Golf Inventor's Spotlight from the 2015 PGA Show
30 Jan 2015
by Corey Ross of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Equipment Reviews

Judith Kunzle and Victor Bond of AeroGolf
Judith Kunzle and Victor Bond of AeroGolf

Perhaps appropriately placed off the beaten path of the show floor at the PGA Show, you’ll find some exhibitors whose ideas are off the beaten path from conventional golf thinking.

Far removed from the cathedral-like booths of the industry leaders, and located closer to the loading dock and the portable gyro stand in Orlando’s massive Orange County Convention Center, you’ll find the more modest set ups of the would-be Thomas Edisons of the show.

This is the Inventor’s Spotlight Pavilion sponsored by the United Inventors Association of America.

Besides its ability to grow or contribute positively to the game, a product must meet three criteria to quality for the Inventor’s Spotlight:

  1. The product can’t currently be for sale or be distributed.
  2. No orders for future sale or delivery are allowed.
  3. No more than two samples of the product are allowed.

For most, these inventors are making the biggest investment in their new business date, hoping to be noticed and gain a foothold in the industry. Here are three of their stories.


She wore an archer’s outfit. He sported a tuxedo. They both held crossbows. More than a fashion statement, this was symbolism. “The marriage of archery and golf,” explained AeroGolf co-founder Victor Bond, a former marketing director at IBM.

Bond and wife Judith Kunzle, the archer, decided to bring their idea from Hawaii to the mainland on a whim, committing just six weeks before the show. The idea for AeroGolf is pretty straightforward: It’s archery applied to golf. Replace clubs with a crossbow and balls with arrows and there you have it. The arrows in this case have ball-shaped tips and are thus blunted, but Bond still doesn’t want you pointing them at anyone. The target is the green, where rings are placed or painted around the flag to represents putt. Your drives to that point are arrows as well, weighted and contoured for certain shot types such as against or with the wind. Pulling back the bow is a bit like the clock system for a wedge – length determines distance. “She can send a good drive over 200 yards,” Bond said, pointing to his wife. “And it’s straight!”

Bond is an avid golfer and both are amateur archers. It was Judith’s idea to combine the two. And Victor says the idea just made sense to him. “And then we spent about two weeks trying to talk each other out of it,” he says, “but it just made even more sense over time.” Bond says the sports have much in common (precision, arc of shot, etc.) and it’s time for them to share common ground – the golf course – at a time when golf is actively seeking alternatives. “And the best thing is that courses don’t have to change their set up at all to do this,” he says, “and it causes no damage to the property.”

Moreover, courses that currently close for as much as six months during the winter can host this year-round. Bond says the game at least two big advantages over golf: It’s easier and more affordable (arrows cost about $25-$35; a bow is around $250).

“It inhibits the difficulty of golf and combines the social element,” he says. “When you’ve seen disc golf, foot golf and Fling Golf, what golf course operator wouldn’t do this?” Before you dismiss AeroGolf, or don’t think it’ll ever come to a course near you, know this: The demo tournament for the game is being held at Mauna Kea, one of the top-ranked courses in Hawaii. The tournament is taking place Feb. 14. “Valentine’s Day. Cupid’s arrows. We couldn’t help ourselves,” Bond says.

Capillary Concrete

Martin Sternberg of Capillary Concrete

If Martin Sternberg has his way, bad lies in bunkers will soon be a thing of the past on the golf course. Sternberg, a course superintendent, regards bad lies as a product of poor bunker construction or material, in particular by creating bunkers that don’t drain properly. Sternberg’s product, Capillary Concrete, a sustainable concrete approved for wetlands, eliminates that by facilitating proper bunker drainage. Sternberg came to the PGA Show to get his product in front of PGA professionals, the people who care most about bad lies on the course. “Moisture levels are a lot of what causes bad lies,” he says. “Some sands are better and some are worse in dry condition, but with the correct moisture levels all sands hold the ball better. We’ve invented a way to move moisture two ways in the bunker.”

Sternberg’s product facilitates water movement in both wet and dry conditions to maintain consistent bunker conditions. Having playable bunkers, Sternberg says, is huge for keeping courses hospitable to amateurs. “A plugged lie penalizes an amateur player a lot more trouble than a professional. For the amateur it makes a big difference, with less enjoyment and slower play as a result.” Sternberg says he used to use actual concrete to create the base in his bunkers. Then he had a revelation one day while pouring. “The concrete kept the moisture from moving up,” he says. “I realized we wanted the water to move so we started experimenting with polymers.”

Sternberg says the end result is a product that can make a huge difference to the playability of a course. “You want to create the perfect lie. That’s key.”

The Putter Buddy

Tiger Berge shows off the Putter Buddy

This was the story I was expecting to find going in: Someone who had a prototype in their garage and finally decided to see if it could make money. That’s the story of Putter Buddy. Founder Robert Campos lost a wedge on the course around a green and was determined for it never to happen again. His answer: A portable bent medal rod/stand you can plant green-side to lean your wedge, putter and any other clubs against: that fits easily into your bag. “He carried it around in his bag and his friend saw him using it and asked if they could have one,” said Campos’ partner, Tiger Berge. “So he was making them out of his garage.”

Finally, the Sacramento couple decided to see if the idea could make money and sought the spotlight of the PGA. Putter Buddy sells for around $20 and Berge says Campos has resisted charging more, despite being advised to do so by golf store merchandisers, to keep the product affordable for average golfers. A nonprofit component has also been built in. The stand comes in multiple colors, such as pink, that correlate to causes. Putter buddy donates $1 from each sale to charity.

How did it go for the inventors?

Well, AeroGolf quickly nabbed a spot on Morning Drive, Capillary Concrete gained Annika Sorenstam as an investor, and Putter Buddy became a social media star. Campos was being asked to shoot yet another video when I was at their booth.

View Golf

The biggest winner in terms of honors was Tour View Golf, which took home the Inventor’s Spotlight Award. This idea for Tour View is incredibly simple: It’s a pair of “vision circles” (like goggles) that affix to the bill of a cap. The opticals, when aligned over the ball, provide a view of the ball in a circle and are meant to help eliminate head movement over the ball. Inventor Mike Jones told Golfweek: “It keeps your eyes focused on the ball. All the great players stay stable. I believe we are on the verge of creating the best ball strikers we've ever seen."

All that ingenuity just in one little corner of the PGA Show. It’s amazing what you can discover when you stray off the beaten path.

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