GolfWRX: Okay, we’re here today with Mr. Dick Weiss, founder of SST PURE. How are you doing today Mr. Weiss?
Dick Weiss: I’m doing wonderful. We’re getting ready for the PGA Show. We just finished putting together our booth here in Orlando and we start good and early tomorrow morning.
GolfWRX: Excellent. I know this is a really exciting time, and we appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us a little bit here and give us information about your SST PURE process.
Dick Weiss: Thanks, I appreciate what GolfWRX does and the forum you allow people to address their questions and ideas. You’re unique in the industry, the integrity you use, so it’s my pleasure. This is the first time I’ve done this and it’ll be my pleasure to answer anything you have.
GolfWRX: Excellent, we’ll go ahead and get started with the first question here. Can you give us a little background about your history and history in golf?
Dick Weiss: My history in golf – I played golf all my life, since I was about four years old. I grew up in Albany, New York. I won the Boy’s City Championship I think at ten or twelve or something and a couple of other city championships. I had won my junior championship at my club and then my senior championship while I was still a junior. At that time country clubs had teams and we traveled all over the summer. In fact, Bobby Duval who is David’s father grew up in the same area I did and Ron Philo whose son Ron Jr. is out playing now and Laura Diaz is his daughter. So we had a pretty good group that played in Upstate New York. I went to college at the University of Miami. I played on the golf team there between 1965 and 1968. Played various qualifiers for the U.S. Open, I think I played thirty something qualifiers, and I never did qualify. Although I had several times when I was leading after the first eighteen, but it’s not over until you finish thirty-six. I’ve always played amateur golf. I’ve played on the Pan-American Cup Team. I played against Jamaica in 1967, we won down there. I think I still hold three or four course records, but I think I’ve had six or seven since I started. I turned professional when I turned 51. Just before that I won the Broward Amateur which is a pretty prestigious amateur event for those of us who are Floridians. I won two years in a row a tournament called the Jim Peck Open which is in Wisconsin. I turned pro in September of 1996. I went to Q-School, I made the first cut and I missed the second cut which would have put me in the final day. I ended up playing on the Senior Series Tour which at that time was the Nike Tour for Seniors. I played that for about a year and half. Then in-between that, I had an opportunity to invest in a couple of golf courses. That’s when I started to get into my shaft alignment work and various other studies of what’s now become common technologies in the industry. I still play. I’ve had my professional status. I’m going to play two qualifiers in the next for months for the Champion’s Tour – the open qualifiers on Monday to try to get into them. But that’s the extent of my competition right now.
GolfWRX: That’s fascinating, that’s a really deep background in the sport. Now I was wondering if you could give us a little history about the company before you went up against the USGA?
Dick Weiss: Sure. I bought my first golf course with five or six of my friends in December of 1996 in Miami. One of the reasons I purchased it is it had a wonderful driving range. Having been at Q-School that year, one of the things I wanted to do was have a club repair shop where I could offer our members the same type of tweaking as we had available to us through the various tour vans that were on Tour. We purchased that course December of 1996 and we were fortunate to purchase another course right after that in January 1997. My goal was, because we had a progressive group we had financial backing, was that I would open a club repair facility on each of these courses that had a driving range as we went around the country. As it turned out, the group actually ended up within two years owning twenty-five golf courses along the Eastern Seaboard. Anyways I never got further than opening my one shop in South Florida. I could never understand why it was that as a golfer playing in some prestigious amateur events, we would get to try clubs and then order the seemingly identical one and they would never perform the same. But it would have the same loft, and the same lie, and the same swing weight, the head was the same and the gram weight was the same. I always changed shafts, and I’ve kept them all I’ve had over the years. Anyways, I had a robbery in my shop and I purchased some new equipment and one of them happened to be a Mitchell Clamp used to test frequencies. At the same time, I got really busy doing thousands of dollars a day in our shop as a start-up and I couldn’t get the graphite shafts removed as fast as I wanted without either damaging the tip or marring the shaft or marring the head. So I’m not an engineer by any means and I bought every extractor I could find, and I finally came up with a design I liked. I had a club in there, it was a Ping Zing driver with an Aldila 201 shaft in it. I had qualified in the sectionals in the National Long Drive with that, and I knew the club really well. The only club I had in there at the time to test my extractor was this particular club. So I took it apart and for no reason at all, I decided I didn’t want to look at the name Aldila on the top of the shaft so I turned it to the back of the shaft so you couldn’t see it. I glued it together and I went out on the driving range and I started to hit it. The first shot I hit felt like a sharp butcher knife going through butter. It was an unbelievable feel which I still experience today every time I hit a PUREd club. So I asked the pro, a young man named Scott Jones, who’s got quite a record dealing with AJGA players. I said, “Scotty come over here and hit it.” He said, “Well Dick that’s your normal driver.” He was our pro on the driving range. He hit it, and he did what several people have done since then. He started looking at the shaft and head and said, “It doesn’t feel like your old club, what’d you do?” I said, “I don’t know, I took the head off, I didn’t want to look at the name. I just glued it with the name on the back.” I said, “You know what, I’ve got two other identical ones because I traveled with three of those drivers. I’ll take them apart, I’ll put the name on the back and go try them.” So I went in, I used fast dry epoxy which is what we still use on tour, I put them together, I came out and they didn’t perform any differently. I figured it was where the logo was. So I put it at the rear of the shaft. So, not being an engineer, I still had the shaft. I took the original, and after the robbery I had bought a new cutting wheel I had never used and cut the shaft in half. To this day I can’t tell you why I did it. But when I looked at the cross-section of the graphite shaft, one side was really thick and one side was very, very thin. So for us at SST, that was probably six or seven million dollars ago in R&D and production costs for us and ten years of work. And that started me on this journey of why clubs perform differently depending upon how you put the shaft into the club head and that’s really how I got started.
GolfWRX: That’s fascinating, and I know shortly after that you did what not many people in this world have done and that’s challenge the USGA and win. It’s a really neat story and I was hoping you could tell us a little bit more about it before we keep going?
