Ottawa entrepreneurs tee up golf glove subscription service

With backing from a former PGA Tour pro, Red Rooster is looking to shake up the market for a key – but often underappreciated – piece of golf equipment
Red Rooster golf

Golf, the old adage goes, is a good walk spoiled.

While millions of frustrated weekend duffers would likely agree, Kerry Moher sees those 18-hole strolls very differently.

“It’s kind of my Zen space,” explains the Ottawa entrepreneur, who took up the game in his mid-teens and eventually earned a golf scholarship at Kentucky State University. “It resets everything for me.” 

Now married with four young kids, Moher is the co-owner of a pair of axe-throwing venues called LumberJaxe as well as an adviser to other businesses. It makes for a hectic life at times, but his career also gives him the flexibility to hit the links on a regular basis ​– as evidenced by his one-handicap rating.

Now, his love for the game has spawned his newest business.

Moher hatched his latest venture after a golf trip to North Carolina a couple of years ago. He and a few buddies ​– including Brad Fritsch, a former PGA Tour pro who grew up in Manotick ​– were enjoying their round when the conversation turned to Moher’s glove.

“The guys were sort of making fun of me,” Moher says with a self-deprecating chuckle. “They were like, ‘You’ve paid $2,000 to be here on this golf trip, and you have a $10 golf glove.’”

Fritsch then made a remark that got his old friend thinking.

“He said, ‘(The glove) is the most important piece of equipment. I wear it on every single shot.’”

Moher sensed an opportunity.

Shaking up 'old-school' sales model

Inspired by the dollar-shave-club model, he came up with an e-commerce platform that specializes in golf gloves. 

Dubbed Red Rooster Golf after a nickname the carrot-topped Moher earned from his dad, the site allows customers to make single purchases or subscribe to get fresh gloves delivered to their door at regular intervals.  

If it worked for razors, Moher figured, why not golf gloves? 

“I would buy these overpriced razors and use them longer than I should,” he says. “It’s kind of the same idea with golf gloves.”

"No matter how much you spend on a glove, it’s not going to last forever.”

To be effective, a glove needs to fit snugly, like a “second skin,” Moher explains. Yet while many players will happily shell out hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for fancy drivers and other clubs, the piece of equipment they use more than any other is generally an afterthought. 

“A golf glove has a shelf life. No matter how much you spend on a glove, it’s not going to last forever,” Moher says, noting that pros rarely wear a glove for more than one round because the delicate leather quickly stretches and wears out.

“The average golfer spends a lot of money on golf, but spends very little on golf gloves. It’s just an underappreciated part of the gear.”

Still, the apparel is big business in North America, with 60 million gloves sold each year in the U.S. and five to six million more in Canada. But Moher believes premium gloves are overpriced, largely due to an “old-school” sales model.

Golf glove

“They go through the traditional distribution retail channel and everybody takes a cut along the way,” he explains.

Moher says Red Rooster can deliver quality products at a lower price by eliminating the middleman. Gloves are shipped to customers free of charge from a warehouse in Ottawa, and the company is looking at setting up a fulfilment site in the U.S. 

For now, Red Rooster’s American “distribution hub” is Fritsch’s basement in a suburb of Raleigh, N.C. Fritsch, who currently plays on the Korn Ferry developmental tour and is wearing the new glove at tournaments, has a minority ownership stake in the venture.

“It seems like a really viable model,” he says. “Knowing what a good marketer (Moher) is and what a good businessperson he is, I thought this would be something I’d be interested in getting involved with.

“We have a very good product. We just have to get it in people’s hands.”  

Moher clearly did his homework before launching the business, buying every type of glove he could find to get a sense of the different styles. Last summer, with the help of Global Affairs Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service, he toured several factories in the leather-producing hub of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, where millions of golf gloves are manufactured every year, to find the right supplier. 

Now, Moher is taking his best shot at upending the traditional golf retail model. 

So far, so good. Red Rooster has already ordered more than 30,000 gloves – including “cadet-sized” models with shorter fingers – in the traditional white as well as flashier colours such as red and black. 

The site, which launched in early May, also offers accessories, including a waterproof plastic case for storing gloves. An initial Kickstarter campaign surpassed expectations, generating $85,000 worth of orders from more than 1,000 backers, with pledges split about evenly between Canada and the U.S.

Moher and his five-person team are also giving back to the game, donating one glove for each glove sold to First Tee youth golf programs in Ontario and North Carolina.

“We think that’s going to have a really big impact on those kids,” he says.

If the concept hits the mark like Moher believes it will, he plans to seek more investors.

“We want to launch, have a good summer … see what the demand is and then hope to scale it in 2022,” he says.