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
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.