Having established itself as a dominant presence in the irons market, Mizuno Golf is now intensifying its focus on the premium putter market. Last year, the company partnered with famed putter designer Robert Bettinardi to launch two series of 100-percent milled putters. Now, Mizuno and Bettinardi are back with the next generation of Mizuno Bettinardi putters: the Black Carbon Series with Feel Impact Technology (F.I.T.), which was launched this month. Each Black Carbon putter is “precision milled from one piece of pure 11L17 carbon steel for ultra consistency and features a uniquely milled F.I.T. face that reduces the surface area of where the ball makes contact with the putter face by 70 percent, delivering extremely solid feel to every putt.” PutterZone.com recently spoke with Mizuno USA’s Director of Marketing Chuck Couch to get the scoop on the Black Carbon Series—as well as Mizuno’s larger vision for the putter category. Following is our exclusive interview.
How is Mizuno Golf’s partnership with Robert Bettinardi reflective of the larger Mizuno Golf vision, inclusive of your renowned irons and other golf equipment?
At Mizuno, we wanted to develop a partnership with a putter designer who we felt reflects the high standards of quality and performance that Mizuno prides itself on. We were very fortunate that
When the Bettinardi partnership was struck, Mizuno Golf stated that it wanted to fill a hole in its product portfolio and ultimately earn a double-digit share of the premium putter market. Why did the company want to make this push in the putter category—and what are the results to date?
We did want to fill the hole in our product portfolio as we did not have a range of putters. Also, one of our Global Tour Staff players, Luke Donald, had used a Bettinardi putter in the past and we felt this was a wonderful way to deliver a putter that our Global Tour Staff would love to take right out to the course. We have not yet reached our target of double-digit share in the premium putter category, but we are confident that we have built a strong foundation to gain market share each and every year, and we believe that the new Black Carbon Series with F.I.T. face technology is going to be a big winner.
Several years ago, Mizuno Golf partnered with another famed putter designer, T.P. Mills. Can you provide a little background on that partnership?
Our relationship with T.P. Mills was a good one. I do think that we reached a point where we were not ready for the next step in putters. At the time of our relationship with the T.P. Mills Putter Company, we were truly attacking the iron market and in the end we had to make some tough decisions on where to spend our funds. Seeing that we could become a major player in the iron market meant that we needed to take a break from putters, and focus on earning iron market share and, in turn, be a stronger company going forward. This is exactly what we did, and I can tell you that we are now in a position to develop, promote, and be a leader in the putter category.
The Mizuno Bettinardi C Series and A Series putters were well received in 2007. Now you have teed up the Black Carbon putters for 2008. How do you view these new putters in relation to the existing ones—is it more of a simple evolution or a quantum leap?
Describing the new Black Carbon putters as a quantum leap from the A Series and C Series is a good analogy. We all know the benefits of a 100-percent milled Bettinardi putter for consistency and our A and C Series deliver this equally as well as our new Black Carbon putters. The real quantum leap is the patented F.I.T face milling technology. Not only is it easy to see, touch and feel, but it also delivers amazing feel when stroking your putt. Consistency and feel in visible, viable, high technology is what all golfers crave on the greens. We are very excited to see how this new line performs in the marketplace, however. After all of our product testing, we know it will be received with much fanfare.
What has been the market and tour feedback so far with the Black Carbon putters—and what do you think makes them truly special and unique, particularly in matters of performance?
It is still too early to tell you what the market feedback will be, as the putter was just recently launched, but I can again tell you that on every product sales call that I am in, the new Black Carbon putters “wow” people. You tell them the technology story and let them try the putter and they are beaming with excitement. F.I.T. face technology dramatically reduces the surface area of where the ball makes contact with the face, offering the soft feel of a polymer insert, but in the solid and consistent package of a one-piece 100-percent milled carbon steel putter. You will never know true feel and consistency until you try one for yourself.
Thank you, Chuck! Stay tuned at PutterZone.com for more insights into the Mizuno Bettinardi Black Carbon Series putters.