On the heels of another successful year on the professional circuits, Rife Putters is charging into 2009 with several new putter models as well as enhancements to familiar favorites such as the Two Bar Hybrid blade and mallet. In the following exclusive interview with Rife’s President Matt Molloy, PutterZone.com gets the inside scoop on the company’s latest putter offerings—including a sneak peek at the upcoming Rife IMO line—as well as the true story behind the rumor that the company is actively looking to be acquired.
What can golfers look forward to from Rife Putters in 2009?
They can expect more of the same from us as well as something we have never done before. We have some great new line extensions for the Two Bar Hybrid, the Island Series and IBF Tour Series. We have the new Tour Hybrid mallet and blade, which offer a more compact head design than the original hybrid as well as our Tour Black finish. We also have the Abaco (pictured here) and Bimini out this year, respectively a player’s mallet and an 8802 design—very classic head designs but all done with an added bit of class. 2009 will mark the first time Rife offers a product in the $150 price range with the new IMO putters. This product will debut at the 2009 PGA Merchandise Show (in January) and we expect it to raise some eyebrows there just as it has on Tour during the last few weeks of the year.
Can you share any details on this new Rife IMO putter line?
The IMO (for Inline Momentum) line is based on the premise that most golfers don’t benefit from ultra high MOI putters, because their mis-hits aren’t far enough off-center to take advantage of the technology. We feel that a putter with 80 percent of the mass directed behind the sweet spot, which is quite large on the IMO, will give the majority of golfers a very stable hit but will also help them swing the putter more on plane as the mass is very directed towards the ball. This doesn’t mean we don’t believe in MOI. We’ll have a line of putters coming out that also has a very focused story behind this technology. We’re an advocate of the application of weight for very specific purposes, not just to have high MOI numbers.
The Island Series also seems to be a point of emphasis for you in 2009, with two new models following the recent release of the Cayman model. How would you compare and contrast your Island Series putters, Two Bar putters and IBF Tour putters?
Our goal is to make sure we have something for everybody. The Island Series continues to be where we try to build upon the classics, so to speak. These head designs have been around for years, yet we always try to add a little something extra to them so they are just a cut above what has been done in the past. The IBF Series line will most likely continue to be plumber neck-only hosel design, but you can probably expect to see a wider array of finishes and materials being used in these. The head designs may or may not be original, but the way they look upon completion will no doubt be very unique. There is a chance the price of the IBF line may increase over the $200 price point as we push the limits of new designs, materials and finishes. The Two Bar Hybrid line continues to be our staple of higher MOI, more forgiving designs, with all the bells and whistles on the technology side.
A recent article in Golfweek suggested that one of Guerin Rife’s goals right now is to “sell his business.” Can you clarify or elaborate on this?
Quite honestly that article surprised us. There is no question companies like ours have been targets for acquisition in the past, but right now we are not concerning ourselves with selling the company. That will either happen or it won’t, and that will be decided on by our Board if there is ever an offer on the table. We have made significant investments in our company’s infrastructure over this past year in an effort to be the dominant independent putter company in the world. We have a state-of-the-art putting facility in our 9,000 square-foot-headquarters and can fulfill over 1,000 putters a day. We pride ourselves on our great customer service and the fact that we stand behind all of our products. The success we have had on the Champions tour this year, winning 33 percent of the events, proves that our products perform as advertised. We also won events on the PGA, Nationwide and LPGA Tours. Rife Putters has been built to be a stand-alone entity for the foreseeable future. I assure you (founder and designer) Guerin Rife never said his only goal was to sell his business as the article stated.
What notable highlights, trends or surprises did you encounter over the past year, in the marketplace and/or on tour?
Winning 14 times this year was certainly a highlight for us. The trend right now is definitely toward products that can stand up and be noticed above the clutter. Some other companies did a nice job this year raising the bar, and we see that things are getting more and more competitive. I think the companies that have great designers will be the ones that continue to have success. We feel we have the best in the business and the products we have in the pipeline will be sure to keep elevating our game. We will just have to see if the competition can keep up.