Global Edition

GEL makes its mark

12.19am 25th September 2008 - Corporate

It hardly seems possible that it is only 20 months since GEL Golf launched its first range of groove putters, such has been the huge impact that GEL has made on the fiercely competitive international golf putter market.

Groove Equipment Ltd (GEL) was set up by former Hong Kong amateur representative and now Hong Kong businessman, Alec Pettigrew, based on the strong belief that groove technology is set to revolutionize the putter marketplace.

“In the not too distant future, all putters will use groove technology given the proven benefits of grooves which reduce skid on the ball and gets the ball to start rolling straighter and sooner and therefore ensures more putts are holed,” explains Alec, CEO of GEL Golf. Alec first came across grooved putters when he witnessed Goosen’s putting display in the 2001 US Open and was intrigued by the South African’s innovative, if obscure, putter.

Goosen it appeared was using one of the first groove-faced putters to appear on Tour, a Yes! model designed by renown putting guru, Harold Swash. The concept of a grooved putter face was created by Swash when he discovered that grooves at a slight angle grip the golf ball better at impact to improve the forward roll of the ball. The angular grooves allow the golf ball to achieve the desired topspin roll in less time and distance than a flat-faced putter, thereby being more effective at preventing the ball from skipping, skidding or spinning sideways.

Convinced by the groove technology, Alec seized the opportunity to distribute Yes! groove putters in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It wasn’t long before he had created demand that far out-stripped the company’s supply capabilities, so he also took control of global production. Quickly he expanded the men’s range, brought in a ladies range and introduced the distinctive yellow, black and white grips by which the brand is now immediately recognizable.

Yes! putters fast became the second-most played putter on the Asian Tour, and even more telling, first among golfers without a putter contract. Top golfers like KJ Choi, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo and David Howell were all converting to grooved putters.

With Yes! sales and profits spiraling skywards the company was in a better position to take its production in-house. Alec made a clean and amicable break from Yes.

Now out on his own and in no doubt about the benefits of grooves in putters, Alec set out to form a new brand of groove putters that he believed would out-perform his rival’s range. It was Alec’s belief that not only could the grooves be improved but there were other technologies that could be incorporated into putters.

And so GEL began operating in Hong Kong in 2006 and its groundbreaking GEL putters, complete with USGA and R&A approval, were launched at the Orlando PGA Merchandise Show in January 2007, closely followed by their European launch in London in March.

The GEL putter range, comprising six models, took the golf trade by storm with their innovative groove technology that boasted inserts of horizontal, multi-layered aluminium grooves for a more responsive feel and enhanced sweet spot. Whilst on the back of feedback from Tour pros GEL has made their putters larger, heavier and more balanced heads, encouraging an even smoother and more rhythmical putting stroke.
Alec ensured that the GEL putters were easily distinguishable by using bright yellow and blue grips for men, and pink and blue grips for women, and electric blue and pink face inserts.

But it was not just the attention-grabbing colourways that made the GEL putters stand out. Independent testing by The Quintic Consultancy on a variety of big name putters (including PING, Titleist, TaylorMade and Odyssey) confirmed GEL as the number one performer.

In July, Alec made his way up to Carnoustie to attend The Open Championship where GEL made its debut on the practice putting green whilst the signing of former Australian Amateur Champion David Gleeson that week gave the innovative GEL Putter its debut appearance in one of golf most prestigious tournaments. That week, the 29-year-old Australian teed off with a GEL Ruby model in his golf bag in the 136th staging of the prestigious Major.

In a momentous week for the brand, GEL also celebrated an agreement reached with Dr Paul Hurrion, one of the world’s leading sports biomechanists and a renown putting coach, to design a second range of putters under the GEL brand.

With over 10 years of research and development in biomechanics and putting, Alec recognized that Paul’s experience would perfectly complement GEL’s groove and insert technology.

At the time, Paul was giving advice to a number of top European Tour and Ryder Cup players and later that week he was personally thanked by Open champion, Padraig Harrington, in his acceptance speech for his contribution to the Irishman’s first Major title.

By September that year, GEL had appointed Caesar Bayliss as its fulltime representative on the Asian Tour with immediate success; GEL quickly became the number three putter on tour and in December was celebrating its first Tour win when American Bryan Saltus won the Johnnie Walker Cambodian Open on the Asian Tour. Having thrown his regular putter into the lake during a practice round, Saltus played the tournament with a GEL Topaz in his bag and went on to capture his first major tour title. Asian Tour statistics show that Saltus’ putting average prior to Cambodia had been 30.4 per round but using his GEL Putter, his average that week plummeted to 28.5 putts per round.

“My putting has been the winning formula this week. I had a good start with three birdies and my confidence carried on after that. Quite simply, GEL has changed my life,” were the immortal words used by Saltus to explain his win.

By the end of 2007, GEL was pleased to announce that it had generated first year sales of over 12,000 putters. Not bad for a company barely a year old and entering into a fiercely competitive market made up of a number of big brand names.

After a roller-coaster ride for GEL in its debut year, GEL teed off 2008 with the launch of the GEL Paul Hurrion Signature Range at the PGA Show in Orlando.

Shortly afterwards in May GEL recorded its second Tour win at the Shanghai Championship on the Omega China Tour when Taiwan’s Hsu Mong-nam secured the title at the Orient Golf & Country Club using a GEL Jade model (two other players in the top five were also using a GEL Putter). That week GEL secured its position at the top of the putter leaderboard by becoming the number one putter on the China Tour.

GEL has also been making its mark on the opposite side of the world in North America. In early September GEL celebrated its third Tour win when American Tom Stankowski carded a final round 69 thanks to a birdie on the final hole to capture the Canadian Tour Championship in Ontario. Using a GEL Emerald putter, the American finished the tournament 272, 16 under par, to earn himself US$37,600 along with his first Canadian Tour title.

Over on the LPGA Tour, Tracy Hanson, who discovered GEL putters at the PGA Show earlier this year, has placed her confidence in a GEL Paul Hurrion putter when competing on the top ladies tour in the world. Meanwhile a host of other LPGA players have been flirting with GEL putters though constrained by manufacturers’ contracts that prevent them from using them in actual tournaments.

These developments marked yet more landmarks in the short history of GEL Golf which has quickly set out its stall as one of golf’s most innovative technology manufacturers.

Six months into 2008 and GEL confirmed that sales had already increased substantially on 2007, with over 15,000 putters sold worldwide by June – another significant milestone in the history of GEL which reflected the giant leap in terms of the impact that the brand has made in such a short space of time.

As of July 2008, GEL Putters are now available at retail in USA, Canada, Australia, Korea, Holland, Belgium, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Macau and the UK with the number of countries where GEL is available growing all the time.

And in another major development, GEL Golf has Tour representatives on five professional golf tours; namely The European, Canadian, Asian, Japanese and China Tours.

GEL Golf

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