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Fancy Footwork: A Q&A With Allen Edmonds CEO Paul Grangaard

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One of the last shoe companies still manufacturing in America, Allen Edmonds is captained by a lifelong golfer who started out on his grandfather’s hickory clubs. In the following interview, CEO Paul Grangaard talks about the brand’s various golf shoes, which range from the ultra-traditional to sportier, modern offerings made in partnership with Jack Nicklaus. He also shares his thoughts on the proliferation of sneaker-style golf shoes, and whether Allen Edmonds will jump on the trend.

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GS: Tell us about your golf history.

PG: My grandfather played golf out on the prairie in rural western Minnesota at the beginning of the last century and my dad started playing with him out there at a young age.  When I was about seven years old I was handed the sawed-off, hickory-shafted niblick that were once my grandfather’s, and which all of my four older siblings had also used as their first golf club.

I started hitting wiffle balls in the back yard off a welcome mat to prevent divots, and have been whacking at golf balls ever since. In seventh grade golf became a major connection to my dad and the rest of the family, and my favorite way to spend time away from the baseball diamond. By high school it was my thing, and for 25 years I was a single-digit USGA index who couldn’t chip. My career round is two over par — with a two-stroke penalty in there for a lost ball — at The Minikahda Club, a Donald Ross course in my hometown of Minneapolis. However, work stress, kid-raising and — most directly — too much intensity trying to get better (aka becoming a head case), has sent me backwards — a long way — over the past 10 years.

My favorite place to play is at Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Nebraska (Golf Digest’s #9 ranked course in the United States, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore), where I’ve been a member since 1996.

GS: With so many to choose from, how many golf shoes do you have in your personal rotation?

PG: We’re in a major product development mode this year in our golf shoe offerings, so my shoe rotation is constant. I have two pairs I received just this week to try out: one spiked and one spikeless. I’m equally partial to the classic looks of our Honors Collection and the modern attributes of our Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf line. It depends on the weather, the day, and my mood.

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GS: Golf shoes seem to be going through a rapid transition right now. In fact, I recently predicted that what we’re witnessing is the death of the traditional golf shoe, which will soon go the way of plus-fours. Your Jack Nicklaus collection is modern without being full-on sneaker-style. Do you plan to produce sneaker-style golf shoes?

PG: No sneaker shoes on our whiteboard, and I fundamentally disagree with your extinction prediction. One might have easily said 10 years ago that tighter-fitting pants and shirts, white belts, bright colors and cardigan sweaters – the look worn by Arnold Palmer in his prime – have all gone the way of plus-fours, replaced by all-black-all-the-time (except for red on Sunday).  Now look at what’s popular on tour – and, for that matter, in every casual setting. Wearing sneaker shoes with a great “Mad Man” golf outfit is like wearing bowling shoes to a wedding.

GS: Do you consider the trend to be a threat to your business?

PG: Golf is only a small part of our business. Actually, our greatest benefit from being in pro shops at the top-200 golf courses is the renewed brand awareness we achieve with existing and potential core customers. I’m eager to see a tipping point back to higher-quality footwear. It has clearly happened in dress shoes (you and your blogger colleagues have helped make that happen), so why not in golf?

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GS: Tell us about the most important features of Allen Edmonds golf shoes.

PG: We make our shoes of high-quality leathers that actually take a serious shoe shine. Our shoes are waterproof, but not so impregnable (i.e., made of petroleum products) that they don’t breathe. Our soles and insoles stabilize the foot – especially because we offer multiple widths so the player has the right fit – and provide true support for a golfers feet and skeletal structure that strong shoes give.

Many men are under the false impression that a squishy cushion is more comfortable. That kind of instability is actually bad for your feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back.

GS: In general are your shoes heavy, and is weight a bad thing in a golf shoe? After all, you’re not running or jumping, but trying to anchor yourself to the ground.

PG: That’s exactly right. Enhancing a player’s stability in the swing is the most important contribution to good golf that shoes can make. We golfers have been misled into thinking that lightweight is what it’s all about. However, we want to be able to serve our customers’ desires (“don’t fight the tape,” as investors know). So our Jack Nicklaus shoes provide great support and also are very lightweight. Our Honors Collection is for players who want that fantastic classic look that they once wore (or saw Arnie wear on a Golf Channel retrospective), and which they now see on the better-dressed PGA players. The Honors Collection wearer wants stability in the swing, great fashion and long lasting quality in his footwear, and doesn’t worry about a few extra ounces on his feet.

Right now, and totally of their free will, Darren Clarke, Sam Saunders (Arnie’s grandson), Jonathan Byrd, Gustavo Fernandez-Castano, and a few younger players on the Web.com tour are all wearing shoes from our Honors Collection. I was on the practice tee at Riviera during the week of the Northern Trust Open, when Darren Clarke’s agent came up to us and said, “Are you the guys from Allen Edmonds? Darren wants to wear your shoes.” He calls them his “proper golf shoes.” So much for the plus-fours/dinosaur theory!

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GS: Finally, when it comes to clothes, what do you like to wear on the course?

PG: It’s changing as I get more into the new look. I wear (no-pleats, of course) Heritage 34 cords in cold weather (I’ll play in the 30s if I have to), khakis in cool weather, and performance plaid shorts in warm weather. I wear performance long-sleeve shirts for warmth in the cold, and cotton golf shirts (much better material than all those polyesters today) as soon as I can.

I always wear a hat now, because I know how pernicious skin cancer can be and, no surprise, it gives me a chance to wear an Allen Edmonds branded product out in public that gets noticed. People are asking me all the time where to get a “Jack on 17 in 1986” logo hat from our JN Signature Golf line. Answer, right here.

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One Response to “Fancy Footwork: A Q&A With Allen Edmonds CEO Paul Grangaard”

  1. golf channels news | golf channel Says:

    […] Golf Style » Blog Archive » Fancy Footwork: A Q&A With … http://www.golfstyle.guru/One might have easily said 10 years ago that tighter-fitting pants and shirts, white belts, bright colors and cardigan sweaters – the look worn by Arnold Palmer in his prime – have all gone the way of plus-fours, replaced by all-black-all-the-time (except for red on … Our Honors Collection is for players who want that fantastic classic look that they once wore (or saw Arnie wear on a Golf Channel retrospective), and which they now see on the better-dressed PGA players. […]

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