Jeff Jackson – PowerBilt Golf

December 15, 2008  |  Industry Q&A

Jeff Jackson
Director of Product Development, Powerbilt Golf

Handicap: “Used to be low, but when you don’t play, it goes up quickly. I can still break 80 though – at least I think I can!”

In the Bag:

Driver: Powerbilt Air Force One 9.5D Prototype w/prototype shaft
3 Wood: PowerBilt Citation FZ-115D #3 wood w/Accra T80 shaft
Hybrid: Powerbilt Citation FZ-1 #4w/Accra hybrid shaft
Irons: Powerbilt Citation FZ-1 forged #4-PW w/KB steel shafts
Wedges: Ping Eye 2+ Beryllium Copper SW and LW that I have had for 20 years
Putter: It depends on what day of the week it is!
Ball: Srixon or Bridgestone
Apparel: Under Armour

PowerBilt is a division of Hillerich & Bradsby Co, which dates back to 1884, when John “Bud” Hillerich invented the revolutionary Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Mr. Hillerich’s great grandson, John Hillerich, IV, is now President & CEO of Hillerich & Bradsby Co., making H&B the longest running, family owned sports equipment manufacturer in the world. Other H&B brands include Louisville Slugger, TPX, TPS, Louisville Hockey and Bionic Gloves. H&B expanded into golf in 1916, and introduced the PowerBilt™ brand name in 1933. In 1934, Olin Dutra used PowerBilt clubs to win the U.S. Open. In all, our clubs have won eight majors, and over one hundred PGA and LPGA tour and worldwide pro events. Constant innovation and world-class performance led to worldwide popularity. Through a network of pro shops, retailers and licensees, PowerBilt Golf equipment is available throughout the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan, The Netherlands, South Korea, South Africa, United Kingdom and in fourteen other nations.

E2G: Tell me about your company … what do you do?
Jeff Jackson: Over the years PowerBilt clubs have been used by players to win eight majors, most notable perhaps was Fuzzy Zoeller — who is still with the company — capturing the 1979 Masters on his first attempt and 1984 U.S. Open. At PowerBilt I am Director of Product Development. I am involved in ensuring any PowerBilt branded product meets the high standards as set forth by the company. As part of that, I am involved in product design and testing as well as making sure each of our worldwide licensees is up to speed on all of our products. Additionally I man PowerBilt’s Trackman during our testing sessions with all levels of players so I can see first hand what works and what doesn’t.

E2G: How did you get started in the golf industry?
Jeff Jackson: I grew up on a golf course in Maryland, so I played golf all day every day in the summer. I had a bit of a temper back then, so when my clubs didn’t work properly, they often got broken. It got to be less expensive to learn how to fix them myself than to pay someone else, so a repair business was born when I was in college and shortly thereafter. I also was Director of Golf at a resort in Maryland for a while, so I have seen the game from a player’s perspective, from inside the golf shop and from inside the industry for the past 20+ years.

E2G: What is your company’s current focus?
Jeff Jackson: I think any company’s focus needs to be on helping golfers of all levels play better, hence allowing them to better enjoy the game. The 21st century has bought new challenges to the golf industry as space-age materials and increased marketing muscle have concentrated market share to a few elite names. What PowerBilt has done to separate itself from any other golf club company involves what is called Nitrogen-Charged Technology. That’s right — this is not chemistry class — but PowerBilt’s new Air Force One drivers, fairway woods and hybrid clubs are all filled with nitrogen gas helping to create the thinnest face in golf and also the largest sweet overall spot.

PowerBilt is at the forefront of ‘what’s next’ in golf club technology. This provides real benefits to all golfers — no matter how fast they swing — so they can maximize their ‘smash factor.'” Smash factor refers to the amount of energy the golfer transfers from the swing to the ball. What is more verifiable is that with this cutting-edge Nitrogen-Charged Technology (It’s patented, with multiple patents pending.) PowerBilt’s new clubs are the only offered in multiple-face thicknesses. A typical high-end driver has a face thickness of 3mm or more. The Air Force One driver is offered in two face thicknesses — 2.8mm and 2.6mm — and, fitted properly with a player’s swing speed, most golfers will see 10 to 20 yards more in driving distance. I ask you, who doesn’t want that?

Our drivers come in two designs: geometric (squarer-shaped heads found on a lot of new clubs these days) and the player series (more conventional shape that better allows low handicappers to shape shots). Fairways and hybrids are available as well and they too include the Nitrogen Charged Technology.

We will be running an infomercial on the Golf Channel beginning in January; we will also have a booth at the PGA show in Orlando. This club will be promoted more heavily than any other in the history of PowerBilt. And from what we have seen, we have the performance to back it up!

E2G: Do you specialize in a certain segment of the golf market?
Jeff Jackson: Not really. In addition to the Air Force One, which can be matched to any level of player, male or female, PowerBilt offers a complete line of game improvement clubs in all price levels. From our better-player FZ-1 clubs which Fuzzy plays on Tour, to our entry level Dynasty model, we offer a range of clubs that can match any player. We also offer a great line of junior clubs – in fact the CG’s of our junior clubs are better positioned than any other junior lines we have tested – and we’ve tested ones costing three or more times more than ours! And, we have putters and wedges as well. H & B is also responsible for Bionic gloves, the fastest growing golf glove in use in the world. So I guess you could say, PowerBilt can pretty much out fit you just about all the way when it comes to equipment.

