‘If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.’
Martin Riddiford values those words. He lives them every day.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s saying from a century ago is one of the pillars of Therefore Design Consultants, a London, England-based firm Riddiford founded 25 years ago with a proven track record for taking client ideas and crafting them into award-winning products.
Three years ago, Riddiford and his team at Therefore became its own client, carving themselves out a niche in the golf training aid and accessories market by building a better mouse-trap for golfers.
Can’t stand putting practice? The parabolic-shaped Pressure Putt Trainer makes it less onerous, better ergonomically, and a hell of a lot more fun since there are two ways you use it.
Foldable, contemporary in appearance, and super easy on the wallet, PuttOUT has already been the recipient of numerous awards, including an ‘Editors Choice’ distinction from MyGolfSpy in 2018.
“Our original target was 5,000 units,” laughs Cam Slaughter, PuttOUT’s marketing manager. “Its exceeded expectations.”
More than a 250,000 PuttOUT units sold (and counting) since the original Pressure Trainer debuted in January 2017, PuttOUT is now its division at Therefore. That came about purely out of necessity.
Creating a better way to engage in putting practice has led to a line of PuttOut branded training aid products – PuttOUT mat and PuttOUT mirror (with accompanying gates) – which are not only being adopted by consumers, but they’re also being utilized across several worldwide tours. Among the users have been Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, and Rafael Cabrero-Bello.
Those players and others do so without financial compensation.
Then there’s the Solheim Cup connection.
PuttOUT items were waiting in the rooms of each of the European players and vice-captains when they arrived in Scotland for the biennial match versus the United States at Scotland’s Gleneagles in September.
Making the arrangements for the gifting was captain Catriona Matthew.
“All of us loved the mat for practice putting in our rooms. It rolls at a great speed and I thought it looked fantastic in the European colors. Same with the mirror, trainer, and accessories. Just what we wanted to boost the Team Europe spirit. Overall, a fantastic product the players and captains loved – fabulous gift,” said Matthew.
Coincidence or not Suzann Pettersen’s winning putt to defeat Marina Alex 1-up in the final match was the same length and exact speed (10 on the Stimpmeter) as her blue and yellow PuttOUT mat back at the hotel.
“We haven’t had confirmation yet, but I’m going to go out and say 99 % credibility goes to us,” Slaughter added with a wink.
To even be part of the European Solheim Cup team’s welcome package speaks volumes to PuttOUT’s craftsmanship. That’s one thing non-negotiable with Riddiford – quality. Never will a product coming out of Therefore appear like it was cobbled together in someone’s garage.
“Each PuttOUT product is built to be as attractive as it is functional,” he said.
While that doesn’t take the drudgery out of practicing three and six-footers 1999 Open Champion, Paul Lawrie believes you’ll be more inclined to do it if you’re aiming at something and using stuff that works great and appeals to the eye.
“I really like Pressure Putt Trainer,” said the two-time Ryder Cup team member. “It’s simple, clever, and addictive, but it’s also a lot of fun. Because it can be used indoors and on the putting green, it’s also really practical.”
One thing Therefore already had a good barometer for is the high expectations and demands of the golf demographic. TomTom’s award-winning GPS devices have been built exclusively by the company since 2003.
“We love the game so much here in the office, and our belief is consumers deserve better,” Slaughter says. ‘We do our stuff to be the best, and we can do that in the capacity were in and the skill level of people around us. What we hear a lot is, wow, looks great, let’s try it out. Take the mirror out of the box, and people say, ‘that feels like really good quality.’ Okay, the mirror isn’t a new idea, but has anyone ever worked through it with the goal of making one the best it can possibly be? We did. The mat? Same thing. Rolls out perfectly flat, has exceptional backing, looks, and putts fantastic. You won’t ever see us cutting corners, and the reason is obvious. Andy (Clift, PuttOUT brand director) has been saying all along with PuttOUT, it’s like a niche, within a niche, within another niche. You’re talking about golf, then training, and then specifically about putting training. That’s a small section of consumer you’re trying to get at. With PuttOUT, we’ve had success in doing just that.”
Necessity is also the mother of invention….
Martin Riddiford was destined to be a golfer. His grandfather, Cecil Hayward, was a good enough player to participate in the 1926 English Amateur at Surrey’s Walton Heath Golf Club, and Pru Riddiford, his mother, is a two-time British Senior Ladies Open champion.
Decent gene pool aside, overseeing Therefore takes time.
Playing off a low, single-digit handicap at Royal Ashdown Forest Golf Club – and wanting to stay there – meant finding ways to keep his short game sharp.
