conversations with four PGA TOUR players right now who have either tested our product or would like to,” Sabella says. “We’re eager to see where those go in the next few weeks.”
Uneekor’s Future Prospects
Apologies for the baseball analogy, but in Uneekor’s case it fits where this brand appears to be headed in the U.S. market.
Having seen a lot of golf companies come and go over the years, the ones with staying power don’t rely solely on the home run to build a successful business model.
They hit singles, steal the odd base and capitalize on extra base hits to create scoring opportunities.
And they’re always in a perpetual state of learning to do better.
“Uneekor is a very consumer-centric company, so when we get feedback from pros, golfers, teachers and users of our product we’re unique in our ability to listen to that feedback and make changes very quickly because of our engineering strength. We’re also small enough to be nimble and pivot when we need to. It’s one of the things that should help us going forward into the future,” Sabella says.
Having merged with Evnroll, signed PGA and LPGA tour assets and recently launched the Eye Mini to a burgeoning U.S. market, one thing seems certain:
Uneekor looks poised to clear the bases with prospects for some big innings ahead.
Visit the Uneekor website to learn more.