Product Spotlight:

Orange Whip

Interviewee: Jim Hackenberg, Founder
Company Name: Orange Whip
Location: Easley, SC
In Business Since: January 2008
Website: OrangeWhipGolf.com
Phone Number: 864-552-1620
Product Name(s): Orange Whip Trainer
Product Categories: Golf Training Aids

Backswing Interview with Jim Hackenberg

Backswing: 
Tell us a bit about your background. And what pulled you into the game of golf?

Jim:
I was born and raised in Grand Forks, ND and was the 8th of 9 children from my parents Al and Delores Hackenberg.   No one in my family played golf, but at the age of 12 some neighbor kids took me to a nine hole public course about a mile from my home.   I just walked around and hit a few shots with their clubs.   I became interested in golf after a couple visits to the course, so I got a 7 iron from a neighbor and started hitting it in the field behind our houses.   The following summer I purchased a Junior Season Pass for the nine hole course (It cost all of $32 for the season).    We played almost every day and walked up to 45 holes a day!   I quit baseball by the end of June because it was affecting my golf time.   I had played baseball since I was 4 years old, but immediately liked golf more.

Making the Varsity golf team at my high school in Ninth grade further advanced my interest in the game.  But, the thing that changed it all was at the State High School Tournament as a sophomore.   I made a 45 foot putt on the last hole to shoot a 71 and take the lead after the first day.  My average score up till that day was 81.  I was in the sports headlines the next day, with pictures!  It changed my world and gave me belief I could go somewhere with golf.   After high school, I moved to Arizona and worked diligently on my game and in the Fall of 1988 I was the ‘walk on’ qualifier to the Arizona State U. golf team.  One of my new teammates was a Freshman Phenom named Phil Mickelson, I often wonder “what ever happened to that guy??”    I stayed at ASU for one and half seasons before transferring to Oregon State U. to finish my college golf career.  I pursued professional golf for approximately 5 years, with limited success and focused then on a career in golf.

Backswing:
What inspired you to create the Orange Whip Trainer and launch your business? Was there a specific problem or issue you set out to help solve?

Jim:
As a golf instructor, I was a very technical teacher.   I read many books while developing my own game and listened to as many teachers as possible?!   This led to an over analytical approach to teaching, which led to confused students??    What changed it all was the opportunity to caddie on the PGA Tour from 2003-2005.  Watching the best players in the world playing and practicing every day, I realized that many of these players were not very technical and they made it look so easy!  I started to study their motion and would think about it constantly, I’d think about it while on the range, driving to the next event, or in the hotel rooms.   I would travel with a golf putting tool called ‘The Putter Ball’, which was a golf shaft with a steel ball on the end instead of a club head.  I didn’t use it for putting, but I would swing it every day in the hotel rooms like it was a full sized club.  I noticed that when I lost concern with the clubface (there is no clubface on a ball), my swing motion became free and athletic.  This motion felt and looked like the tour players I was watching every day.

As I considered this motion every day, I finally realized that for the body to make this motion with a club (or a stick), it must swing it not as a stick, but as a ball on the end of a chain.   This is the sequence of motion necessary to encourage rhythm, balance and power!  The problem with swinging a ‘ball on the end of a chain’ is that it can be very dangerous!! So, I needed to alter the concept slightly by changing the chain to a flexible shaft (like a fishing rod).   This captured the flowing motion that all great golfers utilize.   The final piece to the puzzle was adding a heavy counterweight to the butt end of the grip.   This allowed the device to find its own perfect, on plane balance while you swing back and forth in rhythm.   If the device gets off plane, or out of sync it will feel awkward and pull the user off balance.   I started to use this during my golf lessons to high handicap players and they immediately felt the sensation of a swing, not a hit!   They then were much more likely to transfer this motion to a golf club.    I initially used this prototype to improve my messaging during the lesson, but many of my students asked if they could purchase the prototype I was letting them use.   That is when the light bulb went off; maybe I can produce and sell these things!!

Backswing:
What are the primary benefits from using Orange Whip products?

Jim:
The main benefit to the Orange Whip is the ability to ‘feel’ the motion of an athletic swing.   This is difficult to teach without using something the golfer can feel.  The Orange Whip is heavier than a golf club, so it also allows the user to loosen up their golf muscles.  By repeating the golf swing motion back and forth, the user finds the most efficient way to develop a powerful and consistent swing.   Many people believe they are just warming up with an Orange Whip, but the unique design allows them to create their own athletic and synchronized golf swing.   Regular training with any of the Orange Whip products will lead to a better golf swing and keep a golfer more flexible all year long!

Backswing:
How has your product improved or evolved since the first rollout? Have you added more training aids to your product line?

Jim:
My ‘first edition’ Orange Whips were made in a garage workshop, and they looked like they were made in a garage workshop!    They still feel great to swing, but they were rougher looking!   I had a cue ball as the counterweight (cue ball was from a company in Massachusetts), but that proved to be too big to fit in many golf bags so we changed to a heavier steel ball about the size of a golf ball and has been that ever since.  The orange ball was a lacrosse ball that I had to drill a hole through to add weight to it.   If you want a terrible smell, try drilling a rubber lacrosse ball and smell the burning material?!?  The quality of the parts and the manufacturing has improved over the last 14 years, and we are very happy with Orange Whips we are providing to the World!

