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Building Golf Clubs at Home: The Essential Tips, Tricks and Tools

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Like so many others I got into club building out of necessity and curiosity. As a kid, I loved to take anything and everything apart — from skateboards to old lawnmowers — so when I starting playing golf clubs were next. It started small, learning how to grip clubs with a Black & Decker workmate with my dad, and then slowly I moved into the more intricate aspects of building clubs. I’ve always joked that I was probably the only 16-year-old who asked for a lie-loft machine for his birthday.

In this article, I’m going to share with you my favorite tips, tricks and tools that I’ve used as a professional golf club builder. I hope to benefit those interested in building their own golf clubs at home, as well as relay valuable information about club building in general to knowledge-hungry GolfWRXers.

Overview

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My basement build shop.

One of the most important things about building clubs is doing it properly with the right tools, and doing it safely. After setting up up multiple build shops over the years, from small hobby shops to large multi-station build shops, having the opportunity to build my own home shop from the ground up was something I always looked forward to. My shop is in my basement, and because of the limited space, it was imperative to find as many space saving-solutions as possible.

Like many people with a hobby they are passionate about, I look forward to one day having a stand-alone garage for all of my tools (and maybe a hitting net), but for now my basement gets the job done. I’m lucky to have access to a much large machine shop where I do wedge grinding, finishing and sand blasting, which are all jobs that make a lot more noise and create a lot more dust. I can’t get away with doing those things in a confined space, but we’ll touch on that later.

Although not a tool, arguably the most important piece of equipment is the work bench. Having a quality workbench is needed because of the amount of abuse that it will take over its lifespan. Also, just like a great kitchen design, you need counter space and a good workbench provides that. Dropping a clubhead (especially a driver or fairway wood with nice paint job) can be costly. The next extension of the workbench is a good vice that has been properly attached to the bench with bolts. Like I’ve said in previous articles, I believe when you do something you should take the time to do it properly. I once saw a vice screwed into a workbench with 1.25-inch screws, and as soon as someone went to use the vice it ripped out and took a club with it.

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My workbench setup… with vice and a convenient beer fridge.

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My 5-inch vice with 90-degree pivot properly mounted.

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A demonstration of how to properly secure a vice through the a table top using bolts and washers.

Not every surface needs to be as stable as a full-scale industrial workbench, but having counter space is important. My personal solution to this was IKEA (honestly, who doesn’t love IKEA?). I recommend checking out Ikea Hacks (just Google it) for space-saving tips. If your space is really limited or needs to be multi-use, flip-up table ends are a perfect solution. As much as I like finding quick solutions to problems, it’s way more satisfying to build things yourself if possible. That way, at the end of the project, you have something that is exactly the way you wanted it. 

As seen in the pictures below, I re-purposed two Ikea BEKAN desk bases from the As-Is section into a full workbench after getting a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of 0.75-inch plywood cut to size. This saved me hundreds of dollars and got me close to 30 square feet of counter space to mount other tools including my bench ruler, chop saw, belt sander and frequency machine. And since these desk bases have adjustable heights, I was able to get them to a comfortable workbench height.

There are lots of kits available online to build benches to fit almost any space. Get creative, and customize it to your needs.   

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My work table built on Ikea BEKANT bases.

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The top was secured with screws to the 2×4’s.

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Lagbolts through preexisting holes in the frame hold the top to the base.

One of the other things that’s very important is organization. Having a few small organizational tools can make a difference: think storage bins, trays and component drawers, which are especially useful for ferrules and tip weights. Make sure to put labels on them, too, so it’s always easy to find what you need.

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Drawers like this make great storage for small parts like ferrules.

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An under-bench storage unit holds a lots of tools and saves valuable space.

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Maximizing the space under tables with storage solutions allow for less tabletop clutter.

The Tools

Unlike a golf bag where you are limited to 14 clubs, your build shop is only limited to the amount of space you have (and your budget). For me, every trip to the hardware store or to various tool supply shops has me finding another small tool or bit to help make things just a bit easier. Let’s put it this way; I have a lot of LED flashlights and finishing tools lying around.

What I’m trying to say is that what you should really focus on when building a shop from the ground up is quality over quantity. Having the proper tools will make building clubs and doing repairs a lot easier. There are very few things as frustrating as having a club not turn out the way you wanted because you weren’t prepared and didn’t have the right tools for the job.

Cordless Drill

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A cordless drill is great for small jobs and allows for quick moving around the shop.