E2G: What sets you apart from your competition?
Jeff Jackson: Heritage and commitment to excellence. We have been around a long time under the same family ownership. Since 1916, no product has made it to market that was not 100% proven to perform. The same applies today. We will not bring a substandard product to market just to meet a deadline. The Air Force One project dates back to the drawing board almost 5 years ago. There are certain companies out there today who introduce 4-5 new product lines per year – with no real new technology behind them…they are more like marketing companies that make golf clubs. PowerBilt is a golf club company first and foremost – and when we have a product that produces results like the AFO does, we begin to market the club at that point, not the other way around.

E2G: What is the main way that golfers will benefit from your product?
Jeff Jackson: If I had to answer in one word, it would be distance. But since the face technology of the Air Force One allows very consistent results all along the face, I might add accuracy as a close second. And let me tell you, I am as skeptical as the next guy when it comes to new technology. I also own a range and fitting center, so I hear they hype from all the reps year in and year out. Trust me, there is no new technology put there other than what the AFO uses. Just about all of the major OEM’s rehash their design concepts over and over – and often multiple times per year. The company that uses weights, now offers a new weight configuration or heavier weights…the guys who are proponents of square heads now make them sound less harsh and maybe round off the edges a little bit…it goes on and on, but there’s no real ‘buzz’ out there from any of the major manufacturers.

I have seen Trackman results of the AFO as compared to all of the ‘big boys’. Trackman doesn’t lie and neither do the looks on the faces of the players who hit the AFO. The very first three people I handed the driver to at my range when I received my first prototype told me to put them on the list when they came in – and these guys were playing newer high dollar drivers already Hopefully we can create some ‘buzz’ with this new technology that really works – and I think the ‘buzz’ has already started!

E2G: What is one thing that you want golfers to know about your company and product line?
Jeff Jackson: PowerBilt is a heritage brand. We have been around for a long time. Most golfers over the age of 30 have played PowerBilt clubs at one time or another. It’s surprising to learn when I talk to golfers that most are at least somewhat familiar with our company and that they tell me they have respect for PowerBilt. I also want everyone to know that we produce quality products that have undergone substantial testing to ensure performance. Whether it’s a junior set, a starter set, a forged Fuzzy Zoeller FZ-1 set or a new Air Force One driver, fairway or hybrid, every PowerBilt product brings with it a commitment to quality and performance second to non – and has done so for almost a century – and I can’t think of any other golf club company in the world that can say that…

E2G: Where can golfers find your product?
Jeff Jackson: You’ll soon find the Air Force One on The Golf Channel infomercial. You’ll also find it in all of the major retailers, both online and in the stores, and in golf pro shops all over the country and the world. It will begin shipping in early 2009. You’ll find other PowerBilt products in golf retailers and pro shops as well. The same applies to Bionic golf gloves. As the AFO technology catches on, we certainly hope the PowerBilt brand grows in distribution channels along with it.

E2G: Does your product help grow the game?
Jeff Jackson: Anything that helps a golfer play better helps grow the game in my opinion. And, as most golfers like to hit the ball longer, our AFO line of clubs certainly makes it easier to do that…so, I guess the answer to your question is ‘Yes’. During our infomercial testing, a tremendously high percentage of players hit the AFO driver longer than what they were playing – in fact, if we had them for sale, we could have sold quite a few on the spot. The looks on these players’ faces showed me that the new technology is the real deal – a few called their buddies to come to the tests to see for themselves. These golfers added immediate distance, thrilling them – and when you make a golfer happy, I think it grows the game!

E2G: What are the biggest challenges the industry faces in the next ten years?
Jeff Jackson: Wow…without getting in to a lot of detail, I’ll just name a few. The time it takes a player to play 18 holes needs to change. Maybe shorter golf courses or more 9-hole rounds… something like that will be an answer. In today’s society, 5-6 hours at the golf course is not acceptable. Another challenge is how to get more players to the game and to keep them in the game. This applies to all demographics, but especially to women, young players and minorities. Emphasis needs to be placed on playing to have fun at all levels with less stress being placed on how good a player is. Cost has become an issue with the game as well. The sheer cost of playing a round of golf at some courses is ridiculous. More affordable, shorter courses bring more players to the game. I’m sure I could come up with a lot more, but I think if we solved these, many of the other issues would take care of themselves.

E2G: What is the single ingredient in your product that attracts the golfer?
Jeff Jackson: Related to the Air Force One, added distance as a result of our patented Nitrogen Charged Technology is the single most advanced part of our product. The weightless face support technology that allows consistent results all across the face is important as well. The fact that what we are offering is truly NEW technology that improves a golfer’s game is definitely an attraction as well.

With our other products, the thing that attracts golfers is the value. Our products are not particularly expensive, especially when compared to major OEM’s. This means that a player does not have to spend a fortune to get a quality set of clubs. Considering today’s economy, a company that offers a great product at a fair price should be positioned well for success.

E2G: Do the tours help or hurt everyday amateur players?
Jeff Jackson: Probably both. Tours bring interest via TV so that’s a good thing. Tours also make players believe they need equipment they really don’t need. Commentators make average players with swingspeeds of 80 miles per believe they hit the ball 300 yards. Even the Air Force One can’t do that. TV makes certain players think they need ‘tour quality’ equipment and specs. In reality these types of players are few and far between. But if these same players talk to a knowledgeable club fitter, they can still be fitted with the brand their favorite player uses, but in a model that suits their game.

E2G: Parting thoughts?
Jeff Jackson: I think I’ve said it all already. Thanks to Gary at Equip2Golf for allowing me to be a part of this website and thanks to all of you for allowing me to be a part of the greatest game in the world.