Dick Weiss: Sure, it’s a wonderful story. One thing I learned, is if the USGA is this tough on guys who invent new technology and bring it forward, in the industry then I honestly believe they’re doing their job because this was a ball buster. Pardon my French. This was quite a chore. What happened is as I started to develop my process, I got a hold of an attorney in Miami. He said, "You’d probably want to patent what it is you’re doing. But before you do that you should have a patent check." I said, "Okay but I want the biggest, best law firm in the country which happens do that." It happened to be a company called Pillsbury-Madison in Washington, D.C.. So we hired an attorney from Pillsbury, I sent him my concepts and drawings and we got a call in June of 1997. The attorney said, "Mr. Weiss, I’ve got good news and bad news for you." I said, "What’s the bad news?" He said, "The bad news is there is a patent out there that’s similar to what you want to do. The good news is I have the home address and phone number of the gentleman who has it and maybe you’d want to talk to him." As it turns out, it was a gentleman named Robert Colbert who was a welder who lived in Jackson, Michigan at the time. His daughter was an LPGA player. She played for Wilson. She brought home a new set of steel shafted iron in the mid ’80’s from Chicago where the plant was. She said, "Daddy I can’t hit these." Bob Colbert was a welder, he was an avid golfer, but he wasn’t in the golf repair business. Anyway, he started playing with the shafts and he acid etched them and cut them open. He noticed the shafts, which were steel shafts in this case had a seam in them, or welding. Steel shafts today are carbon steel. It’s heated and it’s wrapped around a mold called a mandrel and it’s heated again, you don’t actually put a weld material in it, and the two sides are joined together. Bob came up with this idea how to locate this irregularity, this backbone, this spine, or this seam in a shaft. And he filed a patent, it’s a very interesting patent. It is: "The assembly of a golf club using a longitudinally extended seam (that’s the seam up and down the shaft) as the basis to assemble the club in order to negate the adverse effects of bending and torsion at impact." He said in his patent, "I don’t care how you find this place, I don’t care what you do to find it but if you’re going to assemble a club in any way other than random, this patent covers it." That’s a pretty strong patent. So he got the patent in 1990 and he went to several of the large OEM’s including Titleist who actually almost made a deal with him at the time, but he wanted a little more in royalties than they wanted to pay. He did about 500 sets of clubs. Then his business folded up. I met Mr. Colbert, over a period of times I ended up purchasing his patent. The patent wasn’t pertinent to what I was doing other than it dealt with the assembly of a golf cub. I wanted to develop an apparatus, which is the machine and then a method for identifying shaft irregularities and then I already own Colbert which is how you put them together. So I developed my process and filed several patents. I was starting to get calls from a lot of people. I was lucky to get a lot of publicity, Jim Achenbach from Golf Week was very kind in writing about me and Tom Stein of PGA Tour Partners and John Strege of Golf Digest – the tops in the industry. I was getting calls that said, "I called the USGA and the USGA said you can’t align a shaft, you just have to play it how it comes." That’s ridiculous. Or people would call and say, "I called the USGA about shaft alignment and you can do it but you can’t talk about it." Well, in that case, that’s a first amendment issue. So I hired another set of attorneys, first amendment’s freedom of speech. So I said, "Let’s look into this. The USGA says you can do this, but you can’t talk about it, you can’t advertise it." I said, "I own a patent now (right now I think I own a forty-eight patents issued world wide, and probably fifteen or twenty pending)." I said to the lawyers, "Patents are a depreciating investment, they keep going down because there’s a time limit they’re good for. I kept calling the USGA and no one would call me back." I called every magazine, Golf Digest, Golf World, anything you can think of and I asked them for any information on shafts in general and any information they had on Frank Thomas. At that time Frank was the technical director of the USGA . He was the developer of the first graphite shafts which Shakespeare the fishing rod company came out with in 1959. So Frank was well aware of what graphite can and can’t do. Every month for almost a year, I sent the USGA a package with information about my company, where I was going with it, reports and studies I did. Nobody called me back. So I called my lead lawyer and said, "I can’t get an answer out of these people." I could do this illegally, non-conforming, but I don’t want to do that. I want this to be in total conformance. I need to find out from them why they won’t talk to me. He said, "What you could do is, you could go to court and compel them to come to court and ask them to explain why they won’t respond to your questions when you have something that’s commercially at stake." I said, "Okay, how do I do that?" He said, "Where are they located?" I said, "New Jersey." He said, "You’ll have to get a lawyer in New Jersey." I said, "Okay, make sure he’s the toughest SOB you can find." We happened to find and ex-senator who now is practicing on his own. I was on the phone with four of my different attorneys and we started to tell him the story. About five minutes into the story he said, "Don’t tell me any more. I happen to represent the USGA in matters like this that are brought against them." The next morning at about ten o’clock, we got a call from Walter Driver who just retired as the president of the USGA , but at the time, he was on the Implement and Ball Committee which refers changes to the Executive Committee which puts them into effect. Mr. Driver told my attorney, "We will give Mr. Weiss a half hour for presentation in front of the Implement and Ball Committee on February 3, 1999 at our annual meeting in Clearwater, Florida." I went and made a presentation. I told them I was brought up in a country club, I believe in the integrity of the sport. I said the results of my testing is that the ball goes longer and straighter and my patents also talk about finding the irregularities in a shaft and putting them in a position to induce a hook or a slice or correct a hook or a slice. I could make an infomercial and I could guarantee people I can correct a hook or a slice or I’ll give you your money back. But that’s not what I’m into this business for. I want this to be in total conformance. Prior to the meeting, I had a booklet made up. It explained everything, the past history of shaft alignment; shafts, how shafts are made, and I sent it to every member of the Implement and Ball Committee. By the way, I’m now told a half hour in front of them is a huge amount of time. People usually get minutes, they don’t get a half hour. They told me, "You can bring a court reporter, you can bring attorneys, you can bring engineers." I said, "No, I don’t want to bring anyone but my closest friend (who’s since passed away, a gentlemen named Paul Berger)." I said, "I’d like him to come just to interpret some legal aspects but other than that I don’t need to bring anybody else." We made the presentation, and we left there at five o’clock February 3, 1999. On February 5, 1999 ten o’clock in the morning, my attorney got a call to inform Mr. Weiss that the relief he sought to Appendix 2, Rule 4-1b (that was the original rule that had to do with the alignment of shafts). They said to inform me that the relief I sought under Rule 4-1b was being granted. That’s the home, run, but what do I do with it? I’m not in the franchise business, I don’t know how to license people. Oh, and one of the committee members mentioned to my attorney, "This is the most pervasive rules relief we’ve ever granted in the history of the sport because ‘It affects every club ever made, currently made, or to be made in the foreseeable future.’" So, then my next step was to hire other attorneys who came up with licensing agreements. We came up with agreements for OEM’s, for shaft manufacturers, for individual club makers, and also for component distributors such as Golfsmith, Hennry Griffitts which is one of our licensees, UST which is one of our licensees, but the bulk of our licensees today are what I feel is 60-65 of the best club makers in the world. I’ve been very careful who I’ve licensed, the integrity of them, their service to their customers. And also charging a rate that warrants the amount of work that goes into what they do. We’re just entering out eleventh year right now. We have three full-time tour vans. We’re the first tour van in the history of the PGA Tour that’s been out there that’s not sponsored by a manufacturer. So we work on clubs from every company. We have a full time, we’ll do over thirty-five events on the PGA Tour. This will be our second full season on the Nationwide Tour. We did half the season on the European Tour, and we now have a van that’s full time there. So, every major men’s Tour we have covered right now.
GolfWRX: That’s an incredible story. Now could you tell us a little bit about exactly why shaft alignment is necessary and how it affects performance?
Dick Weiss: I don’t make shafts. I’m not in the business. We had an opportunity a few years ago to buy a shaft company and I was hesitant to do it. We had the money to do it but I didn’t want people to think that PUREing, and PURE is a name we made up (it stands for Plane of Uniform REpeatability ). We own the name, we own the trademark. I didn’t want the consumer to think we were applicable to only one brand of shaft because we’re applicable to every brand of shaft that’s out there. The reason it’s necessary is as a club maker we buy shafts generally in boxes of 150 shafts. If you go through those shafts, generally very few of them will weigh exactly the same weight, will have exactly the same butt diameter, will have exactly the same tip diameter or the same torque, or flex point. They all have a hard side and a soft side, a thick side and a thin side, a flat side and a round side. They all have asymmetries which are just a quirk of manufacturing. When I first started, the manufacturers said, "Our shafts are perfectly round or straight. No matter how you put them into a club head, they’re going to perform the same." Well, it’s just not true. What we do at SST is we analyze the irregularities in a shaft and based on various algorithms, various mathematic formulas, determine which is most asymmetric. Which is the one that’s causing the shaft to bend and twist out of line at impact and also in the first load – the transition between backswing and downswing, there’s a lot of movement in there also. What we do is identify that and mark it so it can be assembled into the club head. The reason you need it is – there’s not a company out there today that will deny this, no matter who you ask – is that no two golf shafts ever made are EXACTLY the same. Because of that, they’re like snowflakes or finger