Bag Chatter is a series of interviews that spotlights brands around the golf industry and the people behind them. We’re looking to make this a regular thing, so please comment and share through your medium of choice. If you have a brand and are interested in participating in these interviews, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration. Our first interview is with Matt Reynolds, the man behind Bluegrass Fairway.
Give us the quick elevator pitch. In your own words, what is Bluegrass Fairway?
We are a golf accessories company, but we are a little bit different from what you might find in national chain stores. We use super high-quality, made-in-the-USA materials, and we make everything by hand right here in Kentucky. We don’t mass produce, and we’ve developed a bit of a cult following in only our second year. We started the business in October 2015 and are definitely still growing.
What do you think differentiates your products from others in the marketplace? Why do you think people would buy from Bluegrass Fairway?
We like to use “vintage” or “retro” styled materials. The vast majority of our leather comes from Horween in Chicago or Tennessee Tannery, and we hand pick every hide. We want to provide a quality item that will break in well and wear nicely over time. It’s timeless. It’s something you can hand down to your kids. I’m super passionate about the game. I love the traditions. I love the architecture. We want to provide a classy product that reflects what we appreciate about the game of golf. Needless to say, I doubt you’ll see something in neon orange from us. Sorry in advance!
Would you say you have a “flagship product,” so to speak? If so, what is it?
Leather scorecard holders and yardage book covers are our bread and butter for sure. I’ve been very pleased at how all of our products are selling, though, to be honest. It’s so fun to design something and have people respond positively to it. I really get a huge kick out of it.
How long ago did you start playing golf? When and how did golf first grab your attention?
I took up the game when I was about 15. I was a sophomore in high school. I had just transferred to a new school and my new friends all played golf, so I started taking up the game. My first job was at Wildwood Country Club here in Louisville, so I spent a lot of time at that course. I also worked my butt off in college and finally got pretty good in my mid-20s. A couple years later, I finished top-5 in the Kentucky Open and ended up becoming a scratch golfer. I think what got me hooked on the game was that I was really competitive and I couldn’t understand how this game was so hard, so just the challenge of the game humbled me. The competitive nature that I have pushed me to never stop grinding. It was something I felt like I had to conquer.
What prompted you to start this company? Were you already a leather craftsman? How did that come about?
I had a cheap, old yardage book cover that fell apart, and I took it to a shoe cobbler to fix it. He said to me, “You know, we could easily make you a better one.” He and I collaborated on a design, and he made me another one from scratch. He then made me a couple more, because my friends all wanted one after they saw the one I had. Then one of my friends suggested I sell a couple on Etsy. So I developed a brand name and a logo and made an Etsy store. I didn’t sell any the first month, and I thought, “Gosh, this was a dumb idea.” I was about to take it down and then I sold a bunch during the next two months (November and December of 2015). It eventually grew to a point where I started to outpace my cobbler friend. At that point, I met another friend named Will Jacoby (of Steurer and Jacoby) who happened to be local to me, and also already had a lot of the equipment and seamstresses I needed. So, the bottom line is that I got a little bit lucky for sure, but now Will and I have an agreement where we partner together and help each other out. Really, it had a bit of a fluke beginning and just grew organically from there. I realize that I’m lucky and I’m having a lot of fun with it.
Was there a big defining moment or big break for your company? What got you where you are today?
We’ve had some really cool customers that have totally shocked me. The very first big sale I was about three months in when I was contacted by the Orlando Magic. They bought several scorecard holders for a golf event. That was a moment where we thought, “Maybe we’ve actually got something here?” Since then, I’ve had several awesome customers show up. Most recently, the USGA just purchased yardage book holders for the Mid-Am and they sold out in the very first day. Curtis Strange is a customer of mine as well. I’m fortunate to say I could rattle off a few other really fun names. It’s been a blast so far.
If you weren’t doing this, what else would you be doing? Is there anything else you have a passion for or are trained for?
