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Choi buys off-the-rack irons for the Memorial

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PGA Tour pros don’t often buy clubs off the rack, especially players who have won PGA Tour events. Those golfers can call just about any equipment manufacturer in the world and have a set of custom clubs overnighted to them if they so please.

That’s why we’re surprised to hear that K.J. Choi, who has won eight times on the PGA Tour, took a detour on his way to The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, on Monday to visit a Dublin-area Golf Galaxy, where he purchased a set of off-the-rack irons that he has been using on the range and on the course at the Memorial Tournament in preparation for the event.

From GolfWRX member Eec55: My best bud is the Pro there. He texted me this pic while he was there. He said he was a nice guy. Did his business then left while his assistant whipped out a credit card then that was it.

KJ Choi buys clubs

Earlier this year, Jim Furyk bought an off-the-rack Odyssey Versa #1 Wide putter from an Edwin Watts golf store in Orlando. Click here to read the story.

Choi is known as one of the most frequent equipment tinkerers on Tour, but he took it took it to a different level at Golf Galaxy. There are no equipment vans allowed on site at the Memorial, so Choi tested four different sets of irons at the retail golf store before purchasing a set of Mizuno MP-64’s with the company’s stock grips and stock True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 shafts.

“He tried a few different Mizuno irons, the MP-59’s, MP-69’s and MP-64’s,” said Doug Fleischmann, a players assistant at Golf Galaxy. “He also tried the Titleist [712] CB’s.”

Click here to see more photos and what members are saying in the forums.

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Above: A photo of Choi’s bag on the range on Wednesday of the Memorial Tournament, which included the MP-64’s. 

According the Fleishmann, Choi went into a hitting bay at the store and hit each club about five to 10 times. Choi had store employees check the swing weights and lies on the clubs, and commented that all of the irons with the exception of the MP-64’s had swing weights that felt inconsistent.

When the swing weights were measured, Fleischmann said that the other clubs had swing weights that ranged from D2 to D4, while all of the swing weights of the MP-64’s (4 iron through PW), were D2.

Update: Choi played the MP-64 irons during all four rounds at the Memorial, shooting 72-74-70-71 (1-under) to finish T21 and earn $58,202.50.

Click here to see more photos and what members are saying in the forums.

 

Click here to see more photos and what members are saying in the forums.

 

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34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Iron2850

    Jun 5, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I am confused. Mike says he s the pro sat the store and says KJ was cool, easy to deal with. Then Richard says he works at the store and that KJ was a jerk, elitist……..I am thinking Mike was really there…..KJ seems like a pretty good guy to me…..

  2. Chris Carpenter

    Jun 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    KJ needs a better agent. I don’t buy that tour van stuff either. Park your tour van in the gas station down the road if you have a vested interest in the player who is pimping your stuff. Club deals are a $1m+ per player game and you don’t just “sit one out” if fat Jack says no handlers in the parking lot…you find a way to keep your boy out of the golfmart, you give him the sticks that have had all the gages on them, and you swat him on the butt and tell him to go grab some hardware and airtime in that final pairing with your product. Purity isn’t the issue here, Jack. You are making bank off of TV, sponsorships, admissions, and marketing. To deny that to the players who are marketing their sponsors’ wares just for the sake of some facade of purity is disingenuous at best.

  3. Rep

    Jun 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    It didn’t help him much though, did it? heehee

  4. t

    Jun 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    first, jack wants his tournament to be more like the masters, which i have no problem with. and second, it doesn’t matter if you order your irons custom, the swing weights and overall weight of the clubs will likely be off. and just because a shaft says s300, doesn’t mean its really an s300. it could play like an R or an X. Get your stuff tested at a good repair shop.

  5. Pingback: Choi buys off-the-rack irons for the Memorial – GolfWRX | Golf Products Reviews

  6. Richard

    May 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    I work at the store. KJ was a Jerk. I almost told him off. Very bossy with an elitist attitude.
    His whole stop at the store was a marketing gimmick. There was cameras there, pictures and video.

    All a big gimmick.

    • Mark

      Jun 1, 2013 at 2:28 am

      Check your attitude first before blame others !

    • Jack

      Jun 3, 2013 at 2:46 am

      Gimmick? Look at his golf bag. Does he even have a sponsor?

    • Jim

      Jun 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      really? I find this hard to believe that KJ has an elitist attitude. what did he say or do that turned you off? What was the gimmick? thanks.

