Golf's New Innovators

How one golf company pivoted and got creative to find success amid pandemic

As part of Golf Digest’s “Get Out & Play” initiative, emphasizing relevant content as golfers return to golf courses with some post-coronavirus restrictions, we will be highlighting individuals and companies that have stood out amid these times for innovating in this chaotic period. If you have someone to nominate in the industry for doing extraordinary work to preserve through difficulties in these times, please reach out to us: editors@golfdigest.com, as we’ll be profiling worthwhile stories in the next couple of weeks. –The Editors

A small custom embroidery company, Z Customization, which works with golf companies and organizations to personalize golf bags, shirts, and any accessory with everything from brand names to tournament logos, was having an extraordinary year. Sales were up 40 percent in the first two months, and the company had just completed embroidery projects for the officially licensed 2020 Team USA Ryder Cup golf bags.

“Business was flowing in like a fire hydrant,” said president Jeff Yearous, who oversees the company’s 65 employees in facilities at its headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., and in Texas.

And then, of course, it wasn’t.

The coronavirus pandemic led to a lockdown of businesses in California on March 14, and Yearous immediately began contemplating preventative measures. As it turns out, that would come to have a literal meaning.

“Our team here got our heads together with a focus on three things,” he said. “First was to try to keep our employees working. Second was how could we find a way to do something to help everybody else. Third, we’re made in the U.S.A., and I think there’s an obligation to have less reliance on foreign manufacturing.”

Given that Z Customization works in all kinds of fabrics, it didn’t take a long to see the idea that would change the company’s business profile: Face masks, albeit with a golf hook.

In a couple of weeks, the company developed a pattern and then went a step further by utilizing its expertise to custom imprint masks.

Z Customization is not the only company to add masks to its offerings. PXG began producing masks and donating 50 percent of the sales to the Team Rubicon charity, which is providing food assistance to those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to the multiple golf companies it already does custom work for, Z Customization looked to several southern California golf courses and produced masks for the staff at Goat Hill, The Crossings and Monarch Beach, including orders for 15,000 just after seeing Yearous’s social media post. High schools in the Carlsbad area also placed orders with the team logos.

In barely two months, it led Z Customization to pivot its business, even switching the company website from an informational site to a direct-to-consumer selling site.

“In the past, we didn’t need anything like that because of all the relationships we had with major equipment companies,” Yearous said. “We’ve always been like a supporting actor that you never really see. But it hasn’t taken long for me to see that this can be a fundamental part of what we do.”

With new guidelines in place for how equipment companies work at the club assembly level or even how demo days are constructed, as well as the changes to how golf course staff must be outfitted, Yearous sees an opportunity for the mask to not be a generic throwaway item.

“I just think the mask is going to be part of the uniform, just like a logoed shirt or hat is,” he said. “There will be masks that the employees will wear to protect themselves, and there will be masks that they will want to sell to the customers who come in.

“Honestly, the response from the golf community has been overwhelming. And we’ve been able to rethink our business and keep all our great people working.”

Yearous said the company donates 10 percent of sales for schools back to the schools to fund other programs at the school, or for the purchase of additional masks.

“This is going to be a fundamental part of who we are,” he said, suggesting that a customized mask could be part of the welcome pack that a resort might provide in future visits, instead of a bag tag or divot tool. “We are a company that personalizes the things that are important to you, whatever those products are. That’s why those logos are on every hat and shirt and every golf bag that goes out.

“In the current environment, we know the mask is important, and we also know that people and companies and facilities aren’t always going to settle for that generic, plain blue mask. We have the embroidery machines, we have the heat transfer machines. We’re going to make these custom to what people want.”

Z Customization sells its custom logo masks for between $5 and $7 per mask. For more information, visit its website here.

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