Interview with Frank M. Simonutti 

Global Director, Innovation – Golf Balls, Wilson Sporting Goods Co.

Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson

Interview - Frank Simonutti - Wilson

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes


Background

I am a polymer chemist by education and have 31 years of experience in the development of golf balls. For the past 27 years, I have led the design of every major golf ball launched by Wilson Golf. 

Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson

The Simonutti Story

Growing up I was an avid player and fan of multiple sports — and still am. Early in my career I was looking for the opportunity to work in an industry that was related to sports… and a position became available that allowed me this opportunity. 

Working on golf balls (and occasionally product for other sports) has been a perfect fit for my career goals. 


Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson


You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion? 

To develop the best products for every type of players – and to continue to advance technology in golf balls. 

Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson

What impact has the pandemic had in your production efforts and is Wilson golf balls facing any supply issues to your various global distributors? 

Our primary issues have been in the area of raw material supply. Due to the demand in many industries, the production capacity of polymers used in golf balls has not been able to keep up with increased demands. 

As a global golf ball manufacturer, Wilson has been able to forge new relationships with alternate material suppliers and we continue to evaluate new materials to maintain our volume availability. 


Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson


For many years the Wilson brand name was the epicenter for golfers — led notably by such stars as Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer. In what specific ways is the company attempting to climb that ladder back to the top? 

It’s true that most of our history is unsurpassed in the sport of golf – in fact, Wilson has won more majors than any other brand, including a win in every decade since we began. Most recently, that includes long-time Wilson brand ambassador Padraig Harrington and US player Gary Woodland. 2021 looks to be the largest, most successful year in our storied history with record sales and profitability. 

We’re using this momentum to reinvest in our tour presence with dynamic new young players like John Augenstein on the US PGA Tour and Marcus Helligkilde in Europe, and a new Tour vehicle to support our growing staff. 

The growing interest at the tour level is a testament to the momentum our brand has right now. Interest and sales of our line of Staff Model and D9 irons, full line of premium golf balls, and a wide variety of other products like bags and gloves means you’re probably seeing Wilson more than ever before. 

Interview - Frank Simonutti - Wilson

Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson

What differentiates Wilson golf balls from your competitors? 

We try to differentiate balls from competitors by improving performance, and by designing specific balls for specific types of players: – Staff Model: Is the highest velocity Urethane golf ball and has as high or higher iron spin than any competitive golf balls. 

These are characteristics that are desired by the best players. – NEW Triad: Is designed for the player who is a better player – and needs spin for greenside control but still benefits from a lower spin rate than a Tour Urethane ball. It also has the differentiation of being density balanced for more consistent performance on the green. – Duo Soft: Is the softest feeling ball (which is preferred by most players) and has the lowest Driver spin rate designed specifically for the average player – to allow to hit more fairways. 

Wilson’s goal is to offer premium balls designed to meet the specific needs of different types of players. 

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How crucial is it for any golf ball company to have a presence on the world professional tours?

In my opinion, if Wilson is going to develop golf balls for the best players in the world, it is vital to have a presence with the best players in the world. It is a validation of the performance of our golf balls designed for the best players and is an important part of being able to claim that our balls are suitable for the best golfers. 

Rhys Thompson, joint winner of the Carnoustie Tour Championship 2021 on the Tartan Pro Tour

Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson

Golf ball companies now create an array of different types of golf balls for different player needs. What is the Wilson philosophy in this specific area and how important is the specific overall price point in meeting those different needs? 

Wilson philosophy on golf balls is to offer the best performance golf ball for every type of player. It is important to note that there are vast differences in needs from the professional player (who want high spin and the ability to work the ball off the tee/fairway and have maximum spin around the green) to an average player (who in many cases have trouble hitting fairways and imparting spin on the ball so are better with lower spin balls for straighter flight). 

All players need distance, so we want to have the longest ball for each type of player. Other attributes are designed with specific player needs in mind. Price point is a factor in this in that it costs more to make 3- and 4+ layer balls which is necessary to provide the performance required for the better players. Price point is important but never the primary consideration in ball design. 

Triad

Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson

Many companies within golf tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach followed by Wilson. 

For any brand, customer service is vital to success. We make a distinction between customer service, where our support of our golf trade partners is second to none, and consumer service, where we ensure the quality of our products with guarantees on quality. 


What role does customer feedback play in future golf ball efforts at Wilson? 

Feedback from customers (and professional players as well) is always something we solicit as we test our products. The feedback we receive during the testing phase is used to make potential adjustments to products before release. In the Staff Model development – we received feedback from numerous tour professionals which required us to make modifications to make the best possible ball. 

Balls in development are also seeded during the development process to obtain feedback about likes and dislikes of the ball. This is a part of the development process. Feedback from players on existing balls is always considered during the development of new products. 

Interview – Frank Simonutti – Wilson

If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be and why? 

 Nothing. golf’s a great game – I don’t see any area in which I would make changes. 


Biggest challenges facing Wilson Golf — short and long term – is what? 

The biggest challenges facing Wilson Golf are in the past. We’ve got wonderful sales momentum, are connecting with avid players at rates like never before, and we have a very strong runway ahead of us to now accelerate Wilson Golf back to where it belongs in the World of Golf, provided great products for all types of Golfers to enjoy the game.

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For more info go to:

www.wilson.com