It’s been about 5 years since we first featured a small training aid used for putting that took the golf world by storm. Our initial review of the PuttOUT Pressure Putt Trainer caught fire and in short period it seemed every time we visited a golf company, one of these devices was on the ground being used. When you are speaking of training aids, they seem to either blow up, fizzle out and then on to the next one, or never really take off. That is where the path of PuttOUT gets interesting, because here we are, five years later and this little device that caught our eye is still one of the most used we have encountered.
Some training aids really do work and can make golfers better, but all seem to suffer from two issues. First, the quality of them is almost always subpar. Second, they are hard to use because generally speaking, we as golfers are not that good. That is what was different about the PuttOUT Pressure Putt Trainer on both fronts, because not only was the quality really good, but it was also easy to use and infuriating all at the same time.
Everybody can roll a putt, and this aid gave you instant feedback on whether or not you holed that putt and how far past the hole you would have gone. Then there was the small button in the middle that was “perfect” and getting the ball to come to rest there was the challenge that kept you going. When done, fold it up, drop it in a drawer or anywhere else and the boss was none the wiser that behind your office door you were working on your short game rather than those spreadsheets.
Where did the idea come from? Why all of the sudden was this new device here and not from one of the usual suspects in the training aid world? We asked Andrew Clift, Associate Director at Therefore Product Design Agency these questions and here is what he had to say:
“So the idea of PuttOUT was born a few years ago and came out of Therefore design studio. We are a small design studio based in Central London, and we do work across many, many different industries. We also have a pretty high number of golfers and golf obsessives in the company. One of those is our Director, Martin.
About 5 years ago, he wanted to work on his game and felt there was nothing really in the putting space that was good enough in terms of a product that could absolutely be used at home but could also very easily be taken to the course and be used on the putting green for 15 mins before you head out for your round. Being a designer, he set to work on creating something he himself can use, modelling it, and refining it here at our London studio until we got to what was the original Pressure Putt Trainer. And that’s when we thought ‘we might be onto something with this.
So from day one, PuttOUT has been created by golfers for golfers. Of all skill levels, too. Golf is a fascinating sport because despite needing so much space to go and play it, you can really improve one of the most important elements of your game in a really small space. Whether you’re tentatively getting into golf and really just want to start getting comfortable putting a ball towards a target, or if you’re a scratch golfer that wants to really dig deep into the mechanics of their putting stroke, PuttOUT is where you go.
Since the product launched, within Therefore we have created a small team that works solely on PuttOUT stuff, and, with the popularity of the product and with sales coming from all over the world, there is plenty to do and exciting things on the horizon!”
Why is that different from other training aids, after all they usually come from golfers? The answer is in the design studio aspect. Most start with an idea, then a raw and usually poor prototype and finally a completed product based on that prototype and it functions and goes to market as inexpensive as possible. The process for PuttOUT is quite a bit different because of the design studio in house that works to prove the theory of worthiness, but also something that looks right and functions as well. It’s this three pronged approach that separates what they are doing from just about every other.
What was the process early on at Therefore from when something is designed before it is ready to hit the market? Andrew Clift offers this.
“As designers, we have a well-proven process to address challenges and come up with innovative solutions. The challenge was, how can we practice our putting anywhere and replicate the pressure of a must-make putt. And of course, too, make something that is visually engaging.
The process started with Martin investigating the challenge with a series of sketches before diving into the workshop to handcraft a series of prototypes. This first stage is very much, ‘let’s make something, based on our initial thoughts and then test, learn, modify, make again, test again’ and so on. There were many models, made in all kinds of materials and hundreds of hours of testing.
Will it work as a real golf hole? Will it return the ball? Is the micro-target too hard? Will it keep people putting? Will it improve my putting? These were all tested and the PuttOUT Pressure Putt Trainer was born.? Once we felt that we were on to something it was time to hand it over to our designers to create a model in 3D CAD.”
5,000 units. That was the number the company thought they would sell of the PuttOUT trainer. The success easily surpassed that number and we will get to those figures shortly, but before we get to that, we ask the question, why? A passion project that is amazing, infuriating and elegant all at the same time is the only answer. Simple, but yet not industrial. And most importantly, it just works.
Circling back to the above, just how successful has the PuttOUT trainer been? The original forecast fell a bit short by 100x. Yes, that is correct, in just the 4+ years since launch, the company has sold around 500,000 units. After that type of success, what comes next? Fast expansion? Slow and steady? We asked Andrew Clift to explain the growth thought process.