A good cordless drill is a necessity, so make a quality purchase. I’m not an expert on drills, but any of the big name-brand drills that use an 18-20V battery have always done well for me. Make sure the drill has variable torque settings and, if possible, having one that has a built-in flashlight under the chuck makes it super easy to check hosels for debris while drilling. It’s also more ideal to find one in a kit that has two batteries with the charger — that way, if you’re drilling a lot for a single job, you will always have a fresh battery. You should expect to pay $119-$200.

I have seen many shops use a drill press, but personally I never found a real need for one on a day-to-day basis (plus they can take up a bunch of space). Drill presses can be useful for porting wedges, but that’s really not home-shop use.

Metal Drill Bits

Here’s where things get personal for me. I had an inexpensive drill bit break almost instantly and go right into the palm of my left hand (and off to the ER I went). I was not a happy camper, but I did learn a very valuable lesson; don’t buy cheap drill bits and never drill toward another body part. I still have a small scar to remind me of that mistake, and it also serves as a reminder to never take what you may consider a simple repair for granted. Bit sets can often be found on sale, but a small collection of proper bits will run you about $100.

Also, make sure to purchase proper metal drill bits. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen people try and use either masonry or wood drill bits with little success.

Chop Saw

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My saw setup has a simple negative air system and catch tray.

A good chop saw is worth every penny. There’s nothing worse than using a crappy saw and having it splinter the butt section of an expensive driver shaft. My personal favorite, and the favorite of many professionals, is the Gryphon Miter Saw. Almost any video in a tour van features one of these saws… and for good reason. They are compact, durable, use relatively inexpensive blades,and also make very precise cuts at high RPM. The better the blades and higher the RPM, the better the cut.

I don’t do that much volume in my basement, so I went with a more basic chop saw from GolfWorks that uses 6-inch blades. I did my research. It is still a good quality saw and worked with my budget, but compared to the Gryphon that I used in the past it is louder. The Gryphon is $260 direct from Gryphon, while mine was in the $80 range from GolfWorks. I’ve had my saw from almost eight years, and although is doesn’t see anything close to an industrial workload it performs great.

Side Note: Just like with drill bits, be sure to buy quality cutting wheels made for steel and other fibers. The thinner the better, because they will help keep dust down and reduce noise.

Belt Sander

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My Baldor motor with 42-inch belt attachment and ferrule turning arm.

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A side view of my belt sander/ferrule turning attachment.

Who doesn’t love the look of a properly turned-down ferrule that has just been shined with acetone? To me, this is one of the most important aspects of finishing a club. It seems simple, but it took me a long time to get really good at it.

To properly turn down a ferrule you need a belt sander, and don’t skimp on a cheap one. The best ones use 42-inch belts, and I prefer the DuraBrite Felt belts since they don’t take too much material off the ferrule at once. This makes them more forgiving, especially for beginners, and I find them much cleaner, which makes final finishing easier. You can use a belt sander with a inexpensive motor for around or under $100, but you can’t go cheap on the attachments. The attachment shown here is the most widely used and reliable one that I’ve found and costs around $200 from most suppliers. Some of the most reliable tools found in shops have Baldor Motors that alone start around $350. Since grinders are very common tools, you can often get a good deal on a used one if you stay patient. 

Dust Collector

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Harbour Freight dust collector

You can’t cut or sand at any volume without creating dust. I don’t know what the long-term effects of breathing in graphite and steel dust are, but I’m not ready to be a test subject either. You may have noticed the ugly looking box around my chop saw. It’s not only a catch basin for shaft ends, but is also used in conjunction with a shop vac to keep airborne dust to a minimum in my basement. I designed it to act as a mini-negative air system.

Most tool shops like Harbour Freight (or Princess Auto/Busy Bee Tools in Canada) have some type of inexpensive dust collector, and even a shop vac can do the trick. When purchasing a dust collection system, look out for CFM, or cubic feet per minute, which explains how much air/dust the system can collect as once. The more air that the system can pull through the filter the more dust it can pull out of the air. A simple cyclone system is about $100, but you can find mini 1HP systems (lots of power for a saw or small sander) for about $175 on sale or between $200-$250 full price.

Gripping Station

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My GolfMechanix gripping station with catch basin in vice.

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Having loose solvent is a hazard. Proper drainage and storage is key.

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This simple setup makes sure the tube stays in the catch bottle.

When it comes to gripping clubs, the best solution is a proper gripping station that will collect and recycle grip solvent and safely hold a club “square.” The nicest shop I ever worked in had foot-activated pneumatic clamps that automatically adjusted pressure, just like a tour van. Starting with solvent, it’s never good to run that stuff into a drain or have it sitting in an open container, especially with children or pets kicking around. My setup, although not perfect, is very effective at not wasting solvent and allowing me to get grips on in a timely fashion. The picture shows exactly how I recycle my solvent. Like I said, it’s not fancy, but it is very effective. This exact system from GolfMechanix is $185 before the cost of solvent or tape. 

