12 Myths That Could Wreck Your Golf Game (P5)

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My club is just like the one Tiger uses

Not…on…your…life.

The clubs you buy in the retail stores are to the clubs the pros use as the Chevy Monte Carlo in your driveway is to the car Jeff Gordon drives in NASCAR races. Let me use a set of Payne Stewart’s clubs as an example.

In 1999, I had the pleasure of designing what tragically turned out to be the last set of clubs Payne Stewart played in competition. His set required four separate visits to my workshop over the course of six months.

Payne had just concluded a contract with Spalding that required him to play the company’s investment-cast cavity-back irons, but he was most anxious to get back to playing with a forged carbon-steel design. I kept spare “raw forgings” from a Lynx set that I had earlier designed for Spalding for just such projects as Payne’s.

Payne’s first visit was to find out what he liked to see in the various irons as he set up behind the ball. In other words, what kind of leading-edge shape, topline thickness and shape, toe shape, top-of-the-toe transition to the topline, the offset, how the bottom of the hosel should fan out into the blade (indelicately called the “crotch”), and many other subtle areas of each ironhead. Between visits one and two I ground, filed, bent, and formed each of Payne’s preferences into each head in the set.

During his second visit, Payne stood right next to me as I reground and shaped each head to a nearly final form. Payne would insert a shaft in each head, assume an address position, look, look again, scratch his head, and, in whatever way he could, express what was good, bad, or indifferent about each one. From this, I now had a much clearer picture of what he wanted and could final grind each head after he left. Matters like center of gravity positions were my responsibility to manipulate in accordance with the ball flight trajectory wishes that Payne had expressed.

During the third and fourth visits, the still not completely finished heads were assembled with different shaft options. Payne hit shot after shot with each club, commenting only when he felt it appropriate to clarify his desires for the feel of both the clubhead and the shaft during the shots. Only when Payne gave final approval to each club was his job complete, and mine shifted into another gear.

All tour players require a minimum of two identical sets of clubs, one to travel with and one to keep in a safe place, packed and ready to ship. Should the nightmare scenario occur of their clubs being lost or even stolen, they can obtain a duplicate of their old set literally overnight. Because of that requirement, I also had to make templates for each head profile along with all sorts of measurements and photographs that would allow me to remake the backup set completely from scratch without having any of the original clubs to guide me 

All totaled, I probably spent somewhere in the area of 300 hours from start to finish on the two identical sets. It¶s something you should keep in mind the next time you see an ad implying you will be playing clubs that are “just like the ones the pros use.” Trust me. You won’t.

Any club that’s not a “brand name” is junk.

Whoa, some real re-education is in order here because among those “unknown” brands you just wrote off are some of the world’s finest golf clubheads. Let me give you a bit of insight into the golf business; but, first, I’d like to make a couple of crucial distinctions.

If by a “non-brand name” you mean what some people call “clones,” then that is something else entirely. Cloning is where an unscrupulous company will make models that copy every detail of a heavily marketed clubhead, right down to coining a name that might even phonetically “sound like” the model name of the original design. Those heads are often in violation of a patent or trademark and most club companies will vigorously prosecute the people who make them – and the people who buy them.

There are also clubs that are known as “knockoffs.” These are heads that are similar to better known clubs but do not violate any patents. They are not illegal; but they are also usually not very good deals either. Low-quality found-ries that are not skilled enough in their production operations to attract business from serious quality-minded golf companies usually make such knockoff heads. Lofts, lies, and head weights are usually far outside the tight production tolerances delivered by the quality foundries. To save money their metal is often a mixture of remelted scrap with a bit of new material thrown in. These companies and their customers damage the reputation of all the quality-minded component manufacturers because most golfers lump every one of the component companies together into one barrel of bad apples.

Any club that’s not a “brand name” is junk.

But there is also a third category of companies that you would do well to take very seriously.

You are certainly aware of the major golf club companies – you routinely see their names on the pages of the golf magazines or on the caps and visors worn by the pros. What you might not know, however, is that while those companies may assemble their clubs, they do not actually manufacture anything. Every- thing they sell – heads, shafts, grips – are made by someone else, somewhere else. Take clubheads for example.

Virtually no golf clubheads are made in the United States anymore. Well over 90 percent of them are made in either Taiwan or Mainland China. That means that the number of foundries that are capable of producing high-quality golf clubheads is finite; there are maybe ten or twelve in the world. Every reputable golf club company has their heads made at one (or more) of those foundries. Whether you are talking Callaway, Titleist, or Ping or whether you are talking about my company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology; the heads come from the same manufacturing foundries. The same people, using the same materials to he same standards on the same machines, make them.

There are two factors that separate the elite from the common in this business. The first is the quality of design. The finest head designs in the world do not necessarily come from brand name, mass-advertised, mass-marketed companies. I will, for example, stack up any Wishon clubhead against any brand name, any day, any time, any where. The difference is that we are not a mass- market company – neither is Rolls-Royce. The reason for that has to do with the next factor.

The second factor is the care and skill with which the club is put together, custom fit to your specific needs. That is where the brand names, inherently, cannot compete. My designs, when custom fit, and the clubs of a few companies similar to mine, are not made 100,000 at a time to the same specifications. They are made one at a time, to your specifications. They are not 3one size fits all.” They are “one club, one customer, one clubmaker.”

You would not confuse a large advertising budget with quality in any other area. Don’t do it with golf.

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