WINTER GARDEN, Fla. — Kevin Woolgar, the head of research and development for Lynx Golf, started with the company in 1978, packing boxes in the warehouse. Now, more than 40 years later, he’s fighting for the brand’s resurgence, one outside-the-box idea at a time. “It’s a progression, isn’t it?” he asks, explaining the rise to his current position as head of research and development.
A strange progression indeed. The year after Woolgar started, Lynx’s warehouse manager died unexpectedly. Facing tight times, Lynx turned to Woolgar to take over the position. The longer Woolgar shipped gear, the more he wondered why he wasn’t shipping more. So he became a salesman. But the more he sold gear, the more he wondered if he could make that gear even better. That led him to R&D, where he remains as top innovator today.
Woolgar is well aware of where Lynx has been, and he’s proud of its past. “We were innovators in our day,” he says. He’s right. The young club company gathered steam when Fred Couples started playing Lynx clubs in the 1980s, won the Masters with them in 1992, and Ernie Els won with Lynx at the 1994 U.S. Open. “We were always one, two steps ahead of the competition.”
Then came the dark days. Els left. Couples did, too. Eventually, Golfsmith swept in to purchase all of Lynx and turned the once-proud brand into an in-house manufacturer, deserting any focus on a premium product. Now Lynx is in the beginning of a turnaround.
In 2013, Steve Elford and his wife, Stephanie Zinser, acquired the brand and set out with growth in mind. They began in the U.K., which remains home base. And the effort has been effective; the company has seen double-digit growth percentage every year since the acquisition, going from the perennial butt of an online ClubProGuy joke to a rapidly-growing manufacturer. European sales are up 135% this year, Zinser says. And now, as of the PGA Show, Lynx is officially headed back to U.S. markets, too.
“Our goal since day one has been to reestablish Lynx as one of the top-five major golf brands worldwide,” Elford said. It’s a tall, unlikely task, of course. But the entire company seems set on pushing innovation and laser-focused on taking down the big guys. Elford’s words highlight that. “Breaking ground.” “Complete game-changer.” And, of course, the new slogan: “The Cat is Back.”
A look at the new line of clubs through Woolgar’s eyes reveals this same attitude. The new “Switch-Face” driver provides “ultimate adjustability,” with the ability to change faces into a uniquely crafted driver. Why has nobody done this before? “Why does anyone not do anything before they do it?” Woolgar counters. Fair enough.
A quick look at Lynx’s new players irons, the Prowlers (which retail between $800 and $1,000), shows a renewed focus on appealing to the game’s best. The playable blades aim to provide a level of forgiveness along with precision and feel, and options further down the price range.
“If you’re looking at these and thinking they look like PXG, you’re way off,” Woolgar says, referring to the black caps on the back of the Prowler Forged models, which resembles the pattern on PXG’s irons. “We had a black-cap design made up 15 years ago. They should be looking at PXG’s clubs and comparing those to ours!”