Martin and Clare Wyeth sit side by side at a wooden kitchen table in their Ponte Vedra home and gaze proudly through the glass sliding doors at the koi pond situated in the corner of their back patio. The pond complements an in-ground pool and scenic view of the Intracoastal Waterway and holds special, symbolic meaning to the couple originally from the United Kingdom.
About 18 months ago, the Wyeths hosted PGA Tour player Jim Furyk and his father Mike at their house on North Roscoe Boulevard to showcase their company’s automated ball teeing system known as Power Tee, and the koi pond was the agreed-upon target for Furyk as he demonstrated the product and chipped balls into the water.
“He didn’t miss one,” said a chuckling Martin Wyeth, whose 25-employee company installs the golf practice aid into driving ranges, country clubs and private homes across Europe and the United States.
Soon after that day, Furyk and his father told the Wyeths that they liked the product, wanted to see it succeed in the United States and decided to endorse it.
A year and a half later, the Wyeths believe the stars are finally aligning for Power Tee within the United States, thanks in large part to that endorsement and other recent economic developments. The journey from across the pond to this point, though, hasn’t been so simple.
Success in Europe
When Martin Wyeth learned to play golf, he found it difficult to establish any sort of rhythm in between his swings, hitting one massively wild slice and then surprisingly following it up with an impressive second shot. He never understood what he did differently from shot to shot, so he decided to engineer a machine that could retee the ball for him and eliminate that uncertainty. He and Clare used the concept to found Power Tee in the United Kingdom in 1996.
Power Tee, which caters to novice and advanced golfers alike, experienced significant success throughout Europe, with its product installed in more than 60 percent of the commercial golf ranges in the United Kingdom and Ireland and also within the cornerstones of European golf at locations like St. Andrews, The Belfry and Le Golf National. Power Tee even received an award for innovation from Queen Elizabeth II herself.
With the company growing exponentially, the Wyeths faced a crossroads: They could sell the company, consolidate the U.K. business and grow into Europe, or they could keep the U.K. business as is and expand to the United States. After realizing the enormity of the U.S. market for automated golf tees, Martin Wyeth said, the decision was an easy one.
“The U.S. market for Power Tee is approximately $1.7 billion, and nobody is doing it,” he said. “We felt that if we were to sell the company before coming here or to ignore it completely would not really be doing the product a good service.”
Adjusting to America
Upon moving to Ponte Vedra in 2009, the Wyeths’ high expectations were first suppressed due to the country’s recession and the golf industry’s consequential fall from grace, with Martin noting that approximately 3,000 golf courses had closed over the past seven years.
Power Tee, said the Wyeths, is dependent on bank debt because the company rents the equipment to range operators and sells the rental contracts to banks in exchange for cash to grow the business. During the recession, the Wyeths said, the banks “disappeared” and refused to take on the contracts. The only income they received was a drip of money from customers, meaning there was essentially no working capital for the business.
“We’ve been here for seven years on a sort of standstill basis, waiting for the economy to recover and waiting for golf to recover,” Martin said.
But now the economy has recently begun to recover, he added, with golf participation reportedly back to about 30 million people.
“There’s a sense of optimism in the golf industry,” he said.
As a result, Power Tee has also experienced a recent streak of good fortune, including the endorsement from Furyk, who was recently named U.S. team captain for the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National – a Power Tee customer. The company was also recently recognized by the PGA as one of the industry’s most interesting products at its merchandise show in Orlando in late January.
“Everything seems to now be working in our favor,” said Martin, whose Power Tee product is installed in 20 different locations around the United States, including in the Jacksonville area at the University of North Florida, Queens' Harbour Yacht and Country Club and within Edwin Watts golf stores.
With 14,000 country club ranges, 1,000 driving ranges, 30 million golfers and a more positive economic environment, Wyeth truly believes the sky is the limit for Power Tee.
“The climate is here for growth,” he said. “And right now, we’ve got this great alignment of things going on. We have the Furyks, the golf show award, the Ryder Cup with the Le Golf National association. And most notably, golf is back again.”