My Clubs Are Just Like The Ones The Pros Use
Not… on… your… life.
The clubs you buy in the retail stores are to the clubs the pros use, as the Chevrolet Impala in your driveway is to the one Jeff Gordon drives in NASCAR races. I’ll use a set of Payne Stewart’s clubs as an example; and, trust me, this process is no different for any pro on any pro tour. 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 the former Spalding company that required him to play the company’s investment cast cavity back irons, but he was most eager to get back to playing with a forged carbonsteel design. I kept spare “raw forgings” from sets that I had earlier designed for just such projects as Payne’s. Payne’s first visit was for me to find out what he liked to see when he set the club down behind the ball. This would include things like: overall size, leading edge shape/radius, topline thickness, toe shape, toe transition curve, hosel offset, sole width, sole radii, and many other subtle areas of head shape and design. Between visits one and two, I ground, filed, bent and formed Payne’s visual preferences into each head in the set.
During visit number two, Payne stood right next to me as I worked each head into 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 clubhead. 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 according to the ball flight trajectory wishes that Payne had expressed versus what he had played previously.
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, should the nightmare scenario occur of their clubs being lost or even stolen. 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 re-make 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.
For those golfers who believe the pros all use the same clubhead model sold off the rack to everyone, I’ll never forget when I learned the facts of life about that one. Back in 1997 when the former Lynx Golf Company succumbed to their competition and closed down, I was part of the team that completed the negotiations to buy all the assets of Lynx. After all the papers were signed, the day came when the semi-trailers rolled in with all of the “physical assets.”
I opened boxes and boxes and more boxes of Lynx branded clubheads. As I was looking over many of the clubheads that carried familiar Lynx model names, it hit me that while I remembered the model names, what was in my hands were most certainly not the same models Lynx had shipped to their retailers to sell off the rack to golfers.
During the many years Lynx had been in business, the array of tour pros they had signed to carry their bag and play their clubs included quite a number of current and future members of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Plain and simple, what I was seeing were examples of how some of their tour players did not like this or that about the production model and insisted Lynx make them a different version.
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.