It’s called “The Orange Whip”. And anyone who likes to play golf knows the immensely popular training device. I’m one of 600,000 golfers who bought one.
Surprisingly, while watching the Massachusetts Open earlier this month at Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg, I met the man who invented The Orange Whip – Jim Hackenberg, who is also a great golfer and shot a straight par 70 in the second round.
Easley, South Carolina, who played on the same golf team as Phil Mickelson in Arizona State, signed up for seven Mass. Open championships and has some course records. However, Hackenberg is better known for his ingenious invention, which is sold all over the world.
Designed to develop a smooth, balanced golf swing, the Orange Whip features an ultra-flexible golf shaft with an orange ball about the size of a baseball that is attached where a golf head would be. At the end of the handle there is a golf ball with a counterweight.
The sociable 53-year-old Hackenberg agreed to a sporty conversation about golf and his unique training device, which was more successful than he could have ever dreamed of.
How does The Orange Whip develop a better golf swing?
The really important part of the golf swing, once you’ve learned the basics, is finding the rhythm, pace, and sequence of events. I was fortunate to have developed a tool that would help a lot of people become better golfers and swing with rhythm.
What is your recommendation for using The Orange Whip before golfers play a round?
Before golfers hit range balls, or even shortly after they put on their golf shoes, it is a good time to loosen up and find the rhythm for the day and synchronize the movement. There are also exercises that you use on non-play days to loosen your back and create an athletic swing.
You played golf at a high level in college. How was your golf after college?
I played mini-tours for five or six years before realizing I wasn’t making enough cuts or not enough money. So I decided to just go out there and try to work in a certain aspect of the golf industry.
How did you come up with the idea to create the Orange Whip?
After I gave up playing golf, I focused on becoming a golf instructor. I taught at Edgartown Golf Club on Martha’s Vineyard. Then in January 2003 I played for Patrick Moore on the PGA Tour and he was a very good player, the top money winner on the 2002 Nationwide Tour. He was going to be a star, but he was injured.
But while watching PGA Tour people outside during Patrick’s short time, I saw top players like Geoff Ogilvy and Ernie Els on the range and I saw this amazing rhythm and I started to wonder why it looks so easy to them? They weren’t that technical, they just had nice turns, so I started thinking of the golf club as a weighted ball on the end of a chain with a handle. To swing a club like that, you have to be in perfect rhythm for it to work and that became my whole philosophy. So I started experimenting to make something.
How did the creation process of The Orange Whip develop?
I had a little shop near the range at Edgartown Club on Martha’s Vineyard, and I started making these things out of fiberglass fishing rods instead of a chain. I made a few of these just for myself to use in my class and everyone who used them immediately started vibrating better. My students asked me if they could buy it and a lightbulb went out. What if you started selling them? I did 30 by hand and then moved on.
What was your initial investment?
I was lucky enough to meet some people who had very positive financial lives and four people gave me $ 10,000 each and I deposited my own 10 grand which was all I had at the time. So I started with $ 50,000 and moved to South Carolina and built The Orange Whips out of a house I rented. Within 13 months, I was able to repay all of these guys for the money they played with me to start up. They didn’t want to be part of the business, they just wanted to help me.
How have sales developed since you started?
I started selling The Orange Whip to the public in January 2008 and had sold 4,000 by the end of that year. We currently sell between 8,000 and 10,000 units per month. The full retail price is $ 109 each. We all make them in Easley, South Carolina and all of the parts come from the USA and we are very proud of that. We’ve grown every year and it’s been a great ride.
How did you decide on a name for your product?
I needed a ball on the end of the whip and I knew it had to be a colorful ball. Well, one night while I was sitting at home watching the movie “The Blues Brothers” there was this scene where John Candy points at a couple of cops and orders orange whip drinks. I immediately thought that this name would be perfect to accompany the whipping movement of what I had created.
Which tour players did you admire as a young golfer?
I had two favorites – Seve Ballesteros and Tom Watson. Indeed, Watson’s golf swing is exactly what The Orange Whip Motion was to me. When he almost won the British Open at 59 and then lost it, I think it was my heartbreaking day in golf.
What is the visibility of The Orange Whip on today’s PGA Tour?
We have quite a few tour pros using it, and we pay caddies $ 50 a day to carry The Orange Whip in their players’ pockets. Granted, you can’t use it during the round, but it sticks out and you can really see it. We have between eight and 15 players touring The Orange Whip every week, including Harris English who was on the hunt at the US Open. In three years of running this program, we’ve had 16 tour victories with guys wearing The Orange Whip.