The French journalist, Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
At J. Davis Marking, details of the company’s profile have changed, as the company has added new faces in recent years and relocated its headquarters from Maquoketa, Iowa, to Clearwater, Kansas. Yet the critical points that have defined the brand for nearly two decades have stayed exactly the same. Commitment to quality service and personalized attention are now, as they have always been, the cornerstone of the company’s operations.
When you buy customized sprinkler caps, fairway and tee box markers or any of the other golf course and driving range markers the company sells, each item has passed through four sets of hands before it ships as part of J. Davis Marking’s rigorous quality control standards. If you place a large order, you can count on receiving personalized attention and quality products. When your needs are small, you can order a single marker. The item shipped to you will reflect the same extraordinary level of individualized and attentive customer care as a large order receives.
As Alan Pitcher, who with his wife Alicia, now owns and operates J. Davis Marking, said, “We are keeping the legacy going, delivering that old-fashioned service that is getting harder and harder to find in business these days.”
Alan doesn’t use the word “legacy” lightly. He and Alicia are always mindful that they are carrying on the tradition of a small company with a big story. J. Davis Marking was painstakingly built by its founder Jan Davis and nurtured by her son and daughter-in-law Michael and Anne Hawks. Today the high standards of the company continue, with Anne’s brother Alan and sister-in-law Alicia at the helm, ensuring that each order continues to be meticulously produced and promptly shipped.
Jan Davis: Building a Brand One Golf Course at a Time
In 1989, passionate golfer Jan Davis conceived the idea that golf course yardages could be permanently marked on the top of irrigation head caps. At the time, yardage markers were typically temporary tags that were taped or glued to a sprinkler head. These tags faded with the sun blew away with the wind or were shredded by maintenance equipment. Occasionally, someone would attempt to affix the tag permanently by pop riveting it in place, which as often as not, damaged the sprinkler head in the process.
No casual golfer, Jan was the Ladies Club Champion for five consecutive years at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club, just outside of San Diego, California. She understood the game and pursued it with fierce enthusiasm.
Jan recognized that providing players a consistently reliable and readily identifiable way to check yardages would speed the pace of play and alleviate a source of frustration for golfers. At the same time, professionally crafted yardage markers would enhance the appearance of the golf course while eliminating the maintenance task of repeatedly marking sprinkler heads.
But here’s where the J. Davis Markers story becomes particularly interesting. Jan literally built her business one client at a time. She traveled course to course, asking superintendents for their permission to remove one hole of sprinkler head caps at the end of the day. Collecting the head caps, she took them to her motel room and devoted her evening to engraving and painting them. Before the first group of players teed up the next morning, Jan had returned the sprinkler heads to their correct spot on the course.
Resilient Business Plan Yields Resilient Products
As the business grew, Jan began working collaboratively with her close friend, John Skidgel, an irrigation designer for Toro. She purchased moldings and created custom sprinkler caps for Toro irrigation systems. Soon, she added the Rain Bird brand to her customized offerings.
Today, J. Davis Marking offers custom heads for Toro, Rain Bird, Hunter, and John Deere irrigation systems. The caps are manufactured from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, commonly known as ABS plastic. This copolymer plastic is some 30 times stronger than traditional plastics and has a tensile strength of 6600 PSI and flexural strength of 10800 PSI.
As a thermoplastic, ABS can be heated, reaching a liquid state at 221 degrees Fahrenheit. The liquid can then be injection molded and cooled without losing any of its strength and structural integrity.
ABS plastic is not only heat and cold-tolerant, it is strongly resistant both to corrosive chemicals and physical impact, facts that are particularly important in golf course applications, where usage can involve weather extremes, exposure to chemicals, and wear and tear from a range of mechanical equipment. ABS plastic is so well suited to use on a golf course that all J. Davis Markers come with a lifetime cap paint guarantee, and in the company’s history, not one single cap has ever been returned for defect or product failure.
New at J. Davis Marking
Additions to the J. Davis Marking product line include the broken tee receptacle, customizable two-inch by four-inch valve box markers, yardage markers ready to go for Rain Bird’s new 700/751 series gear-driven golf rotors and a snap-in tag for the new Toro Infinity sprinkler series.
The broken tee receptacle is a durable, unobtrusive container with a low profile that can easily be mowed over. Available in black, blue, white and red plastic, the broken tee receptacle can be emptied when full, helping to keep tee boxes tidy. The receptacle installs with a cup cutter and can be personalized with additional text, yardage or even a logo.
Another product gaining momentum at J. Davis Marking was crafted specifically for the new Toro Infinity series. Toro designed its new labor-saving sprinkler incorporating a patented process that makes it easy to add new technology months, even years, after installation. The J. Davis Marking snap-in yardage tag provides a lasting marker on a sprinkler head purpose-built for long-term use. This marker is available in a choice of five colors.
Changing with the Times
Whether golf as a business will linger in its present lull, decline, or, as some analysts suggest, is already on the rebound is probably too soon to call. One positive indicator comes from a 2016 survey by the National Golf Foundation, involving seventy-two executives from many of golf’s leading companies, roughly half of whom are involved in business to consumer sales (B2C) and the other half in business to facilities sales (B2F). Three out of four members of this group budgeted this year for growth and ninety percent are either “somewhat” or “very confident” that they will deliver against their plans.
The business model at J. Davis Marking is not directly driven by rounds of golf, consumer purchases or even facilities purchases. When you produce a highly durable, long-lasting product for the course, and you already serve over 4,500 courses in the U.S. and 39 countries worldwide, you are always looking for momentum in the construction of new courses.
Alan explained, “Since the golf industry is reflective of our economy, there are fewer new courses being built. That shows in our business, so we are exploring other avenues for our product specialties. Basically, anything plastic and having to deal with labeling and marking, we are considering, including laminated plastic tags for the golf industry and for use in the commercial and industrial sectors.”
One of the products the company is aggressively pursuing is a custom bag tag, for both the golf industry and the aviation industry. These fully customized bag tags will soon be featured on the J. Davis Marking website (www.jdavismarking.com). Tags are customizable to include a course or organizational logo and the individual’s contact information.
Things may be changing as J. Davis Marking expands its offerings, but you can count on all the qualities that matter most staying exactly the same.
Linda Parker has been writing professionally since the 1980s. With clients in finance, sports, technology, change enablement, resorts and nonprofit global initiatives, Linda helps organizations communicate their stories in meaningful ways to the people they most want to reach. She has authored, ghostwritten or contributed to more than a dozen nonfiction books. Linda is a member of the Authors Guild and the Golf Writers Association of America. You can connect with her on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/GlindaCreative