The company's name is pretty well known in the world of golf – SuperStroke.
Its low-key location not as much – Wixom.
The fat putter grips by SuperStroke have been seen popping up on the PGA Tour and television screens more and more each passing season, with pros such as Jordan Spieth and Jason Dufner, who are SuperStroke ambassadors. Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Jim Furyk have also used SuperStroke grips on their putters many times. Several youth competing in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Championship at Augusta on Sunday were also sporting SuperStroke grips on the 18th green.
Spieth has used the putting grips religiously since picking one up at the 2013 Byron Nelson Championship. Heading into the Masters this week he has two pro wins this season, is ranked No. 2 in FedEx Cup points, and ranks first in putting average on Tour – using his Flatso 1.0 grip. Additionally, the past two weekends he finished runner up at the Valero Texas Open and was in the playoff of Sunday's Shell Houston Open.
Unlike golf OEMs like TaylorMade, Titleist and Nike, SuperStroke does not shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to players to use their equipment. Such moves have plagued players like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy publicly, as their games took a long time to adjust after they switched.
"We don't pay players," said Dean Dingman, SuperStroke owner and president. "They are using the product because it works for them, it fits their game. And to see the adoption out on Tour; we thought if we had 15 or 20 guys on Tour each week that would be fantastic. But to see 40 and 50, week in and week out, is unbelievable."
"Being a small (company) we would never be able to afford paying … so we feel fortunate, but we feel it's due to great product. For those players to put a product in (play) for no pay speaks loudly about the brand and the technology."
Dingman has been in the golf business his entire life growing up in metro Detroit, attending Detroit Catholic Central High, Wayne State and working as a golf cart cleaner or in local golf retail throughout school.
He started a company in 1998 with his brother, Darin, producing a wide variety of price-point clubs, some for beginners, some in boxed sets. They eventually licensed the Japanese name Tiger Shark for sales in the U.S. market only, which led to outright purchasing that company, which had the original over-sized putter grip.
Then a cottage manufacturer in Wisconsin came out with SuperStroke, and got exposure from KJ Choi using it on the PGA Tour. But in consumers' eyes, Tiger Shark (since dissolved) was more known for the over-sized grips, so the Dingman's sales took off due to increased category exposure. This led the Dingman's to register the name "Fatso", to which SuperStroke owners at the time submitted a cease and desist, claiming they had the name in the market many years earlier. Eventually the parties met at a PGA Show and it led to Dingman buying out SuperStroke and moving the brand to Wixom about five years ago.
Now with more and more SuperStroke wins on Tour, retail sales have risen over 300% each of the past two years.
"It's part of a five-year ramp up like I have never been a part of, and we're continuing to grow in 2015," Dingman said. "The demand nationally and globally has just been so fun to be a part of."
Ready for all clubs
In January, SuperStroke expanded its line of grips from putters to all clubs by introducing the new TX1 Tour Extreme club grips. Dingman described them as a proprietary blend of two rubber compounds melded into one grip for what he called a dynamic blend of control and feel.
"Putter grips are one out of 14 clubs," Dingman said. "The bigger part of the market is round grips and our intention was to expand into the club grips, but it took us time to develop and get the feel that we wanted. And that was done in conjunction with players out on tour, and it took us longer than we thought, to get it right.
"This is how they make their living, by what's in their hands," he said of Tour pros. "They are going to be able to pick up on things I think the average guy wouldn't, so if they're going to accept the technology, accept the feel, that's a good test ground to me, that it's ready to go to market."
Local retailers like Carl's Golfland have had great success selling SuperStroke grips.
"We have had the round grips for a few weeks and they are selling well so far," said Carl's VP of Merchandising, Derek Bildstein, in March. "They also launched some new colors and new shapes in the putter grips and those are selling great. The counterbalance. Plus series grips and weight kits have really taken off.
"I know that when talking about the product, I often mention that they are located in Wixom. The customers seem to like that fact."
As recently as a few years ago, SuperStroke was making entire putters, but now the focus is only grips. They make a wide variety with names like Fatso, Flatso, Slim, Mid Slim and SS2R Squared.
But why Wixom, why not southern California where most national consumers think SuperStroke is located?
Dingman said family is the number one reason, being from the area.
"The quality of people that you get, I mean I think our employees are second to none," Dingman said was a close second. "The amount of talent in the area that we've been able to get to come in house and build SuperStroke, have great work ethic in Detroit as a manufacturing city. With the deep automotive roots there's a lot of technology here that we like, that we've been able to implement into."