prints. You can’t just send them down the line and have a name stamped on them. If you just put a name on it, it just get stamped on a random position, what has anybody done to analyze how that golf shaft was made? In the case of graphite or any type of composite material – boron, thermoplastics, and so on as well as graphite. When those shafts are heated, when they cure, they don’t actually cook the same way so to speak. There can be bubbles, there can be air bubbles in them, the epoxy the resin can be a little thicker or thinner in certain areas. So there are irregularities that can exist in the shaft. What we want to do is identify them. What SST feels is we do a benefit for the shaft manufacturer because when the shaft is PUREd, that particular shaft is going to perform as well as it possibly can. Whether that’s the right shaft for the player – that’s not my job. Now our licensees are all club fitters, but that’s not what we do. Our job isn’t to tell you if it’s too stiff or too weak. All we do is PURE align shafts and assemble clubs. Do I have opinions? Sure, I worked on Tour the first five years, I built clubs along with one other gentleman, Jimmy Whelan but I probably built 98% of them. Sure a lot of clubs came in where I thought the player should use something different, but that’s not my position. My position is to be the tour van’s tour van because we work with everybody. To answer your question, it’s necessary because no two shafts are the same. It’s necessary because when any player that goes to your website who’s active, if you ask them if they’ve ever borrowed a club from a friend and loved it and then purchased a seemingly identical one and it didn’t perform the same – what did they think the reason was? If it had the same swing weight, the same head weight, the same loft, the same bulge and roll, the same grip on it, so on and so forth. The thing that’s different on it is how the shaft is put into the club head. Randomly, we’ve all at one time or another had clubs where the shaft was put into the PURE position, it just ended up that way. There’s going to be X amount of them in any box, it’s a random assembly. So shafts have to be analyzed before they’re put in. It’s a technological development. It’s come about because we have computers today to do this. We don’t do it by eyeball. The computer doesn’t care who’s going to play it, what level of skill they have, what the material composition is of a shaft, who made it, what kind of ball you’re going to hit. That’s not what we do. What we are saying is we want to analyze a shaft to get it to perform to the best of its ability. You can take a shaft based upon irregularities in it – because shafts are not round or straight. If you take any shaft and roll it on a table like a pool cue, you’ll see 90% of the time they’ll bounce along because they’re not round. There’s high points and low points, thicker and thinner areas. All we want to do is locate that and say, "Let’s make it work as an asset, let’s make it work as a support for a shaft so they don’t torque out or twist out at impact. Let’s take a shaft out that was randomly assembled from the factory that happens to be set up in a hook position." I said to the USGA , "How do you feel it is fair, gentlemen, that a person that hooks or slices by nature, who randomly buy a club that happens to have the shaft installed in a way that hooks or slices and it manifests that problem even worse. You’re telling me, I can’t take that shaft out, rotate it, and put it back in? I don’t want to do anything else. I can save the grip. All I want to do is take the shaft out of the club head or a new shaft, PURE it and put it back in. I don’t want to do anything else to the shaft. Then you say, ‘Well if we approve it we don’t want you to advertise it.’ What do you mean I can’t advertise it?" I’m not going to come out and say this company is better than that company. Every company has its own idiosyncrasies in the mandrels which are the molds. Pretty much now after looking at over a million shafts, and I look at every print out, at one time or another, they all get to me. I can pretty much tell you what shaft it is without knowing the name of it. There’s something about them and we can tell the difference between a Rifle, a Rifle Lite, a Rifle Tour Flighted. We can tell the difference – it’s not we. I don’t mean that, it’s my machine. It can tell the difference if there is a Cushin insert from Ping in the shaft, Sensicore gives you a totally different design than if you just took a Dynamic Gold Shaft. Because the machine can measure the vibrations of the shaft inside it. That’s the reason shaft alignments are necessary. How does it affect performance? Well we just published yesterday and it’s on our website the first of what will be a series of test results we did with Gene Parente of the Independent Testing Lab in San Diego back in November. Gene said, "The results were compelling." He’s tested every club and every shaft and grip and ball over the years. He never believed that the mere alignment of the shaft, testing that first, taking the club apart and then PUREing it, that club could be that much more uniform and consistent club to club within a set and set to set within a brand. I’m adding that last sentence there. What we did find out is the ball goes longer, the ball spins differently PUREd and not PUREd. The rate of dispersion or deflection is straighter. What you can’t measure on a machine is that the shot also feels softer. The reason is, we believe is the asymmetry, the irregularity absorbs the shock at impact. There’s no reason to have to have Sensicore or any other insert in it is what our players have told us who we’ve done PUREing for.
GolfWRX: Now how does shaft alignment differ between steel and graphite shafts? I know you touched on this a little bit earlier, but theirBA constructed in pretty different ways. How does that lead to a difference?
Dick Weiss: Funny, I’m going to talk about that Friday night at a dinner we’re having, so I just went through all our print outs. Right now, on the PGA Tour, we’re PUREing steel 5:1 over graphite. On our licensees, we’re puring almost 6:1 graphite over steel. I can answer your question pretty easily because I have an intimate knowledge of it. Let’s start with the steel. Steel shafts, there are no extruded shafts any more. We used to have the Apollo shaft, which is a solid piece of steel or aluminum and then you pull it out or drew it out. It didn’t have a specific seam in it, but it certainly had a lot of irregularities. Steel needs it because, as the engineers explain it to me – and again I’m not an engineer so I can put it in layman’s term – when you take a piece of carbon steel and wrap it around the mold, the mandrel and then you heat it again so the sides blend together. If you can imagine the spot where the weld line would be, let’s just say it’s a straight line for a second. If you can imagine that being very hot, what happens is when it cools going to left side it cools and going to the right it stays hot three quarters of the way around the shaft, what the engineers tell me is that you end up with a different crystalline structure in the steel. It is either stronger or weaker in parts and it’s harder or softer in parts. So you can take a steel shaft, and I have equipment to do this, and you can put it in one particular orientation and it might be a lady’s regular and you can rotate it particularly to orient its straightness and you might end up with a men’s stiff out of it. Randomly, in the case of True Temper since they’re the largest manufacturer of shafts in the world, they stamp the name True Temper on it. In the factory they tell the assembler to put the TT or where it says True Temper on the top. They may have one shaft that has a soft flex in it and a seemingly identical one that has a harder flex in it just because they don’t have the same properties all the way around their circumference. When you get into graphite and other composite materials as I said earlier, composite materials we either have flag wrapped or filament wound. Filament wound, if you can imagine a single rod attached at both ends and open in the middle with one piece of thread or several pieces of thread coming into it at different angles, but single pieces of graphite thread. As you spin that mandrel, the graphite wraps itself and everyone says these shafts are more uniform and consistent than anything else. They may be, but they’re still not perfectly round or straight. The other way is flag wrapping where you cut pieces of pre-pregnated graphite cloth at various angles, thirty degrees, forty-five degrees, and you do what’s called a lay-up. It would be like if you take a pencil and went to the corner of a piece of paper where the triangle is and you put your pencil in there and you started wrapping the corner over and over, you get what’s called overlays or overlaps. So there are different thicknesses there. In a graphite shaft, after a shaft is made, there is a process called centerless grinding. What happens is the shaft is sanded down so the outside is uniform because it’s not always exactly round. When you do that the side that gets cut off is thinner. If you look at graphite material shafts at the tip end, it’s very rare that you won’t find a big variation in where the hole is compared to the thick side and thin side. You’ll actually be able to see a thicker side and a thinner side. If you think about it, one side got thinner because they shaved more off of it in the centerless grinding process. The other side didn’t need as much shaved off, so it’s basically how it was built. You’ve got to think, if you put the thick side in the hit direction of a golf club it couldn’t possibly perform the same as the thin side in the hit direction. So those are the two. Everybody told me when we started, “Dick, you need two things in golf to be successful. You need visible technology and you need tour proven results.” So our visible technology is’t a bubble, or a shaft like one from UST painted mustard yellow. Our visible technology is a print out we patented that exhibits how the shaft orbits or moves prior to PUREing and then how it moves after PUREing. So the customer can get an idea from a graph standpoint. We’re just actually changing our graphs, we’re upgrading them to make them even easier to read. So, both steel and graphite it’s necessary to align them. I have a quote from Howard Butler, who used to be Vice-President of R&D at True Temper. He did some consulting work with us. I asked him, “Butler, what are the chances of someone walking into a pro shop, buying a set of clubs off the rack that were perfectly aligned?” He said, “The odds of hitting a hole in one are one in 13,600. The odds of buying a set of clubs off the rack that happened to be assembled in the PURE position is one in two hundred quintillion.” That’s a two with twenty zeros. He went on to say, “you’re more likely to play a round with six holes in one than you are to get a set of PUREd clubs off the rack.” So that’s what we’re talking about. I hope that answers your question.
GolfWRX: That definitely does. Now there are a lot of forms of spine alignment that running around these days. How does SST PURE’s form of spine alignment differ from the others?
