Sun Mountain ascends to new branding challenge

New president and chief brand officer Grant Knudson is relying on the Montana-based company's past to help shape the future in a digital marketing era

Sun Mountain has built a reputation for creating light, durable and waterproof golf bags. Shown are the Men's 2.5+ and Women's 2.5+.

Grant Knudson has worked for some of the biggest names in the golf industry over the last 15 years in Southern California and wasn’t necessarily looking for a new challenge, but when the phone rang and it was the folks from Sun Mountain Sports on the other end, he was all ears.

One of the game’s top innovators and trusted manufacturers of golf equipment was offering the 41-year-old Knudson a newly created top-level position as president and chief brand officer. Having grown up in Idaho, a move from Carlsbad, California, to Montana didn’t seem out of the question.

Grant Knudson
Grant Knudson

Convincing his wife, an Orange County native, to move to a colder climate may have been the toughest part of the decision to make in the career change, which began for Knudson on Jan. 22.

"It's a desirable company and a desirable role," Knudson says. "Sun Mountain has a ton of history and is known for a lot of firsts. They've had so much innovation at Sun Mountain with bags, outerwear, push carts, and is such a well-known brand, such a trusted brand for quality. But there are new verticals to hop into. There's growth opportunity."

Knudson has a stellar resume. He has nearly 20 years of industry experience, most recently leading the product and marketing teams at Puma Golf. During his tenure, he played an instrumental role in the significant growth of the golf business across all major categories. Prior to his time at Puma, Knudson helped Adidas achieve double-digit growth in its global footwear business.

"I love creating and building stories and brands and new products and bringing everything together for a full 360-degree package," Knudson says. "So I think that there's some really cool things that we can do. Sun Mountain already has a lot of amazing things going on, but we can do some other things to bring it up to the next level. The next few years are going to be really exciting."

Sun Mountain was founded in 1981 and has quite a positive reputation in the golfing community, including being credited with pioneering the lightweight golf bag and creating the first golf bag with built-in legs. The company created a new line of golf products with the introduction of the Speed Cart, the first easily foldable, three-wheeled push cart, in 1999. And Sun Mountain was the first golf bag brand to introduce waterproof bags in 2007.

Sun Mountain push cart
Sun Mountain continued to establish itself in the golf industry in 1999 by introducing a foldable, three-wheeled push cart that it has continued to refine. Shown are the PX4 and Speed Cart V1R.

By 2010, Sun Mountain was the biggest American maker of golf bags and accounted for 16.5% of golf bag sales in the country. The company also provided the outerwear for the United States team at the 2011 and 2013 Presidents Cup. By 2013, the company employed 200.

"Sun Mountain has a lot of firsts and amazing products but we really need to work on getting the brand out there in a bigger way to everyone," Knudson says. "A lot of golfers have a Sun Mountain bag, but what does the brand mean to them? And that's what we really need to define; what is Sun Mountain? It’s a globally known brand and I believe there's just massive opportunity to go shout about it and tell everyone, let everyone else know what it's all about."

Knudson is in the midst of a "60 to 90 day" dive into the product brand and then will begin a new strategy. 

"The people at Sun Mountain are amazing, there's not a problem other than just getting the word out and taking some of the opportunities that are out there with social media and influencers. Listen, the world has changed," he says. 

Knudson specifically mentioned YouTube and TikTok as ways to enhance the Sun Mountain brand.

"We're at ground zero. We're at the bottom. So all we can do is go up," he says of the branding aspect. "We’re going to try new things, take some risks. If we try and fail we’ll change quickly and move on. There is a lot of white space, so I'm excited about that."

Knudson laughed, saying tongue-in-cheek that one of the company’s only issues is that its products are too good and last too long.

"If a golfer buys our product they are sold for life and they become a Sun Mountain customer," he says. "How do we then make them love the brand and feel part of it? My mission for the next couple years is to really make golfers have a love and a passion for the brand and not just the products."