When you think of Volvik, you might think of golf balls in various colors, maybe even Bubba Watson for a brief stretch, but most wouldn’t have conjured up an image of creation or high performance. This story came about after finding a newer Volvik golf ball on the course and giving it a trial run. What we learned is more than we could have imagined and there is a lot of misinformation out there about a brand that should have more eyes on it.
For many, Volvik started with the Vivid, which was the first ever matte finished golf ball. That hit the US market in 2016, but the company got started long before that. This story has a number of twists and turns from riding high to new beginnings, but is a pretty fascinating tale that will shed some light on Volvik as a brand, and why you should be paying attention to what is coming.
While the Vivid might have put the brand on the map in the US, it would surprise a lot of readers to know they were actually founded over 40 years ago, in 1980 in South Korea. In that market, they are still one of the most popular products, claiming #2 in market share. To give you an idea of timeline, 1980 is before Callaway Golf got started (they began in 1982) and before TaylorMade Golf made golf balls.
The name Volvik is unique. Some might even say confusing, but there is a meaning. It is actually a combination of the Italian word Volare, which means to fly, and then Victory, so Fly to Victory. Seems rather fitting for a performance golf ball company.
In the world of golf balls, there are brands that manufacture their own, such as Callaway, Titleist, Bridgestone and even TaylorMade since purchasing a factory a few years ago. There are also brands that utilize other factories to create based on their designs. Then there are some DTC (Direct to Consumer) golf balls that utilize existing designs and have a logo put on them. Volvik not only falls firmly in the manufacturing side, but has been that way for decades. Golf ball industry veteran Brandon Sowell explains.
“We actually established our first manufacturing facility in 1991, fast forward to today, and we have just added a brand new addition that is coming online to support our 2024 product portfolio. We specialize in the production of multi-layer performance models and also have a state-of-the-art R&D testing lab all located at our global headquarters in Korea.”
Most will not know the name Brandon Sowell, and he seems to prefer it that way. With that said, he has been influential in the golf industry for a couple of decades now both in golf balls and other components. We will have more on him in the future, but for now, we will keep this story to Volvik.
The company has done many firsts, however, they are undoubtedly most known for visual technology. While alignment options continue to dominate the trends in new releases, it wasn’t that long ago that your choice in a performance golf ball was simply a number. Yellow came along and caught steam and is now a mainstay. That was simply the only options that existed. Volvik bucked that trend in 2016 with the first-ever matte finish golf ball with the Vivid. That was 6-7 years ago now and it was a three piece golf ball that took the landscape by storm. The original press release about the upcoming PGA Show in 2016 offered this:
The VIVID is a premium, 3-piece ultra-performance golf ball that is the first of its kind to the US market. It is essentially the same construction as Volvik’s best-selling new and improved version of the Crystal ball, but instead of a Crystalline translucent cover, Volvik’s world-leading R&D team has figured out how to apply a matte finish to one of the longest golf balls on the market without sacrificing distance or durability. This makes the VIVID even more visible and attractive to a broader market that is seeking something cool and unique.
The Vivid was new. It was different. It was bold. It got the curiosity of golfers enough to try it. The performance took over from there and Volvik was off and running. They gained market share. They were in retailers throughout the country.
The company followed up the Vivid, with the Vivid XT, which was designed for Long Drive. The original press release had this in it:
The VIVID XT is one of the few 100-comprerssion golf balls available to the golfing public and it is the only one available in a material that is not Urethane. The VIVID XT features a Zirconium cover that is the base material for ceramic and improves durability of a golf ball cover without sacrificing spin control. It will be available in matte green, matte orange, matte pink, matte white and matte yellow. It will carry a retail price of $39.99 per dozen. The VIVID XT will ship to Volvik retailers in April.
Things seemed like they are going well for the company in the North American market. New releases, excitement surrounding them and growth in the market place. Yet here we are nearing the beginning of 2024 and not much has been heard about the brand in a while.
Growth comes in a lot of ways. In golf, generally it starts with a good product and then continues with messaging and word of mouth. Volvik had that going for them. So what happened? How can a company go from the buzz that Vivid brought to so little being discussed just 5-6 years later?
Some might argue that Bubba Watson announcing he will be playing Volvik moving forward (in 2017) and then moving away from them later that year played a role. There is merit to that to a degree, but most brands react and recover rather quickly. Part could be other companies with big names started bringing competitive products to the space. There could be merit to that as well. Still, the company built a fairly strong portfolio of products, available at most retailers and yet very little was being said. It came down to messaging. We asked Brandon Sowell to elaborate on this for us.
