Golf fashion, these days, isn't limited to the clothes you put on to hit the links.
Golf fashion comes in a number of other forms now -- your glove, your bag, the color of your golf ball and even your headcovers, just to name a few.
In November 2013, Mike Buchfuhrer officially opened the doors for his business Rose & Fire, a company that specializes in high-end headcovers.
Like many, Buchfuhrer's reason for starting his headcover business came about out of the desire to fill a void he saw in the industry. All of these golf manufacturers -- especially those building handcrafted putters, another business Buchfuhrer dabbled in for a time -- were making expensive clubs that consumers would buy, but, "a special headcover was needed to compliment the craftsmanship of the putters," Buchfuhrer said. "Nothing available worked."
With a family background in fashion, Buchfuhrer got to work in 2010 designing his first headcover. It quickly became a passion and an obsession.
"There came a point where I decided that if I wanted to make truly great covers and achieve my dreams, I needed to open my own shop," he said. "I bought all the proper sewing machines, sourced amazing materials, created the designs, sewed prototypes, and found some of the most incredible craftsmen. That was the birth of Rose & Fire."
The name "Rose & Fire" carries particular significance too.
"Rose" pays homage to Buchfuhrer's grandmother, the first designer in the family, while "Fire" is a play on the second part of Buchfuhrer's last name.
"She was the matriarchal designer in the family and always told me that I could do whatever I wanted to do if I worked hard enough," Buchfuhrer said. "Hearing that and knowing she and other members of my family were able to succeed in fashion gave me the confidence -- and guidance -- needed to get going. I'm incredibly lucky to be in the this position. I get to design and create my dream covers for golfers, boutiques, pro shops, and the best putter manufacturers in the world. It feels great to improve what is out there and make something amazing that otherwise wouldn't have existed."
So what separates a Rose & Fire headcover from the stock headcover that comes with your expensive new driver, fairway wood, hybrid or putter?
For starters, Rose & Fire headcovers are 100 percent made in the USA.
"The number one thing that I tell all my sewing machine operators is that our quality must be the best in the world," Buchfuhrer said. "Made in USA needs to mean something, and not be a plea for charity. We have to back it up with exceptional products -- ones that are undeniably the best. Slight advances aren't enough. We need to shake things up. There's a reason why our logo is a lit match -- we're starting something new."
Buchfuhrer said he uses special materials that are sewn together in a way that respects their quality and heritage. He said industry people often insist the materials Buchfuhrer is using are overkill or unnecessary because consumers won't notice something of lesser quality.
Buchfuhrer disagrees. And that's why he's not willing to compromise the quality of his headcovers.
"I'm here to make covers as if each one was for my personal use," he explained. "Aside from using quality materials, it's important that our constructions compliment them. Our ballistic nylon cover, for example, is constructed very differently from our denim covers. The level of sophistication is also a point of separation. For example, if you look at other companies, embroidered vinyl seems to be the accepted material of choice for putter covers. As headcover makers it's time to step things up and give golfers the quality and material selection they deserve."
Quality craftsmanship can come at a price. At Rose & Fire, though, that price is on the reasonable side.
Buchfuhrer's headcovers -- made from materials including denim, leather, waxed canvas and more -- sell for between $40-$60 per piece.
"Golfers who buy a Rose & Fire covers are really paying for the time, skill, and materials that went into making it, not hype," Buchfuhrer said. "We're here to stay and know that in order to do that we have to treat people fairly by providing the best quality at a fair price."
One aspect of Rose & Fire headcovers that truly sticks out from others is that each cover includes a zippered pocket (or, a regular "jean" pocket on the denim pieces). On drivers, this is a great place to store tees, or even a little cash you may need when the beverage cart comes around on the course. On the putter cover, it's a perfect place to store your ball marker and divot tool.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
It's been a long, cold, snowy winter here in New England. Not that I'm complaining. That's what you sign up for when you live in these parts.
At a certain point though, all this dreary weather makes us long for spring and the start of golf season. This past weekend, we got a hint that perhaps -- just maybe -- spring is around the corner after all. With temperatures in the low 50s, scores of golfers flocked to the local driving range, myself included.
Along with hitting golf balls outside for the first time since November, I was very much looking forward to trying out a new device that caught my eye recently -- a product called the Swing Caddie SC100 from Voice Caddie.
The Swing Caddie SC100 is a portable launch monitor. Who wants to lug that around, right?
Consider this: This particular portable launch monitor is slightly bigger and weighs about the same as an iPhone. It comes in a small pouch and includes a remote. You can tuck it into the valuables pocket on your golf bag and you won't even know it's there.
Once you're at the range, you simply set the monitor on its stand behind your hitting area and with the tiny remote that clips to your belt loop you can adjust the settings -- the club your hitting, and the mode you're playing.
In just a few minutes, the Swing Caddie changed the way I'll practice going forward. While the Average Joe golfer might wonder: Why do I need a portable launch monitor -- the data is only going to confuse me? Let me tell you, the Swing Caddie is an invaluable practice tool.
Not all of us have the skills to be a world-class player, but that doesn't mean we don't take our golf seriously. The Swing Caddie -- a tiny, standalone device that doesn't require a smartphone app -- will give you the key information you need instead of overloading you with the technical information you don't understand.
The instant feedback LCD display measures the following:
- carry distance
- swing speed
- ball speed
- smash factor
You can select from three different modes, as well -- practice, target, or random.
Have you ever played golf with the person who thinks he or she hits his or her clubs a lot further than they actually do? Are you that person?
After a quick warm up and in about five minutes time, I was blown away by the consistency with which the Swing Caddie allowed me to practice. It takes the "guessing" factor out of the equation and really allows the user to dial in consistent distances at which there ball travels with each club in the bag.
Here's a video showing how the Swing Caddie SC100 works:
It's one thing to follow the flight of your golf shot and see that you did something wrong -- a hard hook, a massive slice, etc. It's another thing to be able to, instantaneously after hitting that shot, look back at your portable launch monitor to try and make sense of why that shot happened. Was your swing speed a lot faster than your previous shot? Slower?
Based on the swing speed element on the display, you can quickly develop rhythm and tempo to help frequently repeat the swing that bares the best results for you.
The Swing Caddie is not a substitute for lessons from a PGA Professional. It is, however, an incredible practice tool that any player who takes his or her game seriously -- regardless of ability level -- should have as a companion at the range.
The Swing Caddie SC100 retails for $269. You can learn more about the device -- and others offered by Voice Caddie -- at www.voicecaddie.com.
You can also follow Voice Caddie on Twitter, @vcaddie.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.