Dick Weiss: First of all, we are totally computer generated. There is no human input at all into the decision of what the PURE position is. We don’t just test one area, there are devices you can put a shaft in and pull down, and if the shaft is out of round it will spring to a position – that is a roundness test. There are other things – if you have a shaft that’s bent and not exactly straight you can put it in various devices and it will pop to another area – that’s straightness. So that’s one of our other tests, it’s not just a single test. Generally when you hear the word “spinningBA” which is just a generic term for shaft irregularity. By the way, the word, “spine phenomenaBA” came from the USGA. In 1990, when Mr. Colbert first filed his patent, Colbert got his patent in September of 1990. In November of 1990, the USGA came out with a letter to manufacturers of clubs and shafts. This is what it said, “Shafts are made to posses a spine of significant consequence as to make a difference in club performance.” It goes on to say, “The USGA decreed that: ‘if there is a need to identify a location of a spine in a shaft, it is of sufficient consequence to violate Rule 4-1b.’” The USGA was saying, and I don’t have the rest of the quote in front of me, to urge manufacturers to limit this “spine phenomenon.” So that’s really where the word started, spining and so on. My meeting was February 3, 1999. We were informed February 5, 1999 that I was granted the relief I sought. On February 7, 1999, the USGA wrote a letter to all manufacturers of clubs and shafts and it said, “Shaft manufacturers have not yet been able to assure us they can maintain tolerances which greatly minimize or eliminate asymmetries in twisting and bending. The committee has therefore concluded that the process of orienting a shaft with the intent of causing it to perform as if it were symmetrical would not be inconsistent with Rule 4-1b.” They went on to say that, “A club that was assembled by you (Mr. Weiss) or by your licensees in accordance with those provisions of your patent which refer to the neutralization of shaft irregularities due to tolerances in manufacturing would conform with Rule 4-1b. In other words, orienting a shaft with the intent of causing it to perform as closely as possible to a shaft with perfectly symmetrical twisting and bending properties would not be a variance with the rule.” Here the USGA is saying shafts aren’t made perfectly round or straight. We’re urging shaft manufactures to do the best they can to make these shafts as symmetric as possible – round, straight, as close as possible cpms their strength around their circumference. And it’s not happening. So if you take each of these other devices, so what most club makers do is they take a shaft and put it in a clamp, a frequency clamp and they’ll pull a shaft back and let it go. That’s called exciting or deflecting a shaft. When you do that the shaft makes a movement like a figure eight. We call it orbiting or circling. If you keep rotating the shaft, you’ll find the place where the shaft to the eyeball looks like it’s going back and forth in a straight line. They call that spining. Well, let me ask you a few questions. We know for a fact that every shaft we’ve analyzed at SST since the day we started, and I’ll testify to this in any court to back it up, has between two and nine planes that to the eye ball go back and forth in a straight line. And none of them are 180 degrees from one another. Therefore, every shaft we’ve tested has between four and eighteen spots which to the eyeball give this what club maker’s call FLO or Flat Line Oscillation. Well, if that’s true, and this was part of my development process because I found out there are lots of areas where this happens, my simple question is this: What is the difference among all of them? They can’t possibly be the same? So that’s what SST is about. We want to measure all these – in fact our new print out, my new print out shows in a picture every plane that is a flat line oscillation and out of that group, which is the principle planar oscillation plane. It’s so easy to graph that there’s no way people can deny it. So there’s no guesswork. We know always if we want the harder side of the plane forward it will be there. If we want the softer side of the plane forward, it will be there. There’s just no way to give it uniformity and consistency a by using your eyeball or b by using any other type of equipment that’s out there. I have some patents on some other pieces of equipment that’s inferior now. They were better than anything that was out there, but they’re inferior to our current equipment. Listen, I own Colbert, when I own Colbert I can say, “I don’t care how you align them. It doesn’t make any difference to me, if it was PUREd, or not PUREd. If you’re going to go in and align them and assemble them, I own the patent.” In theory I could go after each one of you. But that’s not what I’m here to do. The little club maker is of no consequence to SST. The little club maker bothers us because we think the little club maker is entitled to make some money for his work but for some reason they won’t charge it. So they hurt to some extent the professional club maker by putting grips on for free or picking up shafts and not charging their friends what they cost just to look good for the local guy. I can totally understand that because before I opened up my first shop, I did all that type of work also. What SST is looking at is we want a full time professional club maker in business for five years, with a store front location, he or she is the dominant club maker in their area, they do pickup and delivery, they’re known as the best club maker there, and they charge for their work. We’ve got a lot of money in equipment. We use eight or ten accelerometers with each kit and the lowest we can buy each accelerometer for is $410. So it’s not inexpensive to do this. In order to have equipment to analyze this and do it the right way you have to go out and be able to make a financial commitment in order to do the work. Other than that, what everybody else is doing is at best they’re guessing. Listen, if I could do it with a PVC piece of pipe that costs $40, I could do it, I’ve goBA the patents. I’d be happy to do that. We are working on the new equipment – it will be faster. The construction has gone up cost-wise but we’re working on that. But we’re never going to license thousands of club makers. That’s not where SST is coming from. We want the guy or girl who says, “I do every type of analysis I can. I look at launch angles, spin rates, club head speed, so on. Now I want to be able to do the same with the equipment I put together and I’ll charge an ordinate fee to do that because I realize it’s not just something I can buy a shaft, a ferrule, and a head glue them together and throw a grip on.” It’s a little bit more than that. That’s really the difference among all of them.
GolfWRX: I’m going to skip around here and go to one of the later questions. I know you said there were certain qualifications a club maker had to have – a store front, being in business five years, etc. What sort of training do your retailers go through to be SST PURE licensed?
Dick Weiss: I’ll start from the back end. That is we’ve had four licensees we’ve terminated in the past six months because they didn’t live up to our criteria. First of all, by having the tour van, we have each of our licensees come and work on the tour van with us. This is after we’ve already approved them. That is a tremendous training tool for them. Prior to doing the installation after accepting them as an applicant, the installer goes through with the club maker and reviews their skills. Our contract states that in order to be an SST licensee, they must be a Class A Club Maker from the Professional Clubmaker’s Society, an Advanced Clubmaker from the GCA, a graduate of the Maltby School Golf Works with their Master’s Degree in Clubmaking, something that shows they’ve done that type of work. Then when we get out there, we look at are they able to take apart a through bore and put that back on. Part of our licensing package – I went ahead and patented that extractor by the way that I told you about a little while ago. Every licensee has it. In fact, Bob Dodds, who was the technical director of the Professional Clubmaker’s Society gave me a quite last year. He said it’s the best tool he’s ever had. We’ll never make money on it. It costs us almost a thousand dollars to have made and that’s exactly what we sell it for. Most of the OEM’s have it and I’m really proud it’s out there and people can use it. It will take a steel shaft and head apart in a matter of seconds and it doesn’t take too much time to do graphite whether it is a through bore or a normally seated head. From a qualification standpoint, if they are a PCS member, I check with other licensees to see if they know any of the people to start with. Then we look up to see if they’ve met any designations to see if they’ve been honored for the skills they have. I spend a lot of time on the phone with them. I always ask everybody, “How much do you charge on a Full Cord Tour Wrap? How much do you charge on a Winn grip? How much do you charge for a loft and lie change? Do you grind clubs, sole contouring, how much is it? How much is it to install a shaft? How much is it to remove a broken in the hosel shaft? What type of epoxy do you use? What insurance company are you insured with?” We ask them on the application do they pay their taxes – we want to make sure they’re honest businessmen. From a club making stand point, at that point it’s up to reputation. When Jimmy Waylon BAour Principle Installer goes out and does the installation, then he looks at what they have now. Maybe forty to fifty percent of our licensees I’ll send clubs to so they can remove the shaft that’s in there, assemble it with the shaft in the PUREd position, and sent it right back to me overnight. Then I can judge their skills. It’s interesting some of the stuff we’ve seen. Now we know that we work down as we get closer to 100; we actually have a new program this year where we have a leasing program to finance the start up cost, that we will have to spend some more time with some of our licensees who certainly qualify as being the best club maker in their area and financially they qualify for it, but maybe they don’t finish things exactly the way we want to do it. We’re going to provide training for that either in groups or we’ll send somebody out there. We do have a club maker who does solid work for Golfsmith who is available to go around and discuss things in specifics. But once we get them in the tour van we go through everything. They also get to work on clubs under the pressure of the tour. Obviously we look at everything that goes out because you only live on that one club – you can’t live on your laurels in the business we’re in. So we don’t want the ferrule to move, we don’t want the grip to move. If it’s a through bore we want to make sure the bottoms are finished properly – there’s no scarring or marks on it, there’s no extra epoxy, there’s no overlap of grip tape. There are just a lot of things we go through. So that’s our qualification. When we go back, we go back and see each licensee every X amount of time. When the tour van is in town where a licensee is we go to their shop and check their equipment. We recalibrate it, although they calibrate it themselves. We go in and check on it and whoever goes in and does the checking, we’ll have them do a couple of clubs for them. Because as we get new models of clubs, there’s maybe some hint we picked up on Tour and so on. How to do this, how to work with that ferrule and so on. We’ve lessened up a little on the five years. The criteria now has been five years of professional club making as your principle source of income. We’re finding that as a lot of young people are entering this business, who’ve had some club making experience working for somebody else but they don’t have the five years, we have made exceptions. But we watch them pretty closely. Our agreement also states that from time to time, they will send clubs to me they’ve PUREd and for us to check and we will return them to them the next day.
