David Jones' Club Caddy won the first edition of Fore Inventors Only. Unfortunately, it's taken David until this month - nearly a full year later - to put in place his business and manufacturing partners and to begin selling the Club Caddy en masse to resellers and consumers.
Other folks from the show, like Gary Sherrell and Dean Thompson, have been interviewed by this site, and this time around we're going to talk with David about the troubles he's encountered. Following the interview, we'll share our thoughts on the Club Caddy.
Read on to see how the winner - and his product - have fared in the year since Fore Inventors Only concluded.
Interview with David Jones
The Sand Trap: So a lot of people go "Oh come on, it's a big clothespin! I should have thought of that!" But they didn't, and you did. So, tell us, how DID you think of it?
David Jones: I believe I was divinely inspired to create The Club Caddy. Some would call it a gift. I certainly do. Once pointed in the right direction, I worked and worked (obsessed?) to design the Caddy for maximum efficiency and utility. It had to work on 100% of the clubs out there. It doesn't (belly, long putters and fat-shaft clubs are notÂ very compatible) but it works on, I'd say, 98% or more of clubs, so that's pretty good. I felt it needed to be as small as possible and so user friendlyÂ that it would be a No-Brain-er! Â I believe it is.
TST: You're one of the last people with success on the show to actually bring your product to market. What's taken so long? Why haven't we been using the Club Caddy for six months already? Tell us about the troubles you've had getting this thing on shelves and into the hands of golfers?
Jones: Many of the products seen on the show were already in the market. Some had been for a while. I began with homemade models and $0.00 capital. I thought that when I made it to the top five, interested parties would show up, inject cash and business expertise, and we'd be off and running in no time. We had several offers to move forward and we were diligent in our research. Having finally garnered the world's attention, we wanted to capitalize on the attention,Â launch with a great product and secure the best "deal" for us.Â We were fortunate to be introduced around mid-October to a party that we eventually aligned ourselves with to bring the product to market. Getting the final design for our first production run took some time and effort. Eight months from the Finale, but only six from our initial meeting with our manufacturerÂ to market is not too bad, I think, when you play the cards we had.
TST: What toll has this taken on your life - financially, personally…?
Jones: You mean besides my sanity? Just kidding. We did spend some money along the way (twelve years working on this) and countless hours trying to get some one's attention that could help us get this product into the marketplace. We've made some mistakes along the way and will probably make some more. My kids, now 26-23-17-12-8 yrs old, have grown up with "Daddy's obsession". I couldn't have done it without 'em. They have all contributed to where we are now, on the verge of a great, at least for us, enterprise and the potential to change our lives for the better.
TST: Was the Club Caddy your first invention or have you had other ideas for golf equipment? What other ideas did you have that were hits or misses? Do you have anything else in the works?
Jones: The Club Caddy was the first. It led to a couple more. One is the bag clip that comes with the Caddy. Players slide it over the rim of their bag, wherever it's convenient and hang the Caddy for easy access. It enhances the user friendly part of the Caddy. My other idea has been explored and I've received feedback that it positive. I have yet to file paperwork so I won't go into exactly what it is. It is a golf based product however.
TST: What did you take out of being involved with "Fore Inventors Only"? Was it worth being on the show?
Jones: I think any inventor would love to be on a show that could not only give them valuable feedback about their idea but also the exposure for that idea.Â I am grateful to The Golf Channel,Â Golf Smith and the Golf Agency for the way "Fore Inventors Only" was put together and for the opportunities that have come our way because of the program. It was an experience of a lifetime and overall wonderful to be a part of the show. I came away with more than I expected. I honestly went to the show for the exposure in the industry and the hope of moving forward with our dream. I'd say we got thatÂ inÂ spades. Response has been great so far. We expect good days ahead.
TST: What was your favorite part of "Fore Inventors Only"? What was your least favorite part?
Jones: I'd have to say my favorite part was seeing the look on my family's face when we won.Â I've never seen my wife and kidsÂ crying tears of joy. We had struggled for many, many years to "break in" to the golf world and the win was pretty overwhelming. The least favorite part was watching the eliminations of the other competitors. It hurt to see dreams and aspirations set back, because IÂ had experienced that feelingÂ many times before and I knew how theyÂ felt.
TST: What is your honest assessment of the other four "Final Five" contestants? Were you surprised some of the products made it as far as they did?
Jones: Smart, focused, funny and genuinely real people.Â Some of the finest people I've ever met were on that finale stage with me.Â IÂ was blessed to be there and privileged to get to know them as well as I did. We all stayed in the same hotel when we went to Orlando for the finale and we got to spend time with all of them and their families.Â What a great bunch of people. I certainly was not surprised at who the five finalists turned out to be. Each one is innovative and will enhanceÂ the game.
TST: The Club Caddy excluded, what products do you think should have gone further in the competition than they did?