I work at my family’s insurance agency and have since I was 22 years old, so the Bluegrass Fairway thing is kind of a side project for me. And I love it. I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to make golf my livelihood, and it’s just now starting to take shape. I used to REALLY geek out over the tour gear posted on GolfWRX. You know, back in 2005-2006, WRX was posting all the special wedge grinds and drivers out on tour that normal people couldn’t get, and I used to go crazy over that stuff. I would totally gobble it all up. Golf has been such a passion for me, and it’s so fun to play a small part in the industry.
What would be your ideal foursome? Who would you like to play with? No limits. Could be dead or alive, famous or not famous.
I’d have to say Tiger Woods first. I just idolized him growing up and would be so honored to play with him. That one’s a no-brainer. Second would be my grandpa. I never got to play golf with him, but my dad always tells me he was a great golfer, so that would be really awesome for me. Last, I’d probably have to say Donald Ross. He is my favorite architect by far. I would love to pick his brain on architecture and what makes a great golf course.
What’s your best golf story? Either the funniest or most unbelievable thing that you witnessed on a golf course. Yes, the 19th hole counts.
Hands down it would be the day I was the standard bearer during the PGA Championship in 2000 at Valhalla. I was in college, but I was just barely young enough to qualify as a standard bearer (the guy who carries the sign for the players in the group that shows their names and scores). We had one guy no-show on Sunday, so they asked me to double loop. I was like, “Are you kidding me? OF COURSE!” I was like a kid in a candy store. So, the guy says he’s going to do something nice for me (like I was doing him a favor and he needed to reward me or something) and he gives me the final pairing on Sunday. So I was the standard bearer for Tiger Woods and Bob May on Sunday at Valhalla. Technically, I walked with them the entire way, but I was absolutely floating on air. I still remember the sound their drivers made when they made contact that day. It was absolutely incredible and unlike anything I’d ever seen. To top it all off, Tiger gave me his ball after he made the five footer on the 18th hole and said, “Here man, thanks for walking with us today.” Of course I still have it. It was truly a day I will never forget.
What tour pro (past or present) has your favorite golf swing?
I really like a golfer who shapes the ball, so I would have to go with Phil Mickelson. He doesn’t just go, “I always hit a draw, so I’m just gonna hit a draw all day.” He seems to hit the shot that needs to be hit depending on the situation. Personally, that’s the kind of player I gravitate to.
What’s the most underrated golf course you’ve ever played? What’s your favorite course that isn’t Pebble Beach or the Old Course?
My all-time personal favorite is Pinehurst No. 2 (like I said, I’m a Donald Ross fan). I’ve played it six times. Each time, I’ve really tried to take it in. I didn’t get to play it before Crenshaw redesigned it, but I still love it so much. I say that to follow up with the fact that there’s a few courses in that area that are just unreal. I would say Mid Pines (right down the street from Pinehurst) is my favorite “underrated” course I’ve ever played. It’s a Donald Ross masterpiece for sure.
What are your thoughts on the state of the game? A lot is said about how the game is struggling and we need to grow it. What do you think?
We all hear it a lot. It’s discouraging to me because this is my sport, so it’s not fun to hear. That being said, I feel like we’re kind of getting used to how things are in the post-Tiger world. It seems like the club companies are recognizing that it’s not wise to bring out five drivers in one year anymore. Personally, I think courses kept closing because it just got to the point that there were just too many. It seemed like there was one on every corner. I do feel like a lot of that has stabilized now, and golf is starting to claw its way back. Personally, I feel like the game is really strong. There’s a young breed coming (Spieth and company) that’s really going to move this game forward in my opinion. Tiger set the bar at a place that he’s always going to be in the conversation (rightfully so), but this young group is going to make their own waves for sure. I honestly think the game is in much better shape than most people will acknowledge.
Lastly, what do you guys have in the works? Are there any product releases forthcoming? How do people find you and get in touch?
We are working on a new golf bag, so that’s exciting. We’ve put one together and it’s currently in testing. We will probably do a small release and see how the feedback is and take it from there. Expect a carry bag with an old school kind of look, because that’s kind of what we do. It will use all the same leather and waxed canvas that we use on all our other materials. As far as social media goes, we are definitely most active on our instagram account @bluegrassfairway and as always check out our website www.bluegrassfairway.com.