An eye for an opportunity and an eagerness to get back on the golf course has prompted two Irish businessmen to create a product set to make the game safer when it resumes.
Conor O’Boyle and Shane Ennis’s Putt Buddy device has developed from a pet project a month ago into a viral best-seller with clubs across Ireland and beyond ordering the ball-retrieval unit that means golfers do not need to touch the cup or flagstick.
Fota Island Resort, Stackstown, Dromoland, Ballyliffin and the European Club are among more than 100 golf clubs to have already followed Howth Golf Club in purchasing Putt Buddy sets for their courses in advance of next Monday’s re-opening following the Covid-19 shutdown, while 2020 Scottish Open venue the Renaissance Club is another.
“You lift it up with your putter and the ball falls off the plate at the bottom of the cup and onto the green so you can pick it up off the ground rather than putting your hand in the hole or touching it in any way,” O’Boyle told the
From their original idea to delivering the first wave of orders has taken a month. Their core business is a car sales app they launched last December but the shutdown of Irish golf courses on March 24 sent them down another avenue.
“We set this up together along with our product designer Robert Tully. About four weeks ago we saw something in the US, this flimsy-looking device, like a wire on the side of a hole. It looked interesting and we thought there was nothing over here like that, so between us we started looking at whether there was something we could do ourselves. We wanted to do it right or not do it all.
“So we got in touch with Robert, who we knew from back home in Drogheda. Robert hadn’t played golf before so he had no preconceived ideas about how this should look. We told him what we wanted and how it needed to work so he looked at all the R&A and USGA regulations around the diameter size of a hole to see if we could get it to conform to those first of all.
“So the diameter can’t be more than 19mm (0.75 inch) and Robert came up with this design that is Putt Buddy. It works extremely well, made out of zinc-coated steel and then painted in black gloss to make it look good from an aesthetic point of view.
“This has all happened in the last two and a half weeks and we’ve had orders from well over 100 golf clubs so far.
"Myself and Shane worked mostly in the evenings, and we got the design, got a prototype made, and a manufacturing plant in Drogheda. Howth GC saw it online and got in touch with us, so we brought it to them and tested it and it worked really well, they liked it and it has just snowballed from there.
"We built a website, Puttbuddy.ie, we soon had to get a .co.uk and a .com because distributors got in touch with us.
“It’s kind of gone viral over the last few weeks. We’ve had interest from all over the world for it, from distributors in Spain, Switzerland, and the US. TPC in Sawgrass got in touch. It’s a passion project that’s just kind of grown legs and taken off.”
More than 160,000 views of their promotional video tells its own story and Putt Buddy shipped its first 1500 units this week to its first 75 clubs with the rest leaving the factory by Friday.
They are now manufacturing a Putt Buddy to suit javelin flags which should be available next week although O’Boyle reports that some clubs have actually bought standard flags to fit their product.
“That reiterated to us, jeez, this product is actually good and it works.”