    • TonyK

      Jun 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      Hmm.. KJ is one of the last persons on tour I could imagine ever being bossy or jerk.

  7. Pingback: Tour Pros Buying Off-The-Rack Clubs | DimpleHead

  8. llamont

    May 30, 2013 at 10:10 am

    This article calls BS on a lot of today’s marketing ploys. Way to go KJ and good luck this week!

  9. Mat

    May 30, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I have to guess he’s after a wider sole for wet turf there…

  10. Mike

    May 30, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Say what you want.. I’m the golf pro at the store there and was working with gim he was really cool guy to deal with and very specific on what he wanted. Just hope he wins with those sticks now!

    • Mike

      May 30, 2013 at 1:43 am

      *him

      • neil

        May 30, 2013 at 3:00 am

        his Miuras have parrallel KBS X tipped to his specs.Bog standard S300s will feel pretty soft to him?

    • morphy

      May 31, 2013 at 9:27 am

      maybe you should have a chat with Richard, who posting KJ was a jerk, can’t be two different KJ’s in the store.

    • Fred

      Jan 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      So Mike, after Richard’s comments, does he still work at the store 🙂 There are a few well-known professional athletes out there who are known to have attitudes. The majority of them don’t play golf. Even if KJ has an attitude, I doubt he would bring it to a retail store. If Richard is correct in his appraisal of KJ’s visit, judging by his comments, maybe Richard was the real jerk, and KJ just responded accordingly.

  11. Jeremy

    May 29, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Why aren’t there any equipment trucks allowed at the Memorial?

    • Glen

      May 30, 2013 at 1:10 am

      I think Jack wants the tourney to honor the tradition and beauty of the game and cut out the extraneous noise. He also got rid of TV towers on 18 and had a new tv facility built that will not soil the views. Kudos to jack.

  12. L

    May 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Goes to show you the super quality of the Mizzys!

    • Shark

      May 30, 2013 at 9:33 am

      My post above was actually a reply to your comment on how good mizuno is…. Mistakingly hit reply to person above.

    • Trigger

      May 31, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      That’s Japanese quality for you.

  13. CoryKorea

    May 29, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I can’t believe a guy who can get custom Miura’s (including the beautiful CB-501’s he won the Players with) is going to game US spec Mizuno irons off the rack. Hey KJ, feel free to send me the 501’s if you’re done with them!

    • Shark

      May 30, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Uh…? Out of 3 sets of mizunos…. Only 1 were correct swing weights… So…. Quality? Uh no… If wrong on 66%

      • Ho

        May 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm

        There is no such thing as correct swingweight with Mizzys. They are mostly best when ordered custom. Therefore, NONE of the ones that KJ tested are specifically correct nor incorrect – he just happened to find the one set make-up that he liked which had SW of D2 all the way through the set, the way HE likes it, which may not be the way that others would like.
        Most of the time, it is unusual that the SW would be D2 through the whole set anyways, it should progressively get heavier from D2 at 3 iron to D4 or D5 for the PW, therefore the other 2 sets, the 59 and 69, probably were closer to what one would expect to see in a more “normal” set (I’m holding back from saying “correct”).

        Capisce?

        • christian

          May 31, 2013 at 8:11 am

          The SW was inconsistent..Plus, Mizuno, like all OEMs puts the SW spec on their website. So, of course there is a wrong and right SW.

          • K

            Jun 25, 2013 at 8:50 pm

            Mizuno does not put swingweights on their website for irons.

        • 1badbadger

          Jul 25, 2017 at 9:25 am

          It’s VERY normal for all clubs in a set of irons to have the same swingweight, and it’s what most players prefer. It’s not wrong if your irons get progressively heavier from the long irons to the short irons, but I don’t know of any OEMs who design and build their irons that way.

  14. scott

    May 29, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I hear more and more stories about how consistent Mizuno products are right of the rack. I also hear more often than not about the lack of quality control with Titleist, TMAG, Callaway.

    • Jacob

      May 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Well, if I read the article correctly, he tried various sets of Mizuno’s and only the 64’s were consistent (not the 59’s or 69’s).

    • jor

      May 31, 2013 at 7:32 am

      As a club maker and repairman for years and working with a lot of pros I have found Mizuno to be a very good product. I have replaced heads on other brands, especially TM who do a poor job of building clubs. Titleist, Callaway , Ping, aren’t bad but vary in weights etc. Not Mizuno, they seem to be right on and very good quality.

