Let’s say you have temporarily abandoned your plan to introduce a full set of woods and irons, but your passion to be in the golf equipment business still burns. In desperation, you contact me to help with your wedge business and pay my upfront fee of a dozen low compression golf balls (you know, the ones designed for swing speeds that are barely moving). With the mutual understanding that you are definitely going forward, I take a few days and devise a plan.
Since you told me the golf balls had to wait a few weeks while your credit card balance dropped, it’s fair to say that unless a benefactor appears this will be a shoestring effort and I should advise accordingly. In the old days, I used statistical analysis on the cause and effect of ball flight. I determined that golf clubs are used in separate and distinct environments — namely ball on tee, ball on ground (including rough), ball in sand and ball on green. This may sound simplistic, but this type of analysis wasn’t the norm when I started on my own 27 years ago (or 40 years ago when I was hanging out with Dave Pelz). For example, fairway woods used to look like mini drivers and were not designed with a “ball on fairway” mentality save increased lofts.
First a bit of good news. Every currently significant golf club company (except Nike) had one club that got market attention and grew from there.
- Adams and the Tight Lies
- Callaway and the Big Bertha
- Cleveland and its wedges
- Cobra and the Baffler
- Ping and the Anser putter
- TaylorMade and metal woods
- Titleist and the Bulls Eye putter
With a bit of a stretch, I could also point to Mizuno and irons and also Wilson Staff and irons, but Wilson is not a major player today. I include this bit of trivia to show that starting with one product doesn’t restrict a company from future growth.
The point is that if you become significant with a wedge it could open the door to other products, but first things first. As I said, we have ball on ground, ball in rough and ball in sand as three completely different design environments for wedges. Given our cost effective approach, ball on ground and ball in rough doesn’t fit. It’s not that you can’t make a great wedge; it’s the issue of marketing. There are dozens of wedge companies out there and they all have good designs and strong marketing stories. You are just starting and need the best chance of getting a clear message to the hearts and minds of millions of golfers.
In the literature you sent me, you had a design for a nice looking wedge and its appeal is the use of a soft metal which, in turn, produces a great feel and sense of control at impact. I don’t mean to belittle your effort but what you have done applies to maybe 5 percent of golfers — some of whom are given wedges as a promotional effort. Further, there is no significant relationship between soft metals and feel.
If you want to store this away, differences in feel for more than 98 percent of the golfing population are actually the brain reacting to sound. Put earplugs in, go to the range and test for yourself. The other 1+ percent are tour professionals, and I gained great respect for their sense of feel and never tried the sound blocking experiment with them. Ping has certainly been successful with golfers of every level, and I remember back when their clubs were supposed to be “too hard.” Turns out, they were very good!
So, with all this background my advice is to concentrate on one club (actually two, as you’ll see), the sand wedge.
We will call the sand wedge the “Beauty” — actually the “Beauty-1” and “Beauty-2.” If that name causes nausea, it’s your nickel. Finding a name for a golf club that isn’t being used or isn’t registered in some attorney’s office is a major project. You would never know unless you become successful. I picked “Beauty” because it’s so off the wall there is a chance that no one uses it, but I strongly advise you spend the money and get that name (or your name) verified.
The design of a sand wedge is all about dynamic bounce, which is the relationship between the bounce angle, sole width, face loft and type of sand. I’ll let you do the final design, but I suggest you research underslung head designs. Having the hosel somewhat removed addresses the shank, the bane of the average golfer.
- Beauty-1 has a very wide sole with some bounce for soft, fluffy sand.
- Beauty-2 is slightly narrower, but it still has a wide sole and essentially no bounce for hard-packed sand.
You said you have access to a machine shop where you can get samples made and you can test in different sands.
This is NOT a project for good players — this wedge is for those who approach sand traps with trepidation hoping to get out in one swing. Why? It’s simple: by far the biggest market. Your website should be technically accurate and enjoyable while showing both wedges’ designs and the types of sand that work best for each. It will explain “dynamic bounce” in detail, which will help you get to the heart of the average golfer and sell product. I will review the site when finished as part of my dozen balls payment. If I might intrude on your design, take a long look at the concept of “underslung.” It will certainly be a different look and maybe provide the claim of being shankless.
As for shafts, let’s go with one flex (stiff) and one type (steel). Why? Cost, and steel works fine. The challenge will be a controlled inventory after you fully test the machined heads to verify your concept. “Make them in China” is the easy answer, but you will need some leads on trustworthy suppliers and you will pay for tooling, initial samples and an agreement on an initial order. Make it as small as possible to save money, but small can easily be 1000 heads, a minor production run. I think I can dig up a couple of Asian sources when the time comes.
Setup your website and try to get some wedges in the hands of known instructors with an arrangement resulting in you getting quotes. Set a competitive price and sell direct over the net. I’ve just given you enough to do that. I’ll long run out of balls before you have more questions.
Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments
Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.
Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.
I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.
For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.
His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.
Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.
Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.
He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached. I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.
On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.
When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.
Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.
Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing. Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)
Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.
Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!
A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters
Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.
However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.
I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.
There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.
If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.
Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.
Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.
Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!
At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.
Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.
It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”
What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.
You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.
The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!
Hall of Famer Gary Player gives an exclusive one-on-one interview with Host Michael Williams about his life in golf, his thoughts on the current game and his tips for thriving even in difficult times.
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