Nintendo's small rectangular Wii controller is not a golf club, no matter how much the Tiger Woods PGA Tour PR team might tell you it is. While attempting to recreate a golf grip and swing is almost futile, that doesn’t stop die-hard golfers from trying. However, now there’s an alternative: the Chicken Stick. What may in fact be the adorable love child of a 9 iron and the Nintendo Wiimote, the Chicken Stick, produced by Bad Chicken, is a virtual golfer’s dream come true.
The Chicken Stick takes the upper half of a golf club (complete with Golf Pride grip and True Temper® shaft) and grafts on a sturdy holder for the Wii remote. Combined with the Wii and Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf, it offers the promise of allowing the player to bring their real world swing to the virtual course. But is it too good to be true?
The outcome of spending weeks determining the best way to hold the Wiimote in order to recreate an authentic golf grip is frustration. However, after unboxing the Chicken Stick and playing 18 virtual holes, even golf pros will conclude that the Chicken Stick adds an unbelievable level of realism to Tiger Woods PGA Tour golf, second only to having a true golf simulator. For the golfing gamer, this may be so true that you can't imagine playing the game without it.
But the question remains: is it worth the steep $40 price tag? Truthfully, that depends upon your level of obsession. For the casual player, the price is too much of a hurdle. But for the golf fan that dreams of having a driving range in the living room complete with a launch monitor detailing your face angle, swing plane, and launch angle, it will be worth every penny.
I had the chance to interview Bad Chicken co-founder Jordan Brandt about his design process, as well as what it was like designing the Chicken Stick, and what is in store for the future.
Tyson Wintibaugh: What was the inspiration for developing the Chicken Stick and starting the Bad Chicken company?
Jordan Brandt: At first I made the club just to play the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games on the Wii. There isn’t much golf during the wintertime in New Jersey, so this was the closest I thought I could get without putting a $40,000 simulator in my home. We used the original prototype [made from a $3 wedge, sheet metal, and duct tape] to play golf indoors all winter and had a great time. Playing with the Chicken Stick felt almost like a real round of golf. What we didn’t expect was what happened when we got out onto the golf course that spring. My golf swing was considerably better. On the Wii, I had to swing correctly so that the golf ball would stay on the fairway, and this translated directly to the golf course. I’m not saying I am a good golfer by any means, but I went from an average round of 100 to consistently hitting in the low 90s. My putting was still atrocious, and that’s where I lose strokes. If I had spent all winter practicing putting, I’m certain some rounds could have been in the 80s. The Chicken Stick became a solid training tool which was an unintended but great bonus because all I originally planned to do was use it to play a golf video game.
Tyson: Can you describe your design process and the prototyping phase?
Jordan: We took our hand-made prototype to a professional engineer and then went through almost a dozen rounds of CAD designs and 3D printed prototypes. It was a daunting process because in the beginning we were just going by intuition and now we had to actually play with these expensive prototypes. Once the design was at a level we were satisfied with, we had the mold made. That was the point of no return because if the steel mold wasn’t right we were done for. Luckily, only some minor tweaking was needed here and there, still a painful process, but the mold was exactly what we wanted.
Tyson: What was the largest hurdle you had to overcome in the design?
Jordan: The prototyping phase was a slow process that ate up a significant amount of cash and time. Each round of prototyping added more frustration because we were nowhere near manufacturing at that point. Getting the product made seemed so far down the road that there was a real possibility we would never get the company off the ground.
Tyson: What are some of the design changes you will be incorporating into the upcoming Playstation version?
Jordan: We are redesigning the housing unit to hold the [Playstation Move] controller securely, but we’re also rounding it out a bit so it looks less blocky. While aesthetics are somewhat important, the usability is paramount with a product like this. Golfers do care what the product looks like, but first and foremost we are trying to get the feel and weighting right.
Tyson: What advice do you have for future product designers?
Jordan: I wish I had a positive message for future product designers and could tell them it is all gumdrops and rainbows, but I can’t–there is a ton of heartache. If you are passionate about the product you have designed in your head, I’d say to make a working prototype as best you can, or at least get the entire idea down on paper. The next step is to hire a Patent Attorney to do a patent search for you. If there is nothing out there like your product, and you feel it is worth making, then start the patent process. You are going to have to find people that believe in your product who will help you along the way, and you will also have to beg and borrow to get the product off the ground if you plan to do it yourself. My business partner and I were really lucky right out the gate. We have learned that most entrepreneurs don’t get this far. Hindsight being 20/20, I would never do this again, nor would I recommend it. Then again, you never know if you don’t try, so I say go for it. You only live once.