Sebastian Haapahovi, like a number of golfers, was experiencing sticker shock. After a two-year absence from the game, Haapahovi wanted to start playing again and he began the search for new equipment.
“I wanted to buy a set of hollow-body irons and the model I was looking at, a set was like $1,500,” Haapahovi says.
A year later, he was the CEO of his own equipment manufacturer, Takomo Golf, a global direct-to-consumer brand headquartered in Finland. Haapahovi’s background is in information technology, so he’s accustomed to finding answers to difficult questions. And in the front of his mind was: Why is golf equipment so expensive?
So, he set out to investigate what comprises the actual cost of a golf club. And in doing so, he found the factories in Asia where all the top U.S. golf equipment is manufactured. He discovered that only a handful of factories have the technology to make hollow-body irons and a couple more capable of manufacturing forgings.
“I had been working with a couple of online startups in the past,” Haapahovi says. “So, business development is not new to me. We started thinking about a new business model based on the direct-to-consumer model. That way, we could bring the actual cost of the clubs way down.”
The first Takomo iron was introduced in early 2021 — the 101, a hollow-body model. Haapahovi chose that design because it was forgiving enough to be played by higher-handicap golfers. “We have complete beginners playing the 101,” he says. Yet, they are sleek and powerful enough to appeal to low-handicappers.
Haapahovi did much of the initial design of the 101, but the fine tuning was accomplished from in-house designers at the factory he chose to make the clubs. The company worked with five factories on prototypes before the final choice was made in 2020.
A few months after the 101 came to market, the 201 was born, a cavity-back forging designed for mid- to low-handicap players. But the head-turning aspect of Takomo irons is the price. A set of 101 irons is $459 for 4-iron through pitching wedge and a set of 201 irons is $589 for the same configuration. Shipping to anywhere in the U.S. is a flat $50.
And that’s not with cheap components or shoddy quality control. Takomo uses premium KBS shafts and Lamkin grips. A set of 201 irons we tested were all the same swingweight, shaft frequencies were within tight tolerances, grips and ferrules installed properly. In other words, what you’d expect from a major manufacturer.
Because of Haapahovi’s IT experience, he decided that Takomo’s initial marketing plan is to use social media to sell its equipment. The company received an unexpected boost from highly favorable reviews on YouTube from Tour Experience Golf (TXG), a respected Canadian clubfitter that has recently been purchased by Club Champion, one of the top U.S. clubfitters.
As a result, Takomo sold out of both models at the end of 2021 and because of supply chain issues in Asia, experienced a delay in restocking. Today, an order with stock specifications is usually turned around in 1-2 weeks. Custom orders – shaft length, lie angle, grip size – are currently in a window of 3-6 weeks, mostly due to long lead times on steel products, shafts in particular.
As far as logistics are concerned, club design, prototyping and testing are done in the Finland headquarters. Manufacturing and assembly take place in southeast Asia and shipping comes from the company’s warehouse in Hong Kong. Shipping to the U.S. usually takes about a week.
One of the issues consumers have with direct-to-consumer companies is the inability to try a club or at least put it in their hands before they buy. Haapahovi says that Takomo is exploring ideas that could put the company in partnership with some local independent clubfitters.
Takomo’s line currently includes its new Skyforger wedges which, like the 201, are forged from S20C steel. Three new iron models are in the works and are expected to be introduced later this year. “Hopefully, next year we will have the infrastructure in place that we can start scaling a little bit bigger,” Haapahovi says.
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