We’re a sports mad lot, by which we mean Australians generally, not us in particular. But as Roy and HG say, if it moves and sweats, we’ll watch it.
So, it's unsurprising that there's a great deal of design creativity and invention in Aussie sport. Our inventiveness spans from the whole game, like Marn Grook, to the Brabham race car and winged keel, to the Geometrik golf club.
Most of us at Plus.One subscribe to Mark Twain’s dictum, “Golf is a good walk, spoiled”, but we can overcome our prejudices for good design. Leo Port, a well-known Australian inventor, had said that “Golf should take our minds away from life's problems, not add to them”, so he invented a better golf club to make it easier to play.
Born Leo Weiser Rapoport in Krakow Poland in 1922 to Jewish parents, he moved to Berlin and arrived in Sydney at the outbreak of WW2 at the age of 17 and followed his parents in adopting the name ‘Port’. He studied electrical and mechanical engineering at Sydney University, joined Donoghue & Carter, consulting engineers in 1947, becoming a partner in 1953.
His most remembered invention was the Port-EL lift control system of 1969, a computerized system to decrease waiting times with a better organization of lifts within a high-rise building. That same year he was elected an alderman to the Sydney City Council, where he was Lord Mayor 1975-78.
A keen golfer, in 1975 he developed a club with a shaft shape and handle grip that aligned the correct club head position in the golfer’s hands. From this distance it seems to have been an entirely self-evident approach. He called it the ‘Geometrik’, being at the forefront of miss-spelt inventive ideas, (our favourite is Bluescope’s Klip-Lok – two in one hyphenated word).
Port said: “The secret is in the geometry of the club, which has been modified so that the hands gripping the club point at the sweet spot on the club face, automatically giving the club an inbuilt guidance system”, by which we think he meant that it assisted the coordination of sight and muscular response.After two years of refinement it went into production with Gold Medal Golf Pty Ltd in late 1977. The MD, Gene Hoffman, said that “unlike many other clubs being developed at the time the Geometrik met all the requirements of the rules of golf”. The advertising spiel was, “The Geometrik looks like a conventional club, but the similarity ends there after only a couple of holes, you start hitting the ball with more authority. Everybody who has tried them remarks on the improved feel right through the swing”. The Geometrik club was said to improve a golfer's handicap significantly.
Port was one of the three foundation judges on the ABC’s Inventors TV program in 1970 but stepped aside on one episode in 1975 to present the Geometrik club (we know not if it was the winner). Port was on the show until his untimely death in 1978, replaced by architect and professor Neville Quarry. The show ran until 1982, and was revived in 2004 as The New Inventors, and one ‘Plus.Oner’ had the honour of being one of the rotational judges for a while.
Two observations to conclude: firstly, builders have a fond affection for golf for corporate bonding, and many large construction firms and developers hold golfing days for their clients. On one of those eight years ago we noticed that, amongst 20 teams of four teeing off, there was only one woman.
Secondly, as part of our research, we tried to find out how long-lasting the Geometrik invention was. It's difficult to determine, there is little information on its current status, but some websites advertise the clubs for sale, usually in sets of seven.
During our research however, we did discover several websites which appear to be about golfing equipment; but are in fact false fronts for pornography and illegal associated pharmaceuticals. Not sure why golfers are targeted on the 19th hole, after that good walk, spoiled.
plus 1 / plus.one / +one is a collective of designers and artists promoting sustainability and Australian design. We don’t support social media in any form, rather you can contact +one at [email protected].