Ben Hogan Golf closes up shop

Ben Hogan Golf closes up shop

A beloved golf club brand that became a direct-to-consumer pioneer shuts its doors nearly 70 years after its original founding.
Ben Hogan Golf, which went through several owners since its founding in 1953, ceased operations in July 2022. In its 1990s heyday, major champions like Justin Leonard played the company's clubs.

Almost 25 years to the day after its namesake's passing, the Ben Hogan Golf company has ceased operations. Having stopped receiving funding from their main investor, the company closed its doors - potentially for good - last Friday.

In addition to his legacy as one of the greatest golfers of the 20th century, Ben Hogan was also one of the first top players to see his name stamped on mass-market golf clubs, founding the Ben Hogan Golf Company in 1953. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Hogan forged irons were highly sought-after, with the Apex line of blades among many golf purists' all-time favorites.

The Recession hit the Ben Hogan brand hard. After purchasing it in 2003, Callaway Golf ceased selling Hogan-branded items in 2008, later selling the brand rights to Perry Ellis International in 2012. Former Hogan exec Terry Koehler revived the company in 2014, but lost it to bankruptcy in 2017.

Later that year, Ben Hogan Golf re-launched as one of the industry's first direct-to-consumer equipment companies. By cutting out the middle-man of retail, and its marketing and distribution demands that prompt significant markups in price, they were able to sell sets of forged irons for as low as $750 while the larger OEMs were charging well over $1,000.

Even as recently as 2021, Ben Hogan was a thriving brand. In an email, CEO Scott White reported an annual revenue growth rate of 46.3% from 2017 until this year. But after shifting capital away from the company to other holdings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Hogan's main investor, ExWorks Capital, filed for bankruptcy in March. In addition to ExWorks' financial difficulties, White cited supply issues as another headwind working against the company.

"I am very proud of what we accomplished at the company over the last few years. We had a great team and produced some excellent products that we think would have made Mr. Hogan proud," said White. "We were simply underfunded and couldn’t pursue a lot of the more expensive initiatives that would have accelerated our growth."

Ben Hogan Golf's difficulties should not be construed as a repudiation of the direct-to-consumer model, however. Companies like New Level Golf and Sub 70 continue to develop and sell new product lines at a significant discount to retail OEMs, and PXG has also adopted a DTC model in recent years.

Perry Ellis International still owns the Ben Hogan brand. Perhaps another group will revive the company in the future, carrying on its namesake's legacy in the equipment business.

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Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
Commented on

I remember having Ben Hogan woods, and liking them quite a bit, back in the late-70’s.

Although the company apparently had its “ups” recently, it’s still no surprise that they didn’t survive, given your account of what happened within the business. It seems to be virtually impossible to compete with the industry leaders (Callaway, Taylor Made, Titleist, Mizuno, et al.) during this century, mainly because of their economies of scale and their vast advertising outlays. I have heard some very positive things about Sub 70, however, and am going to consider it the next time I buy a set of irons. Let’s hope those companies using the direct-to-consumer model gain some market share. I enjoy using Callaway’s clubs, but it’s notable that they enjoyed record first quarter results. And often success within any industry leads not to further, genuine innovation but to a stretch of fatness, dumbness, and happiness.

Commented on

I recently bought a new putter from Sub 70 and shipped them a special grip that I wanted installed on it. Turned out to a fantastic upgrade for me. Very impressed with their responsiveness. Would be harder to make such a remote decision with a set of irons as there are so many variables in the fitting process, but I really like the way they do business.

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Ben Hogan Golf closes up shop