Jones: I think the ones chosen as the top ten, in my opinion,Â wereÂ the top ten products.Â As to the top five, I think I'll be satisfied with the judges call. I'm sure it was a tough decision with Gyroswing, PowerStance and Strike-N-Swipe in the running. I'm not going to second guess them. Let's face it. If they were after the most innovative, technological, outside the box invention there, I wouldn't have won. I believe their were many useful products in the competition and they will find a place in the market.
TST: What was your career path prior to inventing the Club Caddy? Have you always been involved in the golf industry?
Jones: My main career has always been as a Dad. I've got five kids and did whatever it took to pay the bills and provide. I've been everything from a restaurant manager to a lumberjack. I've worked as the green's keeperÂ at two courses and they were probably my favorite jobs. You could look back at the end of the day and feel good about what you did that brought enjoyment to other people.Â I've loved golf since I began playing at thirteen in Southeast Texas but never worked in the industry until the mid 90s.
TST: What hobbies or interests outside of golf do you enjoy? Family?
Jones: My main interest and hobby is my kids. I try to spend as much time with them as I can and be involved in what they are doing. IÂ enjoy reading, swimming, playing guitar and music. I grew up surfing on the Texas coast and hope to get to do that some more, though in different places. I want to travel and expose my children to places, people and things that we have never had the money to do before. Of course I want to play more golf and work with programs developed to encourage kids to get involved with the sport.
Product Review - Club Caddy
The Club Caddy is one of the simpler products a golfer might consider buying. It's one of those Why-didn't-I-think-of-that? sort of things that, upon being "thinked" of, tend to do rather well with consumers. The Club Caddy won Fore Inventors Only, after all, and despite taking a year to reach the marketplace, interest and demand for the product is still high among those who watched the show. Those who didn't, well, they'll just have to hear about the product the old-fashioned way.
The Club Caddy is a plastic, spring-loaded clip that, when attached to a golf club just above the hosel, forms a tripod. This tripod is not only easily seen - assisting forgetful golfers in remembering their clubs next to the green before driving to the next hole - but also serves to prevents the grip from getting wet or dirty.
Imagine you've got a bunker shot and your partner wants to park the cart by the next tee. No problem - you grab your Club Caddy, your putter, and your sand wedge. You clip the Club Caddy to your putter, set it beside the bunker, and play your shot. After raking, you move the Club Caddy over to your wedge, set it down, and putt out. When you're done, you walk past your wedge, pick it up, and move along. Your grips will have stayed dry, you won't have to bend down to pick up your clubs. The odds that you'll forget your sand wedge in the greenside rough are dramatically lessened.
That sounds great in theory, but fortunately it's just that simple in practice as well. The Club Caddy works as advertised, and like many slap-the-forehead, "duh" types of ideas, makes you wonder how you got along without one. Golfers have previously shoved bent pieces of metal into the ground, rested clubs on headcovers or towels, or just put up with wet grips and forgotten clubs. This $20 clip will change things.
Once the Club Caddy is clipped on a club, it forms a fairly secure base that doesn't require a careful balancing act - you can just set the club down while walking and move on. It's easier to balance the Club Caddy on flat terrain or up the slope of a hill (rather than down the slope), but I never had difficulty finding a spot where the Club Caddy easily balanced. You can even rest a second club against the first, though that requires a tad more effort. In a stiff breeze, one club remains fairly stable so long as it's angled with the wind. Two clubs in a stiff breeze… not so much.
The Club Caddy, made of high-strength plastic, withstood several of my torture tests. I threw it against the wooden structures that house my course's drinking water. I ran over it with a cart. I bent it against the ground. I dropped it onto the cart path several times. It's escaped intact.
The Club Caddy now ships with a small bag clip that has a post. When not in use, clip the Club Caddy to the post and it's ready when you need it next. This bag clip is a welcome post-Fore Inventors Only addition to the product, and it makes using the product that much easier.
Though ideal for cart riders who must often carry a few clubs to their ball, the Club Caddy is lightweight and still offers enough function that it has come in handy during my walking rounds. I can set my bag beside the next tee while finishing out around the greens, or put my bag out in the fairway on a parallel hole, taking my driver, wedge, and putter with me.
With a retail price of $20, the Club Caddy is being sold both online (theclubcaddy.com) and at various retailers (online and brick-and-mortar). Though perhaps a bit steep, I've found the insurance that I'll never lose a club and the benefits of having dry grips to be more than worth the asking price.
Update: September 20, 2008 Despite never having broken a Club Caddy (still!), I received a replacement Club Caddy from David Jones today with a note that read, in part:
I am sending you a NEW & IMPROVED Club Caddy. Use it and let me know what you think. The distributor we licensed made some mistakes in manufacturing and many units failed or were inferior. I got him to do a RECALL and revamp the Caddy. It is now a product that I am very happy with. The product is as sound as the concept.
The "improved" Club Caddy appears to be made from a slightly different plastic. It's thicker, and the external "grippy" portions extend extrude through to the inside. Again, I never had any problems with the one I've used, but this version strikes me as a bit more solid and durable.