We were thrilled to be able to spend some time with Mike Flynn chatting about his background, how he got into the junior golf equipment industry and his outlook on various topics.
Flynn Golf has developed a great reputation for quality products and first class service. Flynn Golf Clubs are high quality extremely customized junior golf clubs. If your junior needs a certain flex or length shaft, they can fit it. If your juniors wants each iron in their set to have a different color shaft and grip, they can do it!
The VT Max clubs are used by many of the top juniors across the country and they are very good value for money. These are excellent clubs for all levels of juniors from beginner all the way through advanced tournaments players and we highly recommend them.
In the interview Mike offers a sneak preview of the brand new VT Max Alto clubs debuting in late Spring of 2019! Stay tuned for more details on these new junior clubs!
Mike has a great outlook on how we, as parents of budding junior golfers, might also view the game and the process of developing juniors into players that love the game and do not get burned out on it. If nothing else, we highly recommend that parents of junior golfers read that part of the interview.
Make sure to visit the Flynn Golf website and have a look at their offerings!
Interview with Mike Flynn of Flynn Golf
What is your background and how you did you get into the golf world?
Perfect opening question.
By the time I reached my teen years, I gradually started playing a lot of golf. I grew up in a working class town in NJ which was home to a public golf course and first used an old set of clubs that my Dad had sitting around in the garage. Around that time my friends and I started going over to the local golf course, often in various degrees. It was in that setting that a couple of us, including myself, really fell in love with the game. From there, I spent just about every day practicing during the summers in my high school years, as well as competing on our high school team in the 70s. For the good and sometimes not so good of it, my swing is completely self-taught, but a combination of athletic ability and a “natural swing” has enabled me to play at a high enough level of competency to really enjoy the game.
As for my professional life, I graduated from college in 1982 with an undergrad degree in economics which led me to the trading floor of a wholly owned subsidiary of the NYSE for the first 15 years of my career. During that time I traded my firm’s account and also brokered options and futures orders on a trading floor located first at 30 Wall Street and then in ‘87 our exchange moved to the World Trade Center.
At some point during this period of years it occurred to me that I might prefer a career that could be more meaningful than directly competing (dare I say battling) for money every day on a trading floor; and so in 1993 I went back to college at night, while continuing to work on Wall Street during the day. It took 8 years of night school, but eventually I was able to achieve a graduate degree in Chemistry, which was a field of science that I’d always been interested in and decided to return to. During that period of night school years, I interviewed with and was hired by a major pharmaceutical company as a pharmaceutical research scientist. I worked for that same company for a period of 17 years, up until 2014 when Flynn Golf was really beginning to take off.
What made you want to start in the golf business, while specializing in junior golf clubs?
My dad assembled golf clubs in his basement as a hobby for years. He taught me the basics of the craft sometime in the early 2000s. I first started assembling a few clubs for myself and found that it was very enjoyable and gratifying to be able to assemble my own golf clubs.
As I got better at it, I began to assemble full sets as well as individual clubs for friends; and then also a bunch of clubs for my own kids who were still young at that time. The process of assembling clubs for my kids as well as also teaching them to play was especially enjoyable.
And so after a while, it occurred to me that there might be an opportunity to build upon this passion and offer some custom junior clubs to the larger public. In the beginning, I used components that were available from places like Golfsmith, GolfWorks and a couple of other companies. And this was fun too, although the availability of components for kids was very limited, and so the options that could be offered were less than ideal.
This is when the idea to create a place for completely customized junior golf equipment was born.
And so now in order to establish a brand, it would be necessary to also establish contacts in the golf products industry. As a related point to this, something that a lot of golfers might not realize is that even the biggest companies in the industry, Callaway, TaylorMade, etc. do not own their own manufacturing facilities, but instead contract with a handful of high quality factories and foundries. And so with the help of some established industry contacts including UST Mamiya, I was able to establish the brand of VT MAX as the first company fully devoted to offering OEM branded, custom assembled golf clubs, exclusively for junior golfers.
Has equipment changed much since you started manufacturing and selling junior clubs?
Yes and no. There was and still is, a lot of low end junior golf equipment available, typically made from inferior and often heavier materials, but often presented with fairly attractive designs. These types of clubs can be fine for players who just want to hit a few balls once in a while, but not so much for a more talented or avid player.
One thing that has changed dramatically is this: Only a little more than 10 years ago there were essentially no junior golf brands offering large size titanium drivers for kids. As I recall, even US Kids, which was and still is the most recognized brand of junior golf products, only offered small steel or aluminum drivers featuring clubheads in the 200-300cc range.
One of the first things that I recognized about this circumstance was that, although men’s drivers utilize what is the largest clubhead in the bag, driver clubheads are still lighter than the other clubs due to materials and hollow construction. And so needless to say, if adults could benefit from larger and more forgiving drivers, surely kids could benefit from a more forgiving driver as well. And so even though it’s taken for granted at this time, fledgling Flynn Golf was maybe the first, and certainly one of the first to offer junior drivers with 400cc plus size clubheads.
Do you construct made to order sets at your location in Stanton NJ?
