If you ask the team at Markers, Inc., about the company’s golf course and sports field marking systems, they’ll likely bring up the topic of erector sets. For those of you too young to remember erector sets, you no doubt played with Legos or other interchangeable construction blocks. Equipped with these creativity-inspiring toys, you could design and build projects, deconstruct your creations and then erect something new and different, reconfiguring the components to fit your next great idea.
The concept behind modular construction toys is an appropriate parallel to the vision on which the golf and athletic field marker company, Markers, Inc. was founded. In 1987, Jack Thompson and Dick Rybak conceptualized a simple, durable and highly flexible system that could be used to mark golf course boundaries and hazards.
The envisioned system would include an in-ground component for permanently marking locations, a color-coded upright piece (the post) and a selection of cap configurations. Modular in design, the components would be created in such a way that they could be mixed, matched and remixed, providing the ultimate erector set for a golf course superintendent.
For Jack Thompson, the idea of marking golf courses with a plastic injection molded ground socket anchor, paired with removable plastic stakes, was an obvious solution. In 1950, Thompson, along with partner Walter Gus, founded Thogus Products (pronounced toe-gus), a northeastern Ohio tool and die company. Over the years, the small post-war start-up grew, evolving into its current status as a national provider of plastic injection molding services.
Today, Jack Thompson’s son-in-law, Dale Hlavin is the president of Markers, Inc., while grandson Matt Hlavin runs Thogus Products. Markers, Inc., the company that began with a remarkable idea and only five products now holds multiple U.S. Patents and offers an expansive inventory of products for golf courses, athletic fields, residential applications and backyard gardens. Advances in materials and technologies have helped the Avon Lake, Ohio-based manufacturer grow to become a leading provider of golf and sports field markers and specialty products, many of which carry the trademarked branding, MarkSmart.
Related: 30 Years and the New Products Just Keep Coming at Markers, Inc.
The MarkSmart golf markers systems starts with the company’s proprietary, easy-to-install ground sockets. Even though the sockets create a permanent installation with a base that is flush to the ground and need not be removed, the system provides the flexibility for workers to take away the uprights, making it a temporary or a transitional installation when golf course superintendents need to make changes.
Depending upon how the user combines the components, the system can mark out of bounds areas, hazard areas or ground under repair. Workers select posts of the appropriate height and color for the intended application. Although many golf courses still mark out of bounds and hazard areas with painted stakes, ongoing exposure to wind, rain, snow and maintenance equipment is a battle the wooden stake inevitably loses.
In contrast to the characteristic challenges associated with a wood product, the MarkSmart system is manufactured from weather resistant, UV stabilized, high-density polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polycarbonate (PC). These plastics are resilient and provide excellent color stability. Inherently versatile, MarkSmart ground sockets can support easily attached and removed crowd control fencing, course signage and other needs for marking, defining, barricading or display.
Markers, Inc. also offers flag sticks and customizable golf flags that are perfect for the backyard of any avid golfer, and club house supplies, including anti-slip matting, landscape rakes, tools, squeegees, multi-colored, stackable driving range and practice range distance markers, driving range sign frames and mesh polypropylene or polyester windscreens, all of which are proudly made in the U.S.A.
Doing More with Less
Company President Dale Hlavin has led Markers, Inc. since 1990. He has seen the ups and downs of the golf business.
Recognizing that the uncertain economy and the changing demographics of golf have forced golf course superintendents and driving range managers to “do more with less,” Hlavin points out that even small initiatives can make a big difference in the appearance and playability of a course. For example, by investing roughly $700, an eighteen-hole golf course can add new cups, flags and flagsticks from Markers, Inc.
Hlavin says, “We need to get past the idea that golf courses must continuously be buying the most luxurious accessories to revamp their look. Instead, choose the places on the course that get the most traffic and give them extra care.”
Mindful that some golfers spend more time on the range than they do on the course, Hlavin suggests sprucing up the practice area in the same way you would make low cost, high-impact improvements to enhance the curb appeal of your home. When a course is memorable, golfers are inspired to play there more frequently and to select the site to host events and outings.
Fortunately, distinctiveness can be as simple and affordable as customized flags and customized tee markers. In addition to golf course flags for use 24/7, Markers Inc. also manufactures golf flags and tee markers that are personalized with an event or sponsor’s name, which go a long way to help keep the “fun” in fundraiser tournaments.
In 2017, Markers Inc. will launch a new concept in golf course signage. To be known as Versaline, the product will provide the greatest flexibility offered to date in standard and custom golf hole signage.
Expanding into New Territory
As Markers, Inc. has grown, the company has expanded its offerings and the diversity of niche markets it serves. Adapting the concepts and products originally conceived for use on golf courses, the developers at Markers Inc., created the MarkSmart Lining Kit. With this kit, turf and maintenance workers can safely, permanently and efficiently layout football, soccer, baseball and other athletic fields.
The MarkSmart Lining Kit makes it possible to mark a sports field by simply “connecting the dots,” instead of repeatedly measuring and staking field locations. With the development of its successful athletic field marking systems, the company’s inventory has expanded to include marking paint, stencils, a variety of game day markers, temporary outfield and event fencing for indoor or outdoor use and recycled rubber products for baseball and softball fields.
When Dale Hlavin began using sports field markers on the lawn at his residence, another new category of products was born. Markers, Inc. now offers a line of garden and yard products that includes an innovative and inexpensive American flag pole kit that sets up in minutes and requires no concrete.
Other popular lawn and garden products offered are high-visibility driveway markers, and a range of poles, anchors, guides and markers for bird feeders, hanging baskets, garden hoses, tiki torches and other applications.
More Than a Store …
As golf product innovators, the directive to “solve problems” is so ingrained in every aspect of product development, production and service, Markers, Inc. has even trademarked its promise to deliver not just systems, but also solutions. When the team at Markers, Inc. tells you that the company promises, “More than a store, problems solved™,” they are not merely making a marketing pitch. Instead, they are sharing the brand’s ideology and their own sincere commitment, a point emphasized when Hlavin says, “Markers is always receptive to using our modular products for purposes our customers imagine. A few recent, unconventional applications involved creating canopies for bird breeders to control flight and adapting our ground sockets to serve as parking guides for temporary parking during special events.”
Built on a concept as straightforward and as flexible as children’s building blocks and underpinned by technology, engineering and service, today, the company is a multimillion dollar organization with clients around the globe. Where once the brand connected with its marketplace primarily through tradeshows and advertising, now Markers, Inc. shares its promise of “problems solved,” directly with consumers and through distributors, catalog marketers and the world wide web.
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