GolfWRX: Can you give us a brief overview of exactly what goes on in the SST PUREing process?
Dick Weiss: Sure. In the PUREing process, there’s approximately fifty-six steps you have to take assuming you do what we call a retro-PURE. There’s two ways to PURE. One is if you take a brand new head, a brand new shaft, PURE the shaft and assemble it into a head – that’s a brand new club. The second way would be what we call a retro-PURE. One is we take apart an existing club, keep the shaft, take the grip off, peel the tape off underneath the grip. We use our Weiss-Gibson Ultimate Extractor, we cut the ferrule off. We remove the shaft. We drill out the old epoxy in the head and acetone the head down. We then drill out any old epoxy that may be in the tip of the club. We turn down and clean the outside tip of the club if there’s any epoxy or residue from the epoxy itself where the ferrule may have been. We then go ahead and PURE the shaft. We come back and fit a ferrule, reassemble the club. We use a fast dry epoxy with shafting beads in it. It’s expensive to do that way, but we’ve never had a head come off. In fact, Gene Parente who did testing at Independent Testing Labs in San Diego two months ago said he had just done two large OEM’s and the heads and spun off when he got up to certain speeds and one inch off center. We were using a five minute fast dry epoxy that’s ready to play in ten minutes and we didn’t have any of that happen. I like fast dry epoxy and on tour it’s something we would have to use anyways. We epoxy the head back on. After it’s tried we come in and turn the ferrule back down. Today it’s about fifty-fifty. It’s interesting, about fifty percent of players want their ferrules acetoned or shiny and fifty percent want to them dull now. It seems the trend towards dull is increasing. The shaft is cleaned down again. The ferrule is turned down and whatever coating they want on it is done. We put the tape on and after the grip is installed we put the SST PURE label and we attach with a rubber band the SST printout.
GolfWRX: About how long does the process take from start to finish?
Dick Weiss: One club? It takes about . . . it depends on how fast you can get them apart. Assuming it takes you five minutes to take the club apart, and two minutes to PURE it from beginning to end, the process of assembling it and letting it dry it’s probably an hour assuming you don’t do it one by one. I did a set for Raymond Floyd a couple of years ago alone that took me seven and a half hours. In the tour van a busy week for us would be over 350 clubs. That’s a huge amount. A regular week would be 80-100. I think if you check with the regular tour van they do about forty to fifty. We do a lot of work. Dealing in multiple sets, doing two or three at the same time, there’s always something happening. So it’s a couple of hours and then they’re all done at the same time.
GolfWRX: Can you tell us what sort of effect shaft trimming and club head weights have on the shaft PUREing process once the golf club is fully assembled?
Dick Weiss: Let’s talk about shaft trimming. In a world of perfect things, SST would like to cut every shaft to exact length whether it is tipped, butt, or both. Even on tour we don’t have that luxury. We spend a lot of time testing shafts. In steel we see very little movement. Unless someone is going to tip a steel shaft about two inches and butt it about three inches. In that case they don’t even have the same shaft. They should have bought a smaller shaft to start with. But for normal tipping and butting of an inch or two with steel we haven’t seen any change. We’re constantly checking it with Golfsmith. Golfsmith’s our largest licensee. Hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of thousands of PUREs we’ve put out working with those guys. Now in graphite, that’s another story. Let me go back to steel for a second. On tour we do a lot of backup sets. If we can get them cut within a couple of inches of playing length, from whatever end they’re going to cut off, we would rather do that. But a lot of times we’ll just get raw set although they just be three iron, pitching, or lob wedge, or whatever. That’s how we PURE them. We look at the printouts and we see what the deviations are on them and we haven’t seen a tremendous amount of change. If we did, we would never license Golfsmith to put out shafts at full length. They’re offering a service today, I think is $3 extra where any customer of Golfsmith’s, because Golfsmith is the only club maker that can sell a PUREd shaft raw to a user or a custom club maker. Our licensees can’t do that. Our licensees can only install a shaft into a brand new club or take an old head and keep the current shaft in it, or take an old head and put a brand new shaft in it. But they can’t sell a brand new shaft for the public to install. Now we get into graphite. If a shaft is tipped two or three inches and butted two or three or four inches when they bought a forty-seven inch when they could have bought a forty – there is a possibility that the PUREd position is going to move. The reason it may not move is when you have an overlap or an overlay – you know that example I gave where you take a pencil and wrap it over and over and over? Usually with a low torque, 3.2 degrees or 2.8, even down into the 1’s, 1.8, 1.7, 1.5. That tip cost more than the rest of the shaft to make because there’s more fibers down there. It’s possible that if you have thin tips you could possibly cut through that overlay down in the tip. If you do that could change the property of the shaft. What we’ve been doing is take X amount of shafts from Golfsmith periodically as they come out and we’ll PURE them and then we’ll cut them down. We’re not seeing – if somebody has a driver shaft, just now they’re coming out with hybrid shafts and you can buy shafts for three woods specifically instead of buying a blank that’s forty-six or forty-seven inches long and cutting it down so much. What we’ll do is PURE it in the length it came into us. Although any shaft that has a chip in the butt, that chip has to be cut off before we can put it in the PUREing machine or else those vibrations will be picked up by the machine. Anyways we’ll PURE it and cut it, maybe we’ll butt it first and test it. Then we’ll tip it and inch or an inch and a quarter and test it. We have not come across any where we’ve had to go back to Golfsmith and say we don’t think you should sell this, if a customer comes to you on the phone that they’re going to cut this amount off it. I tell everybody, I don’t have the luxury on tour with the best players in the world to do it. We would never put our reputation on the line. But is it possible that it could move? The answer is absolutely yes it is possible. Have we seen it move? No. Could I make it move? Yes, if I keep cutting enough of the shaft off so the shaft that I ended up with is not the same shaft the purpose was made for. If you’re going to take a driver shaft and cut it down to – or if you were going to take a three iron shaft and cut it down to a wedge, obviously you could have bought a shorter blank to start with. So I think you might be looking for trouble. But in their current length, shafts used for their intended purposes, we haven’t seen it. But to take be able to answer it 100% honestly, I’m telling you, you want to have it as close to playing length as possible or buy a shaft you now you’re not going to have to cut too much. We’re always on it because it’s a valid question. We’re really concerned about it. But we haven’t seen it unless too much is cut off. That doesn’t mean that it will.
GolfWRX: Now about club head weight?