“We designed the Pressure Putt Trainer to break down the barriers to practice and encourage golfers to pick up their putter every day. The reaction to the Trainer was beyond what we could have possibly thought. The success of that allowed us to think about new products. The goal is for PuttOUT to be synonymous with putting and to do that, you need a suite of products that are going to both improve different aspects of your stroke and appeal to golfers in varying situations in terms of where they can practice. So that can be very technical stuff, or more practical stuff. Need a product that makes sure your putter face is no more than 0.5 degrees open or closed? You have our gates for that. Live in an apartment with wooden floors or a bobbly carpet? Well, you’re gonna need a mat too and a lot of thought went into the design and the markings on the mat.
We realised our design skills, creative toolbox, and manufacturing links could be applied to developing products that would help golfers explore their putting and work towards getting better. Previous putting mirrors have holes in them and break easily, so we designed the PuttOUT Mirror & Gate set that has a steel layer and is encased in rubber, with the same securing spikes on the base that appear on the original trainer. The steel allows us to have magnetic guides to promote a consistent putter path. Add a putting gate that, when placed a foot from the ball promotes a putter face delivery of +/- 0.5 degrees and you have a multifunctional training solution.
With the original PuttOUT Trainer we thought we might sell 5000 units. Four years on and having sold around 500,000 units we needed to look again at the trainer and keep pushing it forward. This gave us the opportunity to design a new and improved version. The PuttOUT Premium Pressure Putt Trainer has better build quality, improved folding, and a heavier, more robust base. The triple dot aim points offer a smaller target to focus on behind the cup, and 2 x left and right aim points, for breaking putts. The new ramp has an elastomer hole for an alignment stick, but also, coupled with the longer ramp, gives the player a target that they can hit firmer putts to. The pop-down, co-molded, micro-target is capped with a high-quality badge that can be seen perfectly in both popped-up and popped-down positions. In short, Premium is a much better-quality product with multiple aim points to vary your practice.
The Platinum Pressure Putt Trainer was designed using the kind of materials and finished that you would find in the best golf equipment. The aim was to produce a product that wouldn’t look out of place in the Gleneagles or Wentworth pro shops or prestigious golf resorts. This is a product that any golfer would be delighted to receive as a gift or prize for winning the club comp.
On the back of the success of our original mats, the new mats speak for themselves. The Slim Mat is great for small spaces and taking your practice on the road, the Large Mat allows players to practice long putts and many pace putting drills if they have a little more space.
Additional products such as the Putting Plane and the Putting Gates are, in our opinion, essential items to add to your home putting studio to help players work on and improve their putting stroke.”
The company now has a full array of products, and they are not slowing down. The most popular would be their putting mats and of course the trainers. There is a level of addiction with the PuttOUT trainer (and using their mat) that allows you to practice, all the while trying to hit and stay put in the micro target. An exhausting, albeit fun way to work on the game, and have we mentioned infuriating? They are proud of that device, not just because of the level of sales it has achieved, but also with the idea that unlike many training aids that get purchased and used once or twice and sit collecting dust in a garage or shed, owners continue to use them. Day after day, week after week and now year after year, they get used.
With the success of each of their products, what about the ideas that get scrapped. Have there been any? No. The Therefore Design team haven’t had a scrapped one yet, because of the process. Idea comes up, gets discussed with other obsessed golfers in house and wouldn’t get much further than that conversation. For golfers, by golfers…which seems like rarified air for the training aid segment of the industry. Something that should probably be explored further.
With the collection of products in place, the future looks bright as PuttOUT continues to expand globally. Training, especially putting, is something that can be done for those stuck at home, as well as on the putting green and from the original product to the rest, there is a family of products that can help you get better. What does the future hold for the brand as a whole? Andrew Clift answers.
“In the immediate future, we have a few things that we are working on that we are very excited about. At least one of those will be seeing the light of day relatively soon. Certainly this year. That will be a really fun addition to our product range. Another perhaps needs a little more development and another round or two of prototype testing. We really don’t like to rush things to market. They have to be right.
More longer-term, who knows. It’s really exciting to think about where we could go next. Do we only ever stay within the putting sphere? How do we best incorporate tech into our product line? Are their partnerships with other people in the golf space that could open new possibilities? We certainly have a lot of things to be getting on with right now, that’s for sure! There’s never a quiet day!”
Have you tried any of the PuttOUT options? How are they faring for you? To learn more about any of the products discussed above, check out their website at www.puttout.golf.