Especially perplexing for Riddiford were the fiddly short putts after a layoff. What he and the golfers at Therefore envisioned was a more effective putt return product, one without a requirement for electricity or batteries that could be used anytime, anywhere.
An early prototype featured a parabolic ramp. It returned a ball the same distance it would have gone by the hole and simulated lip outs off to either side, so there was value-added in the consistent feedback.
Complemented by a white base disc that replicated the exact size of a regulation golf hole, it was even portable enough to easily fit in a golf bag or pocket.
“When Martin comes up with an idea, you’ll look at it first and you won’t get it. You’ll say, I don’t understand, what’s going on here,” explained Andy Clift, PuttOUT’s brand director. “Then you’ll play with it, or use it, and you’ll go, my god, this is just bloody genius.”
Eventually, Riddiford and Therefore added to the prototype with a second aim function. This one though proved much more challenging to negotiate. Only a putt struck with perfect pace (18-inches past the hole) and line can stay in PuttOUT’s micro-target.
“The trainer has an ability to keep me engaged and wanting to use a putter on a daily basis – something I tell my students and followers to do continually,” explained Mark Crossfield, a renowned English swing coach and one of PuttOUT’s earliest high profile adopters. “To keep up the improvement and the feel you NEED to keep a putter in your hands and keep putting to a target. Most of us don’t have the luxury of a pristine course 365 days a year and wouldn’t get to the putting green on a daily basis even if we did. This thing (and the other products) inspires me to keep working at home, and that’s what you need to improve.”
Putting Is Still King…
The putter is used three times more often in a round of golf than the driver – or about 40 % compared to 13 %. Touring pros can claim the money club today is the big stick, but the rest of us have a much better chance to shave shots from our score by becoming more proficient with the flat-stick.
“The average player doesn’t pick up a putter enough. With the trainer, you get it in your hands, practice even ten minutes a day, and it’s going to help you. We want to encourage people to think about their putting,” Clift said.
To do that, PuttOUT made a conscious decision to add to its product portfolio.
For a typical indoor setting at home – an office, living room, or den – the Pressure Putt Trainer needed a mat, one that would replicate proper green speed. As a matter of disclosure, the team at Therefore hadn’t really even thought about one until customers began contacting them asking where to get the mats being used in PuttOUT videos on the internet.
“We said, okay, we’ll make our own mat, but we’ll do one our way,” Clift added.
That started from underneath. The just under eight foot PuttOUT putting mat was designed with an extra thick TPR rubberized backing allowing it to roll out flat from the dense cardboard cylinder it comes packaged in – every time.
A Stimpmeter reading of 10 offers users a medium to fast roll while the addition of alignment lines and pace targets helps make it a more functional part of a practice station.
A low profile drawstring carry bag complements two color options (green or grey).
“The mat is really designed almost exclusively for the consumer,” Slaughter said. “They might have a space problem or flooring where no carpet exists, so this is a solution. Most tour guys have a green where they live, but there are exceptions. Edoardo Molinari called the other day asking us about one. Where he is in the winter, it can be colder. Catriona Matthew’s husband told me recently they take their mat with them everywhere. They already have so much stuff, he said, it wouldn’t make a difference. The next step for us might be to make bigger mats of the same high quality.”
The PuttOUT Putting Mirror became a natural extension of the mat and pressure trainer.
Used in practice as a checkpoint for set up and alignment Therefore’s fresh take on an old idea was to construct it in three layers – spiked base rubber surround, solid steel inner plate and anti-scratch coated mirror – with two adjustable magnetic guides on top that can be used as rails, gate, or a backstop.
An accompanying PuttOUT branded putting gate assists with aim and stroke consistency.
“No distributor likes a one-product scenario. Ours up in near Royal Lytham, Second Chance Ltd, kept pushing us to think bigger,” Clift said. “We realized that we could engage in other products like the mat and mirror by building them to the same high standard we use for everything else. We’re not golf pros; we work with pros. What we do is provide the best tools to allow golfers to take on their practice.”
Crossfield Champions the Cause…
Getting any new product into the right person’s hands – an influencer – can be the difference between success and failure. This is where the PuttOUT story takes on a “bit of serendipity.”
Originally thought to be something they could sell a few of, or send to golf business clients Therefore committed to a space for PuttOUT at the 2016 London Golf Show with the idea of going there and doing some networking to acquire new business contacts. When Clift and Slaughter arrived, they discovered their booth was next to Crossfield, the veteran PGA golf coach and a pioneer of digital golf content on YouTube.