Dick Weiss: Okay, there’s a wonderful gentleman named Paul Johnson who, until five or six years ago was head of shaft development for Fenwick Shafts up in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Dr. Johnson had a patent a thing called modality synchronization. What Paul did is he took a club head, put it on a shaft and then he vibrated it under a strobe light. He tried to match the movements of the head along with the movements of the shafts. When we went ahead and PUREd those shafts after we had purchased them after the modality synchronization had taken place, we found there was no consistency at all in where the shafts were. Our answer is, because we test the shafts with a 204 gram weight which is the weight of most of your drivers – is that we can only make the shaft perform to the best of its manufactured ability. If you try to align the shaft with the club head, then you’ve taken away from the shaft’s ability to perform optimally. All we’re concerned about is the shaft’s ability to work down the line in a lead-lag position as stable as possible. We know that when you stabilize lead-lag, which is the hit position, that we’re also as an incident to that, going to stabilize toe up toe down movement. Anybody that I ever talk to in the industry, and I literally interviewed hundreds of people out here, is that the industry only studied toe up toe down oscillation, vertical deviation, vertical deflection, droop is another word – that’s what they studied. When you swing a golf club, centrifugal force pulls the club head to the ground. The average tour player, as studied by True Temper in the early 1990’s, I think it was about four thousand players world wide they studied, had about two inches of vertical deviation just prior to impact with a driver. That means for the best players in the world, as they came down at the ball impact, gravity pulled that club head down and actually bows down. So the industry always studied this toe up toe down movement. When I studied, i said to the engineers, "Wait a minute, I don’t hit it in a toe up toe down plane, I hit it in a lead-lag plane. If I could show you a way to stabilize lead-lag, and as an incident of that, minimize toe up toe down movement what would you say?" They said, "You can’t do that." I said, "Why can’t I do it?" They said, "We don’t have a protocol to do that." I said, "I don’t know what protocol means." They said, "If you can’t prove it on a computer it doesn’t exist." I said, "You mean to tell me that every single thing that happens in a golf club has been proven on a computer?" "No we didn’t say that, but we’re telling you we have to be able to prove it or it won’t make sense in our minds." As I’ve hired various consultants over the years, and they’ve all said, "If I can prove you’re wrong I want to be able to publish it." I said, "That’s fine, if you can prove we’re wrong, that’s fine. That’s a hell of a way to enter into a contract with SST. But I’ll tell you what, when I prove we’re right, I’m not asking you to endorse it but I want you to write a paper or an article explaining why it is it works." Their greatest fear, the consultants, is if they got on the bandwagon of what it is we do, that they may be antagonistic to the industry who wants you to believe that every shaft is the same when it bends and twists the same every time when rotated around its longitudinal axis – which is impossible. So we’ve had to do outside of the golf industry. We’ve had consultants from Sikorski helicopter, and I’ve said to them, “All SST does is analyze the properties of a cylindrical tube that is fixed at one end. It can be a rotor blade, it can be a pool cue, it can be an archery arrow, it can be an aluminum seam baseball bat, it can be a fishing rod, it can be construction materials, all of which I’m patented for.” Golf by the way is our smallest business. This year as we enter fishing, archery, and pool cues we will see a tremendous increase in what SST is doing. We’ve adjusted our machines to do each of these, but the patents are already issued. All of this is available at our website and you can pull up Parente’s study. One of the thing’sBA they’ll see with this study, and I’ve said it all along and I knew it from other testing, but I had to have Parente do it. When you PURE a wedge, what we’re finding out is the wedges spin at least ten percent more than a non-PUREd wedge. That’s on the first page of our study where they’ll see that. When we hit wedges brand new and then pulled them out and PUREd them, if they were spinning at 8900 rpm’s they were spinning at 9800 or 9900 rpm’s. Everybody’s always been able to spin a wedge better after PUREing and the reason is the club head doesn’t lag as much. The shaft and the head are more together so you are able to impart more energy. They say the only way you can hit it longer is to have greater speed and velocity at impact. That may be true from an engineering term, but it’s the efficiency of how that speed is generated. If you have a punching bag and you wound up and threw a fist and you got clocked at 110 mph just as you were reaching the bag you wouldn’t have too much energy as you hit the bag. But if you took Tai Chi or karate and you stood right in front of a punching bag and you just popped your arm out and it measured at 110 mph, that thing is accelerating through at impact even though once we have impact we decelerate because we’re hitting a stationary object. But we’re transferring energy from the club to the ball. The results were fantastic. We also tested the hard side of the PURE plane against the soft side of the PURE plane. We tested PUREd against random assemblies. We tested PUREd against FLO which doesn’t surprise us at all, the differences are huge as far as distance, spin rate, and accuracy.
GolfWRX: Each week we get questions about orientation of the shaft and exactly what position it should be placed in for best performance. Some people say twelve o’clock, others say three, some people say nine. What’s your opinion on all this?
Dick Weiss: Okay, well let’s define it first of all. If you’re a right handed golfer, the top of the shaft is twelve o’clock, the hit direction would be nine o’clock, facing your shoes is six o’clock and the rear would be three. We know in PUREing if we PURE something for a left hander, whether it be Mike Weir, Russ Cochran, Steve Flesch, any of the lefties that may be out there, we flip it 180 degrees because we want them to have the same hard plane in the hit direction. SST marks a shaft for installation at twelve o’clock. But that’s not where the PURE plane is. The PURE plane is in the nine o’clock, three o’clock direction. But we mark it at twelve because it’s easier to install it in the twelve o’clock, six o’clock position than in the lead-lag position. In theory, what happens is the computer finds the PURE position and either adds or subtracts ninety degrees so the mark comes out on top. So we say the most stable plane is the hardest point. What we look for is the most stable plane closest to the hardest point of the shaft in the hit direction. In the testing, as I said the Parente testing in the independent labs, what we did is we also took the softer part of the plane, not the softest part of the shaft or hardest part of the shaft. Once we got the PURE plane, we tested it in what we call the hard side forward and then we flipped it 180 degrees in the soft side forward and the results were different. That’s why if you FLO a shaft, how do you know if you have the hard side forward or the soft side forward? Even if you were lucky enough to find the PURE plane, how would you determine those things? So it has to be by computer. We’re not in an age where people can do things by their eyeball. So I think we’ll see a lot of improvements to our equipment. We’re not changing our formulas at all. We’re sprucing up the equipment so that – what I’m trying to do is make the equipment dummy proof. We find that as we license the PGA Superstores and the Golfsmiths and the Nevada Bob’s and the Edwin Watts and so on, the people who work in those shops don’t have a lot of time to learn something new, or if they get busy they’re really crunched. So we’re putting motors on our chucks so all the operator has to do is put the shaft into the chuck and it will PURE it and mark it itself and also color code it. So when you’re finished, you swipe a bar code, you get the print out to get the bar code to give to the customer. If I really, really work fast, I can do thirty shafts and hour. For the average licensee, they’re probably doing between seventeen and twenty-one shafts an hour. With the new equipment, one person will be able to do 150 shafts an hour. We will have our first introduction March 1 right now for a new licensee who is adding six machines. What we want to do is take the fear away for those who aren’t computer literate. All you have to do is put the shaft in and punch a button. Forget about anything else. The machine will do everything else. One of the things it’s going to do is show the shaft’s cpms in all 360 degrees. You can buy a shaft today, let’s say it’s a Rifle shaft because they say they have the tightest tolerances for steel. If Rifle says this 38 inch blank has a 2 cpm variation, what do you mean? It’s 310 cpms, that’s what we’re aiming for. So I say, it can vary 2 cpms. So 310, can that mean 312? Yeah. So 310, can that mean 308? Yeah. Wait a minute, that’s four cpms. So we don’t even see them within the four cpm tolerance. So with the new print out, it makes a donut. It will show 310 cpms, it will show that with a line and as it goes to 315, 320 cpms, it shows that with another color. If it goes down to 305, 302 cpms, it goes inside the circle with a different color. So you’ll be able to track – not because SST is trying to knock the shaft manufacturers. These guys keep us in business – just because we want the customers to know. When you buy a mattress you can’t see the springs inside of it. When we do PUREing you can’t see it either. We want the customer to have a picture straight off the computer that says this is the property of this shaft. If it goes in this way, this is how stiff it is. If it goes in this way this is how stiff or weak it is. It’s really interesting, so I’m anxious to have that come out. We’ll be switching some of the numbers that come on our printouts. But the formula is the same. We haven’t had to change it since day one. And the machines have held up. We’ve had several machines that have done hundreds of thousands of shafts with very little if any repair at all. We were told when we first built them they would be robust. I didn’t know what the meant, but these really were great. So we’re excited about our future. This will be a very productive year for SST licensees. Don’t forget we’re a brand new category of retail. This is an area no one has made money with before. We have so many SST licensees who maybe averaged 50-70 shafts a month before they started PUREing now they do 200-300. We have a handful of licensees who do thousands of shafts a month. We had our first licensee make a million dollars on PUREing last year, an individual with two machines. We have a lot of licensees that are making several hundred thousand dollars a year, more than they were ever making regular nine to five jobs. It spins around the PUREing. From my standpoint, I’m really proud of that because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be paid for our work. Obviously the price of PUREing will come down in the future. As I can get more machines made, more machines out, and develop new sources for materials, then the price will come down. I’d love for it to cost pennies. It’s great that we have the best players in the world playing PUREd clubs, as we have on tour. Probably ninety percent of the tour, but when the worst players in the world are playing PUREd clubs, then I think I will have been successful in this undertaking.
GolfWRX: That’s the perfect segue into my next question which is how exactly does SST PUREing benefit higher handicaps?
