BEAU’S FI­NAL BOW

Beau Barnard has been Mr Titleist for 32 years in South Africa and is re­tir­ing in De­cem­ber. The 64-year-old be­came the lo­cal distrib­u­tor for Acush­net in 1982 un­der Shelford Golf, and was ap­pointed gen­eral man­ager of Acush­net SA in 1996, han­dling brands su

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 12/ 14 - IN­TER­VIEWED BY BARRY HAVENGA

Beau Barnard, South Africa’s ‘Mr Titleist,’ is re­tir­ing.

What is the big­gest equip­ment break­through you have wit­nessed?

The Pro V1 golf ball, be­cause it re­ally changed ev­ery­thing. Ob­vi­ously driver tech­nol­ogy – head size, in­creased COR and MOI – has con­trib­uted to ev­ery­one be­ing able to hit the ball fur­ther, but Pro V1 sales have never wa­vered since its launch in 2000. It ac­tu­ally in­creases ev­ery year. At re­tail out­lets it’s known as a Key Value Item (KVP), a prod­uct that ev­ery­one knows, in­clud­ing its ex­act price. Re­tail­ers are pre­pared to lower their profit mar­gin on the Pro V1, so when they have a spe­cial they are go­ing to shift big num­bers.

How much does the rand/dol­lar rate af­fect what con­sumers pay for equip­ment?

The equip­ment in­dus­try is un­der im­mense pres­sure to keep costs down for cus­tomers. Peo­ple must re­mem­ber that dis­tri­bu­tion and duty costs also fac­tor into the price you pay at the till. But the two ma­jor re­tail­ers in this coun­try do a good job – 10 years ago we were pay­ing over R50 for a Pro V1. ( The ball cur­rently re­tails at R55.) I’ve been all around the world vis­it­ing golf re­tail out­lets, and The Pro Shop’s Wood­mead store ranks up there with the very best.

Can the club pro­fes­sional still com­pete with the chain stores?

It’s al­ways go­ing to be tough when it comes to hard­wear but they will al­ways have de­mand for balls, ap­parel and ac­ces­sories. There is, how­ever, a mas­sive op­por­tu­nity for club pros to in­crease their business with cus­tom fit­ting. It takes time and ef­fort – and I be­lieve club pros have been lazy here – but more than ever, recre­ational golfers have the abil­ity to im­prove sim­ply by us­ing equip­ment that matches their swing. Re­mem­ber when you hit some balls with a club and then placed an or­der to fit your specs? Ad­justable equip­ment changed all that. You can fit some­one in half an hour and man­u­fac­tur­ers are bend­ing over back­wards to help the club pro with demo days.

Do peo­ple con­tact you with ideas for a new prod­uct or club?

All the time ( laughs). Acush­net has a strict pol­icy on not ac­cept­ing un­so­licited ideas from the pub­lic. That’s why they have multi-mil­lion dol­lar re­search and de­vel­op­ment de­part­ments. But most of the stuff I’ve been ap­proached with over the years have been gim­micks, any­way.

Where do we go next with tech­nol­ogy? What’s the next break­through?

I re­ally think we are maxed out now. The R&A/USGA have gov­erned equip­ment so much that we’ll only see small in­cre­ments in de­vel­op­ment. Some­one will find some­thing, they al­ways do, but I don’t see any­thing rev­o­lu­tion­ary hap­pen­ing for some time. I can’t stress the im­por­tance of club-fit­ting enough for all golfers. They re­ally will see a dif­fer­ence in ball flight and dis­tance.

Sur­prise us with a fact or statis­tic about the SA golf equip­ment in­dus­try.

The num­ber of our golf balls (Titleist and Pin­na­cle) sold in South Africa in one year is less than one day’s pro­duc­tion out­put at the four Acush­net golf ball plants in Amer­ica! I don’t want to give away our ex­act sales fig­ure, but we sell well over 100 000 balls a year.

Your ‘state of the na­tion’ as­sess­ment of golf in South Africa.

There are prob­lems the in­dus­try is fac­ing, but the un­der­ly­ing is­sue is that golf is not an easy game to play. You can look at that two ways; it’s a chal­lenge, so new­com­ers want to get bet­ter, or they give up and go moun­tain­bik­ing. We live in a fast­mov­ing dig­i­tal world, and golf needs to adapt to fit in. It must be­come quicker and more ac­ces­si­ble to play. There is a mis­con­cep­tion that you can’t do both, but I play golf and ride a bike once a week, no prob­lem. Golf does have the lux­ury that any­one can play the game, re­gard­less of the skill level. We must not for­get that.

Your plans for re­tire­ment?

My wife (Gill) and I will con­tinue to live at Pe­can­wood, but we’ll spend more time at our hol­i­day home in Mar­loth Park, on the south­ern bound­ary of the Kruger Na­tional Park. My dream has al­ways been to play the Old Course at St An­drews, and as a re­tire­ment gift from Acush­net I’ll get to do that. Oth­er­wise I’ll keep play­ing golf. I’m fa­nat­i­cal about the game, al­ways have been.

Who is suc­ceed­ing you at Acush­net South Africa?

An­drew Kalis, for­merly the Prod­uct and Mar­ket­ing man­ager for Tay­lorMade-adi­das SA. He trav­elled to Acush­net head­quar­ters (in Fairhaven, Mas­sachusetts) in Novem­ber for ori­en­ta­tion and then to our di­rect par­ent in the United King­dom for two weeks. We will then work to­gether un­til the end of the year.

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