“The first four putters were 20 years in the making.”  Guerin Rife

The concept of an overnight success story is misguided at best. Truthfully, the leap from relative unknown to a bona-fide market mover is the result of countless hours of dedication to a specific objective that benefits from some sort of inflection point.

In this case, we’re talking about putters, specifically Evnroll putters, and the man behind it all, Guerin Rife. In 2017, we traced Rife’s story from his roots as an ad agency art director to one of the most highly regarded creative thinkers and putter designers in the game.

What we knew then was that Rife was on to something with his Sweet Face Technology.

What we didn’t know is exactly whether it could sustain an entire brand.

EVNROLL IS HERE TO STAY

Six years ago, Evnroll compelled golfers to consider the limits of how a putter could impact both the speed and direction of every putt. Put differently, Evnroll’s face technology allowed mishits to travel the same distance and end up in the same spot as putts hit in the center of the face.

You might want to stop and re-read that last sentence. It’s a claim no other putter brand makes.

Thus, Evnroll’s tagline, “Nothing Rolls Like an Evnroll.” It’s a sentiment similar to Mizuno’s “Nothing Feels Like A Mizuno” catchphrase or my personal favorite, “Nobody out pizzas the Hut.” The point is that owning and leveraging a unique piece of real estate, in any market, is vital and really freaking difficult.

Shortly after Evnroll’s launch, other manufacturers started mimicking Rife’s patented groove approach. Though this provided a measure of validation, some designs proved to be too similar which is why you don’t see them on the market any longer. Legal proceedings aside, Evnroll’s sales continued to climb. The pandemic didn’t help and Evnroll felt the supply-chain squeeze as much as anyone. As a result, Rife reshuffled several vendors, altered a couple of processes and believes his brand is in a better position now than in 2020. Like other companies, Rife purposely overbought certain pieces of inventory so that, as he says, “we can sell as many putters as people will buy.”

TAKING ON SCOTTY CAMERON

Scotty Cameron is the 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to putters. I know Odyssey is the “#1 Putter on Every Tour” but Scotty Cameron is still the “#1 brand to which every other milled putter is compared.”

And I’m not asserting that Evnroll will overtake Cameron or even nibble off a sizeable portion of the latter’s market share. The mention of Cameron is more so to illustrate a key difference between Evnroll and a much larger operation.

Cameron enjoys the benefits of economies of scale. Amongst pricing benefits, with several machine shops and a handful of CAD (computer-aided design) engineers, the Cameron empire can create prototypes and experimental designs and run several design cycles in parallel, all while maintaining a standard production schedule.

Conversely, for Evnroll, it’s an “either-or” proposition. Either Rife and his team use available resource to produce retail models or they use those same resources for prototyping and special projects.

Functionally, this means Evnroll isn’t likely to dive head-first into the small-batch, limited-release market. Or cater to Tour pros with one-off, bespoke design services. The other limitation is that it might take Evnroll several years to bring a new design to market. One could argue that this is either beneficial (is a year really enough time to create a quantifiably better putter?) or frustrating for consumers who expect the opportunity for an annual update.

EVNROLL – CHANGES AHEAD

“Refine and evolve.” That’s Rife’s mindset as Evnroll seeks to broach the “smedium” company size category. I don’t have a precise number at which this transition occurs but it likely involves selling in the neighborhood of 100,000 putters every year.

Refinement necessitates a clear acknowledgement of products that define a brand. For Evnroll, that putter is the ER2. Rife is quick to acknowledge the 80/20 retail rule. That is, 80 percent of your sales generally come from 20 percent of your SKUs. Beyond that, one could argue that it’s the best blade putter we’ve tested in the last six years. If Rife is making putters, an Evnroll ER2 will be in the line.

The evolution of Evnroll requires a return to a cohesive, unifying, identity. Practically, this means the brand will feature a single black-and-white color scheme that includes the grip and head cover.

A clean, identifiable look is paramount for brand recognition and “we sort of got away from that”, admits Rife. Walk into any big-box retail store and look at the putter corral. Aesthetics matter. It’s not only the individual putter but the visual message it presents stacked alongside 15 or 20 putters of the same brand.

ENHANCED DESIGN STRATEGY

 

If most sales come from a handful of designs, what about the others? This is where Rife believes he further separates himself from competitors. The objective is to find opportunities where other brands stopped a design short of what Rife sees as its full potential. Case in point: Evnroll Midlock. Armlock putters aren’t anything new. Plenty of putter brands make a version of this design. But Rife’s iteration addressed what he saw as a key fitting flaw in existing models. His “Armlock Made Easy” platform asked golfers to take an existing putter length and add six inches. That’s it. He addressed the shaft-lean/face-loft fitting conundrum by developing a proprietary grip that pushed right up against the boundaries of geometries accepted by the ruling bodies.

And, in the I’d tell you but I’d have to kill you category, I have it on good authority that Evnroll has at least one fascinating arrow in the quiver for 2023 that more or less follows a similar strategy. But I’ve been bound to secrecy. No bribes, please. (Unless it includes ice cream and Dr. Pepper. Then all bets are off.)

In that vein, what do you call an established putter design that Rife then improves? If architects can restore and enhance a golf course, does Evnroll Guerin-ize or Rife-inate a model? Your call.

WHO OR WHAT DOES EVNROLL BECOME?

“We’re a brand for putter nerds,” asserts Rife. Put differently, Evnroll established itself first with gearheads and consumers who held performance as the only worthy metric. This group of golfers might be apt to read ingredient labels rather than shop based on brand names. And while one could argue that this identity might keep Evnroll from reaching mass appeal status, Rife isn’t willing to compromise on his DNA. It would be like asking Alice Cooper to sing some nursery rhymes. Sure, he could do it, but why?

Rife’s intention is that Evnroll’s synergistic design is what captivates golfers; that the combined effectiveness of each individual design attribute is greater than the sum of those parts.

Basically, the details that matter to Rife as a designer also matter to the end user. It’s why Evnroll putters feature parabolic face technology, two naked alignment dots on the topline, a rocker sole and precision milling, etc. Each feature has a purpose that ultimately supports better performance without compromising the aesthetic.

Five years ago, Rife stated, with tongue firmly in cheek, that “our goal is modest—we want every foursome in America using Evnroll putters.”

His more pensive answer unveiled a poignant understanding that, for anything to be real and lasting, it requires a more sophisticated and thoughtful approach. What exactly that means remains to be seen.

In the meantime, which popular putter design would you like to see Evnroll update?

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