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Interview with Monroe Golf Founder Bobby Funkhouser: Building a Golf Business

Published on 03/14/2023 · 16 min readFounder of Monroe Golf and Curated Golf Expert Bobby Funkhouser sits down to talk about the inspiration and journey behind building his golf company!
Michael Harris, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Michael Harris

Photo of Bobby Funkhouser (@SwingMonroe) by Scott Hastings (@hastings_media)

Have you ever wanted to start your own business? Let’s take that one step further. Have you ever wanted to start your own golf business? At Curated, we have thousands of Experts across multiple categories. The interesting part is that most of those Experts have quite the entrepreneurial spirit. When it comes to Bobby Funkhouser, at the age of 23, he decided he wanted to have his own business. Like a lot of parents, Bobby’s dad never really seemed thrilled about Bobby’s ideas, until he decided to pitch the idea of a golf company — a game he loves to play, and an industry that was growing. To Bobby’s surprise, his dad actually thought this was a great idea! The name, Monroe Golf, would come from a long line of Monroes in Bobby’s family. Keeping with the namesake, Bobby started down the path to make his entrepreneurial dreams come true.

We had a chance to sit down with Bobby and go over the process from beginning to end: concepts, branding, design, manufacturing, partnerships, and much more! This is an exciting time for Curated Expert, Bobby Funkhouser, and we are very excited about his future and Monroe Golf. Curated is honored to be the exclusive retailer for the Monroe SURGE Complete Golf Set.

Let’s get into the interview!

Hello, my name is Michael Harris, and I'm a team manager over at Curated in the Golf category. Today, we have a very special guest…the founder and lead designer of Monroe Golf, Mr. Bobby Funkhouser.

Now, Monroe Golf just recently released its first product ever. It's the SURGE Complete Golf Set, which is already selling over on Curated. Since that announcement, we've discovered that there are a lot of people out there who are really excited about the entrepreneurial spirit that we found in Bobby.

I think all of us have an entrepreneurial spirit inside of us. Bobby, why don't you walk us back to that first day when you finally realized that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I've always kind of wanted to start my own business and have my own brand of some sort that I could push and grow. I always thought it'd be really cool to have your own little baby and try to grow it into this big thing.

A while back—I guess this is probably five, six years ago—I was dating this girl that had all these different businesses. She had a cleaning business, a post-construction cleaning business, where she had a bunch of cleaners, but she never even dealt with it. She had it completely covered, with other people doing the management work of it and scheduling things. And then she also had a bikini business on the side, where she would put custom designs on bikinis for people, have 'em order them for bachelorette parties and things like that. So, seeing her kind of building something like that made me want to join the party!

I'm like, what am I doing? I'm just working a nine-to-five. I should have something else going on. And I kind of always had the entrepreneur mindset, before that, but that's what really made me decide. Like, okay, I want to do this. And it took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do…I had multiple other ideas, but I finally came to the complete set of clubs that I wanted to do. And I did it.

That's awesome, it's basically like a dream come true. So, it's really recently that you developed this entrepreneurial spirit, right?

I’m 29 right now. And I would say I was probably 23 when I really started thinking about starting my own brand of some sort. I thought about doing golf shirts or golf grips or smaller stuff. And then I always kind of got nervous and bailed on it, but this time I stayed with it. And I'm doing it!

That's awesome. All right, so right now, let me go back in time. So, you realize that other people were doing this right. They're making a bunch of money. They're kind of making their own schedule. And so you decided, “I'm gonna do it.” And golf was just a natural fit for you?

I mean, it's something I'm obsessed with, right? I see all these people doing Amazon stuff and selling little trinkets and things like that. I think that's great if somebody wants to do that and build a business like that, but I would rather do it around something that I'm passionate about. Something that I'm obsessed with. Something where I feel like I can relate to the people that are buying it. And I think that's why I wanted to be around golf. And I felt like there [was] a need for what I came out with.

I think we've talked about it in the past. The need was really in the packaged set market, right? We went through the supply chain constraints because of COVID, and you realized that we really needed some more sets in our inventory to offer over at Curated. And so it made perfect sense for you to go that route, correct?

Definitely. I had the idea even before I was working for Curated. But once I was working for Curated, I saw that these companies [were] doing similar things to what I'm doing now, just selling outta their stuff and having trouble keeping things in stock. And they were just really doing well, and a lot of people started golfing during COVID because there wasn't much to do. And kids are using their dad's or their grandpa's clubs, and they wanna upgrade and get something better. And instead of the old set, they got the garage sale or grandpa's clubs from the storage unit. So that's what really helped me feel even more confident about it and push me into actually pulling the trigger and doing it.

