Golf gadget startup hitting the green

Kokoska

Chris Kokoska introduced a pocket-sized product for golfers last spring. Photo by George Demopoulos.

Denver native Chris Kokoska may not be a scratch golfer, but he’s selling a product he hopes will help him shave a few strokes on the green.

Kokoska is the mind behind the ThinLine marker, a poker chip-like metal golf ball marker with a straight line etched in it. Golfers place the ThinLine behind their ball and line it up with a straight line drawn on the golf ball to help aim a putt.

“A lot of people use poker chips as markers. But for other people putting, that can get in the way of their shot,” Kokoska said. “It’s partially a teaching tool, but it’s absolutely approved to play with live golf rounds.”

The ThinLine marker helps a golfer determine a straight line when putting and assists with angles when shooting up or downhill, Kokoska said. Kokoska bootstrapped the company with $10,000 of his savings last February. By March 2014, he’d made $50,000 he said. He has sold more than 30,000 ThinLines since.

The ThinLine comes in golf-ball size and two smaller sizes for divot repair tools and hat clips. Photo courtesy of ThinLine Golf.

The ThinLine comes in golf-ball size and two smaller sizes for divot repair tools and hat clips. Photo courtesy of ThinLine Golf.

“The initial investment was pretty small because I did the patent work myself,” he said. “All I had to pay for was the marketing and initial inventory.”

Since then, Kokoska has operated the company using its existing cash flow. He hasn’t made the push into retail locations yet because of tighter profit margins. Instead, he uses distributors to sell directly to golf courses – you can find ThinLine tokens at over 100 courses in 15 states.

Kokoska does plan on selling the ThinLine to retailers eventually. The product sells for about $8 plus shipping on ThinLine’s website.

“I think I’ll enter the retail market in 2016, but it might be sooner than that,” he said. “Before that, I need to get more revenue.”

ThinLine isn’t Kokoska’s full-time gig at the moment. He also runs a printing company on the East Coast, but he said that he’ll focus on ThinLine full-time as it grows.

Kokoska, 46, graduated from CU Boulder in 1991 and began a lifelong career in sales. He has also been an avid golfer since the age of 7, he said, and about a two-handicap player on a good day.

“The ultimate goal is to grow this big enough so that I don’t need to do other things for work,” Kokoska said. “I love golf. I’ve played it all my life, and it’s great to see a product do really well and get accepted.”

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