January 21, 2020
Tom Crow, founder of Cobra Golf has passed away
There are some people that you meet that are just special the minute you meet them. Tom Crow was one of those people. There are many golf professionals and golf industry people that read my blog. Most probably have a Tom Crow story, because Tom seemed to know everyone and had an uncanny ability to remember names and facts. You might not have seen him for a couple of years, but when he saw you, it was like it was yesterday and your friendship just started up from where you left off!
In 1978, I had my first head professional position at Broadmoor Country Club in Indianapolis. I had a nice job at a Donald Ross golf course with a good membership. My golf shop was modest and stocked to handle the rounds played and tailored to my clientele. In other words, it wasn't one of the big country clubs or golf shops in Indianapolis. One spring morning in 1978 a gentleman came through the front door and introduced himself as Tom Crow the founder of Cobra Golf Company and wanted my input on his new golf club and what he needed to sell it to professionals like myself. First, it was strange to have an owner come in to pitch a product and second, what was he doing in a remote area like Indianapolis? Indianapolis had some wonderful golf courses, but it wasn't a golf Mecca. He stated that he wanted to go to the heartland and get the working professionals opinion. Well, we hit it off right away and we must have spent a couple of hours talking and sharing stories.
His first club was called a Baffler. It had two metal rails on the sole that would cut through rough and get balls out of difficult lies. In Los Angeles, I was very familiar with a similar club called a Ginty by the Stan Thompson Company. We sold a lot of those at Hillcrest Country Club. Only problem was that it was poorly constructed and the heavy single flange sole would ultimately breakoff from the wood head. Crow's Baffler was much better constructed and produced superior and more consistent shots. I still remember hitting shots off the pavement in front of my golf shop down the first fairway. That was his way of selling the forgiveness of his rescue club. I'm not sure he got a lot of sage marketing advice from me, but I did buy six Bafflers and reordered numerous times later. I carried a #4 Baffler in my bag for many years. It was not a gimmick novelty club, it worked!
Tom was from Australia and help design the Maxfli Australian Blade, which remains a classic. He was a very fine player with his best victory the 1961 Australian Amateur. He left for America in 1973 to form his new company, which he named Cobra. His first club was the Baffler, second he introduced long staffed drivers, which he called Long Tom. However, his biggest club success was introducing over-size irons. Cobra's designs and playability made them number one in that market group. But maybe his best business decision was talking Greg Norman into investing and becoming a partner in Cobra in 1991. That worked out very well for both parties.
Tom always wanted the golf professional's opinion and input. He regularly attended the PGA Club Professional Championships and the PGA Merchandise Shows. Whenever I saw him, he remembered me immediately and we exchanged pleasantries. What a great man. Seems like yesterday he was walked into my golf shop and excitedly telling me of this new great golf club. RIP.