Zach Fanch wants to bring style to one overlooked aspect of golf gear.
The 23-year-old was renting clubs on a golf trip with his dad in upstate New York when he noticed all of the grips were worn down and either gray, black or white.
“There’s a lot of young people starting to play golf and you see these other companies doing different designs with shirts, club covers, golf balls – but nobody is doing grips,” Fanch said.
So, he decided to start a patterned golf grip company. After designing and customizing the grips with his manufacturer in Asia, Fanch launched Stinger Grips in January last year.
“That’s probably the biggest barrier to entry, finding a manufacturer that will allow you to customize to the extent that we were able to,” Fanch said.
Non-golfers might assume the company’s name was inspired by bees, but Fanch said it’s actually a reference to the “Stinger” shot – a low flying ball, usually hit with a two iron, made famous by Tiger Woods. That said, Fanch did make the company’s logo a bee, albeit one with flagsticks as the wings and irons as the feet.
Once he figured out the name, Fanch designed the first grip – “The Stinger,” a black grip with yellow bees all over.
“I like all of them (the grips), but the one that means the most is the original Stinger Grip just because that kind of inspired the whole idea of the company,” Fanch said. “It’s actually sold out three times now, so that’s obviously a customer favorite, too.”
Fanch designed the original 12 grips himself, with patterns like the fish-covered “Hooked,” or “First Class,” which is bar-themed and most popular with older generations, according to Fanch.
This summer, Stinger Grips is rolling out 20 new designs, including an American flag version, one suggesting the Colorado landscape and another incorporating clovers.
Fanch said the grips are made of polyurethane rubber – which is the same material used in many running shoes – and have a tacky “crosshatch surface texture” so the clubs don’t slip. He said the grips are also larger than average to help with conditions like arthritis.
“It allows the grip to always lay comfortably in your hands, and never feels stiff,” Fanch said. “I have them on all of my clubs and will never go back to a different grip.”
The grips retail at $30 for putters and $15 for irons and woods. In addition to the website, grips are sold in over 40 golf and course shops and in 14 countries. Fanch declined to disclose Stinger Grips revenue last year, but said the company sold “several thousand units” and is now paying for itself.
Fanch said he learned to golf at the Harvard Gulch driving range when he was 11, but came to appreciate the sport in college, with a current handicap of 15 and “a lot of room for improvement.” He said his favorite Denver course is Arrowhead, and his main goal is to expand Stinger Grips’ presence in Colorado.
Stinger Grips has five sales representatives in the U.S. and is launching a brand ambassador program. Through the program, Stinger Grips will work with golf teams and professionals to promote the grips on social media. Two years in, Fanch said marketing is the biggest challenge, especially given changing advertisement policies and prices.
After growing awareness in Colorado, the next step for the company is offering custom grips, Fanch said.
“People seem to really love the idea and we have a lot of people who want to do custom grips for their companies and their golf courses so we’ve been doing some mockups,” Fanch said.
Fanch studied business at Chapman University in California. In 2016, he founded 2 Mountains 2 Streams, an outdoor apparel and accessories retailer. Fanch is also a financial analyst for Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Grand County, owned by his parents Bob and Suzanne Fanch.