“Mark was the catalyst. We showed him the Pressure Putt Trainer, sent him one, and he said, guys, this is great. Let me do a video for you. That was it. “That was the launch pad,” smiles Clift.
Not coming from a typical golf company or from a big brand that releases anything then relies on its name for it to be successful intrigued Crossfield. Therefore’s two-plus decades of being immersed in product design every day meant an elevated standard to the working aspects of PuttOUT and what it could do to help golfers.
“Designing, testing, building, and modifying this stuff is literally their job,” said Crossfield. “They’ll always have a bit of an edge on design and aesthetics, and that means they can make stuff that appeals to everyone, not intimidating, ugly, or just plain dull. Now they’re building contacts in the industry and out on tour with players to really make things happen. Even better was that my kids saw it and started using it before I explained what it was. I think they’ve done pretty well in following up that exact same principle with their next products, the mat, and the mirror. Nobody in the Crossfield house complains about any of them.”
Here for the Content….
It isn’t like PuttOUT has a team of fifty looking after it. It’s a two-man show (with a bit of in-house support at Therefore when needed).
Clift runs PuttOUT’s day-to-day. Slaughter works on marketing and by extension partnerships.
“That’s another aspect I really like,” said Crossfield. “The brand is nimble on its feet. If I want to pitch some feedback, all I do is call Andy or Cam. Simple. I don’t have to go through layers to get in touch.”
Social media has proven a dependable platform to push brand awareness. Engaged in a variety of digital content, the messaging with PuttOUT is ingrained with the idea of ‘hey, we’re doing cool stuff that can help golfers,’ not ‘buy this and you’ll become Tiger Woods.’ It’s also allowing the company to interact with consumers globally – lots of them.
PuttOUT is up over 19,000 followers on Twitter alone. Hardly massive but still impressive for a fledgling brand involved exclusively in putting training aids.
“Advertising used to tell us, buy this, and we’ll give you the best product,” Slaughter said. “Go ahead and try that on a teenager now. That mindset is gone. It doesn’t work. Today you have to use content marketing. You have to use people affiliated with the product, let them tell their story, and people can make their own decision to buy it. That’s going to change more and more the further we go. It will come to a point where the more you shout out about buying something, the less likely the next generation is going to buy it.”
Quick tips with Crossfield and reader polls have been complemented by a variety of giveaways, the most recent being one of the European Solheim Cup packages Matthew gifted her players and vice-captains.
“Whenever we do a prize package, we always do a custom note,” said Slaughter. “Every since I’ve come on board, I’ve said we just can’t send out a box, throw in the product and get it out there. If someone gets something from PuttOUT, I want them to think, even if it’s only for a moment, that they’re kind of special.”
Having tour images posted on social hasn’t hurt PuttOUT’s cause either. Those began showing up last year and have remained steady emanating from a variety of stops worldwide, including the PGA Tour and European PGA Tour’s. Prominent has been the mirror and gates.
“We never thought of the PuttOUT trainer being a PGA Tour product, but we wanted to show it to them and say, okay, this is what we’ve done first, so we’d like your opinion on what makes a better product,” added Slaughter. “Then, we developed the mirror. Now, we’re getting some of that opinion back, how better to do it. Of course, you want to get it right the first time because these guys don’t give you two chances.”
An alignment with MyGolfSpy came about after Slaughter completed research on different golf company cultures and personalities.
“MyGolfSpy kept coming up,” he said. “You guys are outspoken, but you have the numbers to prove you know what you’re talking about. There’s a fine line between arrogance and being intelligent with data to back up your claims.”
What’s On the horizon?
Andy Clift still shakes his head to this day. PuttOUT’s quick ascent within industry circles has been as much a surprise as it’s been self-fulfilling.
“If you had told me a year ago that we’d have our products out on tour or with all the members of the Solheim Cup team, 12 of the best in Europe, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’d have laughed,” he said, “We’ve got that credibility with people. They tell us, you guys do good products and that for us here is pretty satisfying. If we carry on doing stuff that’s going to inspire people to practice and have more fun doing it, we’re only going to get bigger.”
That begs the question: what’s next? For PuttOUT the transition to more customized colors of the Pressure Putt Trainer and putting gates, a provision for a multiple-gate set-up, as well as the aforementioned potential for larger versions of the mats, all make business sense. So too does researching and developing other putting specific training aids using the assets and support Therefore can provide.
“We never doubted the products would be successful, but I think there’s another side of this that has shown us that people do want to get better,” Slaughter said. “They will spend money on golf, and the thing they most want to get better at is putting. For us here at PuttOUT, that’s a powerful thing.”