We have added multiple Orange Whips to our line:   We have three different length versions for different needs, or to be used in limited space.  Plus, we have Junior version that is lighter for the kids with a smaller grip.   The Orange Whip Wedge and Putter additions were great for short game improvement and teaming up with Stan Utley has proven to be very helpful.   Finally, we have added Orange Whip Golf Fitness X; which is a subscription based golf and fitness training program.  GFX utilizes all the Orange Whip products to enhance teaching and training.

Backswing:
Do golfers use your golf training aids on the course, on the driving range, or at home?

Jim: The Orange Whip is ideal to use prior to playing or practicing as it is a great way to loosen your golf muscles and develop timing in your swing.  When I play practice rounds or casual golf, I use the Orange Whip products on the course to develop my skills.  But, it is illegal to use an Orange Whip in a competition; although it is legal to carry during the competition (like an alignment stick), you cannot use to assist with a shot before or during.  I highly recommend that a golfer use the Orange Whip at home all year long.  This is crucial as many people cannot play or practice every day, but if your swing and golf muscles are always ready golf is more fun each time you go out.   Also, many golfers take winter off, and then they have to re-learn their golf swing.  Using the Orange Whips all year keeps your swing intact all year!  The great thing is you only need to swing a few minutes at a time to gain the benefits.  So, great for home, office or anywhere you have space to swing.

Backswing:
What type of golfers benefit the most from using the Orange Whip products?

Jim:  
I designed the original Orange Whip prototype to help beginners and those struggling with the golf swing to ‘feel’ an athletic golf swing motion.   So, the ones with the most need, gain the most, but the better players immediately sense the benefits provided by swinging the Whip!   I am glad it is helpful to all golfers. Improved Rhythm and Balance are the greatest benefit all golfers get from swinging the Orange Whip.   Difficult to teach rhythm and balance, along with repeatable Timing; but the Orange Whip does it better than anything else available!   Improved flexibility is another benefit utilized from the Whip.

Backswing:
What types of ongoing training support do golfers receive once they have purchased your products?

Jim:
Our website:   www.orangewhipgolf.com provides many drills and golf practices to follow as you develop your Orange Whip swing motion.    Also, we have many videos at our YouTube channel:   Orange Whip Golf.  Once a player gets used to using the Orange Whip, they will utilize the best drills to suit their game and needs.

Backswing:
How would you compare your products to those of competitors?

Jim:
Ease of use!  Most training tools have unique applications and require a learning curve to see the benefits.   A golfer can take an Orange Whip and start slowly swinging back and forth and within seconds they are gaining a benefit to the feeling of an athletic swing!   Also, it can be used for just warming up, or the golfer can follow swing drills and dramatically improve their swing technique.

Backswing:
Are there any success stories from using your products you can share with our readers?

Jim:
Too numerous to list all the success stories, but what we love to hear is from golf instructors who have worked with a particular student for years on their ‘issues’ and the first time they use an Orange Whip with these students and they immediately comprehend what was not clicking before using the Orange Whip.   They say the ‘light bulb finally lit up’ and they can see it in their student’s eyes that get it!   My personal favorite ‘success’ story is that I developed the Orange Whip after having the opportunity to watch Geoff Ogilivy (US Open Champ) swing the club a lot while I was caddying on PGA Tour.  It was his swing that it finally clicked for me what the golf swing was and how I could share this idea with others.   I met Geoff two years ago and while walking up to say hello, he noticed the Orange Whip in my hand and stated “Hey mate, I’ve got a Whip!”  I was so proud to hear that, and I told him that he was the main inspiration for the Orange Whip.  We had a great conversation!   Also, about two or three years into introducing the Orange Whip to the public, I noticed a Whip in Retief Goosen’s bag during a PGA Tour event on TV.  That was fun!

Backswing:
What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for your Company?

Jim:
We have been developing the Fitness side of golf training, we call it ‘Golf Fitness X’ and the program was developed by PGA professional, Brian Newman by combining his knowledge of teaching and his passion for fitness.  The program utilizes the Orange Whip products (Orange Whip Trainer, Orange Peel, and Orange Whip LightSpeed) along with resistance bands to create a resistance/assistance training.   We are updating our website to provide even more info to our consumers to learn more about Golf Fitness.  

Backswing:
What golf product would you recommend we spotlight next? And can we drop your name when we reach out to them?

Jim:
The Stretching Pole.  It’s very basic and fits in the golf bag.  I extend it to fit me personally then use to stretch my back and shoulders prior to swinging my Orange Whip for a great golf swing stretch.

Also, my good friend Martin Chuck, PGA developed the Tour Striker impact trainer.  It’s a great tool and he introduced it to the golf world the same year as I at the PGA Show-2008.  He would be a wonderful person to spotlight as he has developed multiple other devices to assist with golf training.  He also has a great golf academy called The Tour Striker Academy in Phoenix.

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