All right, so now we know that you wanted to go into the package set world, the complete set world. Was Monroe Golf before or after you made that decision? As far as the name and the branding?

It was after. I came up with the design and the business plan and all of that before the branding. And it took me a while to figure it out, but I ended up deciding on Monroe 'cause it's a family name, and yeah…I like the way it sounds too.

I think it's a great name. We actually have a Monroe, North Carolina, that I'm very familiar with, growing up in Charlotte. So I thought, okay, cool. He's naming it after me a little bit. [laughs]

But anyways, let's move on from there. With Monroe, obviously, it has a unique design to what's out there in the marketplace. Now, we see a lot of the black finish on the head. We see a lot of graphite shafts. Talk us through your design process: why you made those decisions, things like that.

I wanted to go with something that was more traditional—something that looked like a more traditional set of clubs. A lot of the brands that are out right now, that are doing summer things, have all these matte black clubs that are also having a lot of bad reviews for getting scuffed and stuff. The black is coming off which was a lot of the bad reviews that those sets have gotten. I wanted to steer away from that as well, but also have a traditional-looking set.

And I wanted to go with a regular flex set at first and have steel shafts because steel shafts are kind of…not that common, or there are not very many that are available right now.

Two of my competitors are people who are doing similar things—both of them only have graphite shafts in the iron. So, I thought it would be cool to join the party but also set myself aside as one of the only [ones] that has steel-shafted irons as well.

Awesome, I really love the colors. I think it's really cool. So, now you have this design in your head. You have this name. Where do we go from there? Is it the manufacturing process next? Or were you looking for the partnership with Curated? Talk us through that a little bit.

At this point, I hadn't even spoken to Curated about it. I came out with the design. I came out with all of that: what I was wanting it to look like, what I was wanting it to be, [and] my business plan. And then yes, I started looking for manufacturers. I was talking to about 10 different manufacturers, and I slowly narrowed it down and went with the one that ended up doing the clubs. And they've done a really good job. They're really easy to work with. And I'm happy with the way the clubs turned out. I'm really happy with it.

That's awesome. So, one of the questions we got a lot was...Do you remember the first day that you reached out to the manufacturer? And then, how long did that process take until you had that first set in your hands?

Oh man, it took a while. You mean like the day that I had my manufacturer, or when I just started talking to them in general?

I think just in general, like when you started talking to him, you're going through the list of ten. You’re trying to narrow it down, like from that day forward. How long are we talking about?

Man, I would say that it probably took…from the time that I was talking to all 10 and the time that we actually had the clubs manufactured and they were here? I would say it was right around 10 months.

Ten months.

So, it took a while. Narrowing down the club, or the manufacturer, took probably a month. And then after that, really getting the design right. And figuring everything out with the manufacturer, took probably another six weeks. And then that's when the manufacturing [of] the clubs actually started. So it took a while, the first one, but now … they have been made, and the molds and everything for the designs and everything are done. The second order, any future shipments, will be a lot faster because they already have everything done.

That was gonna be my next question. Walk us through the prototype process. Obviously, they're gonna put some designs down on paper, I'm guessing. Do they ship you materials, raw materials? How'd that process go?

I told them what I wanted. Basically everything. From the wedges, from the irons, from the woods, the driver, the hybrid, the putter. And they sent out some samples and stuff of things that I basically chose the samples that I wanted. They sent them in a shaft that would work [well] for me and my swing speed and everything. And I was able to test everything out and … have other people test it out as well so that I know that it would be good for a beginner or an intermediate golfer. I just tested the clubs as much as I could for a few weeks and narrowed it down to what I wanted, and then let them know. And then that's where we moved forward and started with mass producing them.

Cool, so I think this is a hard question to answer, but obviously, there are a lot of challenges along the way. But do you have just one thing that sort of sticks out? Like, “This was the biggest challenge I had.”

… Okay, I'll just start by answering the biggest challenge question right now. I would say the biggest challenge I was dealing with was everything with COVID and shipping and dealing with overseas manufacturers, and also having to stay up super late to communicate with the people. The manufacturer, the people there, and...there are some language barriers, especially early on when I was dealing with that. I had the ten that I was trying to choose from. A lot of 'em had more issues with language barriers, so I was having a hard time communicating. And that was a big reason why I went with the one manufacturer because sometimes I was staying up till five in the morning, talking with them because they're on the other side of the world. So that was a big thing.