Dick Weiss: What we’re concerned about is repeatability on the clubface. I just made a club yesterday for an eighty-five year old player. He didn’t ask me to do it. I just met him at a cocktail party at Christmas. I know he’s going to have the time of his life. He plays four days a week between seven and nine holes. He says, “I don’t need new equipment.” I said, “Yes sir, you do.” How it helps him is what we’re concerned about is repeatability to dead center club head hits. Repeatability studies we did with Golf Science Consultants and Howard Butler – we had them on the website a couple of years. Then we took them off because even though they were copyrighted people were using them on their websites and that’s not the purpose of our work, for others to take something out of context. That’s not what we wanted so we took it off. We saw improvement up to 40% on dead center club head hits only PUREing the shaft. Where they just thought we changed the grip. What we did is we had thirty players hit thirty balls each with three different clubs, PUREd and unPUREd. From there we moved on to mechanics. We just did a lot of testing by the way, we tested 75, 85, 95, 105, 120, and then faster than 120 miles per hour. We tested dead center club head hits, 3/8 inch off center heel and toe, 3/4 inch off center heel and toe, and one inch off center heel and toe. Let me tell you what, the old guy or lady who says, "I don’t hit it far, but I never miss a fairway." I can see why. There’s a reason to that which the tests certainly show us. I also learned for myself since I swing at 105 miles per hour exactly where I should miss it on the club head and still keep it in play. To come back to what you said, the high handicapper is going to hit it longer and they’re going to hit it straighter. Now maybe the lady hits it 90 yards today and she hits it 110. Maybe the man has a big stomach and he was blocking it out and it was going 35 yards right and now it’s only going 12 yards right. The reason is the head is more stable on the shaft in off center hits. Even though we have the gear effect today, and by the way the gear effect tested fantastically with the hundreds and hundreds of shots we hit. It’s amazing how the gear effect does work with the new clubs today at 460cc’s. The average golfer, assuming they don’t whiff the ball totally, is going to be more likely to hit the ball closer to the center of the club which is the ideal position that we want to see them hit it. The reason is even though they may come from the inside, or outside, or over the top, or whatever it may be, if they’re making contact that club head is going to be held more stable by the PUREing of the shaft than it would be if it was randomly assembled.
GolfWRX: Now I know you guys have started working with some shaft manufacturers like UST as you mentioned before. Do you have any plans to expand that to other shaft manufactures?
Dick Weiss: That’s a good question. The OEMs tell us, "We don’t make shafts. We buy shafts from shaft manufacturers. So don’t come to us. Go to the shaft manufacturers, they build what we tell them. If they want to PURE, that’s something they would do. That’s not what we would do." To answer your question, I think we’re going to have more OEMs come forward and start to offer – well, we’ve got one you’ll hear about in a press release the next few days which we’re very proud of. We have several press releases this week which is really great stuff for SST. Coming into our 11th year, it’s happened overnight. But I like to think we’re still a start up company because the technology was so different until people started to realize shafts are not exactly the same. They are not exactly round or straight, and I know my club will perform better if I can get it assembled properly whether it’s in the factory or not. To answer your question, I don’t think the shaft companies are going to come forward. I think as one shaft company told us this, "We’re really happy with the profit we make. If there’s a value added profit to be made, it’s fine if it’s Golfsmith or your licensees." Well, maybe that was fine when we did a million dollars worth of business. Maybe it was fine when we were doing five hundred thousand dollars worth of business. But as we’re doing millions of dollars worth of business, I think we’re starting to become a blip on the radar so to speak. We tell people, "If you’re not hitting the club longer and straighter, bring the club back, we’ll take it apart, put it back in its logo up or logo down position and we’ll give you your money back." Now I’m 62 years old. I’d have to be crazy to make a blanket statement like that. Golfsmith offers a guarantee that if it’s not more stable, more uniform, and as consistent as before they bought a PUREd club, return it at Golfsmith’s expense and they’ll refund the money. We’ve had people, no more than a handful call and say "I want to get my money back." They say, "Fine, send the club back and we’ll put it back in it’s original position." They say, "No, I don’t want to move it." Actually we’ve never had one come back in. I talk to most of the manufactures. One of the fears is – I don’t think it’s valid but I understand it – is that it makes every other shaft they have that’s not PUREd look inferior. All technology does that, anything we’ve had in the past. One of the neat things about dealing with UST is UST hired a marketing company to see what the effect would be depending on how well we did with them. Gene Simpson who handled that program, head of sales there, is just a wonderful human being. He’s one of the founders of UST and he came from True Temper. Gene hired a marketing company. What they were retained to do is find out if it is possible for a small company like SST with it’sBA technology could overcome the notoriety UST had for their particular shaft. Although it is possible, it wasn’t likely because they’re so much larger. But I understand that. If you take five or six of the big shaft companies and throw them out of play, most of the big shaft companies are only making hundreds of thousands of pieces a year. They’re not making millions. So we are larger than they are, and I think that’s what the fear is – that we might dominate them. Be that as it may, we’re finally getting the OEMs to pay attention. The first step will probably be doing upgrades, offering SST PURE as an upgrade. Based on the response we get from that we would move onto a line. We think we have one coming on October, from a major OEM, an upscale line they’re coming out with at the end of the year. Now Henry GriffithBA, when they started offered SST PURE as an upgrade. Two years ago they changed that every club you buy is SST PURE Aligned unless you ask for it not to be, but the price is the same. We do give the customer a choice. The customer has the choice of: do you want the hard side forward, which is a little bit more boring flight, a little bit lower spin rate. Or do you want the soft side forward which gives you kind of a flier flight which kicks up and spins a little bit faster but the rate of dispersion or deflection is increased a little bit. Now you no longer have a choice of whether you want it or not. Now you have the choice of do you want the hard plane forward or the soft plane forward? That is in conformance to the rules of golf. What the USGA told me is “We don’t want to approve your patents as conforming if you’re going to induce a hook or a slice or correct a hook or a slice. We’ll just approve it if you put your shafts in what you call neutral position. Where they would play if they were symmetrical, perfectly round, perfectly straight, equal cpms all the way around their circumference.”
GolfWRX: Now what would you say to those who don’t believe in the SST PUREing process?
Dick Weiss: In any technology, people question it which is good. People still don’t think the Earth is round. I think if they are honest with themselves – forget about Dick Weiss and SST as an entity. If they’re honest with themselves and they know anything about clubs whether they make them in their garage or professionally, they have to be able to tell that shafts can not perform the same just randomly or haphazardly assembled. Each shaft has its idiosyncrasies. So I would say to them: “Listen, if you don’t think it makes a difference, let me take your favorite club and I’ll put it in a position where you can’t hit it.” They’ll say, “No, no, no I don’t want you to move the shaft.” But why, you just told me it doesn’t make any difference. This is what I go through with the OEMs. “Let me have this player’s clubs.” “No, he’s happy with them.” You just said it makes no difference how the shafts are in. You take them apart, I’ll PURE them, you put them back in, and you re-grip them. “No, no, no they want them exactly like they are.” Well you can’t say it one way and then go the other way. You can’t say it makes no difference how I assemble them. So I say for the ones that don’t believe in it, do a test yourself without any type of process. Take a club out, hit it, bring it back in, try to stay off the quadrants, 90 degrees left, 180, another 90, that’s not the way to do it. Move it 30 degrees to the left or right. Put it back in and go hit it. Flip the plane upside down, put it back in, and go hit it. I’m happy to look at those tests. I review them through GolfWRX.com. I say go out and try it. The reason we started doing all this testing and we’ve started doing a lot of internal testing is because everyone says, “Let us see some independent testing.” We said okay and did it. We took the tour van and five workers with us. We used clubs I hadn’t seen. They came from tour. We didn’t look for asymmetric products. We just took what was there, new shafts, new heads, some of the heads I’ve never seen before. It doesn’t make any difference. We’re happy to subject it to any tests. What isn’t fair is for those people who say “Dick, we’d like to see SST tested by in the independent test labs.” Fine. Then they say, “Well you only tested ten clubs. That’s not enough.” I say, “Fine, I did more we only showed you ten.” So I put out twenty. They say, “Twenty really isn’t a fair test.” So when are they going to stop? Do you want 30? 50? 500? At what point do I have to do more work. The study I put on the website yesterday will positively prove what we’ve said all along. If there was another way to do it, if there was a less expensive way to do it believe me, I would love to do that. I would love to have a thousand or two thousand club makers around the world say they are SST licensees. Nothing would be better. But really when my licensee in Tampa Snap Smith, and our licensee in Palo Alto, California he’s just as responsible as Snap was because each one of our licensees represents this group. That’s why we’re really proud to have the quality of licensees we have. But I’d be open to speaking to any of the people that go to your site. If they’re interested in licensing or they have technical questions, that’s fine. There’s a reason why things happen and I’ve had to go to engineering firms to prove it. I’m happy to do that. But to blankly say, “I don’t think it works, or I don’t like Dick, or I don’t like something.” That’s just way too closed-minded. In today’s golf society we’ve already been told you can’t make the club bigger than 460cc, you can’t have it longer than 48 inches, it can’t be any longer five inches long by five inches deep, and the COR can’t be more than .830. So on and so forth, now MOI is a big touch word. That’s fine, but the engine of a club is the shaft. If the shaft can’t get the club head down in a way to make solid contact with the ball, none of it can make any difference. Also, the shaft is the least technologically developed piece of equipment over the years. Sure, even right now we’re starting to see grips change and so on. You’ve gotta remember, carbon steel was invented in 1890 – the USGA didn’t approve it until the late 1920’s. The USGA has not been really responsive to things that happen until they get a chance to test them and make sure they work. I do want to say one thing and it’s on our website. Probably the greatest honor I’ve gotten, other than the fact that I’ve worked with three year old kids and the best players on tour, is that last year Golf International Magazine named SST as one of top 25 developments in the history of the sport. It goes back to the tee peg, center shafted putter, dimpled balls, cavity ack BAirons by Karsten, Sarazen’s wedge, Big Bertha titanium and the trampoline effect tin BA1998, they had SST down in 1999, and the multi-layer ball in 2000, for 2005, tuning to adjustable technology. Twenty-five great landmarks in golf equipment, my wife said to me, “What does it mean?” I said, “I don’t know but we’re in good company.” I’m really proud of it. I would hope that people who use PUREing, club makers that have questions about it, we’ll give that whatever respect it deserves in their minds. We didn’t have anything to do with it, it was a total surprise and I consider it to be a great honor.