Yes, all of our clubs including EZ Sets and even clearance clubs are custom assembled to order at our location near Stanton, NJ.
In fact we offer so many variations, considering club head weights, shaft flexes, club lengths and color choices – not to mention grips - that even if we wanted to do pre-assembly, it wouldn’t be very feasible because there are so many possible variations in all of those parameters, not the least of which are finished club lengths.
The EZ sets ordering category is primarily in place to enable a more convenient and familiar ordering format, for customers who might not want or need to spend the extra time to use our custom clubs ordering page.
But those EZ sets are also assembled for each order, every time.
As a related note, our custom order page can admittedly be a bit cumbersome as an ordering interface. We will continue make incremental improvements to this custom ordering interface in an effort to continue to improve it.
Do you have junior and/or parents visit the facility?
For a number of reasons, we are exclusively an online business. Our warehouse /
assembly facility is set up for club production, shipments & storage but not as a direct customer interface or storefront. And so while we do offer more online fitting options than essentially any other junior golf company, which enables a junior golf product that is much more than just a standardized “off the rack” golf club or golf set, we have to be mindful about the scope of what our business model can include.
What approximate percentage of customers require assistance with fitting (sizes, shaft selection etc.)? i.e. Do you have to contact many customers to confirm or change orders once they have been placed on-line?
Without putting a number on it, I would say a fair number of junior golf parents will have questions about some details prior to placing their order. And any time that it’s requested we will contact the customer to confirm the specs and details of their clubs prior to beginning any assembly. In addition to that, when we see player inputs or club selections that appear to be incongruent, or less than optimal, we will always contact the customer prior to initiating any assembly work.
As a related note, for purposes of efficient transfer of detailed information, as well as due to staffing limitations in the context of a steadily growing customer base – we respectfully request that all such questions be submitted via email.
In a nutshell, by virtue of our years of experience, as well as very significant efforts by our valued collaborators, we are able to offer a product that is above and beyond what might be expected from a small company. But at the same time, in order to do what we do and also to manage the considerable requirements of running this type of business, “on demand” phone service is unfortunately something that cannot be offered at this time.
Given the crowded space in the golf equipment category how do you differentiate yourself and stand apart?
Customization, high quality materials and I’ll say it again - customization!
We strive to offer the nicest, highest performing and most unique custom golf clubs available for junior golfers. And I’m excited to say that as a continued step in this direction, very soon we will be releasing a completely new and upgraded line of clubs and shafts called VT MAX ALTO!
Who is the Flynn Golf customer? Is your current business mostly in the US? Any plans on expanding internationally?
The majority of our customers are US residents. Among those US residents, the largest percentage of whom live in Florida, the greater Southeast & Southwest States, Texas and California. In other words, families living in warmer weather areas where golf is most popular, represent the largest percentage of our customers. Of course, we also have an increasing number of customers from the Midwest, Northwest and Northeast.
We also have a smaller but growing core of customers in South American countries and Mexico, as well as some in Canada, Australia, European nations and a variety of Asian countries. It’s always great sending our clubs to a new part of the world!
As we grow, we are always open to the possibility of new international expansion channels, but only within the context of finding the right partnership, and as such the required criteria are not insignificant.
Aside from geographic location, our customers are primarily the parents of talented young golfers ranging in age from 5 to 14 years old, most of whom are between 7 and 12 years old.
But we also have many more casual players, who are often good players in their own right, but maybe not the all year round, more regimented players.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that juniors/parents make concerning club and shaft selection?
I would say that one “mistake” if we can call it that, which parents sometimes make, is choosing drivers that are several inches too long for the player. This typically occurs since we know that when solid impact has been made, the ball will usually fly somewhat further as the result of a longer shaft - but in our opinion this can often be a bit of a short-sighted approach.
In other words, there always comes a day when a player’s ability to generate swing speed without any “gimmicks” will arrive, and so then the option to keep attaining extra yardage by extra club length will no longer be available. When that time comes, the kids who learned to generate swing speed / ball speed on the basis of their talent and skills, will be the ones that continue to advance.
Do you believe beginner junior golfers can benefit from better equipment as much as intermediate or advanced level junior golfers?
I would address this question with answers for 2 types of beginners.
The beginner who is simply a beginner by virtue of young age or maybe not quite as young but lacking in experience, but who does show some promise and ability and most importantly (within the context of this question) interest in playing the game, can always benefit from better clubs. In fact, it may help to improve the likelihood of that player maintaining their interest in golf. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a set of 11-14 clubs, might be that 6 or 7 or 8 clubs to start is completely sufficient.
On the other hand, for the player who may only play once or twice a summer or whose parents would like them to play but aren’t too keen on it, then this type of beginner is well advised to start with any set of a few inexpensive clubs to first see if there might be some interest or enthusiasm to continue with the game.
What does customer service mean to you and what approach does Flynn Golf take to it?
We try our very best to provide informative product info and ordering advice whenever it is requested. In particular, we always strive to be honest and ethical and can say with complete certainty that we at Flynn Golf care very much about offering the best products that we can.