“Yes, a lot of our momentum was lost. In 2012, Volvik built a plan to provide all golfers with the boldest, most playable lineup in the category, and our US presence was a joint venture partnership led by Don Shin. He established our US operations and drove our fast rise and growth as he wanted to change the game and make golf fun and unintimidating“, said Sowell.
“Sadly, in 2022, Mr. Shin was diagnosed with cancer and passed away, which was a tremendous loss and impact as he positively influenced many throughout his career. As we look to build on the strong foundation Mr. Shin established and his vision of injecting more fun into golf every day, Volvik US will now be a company owned and operated division of Volvik Inc.“
For the last few years, the largest source of messaging for Volvik has been around their relationship with Marvel. Does that move the needle for the golfer? Does it move the needle for you? In our research we were astounded by the amount of Marvel products that Volvik sells, but wanted to figure out why. Brand Sowell expands on that.
“High performance and superheroes? Of course, they go together! Our collaboration with Marvel started in 2019 as a limited edition, but the success continues to grow. Marvel has been a great partnership for our brand as it furthers the visual style and dynamic energy we want to provide golfers on course. Channeling your inner Iron Man or Thor hammer as you look to blast that next drive offers another way to energize your game with fun performance. With the recent boom in golf participation this has also allowed us to be at the forefront of new players who have embraced the social fun and personal enjoyment the game provides. Marvel has been such a great brand extension; we plan to further develop our partnership offerings in 2024.”
Marvel golf balls may be what you are searching for, or maybe the superhero realm is not for you. The brand seems to understand that more than we can explain. They know a unique golf ball like that might be looked at as a gift, or be a fan favorite, but they also know there is a golfer that views things a bit more “pure” or “serious” and wants a solid product at a good price point.
While Volvik as a brand made their name for bold with colors, the performance was never looked as secondary or an afterthought. In fact, it was first, and it will always be first. Yet the understanding that golf is also supposed to be fun is not lost on them.
Globally, the company has had a lot of success. Building off the strategy that Mr. Shin had envisioned by making the game less intimidating. Volvik has depth in R&D, and what might surprise some is that they have a portfolio of world wide patents. Their biggest success has definitely been leading the visual technology evolution and showing that players are open to moving away from a sea of traditional plain options. Brandon Sowell offers more.
“Our leadership is likely the reason you see a brand like Titleist even having a blue golf ball option. While most competitors only offer their broadest color options in basic 2-piece constructions, we have been and continue to be focused on enhancing performance with multilayer performance technology.“
Not lost in all of this is that the company understands that they are a challenger brand in the US and North America. They know that the big 3-4 brands dominate the category and to make waves in the space you have to be different, creative, and focus on the golfer. Volvik views this less like a drawback and more of an opportunity.
Earlier in the article we talked about DTC products and the types of golf ball brands that exist. Volvik is not a brand that is sourcing balls, they are a brand that is putting in the engineering and manufacturing expertise to create. Their focus was shifted for a few reasons, but their goals are far different in 2024 as they want to help the golfer combine performance and fun.
Initially visual style in golf balls perhaps carried a player caliber stigma, however, newer players want to have fun on the course. There’s a different vibe on the course today and we believe Volvik understands that golfer. Why? Because in a lot of ways, they created the category.
This 40 year journey and 5-10 in the US has been filled with some fantastic peaks and even a few valleys. In such a short span in this marketplace, the company has quite a bit of tour play, introduced new finishes that were adopted by nearly every company in the industry, and combined super heroes and golf balls. Yet here we are, about to reach 2024 and most of it is still relatively unknown by the performance seeking golfer.
It was unknown that the manufacturing was done in house. It was unknown that R&D was heavily invested in and produced patents throughout the industry. It was unknown that they continued to create tour level golf balls to join their array of products. Why? And what does the future hold?
While the internet golf world will buzz about the latest golf ball product that is a catalogued/sourced item with a different logo, Volvik has its eyes firmly planted on 2024 as a breakout year. They have new partnerships to announce. They have new products to announce. They are firmly planting their flag into the new year and in some ways announcing a return, despite never really leaving. We believe Brandon Sowell summed it up well here.
“As golf continues to grow and evolve with a new wave of participation, we are leading the way in embracing fresh energy and golf ball performance for players at any point in their playing journey. As we continue to engineer for golf’s participation growth and future, we embrace the new culture and will continue to place emphasis on performance and fun.“
As a company, Volvik wants to be considered a fun, performance based product. Embarking on this story to find out the history, as well as the present and future, it led us down a number of twists and turns. It also led us to a number of questions for us to ask the golfers out there.
Have you tried a Volvik product in the past? Did you have plans to try any in the future? What do you hope to see from any challenger brand?
For more information on the company or to see any of their current products, check out their website at www.volvik.com.