And then [I was] also dealing with things like different sizes. In different countries, the standard length for clubs varies. The flex is different as well. Regular flex in some countries is a lot more flexible than regular flex is here. So, I had to find that middle ground [by] getting samples and things like that. And, actually dial it in and get it how I wanted it to sell in the U.S.

That makes a lot of sense. And that's definitely a huge challenge in the language barrier itself, and then, trying to match up standards across the ponds. That's definitely a difficult task. So now we have a brand, we have a product, and we have a manufacturer. And now, let's talk about the partnership with Curated. How'd that all start? And what can you tell us about that?

It was really cool. I reached out to the Head of Experts for Curated. And we were talking about nothing business-related with my business or anything, but he was just easy to talk to. And we were just kind of BSing, and I brought it up and told him about it. And he was really excited about it, but I wasn't sure about it. I didn't know how he would react!

But I brought it up, and he was excited and seemed like he was very interested. And he said, okay, I wanna set you up with our Golf Manager. And so that's when I got set up with Cam [Golf General Manager] and I started working with him. And from that point on, they were just set. We were in contact throughout the week, every week, that entire time. And they were super easy to work with and very supportive. So that was cool.

So at this moment, now you know that the dream is coming true. The process is in motion and this thing's happening, right? When you first got that very first set. And I know you weren't the first one to see it, but tell us about the reaction from those that did, and then also your reaction.

I got the first. I think I was the first one to get the set. But Cam got one the day after and I sent him a set so that he and one of the other team managers could test out the clubs. And he was actually able to go play with them and hit them before I was, which broke my heart because I was looking at the clubs and wanted to go play with them so bad. But I had to go do product photos and do a bunch of different photos type stuff with them before I could play with 'em. I didn't want to get 'em all scuffed up or anything. Or I don't know, hit a rock or whatever. And then, I wouldn't be able to get good product photos of a certain club or something.

So I was in Cam's and Rob's ear, pretty hard, asking them how they liked the clubs and stuff. But once I was able to play with them, I loved 'em. And I still play with them occasionally. It's hard, 'cause I'm so used to my clubs, but I like switching back and forth and making sure that I have a good understanding of how the Monroe sets play and everything.

So no tears were shed or anything like that? Just pure joy and excitement, right? I don't find you a very emotional guy.

If there were any tears shed, it probably would've been when all of the sets hit the warehouse, and they actually started, went on the website, and started being for sale…That's when it all kind of hit me…And I am a pretty emotional guy.

Yeah, I was very lucky to be a part of that. Okay, so just to kind of finish up here. I wanna talk a little bit about Monroe Golf's future. Do you have plans for any other clubs or any other offerings or maybe expand on the current offerings?

Right now, the plan is to come out with a set that's plus one inch, so that we can get the clubs in the hands of some of those guys that are 6’3” and over. And they're not too short for 'em. So I'm wanting to do a longer package set, and then also [get] stiff flex offerings in the standard length and the plus one length set. And then after that, I plan on adding left-handed. I want to come out with women's sets. Hopefully, eventually, I can sell the irons on their own. Things like that. I’ve got lots of ideas, so I'm excited about the future.

That's a perfect segue into the last question. What's next for Bobby? You got Monroe Golf, but you're still an entrepreneur. Now, you know how to work [through] the process. I know you're excited about making lots of money doing this. So what's next for Bobby? Are you gonna have a bikini line? What are we looking for here?

I don't know about bikinis, but you never know. What's next for me? I would say that's a tough question, but I'm really just gonna focus on this right now and put every ounce of myself into this and see what I can do. And see how big I can grow it.

I think that's really awesome. I'm really happy for you. Your dreams have come true. You got Monroe Golf. I wanna see the Bobby Signature Collection one day. So maybe we can work on that, but thank you so much for your time. And looking forward to a really great partnership here with Curated and the Monroe brand.

Final Thoughts

Photo of Bobby Funkhouser (@SwingMonroe) by Scott Hastings (@hastings_media)

What an amazing journey! The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here at Curated. The key takeaways for me would be: follow your passions, go after your dreams, and push even harder when you find yourself facing any adversity. Building a brand and designing a product takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but with the right attitude and a little bit of patience, anything is possible. We look forward to much more from Bobby and Monroe Golf!

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Michael Harris, Golf Expert
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Michael Harris
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Michael Harris, Golf Expert
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Michael Harris
Golf Expert
79 Reviews
2052 Customers helped

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