We feel very fortunate to be in a position to offer a product that has the potential to bring enjoyment to a young player, and whenever we can do that, it’s a very nice business to be involved in!
What’s the hardest thing about working in the golf business?
For Flynn Golf, the hardest things about working in the golf business are the challenges of successfully competing with companies that are much larger and much better capitalized. We are a family owned and operated business. My oldest son John and I are partners and we both do a little bit (often a lot) of everything. Of course, we also have many collaborators plus contracted help in multiple areas ranging from product development, to assembly, logistics, web development and our valued manufacturing partners.
But that makes it all the more rewarding to gradually find our niche within the junior golf market and offer high quality clubs that kids really love playing with!
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
I don’t know that I would say that any single piece of advice from any single person was “the best” but I have tried to observe and learn from a variety of life fields and experiences that include science, finance, parenthood, friendships, advisors and many others. Within the context of the golf industry I/we have been fortunate to receive advice from a variety of people.
Some of those people that I’d like to thanks are Henry Cheng - products development collaborator and golf industry liaison, staff and management at UST Mamiya - including Lori Rice, Robb Schikner, Andy Kerr & Danny Le - as well as people ranging from Jeff Sheets to Ralph Maltby to Barney Adams (founder of Adams Golf) and lastly but definitely not least Tom Wishon (founder of Wishon Golf) who has been extremely helpful with his time and advice over the years, in fact in ways that I can only describe as exceptionally generous and without precedent.
What is your best advice for junior golfers? Their parents?
I will always leave any direct advice to junior golfers up to their parents and/or coaches; but to the parents of junior golfers I would offer this very sincere suggestion.
Take the long view - try to keep things fun – try to maintain a balanced approach. Within the context of junior golf, the goal of credentials building often in combination with the prevalence and popularity of metrics gathering and data driven tools like Trackman, etc. can sometimes – despite best intentions – move the game and the approach, to the point of maybe going a bit overboard, so to speak. Just to be clear, this is not to say that metrics aren’t useful or we don’t all want the best for our kids - but as we know, when the game starts to feel like just another responsibility rather than something that our kids can’t wait to get out and play - then chances are it won’t turn out to be a lasting pursuit.
The times spent on the course with parents and friends, times spent enjoying a beautiful green vista on a late summer afternoon just before the sun sets, these are the types of moments that are perhaps the most lasting in golf. These are the things that will be remembered and treasured as well, in addition to championships and rankings etc.
And so ultimately, it’s enjoyment and fun that will keep the kids wanting to play and then when their interest does stay strong, then it’s their talent and ability that will ultimately take them as far as they can go in the game - and in life.
A number of major organizations throughout golf — PGA, LPGA, Manufacturers, Clubs etc. — are all seeking ways to attract juniors into the sport. If you were counseling them what would you suggest they be doing?
While I don’t claim to be in a position to be offering these well-established & respected institutions very much advice, I would just say this.
In today’s society everything is moving fast. Kids tend to be pretty continuously tethered to the constant feedback from their phones, their video games, their virtual reality headsets and all that stuff. So, there’s a very distinct contrast between the pace of what they have been sort of conditioned to expect and the pace of golf. This circumstance can be of benefit in some ways, but also presents a challenge.
The challenge is of course, how to keep kids interested in slower paced pursuits, in a more natural environment. But one of the big pluses is that the game provides the opportunity to get outside in a beautiful natural setting and also presents a great opportunity for having some fun and “unplugging” for a while, which can be very relaxing, maybe even therapeutic in some ways.
But as we know, if there’s a lot of waiting around between shots, well nobody enjoys that - especially kids.
So while this advice is nothing new, I would just reinforce the need for facilities to make every effort to try keep the pace of play reasonable, and as some clubs and courses already do - reserve some time slots where kids, with friends and/or parents can play the course from shorter tee boxes and without the crowds or too many slow golf cart foursomes ahead of them.
We are huge supporters of reasonably priced high-quality equipment that is easily available to juniors and will grow the game. How can we help you in this regard?
You are already helping us by doing exactly what you’re doing. That is: offering a forum for junior golf families to read impartial and credible information about junior golf equipment; as well read about other relevant topics of interest for junior golf families. At Flynn Golf we certainly appreciate this opportunity to provide golf families with some info our company and what we have to offer.
Do you have any favorite non-profit or charitable organizations?
We donate to a few charities and don’t necessarily have a favorite among charitable organizations, but I’ve always loved dogs and also occasionally donate to rescue organizations. We are happy to have two rescue dogs that are treasured by our family.
One came from a local pet rescue, when on a day back in August 2009, myself and my two sons headed out for some “back to school” clothes, and while we didn’t find any clothes that they liked - we did find a special dog sitting on the sidewalk in front of PetsMart. At first, I had decided it was probably best not to adopt her, but when we got back in the car and I saw some tears in the rear view mirror - well we went back, and by the end of the day had our first dog.
A few years later, in 2015 we decided that our dog needed a friend, and so we adopted a similar type dog from a rescue org in Houston, and we picked her up in a crate at Newark airport.
After some initial minor squabbles our dogs have become inseparable friends, and as they say – the rest is history.