GolfWRX: Last question before we let you get out of here. What’s in the future for SST Pure?
Dick Weiss: Your readers may not like this, but the customers among your readers, not the club makers, may. We’re seeing the industry changing. The little club makers are getting squeezed out by the big box stores which are adding sophisticated fitting and club repair systems and the club makers that are making between three hundred thousand to one and a half million dollars a year. There are a tremendous amount of club makers who make four, five, or six hundred thousand a year in gross volume compared to the little group that makes under twenty thousand dollars a year. We’re seeing the market changing so the Golfsmiths, the Nevada Bobs’, PGA Superstores, we see them starting to add more and more services, faster turnaround so people can get it done and shop while they’re in there. What that means from SST’s standpoint is there will be multiple machine users with a very high percentage usage. We see a lot of small guys getting – and it’s not just me, Mitchell Golf would acknowledge same thing, they have excellent equipment – we’re seeing who it is who’s buying equipment change. Even though you could buy a Vector Launch Monitor for five or six thousand or a Trackman for twenty thousand, the technologies today cost some money. Unless you’re really going to be in business and work your butt off and pay your insurance and phone bills, and employees and do advertising and promotion and have a good location and so on and so forth, and join the proper groups that support the industry – I don’t see that guy existing. SST is developing our equipment to become 100% automated. So in a factory a manufacturer can load a bunch of shafts into a hopper, they will come down one by one, the chuck will open up and grab them, the tip device will be put on automatically. What we want to do is make our machines operate easier so that anyone can operate them and quicker. This will work both for the individual club maker and the market I see growing. SST’s future I see as being two fold. One is making the equipment easier for the operator to work from a time standpoint because a lot of them only have one or two people in the shop. The second thing is we’ve had so many qualified people we haven’t been able to license because of the financial aspect of what we do that we have a major U.S. leasing company. We have a program where we literally within five minutes can have approval for financing their startup costs. They can have skip payments, they can have seizeable BApayments, they can have no payments up front, two payments up front, they can spread out up to thirty-six month or as short as twelve months. That will help anybody because the cash flow from PUREing will more than support what they’re BApayments are and yield them a great profit until they get it paid off. By offering a payment plan, we’re hoping to get a lot more licensees that are qualified to do what we do but haven’t been able to fully afford it. That’s our big thing, those two areas of growth. We actually see our licensee network doubling this year. We’ve brought on four new people to help us handle that, all experienced veterans in the industry. That’s where we’re going. Me, I travel around giving speeches. I was in Canada a couple of weeks ago talking to the CPGA there. I like to speak to the local PGA Chapters where our licensees are. I don’t just talk about PUREing. I talk about shafts, everything from what’s flex, what’s torque, COR, and MOI from an educational standpoint. We tell them stories from tours. You would never get these stories unless you were out there. We would never violate the trust players have in us. It’s not our job to say this company is better than that company. Every company has good products; everybody makes products that aren’t as good. Our job is to go out there and make each shaft perform to the best of its ability. By having more club makers be able to spread it to more players of varying levels of skill in more areas of the world. Our licensees in the United Kingdom actually do better per licensee, they’re higher volume than our U.S. licensees. We have a couple in Australia we just licensed in the last twelve months who are doing unbelievable which is great because they supply other countries as well. Slowly but surely we’re getting our word out. We changed our logo last year. It’s a trademark now, “Every golf shaft has a sweet spot. But only SST can locate it.” I think the customer can understand when we say sweet spot, they know exactly what we’re talking about. Each week on our website, SSTPure.com we have a newsletter that’s written by Steve Hosid, he’s Equipment Editor of PGA Tour Partners Magazine, wonderful writer, great guy. He writes a general column “News from the Tour” each week. One side is just general news, nothing to do with PUREing. The other side is who got PUREd this week and how much money they won. I think we had total winnings of ninety-two million dollars last year which is fantastic. That was up twenty or thirty million from last year. We’re now getting players when they first get to tour. Once they play PUREd they won’t go back to randomly installed shafts. The reason is it feels much harsher when you go back to randomly installed steel. We had a tour player, multiple winner come in and say, “You’ve got to take them out. I hit the all the same.” I said, “What’s wrong with that?” He said, “I got my clubs one by one, I don’t hold my four iron like my five iron, I hit them all differently.” I said okay and pulled them all out. He was back about a month later and said, “I like it your way better.” So he’s fully PUREd through the bag now. We had a really busy off season and we’re really proud of the group we have out there.
GolfWRX: Do you mind if we ask you one more quick question?
Dick Weiss: Sure.
GolfWRX: With the new USGA adjustability ruling about to go into effect, how do you see that fitting in with SST’s business?
Dick Weiss: We think it’s the greatest thing to happen to SST because every manufacturer has its own setup of tip device and he / she device, how everything fits. The one thing they’re never going to be able to assure anyone is that every time they screw it in it will come back to the same spot. We feel that buy PUREing them, they will get a uniformity and consistency out of the shaft they could never get just randomly sticking that tip on there. The only ones that are going to be able to do that are SST licensees. We think it’s going to be able to help us tremendously, that way they know every shaft will perform to the best of its abilities, not just the luck of the draw. We think it’s going to be wonderful. I also think this is going to hurt the little club maker. One of the big OEMs came out with a package where you get a club head and three shafts for a thousand dollars. That’s a great sale for them. The least expensive kit you can buy is a thousand dollars, each club maker can buy one and offer it to their customers. The problem with it is not everybody is going to be able to afford that. The little guy down the street who you stopped at after your Saturday round and asked, “Can you change this grip, or my club is broken, can you put a new shaft in?” I think it hurts him because now you can go to your big box store and try several sets of these. Not just one that’s a Callaway or TaylorMade, or Ping, or Nike. We think it’s great. I’ll tell you what would be even greater: if somebody could make a perfectly round, perfectly straight, perfectly stiff shaft. The reason would be this: there are six hundred million clubs in the United States. Those six hundred million clubs are perfect candidates for retro-PUREing. So if in fact, someone could make a perfectly round, perfectly straight, perfectly stiff shaft, which can’t be done because it’s impossible engineering and it can’t be done at the price shafts are made for today. Even if it did, SST would become the beneficiary to that because everyone who didn’t want to buy upgraded shafts could take their currently in use clubs and have them PUREd and it would perform as well as any shaft out there. Plus it would answer the questions of those people whom you asked me about earlier who don’t believe in PUREing by saying, “If the shaft manufacturers say now you don’t have to worry about the other things.” They would be acknowledging that there is a difference in shaft performance based on the way it is positioned in the club head.
GolfWRX: Mr. Weiss, we really appreciate your time today. It’s been a very informative experience. I know we learned a lot.