  15. Ronald Montesano

    May 29, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Wow, nice free PR for Mizuno!

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Whats in the Bag

C.T. Pan’s winning WITB: 2019 RBC Heritage

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Driver: Titleist TS2 (9.5 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Atmos 6 Blue X

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK 70 TX

Irons: TaylorMade M3 (2/3), Titleist 718 T-MB (4), Titleist 718 AP2 (5-9 iron)
Shafts: Project X HZRDUS Red 85 (M3), Project X 6.0 (others)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (46-10F, 52-08F, 62-08M), Titleist Vokey 2017 Prototype (58-10K)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 (Purple)

Putter: Scotty Cameron Prototype

Ball: 2019 Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride MCC

Another look at Pan’s wedges, c/o Vokey wedge rep, Aaron Dill on Instagram

 

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Whats in the Bag

Brooke Henderson’s winning WITB: 2019 Lotte Championship

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Driver: Ping G400 (9 degrees set at 8)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD-VR 5X, 48″

3-wood: Ping G400 Stretch (13 degrees set at 12.4)
Shaft: Ping Alta CB X, 45″

Fairway wood: Ping G400 (17.5 degrees at 18)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD TP6X

Hybrid: Ping G400 (22 degrees at 22.75)
Shaft: Fujikura Pro 73 R, 41.5″

Irons: Ping i210 (5-UW) (lie: 2.25 degrees flat, UW 1/2″ shorter than standard)
Shafts: Nippon Modus3 105-S

Wedges: Ping Glide Forged (52 degrees at 53), (60 degrees) (lie: 2.25 degrees flat, 3/4″ shorter than standard)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 115 Wedge

Putter: Ping Sigma 2 Valor (33″, 23-degree lie, 2-degree loft)
Grip: Rosemark MFS Wide Top

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

 

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Equipment

Talking New Level Golf with founder Eric Burch

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“If you want to make a small fortune, start with a big fortune”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard many times before, not just with the golf industry but in other industries that are, let’s call them — leisure or sports-focused. It’s an uphill climb to enter any market, but golf might be on another level. There are the big players that are worth BILLIONS, and spend millions of dollars in research and development, along with equal amounts marketing, to make sure that every golfer is aware of their new club technologies. They also have well-oiled systems of distribution.

But in this new world of brand-agnostic fitting centers, boutique brands, social media, and the ability to reach your target demographic like never before there are a LOT of new companies creating high performance, high quality, well-engineered products. But when it comes to forged irons for golfers of all abilities, industry veteran Eric Burch’s New Level Golf stands on its own.

If you don’t know Eric Burch, and you’ve gone through a custom fitting recently, then you are at least partially aware of some of the breakthroughs he’s helped create in the golf industry, including the Club Conex system. His newest endeavor New Level Golf was only started in 2017, but in that short time, it has made some very big strides including distribution in over 150 brand agnostic club fitting facilities and now some professional golfers signed to the roster (including PGA Tour winner Ken Duke).

So how do you go from designing club fitting components to designing forged irons and starting a company that has products on the Golf Digest Hot List? I got the chance to talk to Eric about New Level Golf, his background and how after his years in the golf industry he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

RB: Based on your history in the golf industry you seem to be a real problem solver with a “Be your own boss” mentality, is that how you would describe your self?

EB: I’ve been in business for myself since my early 20s. Other than a few short stints for other golf companies, I have primarily been my own boss involved with golf. I would consider myself a problem solver. Not necessarily by design, but mainly due to starting companies that have always been undercapitalized which forces your hand to learn a variety of tasks to help the business move forward.
Although I’ve received notoriety as a club fitter/retailer, Club Conex, and now New Level. I’ve been fortunate to have won the professional Clubmaker’s Top Shop Award (2004), Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitters (2016),  & have products I’ve designed be on the Golf Digest Hot List (2019).

RB: What was the first product & club head you ever designed, and how does the workflow go now with New Level?

EB: The first golf products were, of course, the Club Conex prototypes and those were generated from hand-rendered sketches. I still believe, given what I did with Club Conex and the universal system I designed, I hardly get the credit I deserve. I bought a milling machine without really knowing how to use it and over the course of 6-7 months taught myself how to use it and started creating prototypes. Those prototypes eventually became the Uni-Fit system.

The first clubs I ever designed were putters dating back to the mid 2000s, but in terms of New Level, I know what I am trying to accomplish in design as well as fitting into player categories that comes from my years working at my own shop and fitting golfers from professionals to higher handicaps. Since product is made overseas, the engineers I work with at our factory have done a very good job of helping bring my concepts and designs to fruition. I really enjoy doing the designs and creating something that will one day be in someone’s golf bag.  The only current issue with the success we’re seeing now is if the company continues to push forward we will at some point be forced to bring on an industrial design engineer to further help with product development, but that would be in 2021 as most of our products for next year are in development, or have already been developed.

RB: On that note, how long from having an initial concept to that first set of irons or at least a prototype head in hand?

EB: This is heavily dependant on the complexity of the design. The 4995 HB took almost 9 months to get it where we wanted, whereas the 902 took just about four months. Typically we can get a first article sample of a playable sample in less than 60 days.

RB: When you consider the logistics and tooling involved, that’s quite an impressive turnaround time. From a design perspective, what do you think is the most misunderstood part of creating an iron head and the manufacturing process that you face?

EB: This is a hot topic with me since most people just don’t understand the depth of the manufacturing process. A lot of people think of the term open model (a factory’s in house design produced to create a starting point for some companies), they think we are just stamping our name on a head that is already been refined and finished by someone else which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like with many aspects of club designs some of the tooling we use are openly available, but for example the raw forged blank head is on average 407 grams on a 6 iron that needs to be designed into a profile that weighs just 262 grams. So as you can imagine a club head overweight by more that 35 percent, it’s far from being a finished product. We call all the shots when it comes to every pertinent parameter and specifications of our design. The only thing incorporated into using this process and something we can’t change is the offset of the club. All other facets of the design are facilitated by my directive and incorporated into the final design.

I chose this method of manufacturing for New Level because it allows a far more flexible range of experimentation before a final design is consummated and brought to market. As a new company starting out it would have been near impossible to use a process similar to other OEMs that create a final tool for each and every design solely based on scale. We had several designs that were not used because they didn’t make the cut when it comes to performance and if we had gone the other route we would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in tooling alone from products that never saw the light of day.

This process is called the “near net” process, and I find it to be much more in tune with today’s industry. I will take it one step further by saying regardless how good one may be at hand grinding and polishing, a human will never be as consistent and effective as a CNC machine. This entire process allows us to keep our costs reasonable and offer a…uniquely designed, full one-piece forged club for a fair price. There are a lot of other companies using this process you’d just never suspect it.

RB: As a club builder and fitter myself, I have encountered my fair share of misconceptions from golfers, what do YOU feel is the number one thing golfer misunderstand from a design perspective of their clubs?

EB: I can only speak from my experiences, but most golfers are scared of the word “forged” as it has been far too long associated with blades and hard to hit designs. I believe the average weekend warrior still views forged as a design methodology as opposed to a manufacturing process. That is a major objective for New Level to prove that forged clubs can be forgiving, can produce great ball speed, & can be used by your average mid handicap player. Our 1126, for example, is longer from heel to toe, has a shallow profile, and deep undercut – lots of forgiveness for any level of player. From a fitting perspective, I’d say that over 80 percent of players are using shafts that are too heavy, and too stiff for them.

RB:  We’ve talked a lot about the product, and now I need to know – How many retail outlets currently carry your irons and wedges. And lastly, what advantage do you believe New Level irons and wedges have over the competition?

EB: New Level products can be found at roughly 150 locations worldwide and growing almost weekly. If I had my way, we’d never sell another club off the website since I truly believe getting fit by a professional is the best way to get the right set, but saying that as the brand is growing and during the infancy stages, I am trying to get as much product in the field of play as possible to spread brand awareness. We get positive feedback on a daily basis. We have an extensive questionnaire on our site to help those that are not close to one of our retailers, and we also have a lot of people that see our clubs, like what they see and order to their known specs.

As far as our advantages go, I believe it’s pretty simple — being small allows us to pay more attention to each and every client and ensure they are getting the attention that they deserve. The mentality is always to be big enough to make money, yet no matter how we grow, act small and care about every single customer. Currently, we have the care part down very well. My belief is with any business I’ve ever been involved with is that if you do the right thing and stay focused eventually the money will take care of itself. It’s funny because I experience many of the same challenges with New Level as I did with Club Conex early on. Although I am mixed in with a ton of larger players in the golf industry, with New Level I am starting to see our awareness with golfers grow. I hope that this growth continues and we still maintain a great rapport with our customer base.

If you are interested in New Level products check out their website, or call and check with your local club fitter for availability.

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