Graphite Shaft Puller

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My spring-loaded GolfMechanix shaft puller.

So you want to pull a graphite shaft? Like I mentioned in my last article, Avoid These 5 Club Building Disasters, there is a right way and a wrong a way to do it. Using a proper shaft extractor is necessary for graphite because of the fibers and the way the graphite sheets are wrapped. If you plan on doing a bit more than just the occasional shaft pull, I ALWAYS recommend using one with either a spring or hydraulic mechanism. Maltby makes a few really nice ones, as does GolfMechanix. I’ve had my Golf Mechanix shaft puller for more than 10 years now with no problems and hundreds of shafts pulled. The model in the photo retails for $350. 

Loft-Lie Machine

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My simple analog lie/loft machine on custom base.

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My putter lie/loft bending tool. Lie and loft have to be measured separate.

Loft-lie machines are pricey, but just like a belt sander a good one is very much worth it. If you’re entrepreneurial, loft-lie machines can be a good little money maker, too, since the golf shops that have them can be few and far between, depending on where you live. Do good work on a few clubs for friends and word will spread. Believe me.

The cream of the crop loft-lie machines are digital. I wish I had one, but know that a well-machined loft-lie machine can be just as effective. Just like with the shaft puller, a great one can be had from Maltby and Golf Mechanix. On top of a loft-lie machine for irons, a separate loft-lie machine for putters is a really nice thing to have. Mine is from an older Wilson Staff unit dating back to when Kirk Currie was still making putters. It’s most effective with blade style putters, but can be used with most styles. Again, you don’t need to completely break the bank to have an effective shop with the right tools.

Don’t forget to make sure to get a good, non-maring bending bar tool, too. Bending marks are almost unavoidable for certain iron heads, but to make as few marks as possible a good bending bar is key.

A professional-quality loft/lie machine starts at around $550, but prices can get into the thousands. On top of that, a proper base usually add about $100-$200 to the cost. Putter machines are about $300 to start, but remember, bend a few putters for friends with great results and you will start getting phone calls.

Frequency Machine

My frequency Machine with 5-inch pneumatic clamp.

My frequency machine with 5-inch pneumatic clamp.

This is a tool that certainly falls under the category of a luxury build shop item. My personal machine is a older model that was built and designed by Fujikura, which has a pneumatic pressure controlled clamping system to ensure consistent results. The age or model of the frequency machine has little impact on the reading that are put out (as long as it’s a quality, properly calibrated machine). The other specification to pay attention to is clamp length. You will get vastly different readings depending on the clamp length used, and if you’re using a computer-based formula your entire set could be off because of the clamp length.

Some newer machines have clamps that can be adjusted from 3-5 inches. I wouldn’t build a set of irons without it, but then again, club building was my livelihood and I’ve gotten used to the luxury. A frequency machine is by no means a necessary tool when it comes to doing home builds and repairs, as they start at about $550. A nice one from Maltby goes for $650, and a top-of-the-line model from GolfMechanix will set you back $750.

Air Compressor

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A Husky air compressor from Home Depot is perfect for small jobs.

An air compressor is a tool that falls under the category of “not just useful for a custom shop.” An air compressor has an abundance of uses including blowing on grips, cleaning out hosels and powering a plethora of pneumatic tools. I always charge mine up when building iron sets for use with my frequency machine, as well as making sure clubhead hosels are clean and ready to go for gluing. I selected mine based on three things:

  1. Size. This was important, because it needed to fit in my smaller shop. 
  2. Volume. It needed have a tank big enough that it didn’t have to charge every time I used a tool. Also, pay attention to CFM (cubic feet per minute), which is how efficient the compressor is at filling the tanking and keeping up with demand.
  3. Noise. Most small compressors have a decibel rating. Try and find one that’s not too loud. Some are even advertised as being more quiet. It’s not always a big deal, especially if you’re working in a larger space, but can be key in a smaller shop.

A nice, simple compressor will go for around $150.

So what am I missing?

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Almost everything you need to do shop work.

I realize that I haven’t even begun to cover cover all the small tools that can be very important when building clubs. In attempt to offer a complete list, I have compiled the items below. 

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Swing weight scales haven’t changed much in 100 years.

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A bench ruler I built to measure clubs at actual lie angles.

  • Bench ruler designed to measure golf clubs.
  • Swing weight scale. Digital is best, but conventional is still very good. 
  • Digital scale that reads to +/-0.1 grams.
  • Wire brushes for cleaning out hosels.
  • Ram rod for removing old stuck tip weights and epoxy.
  • Ferrules of all sizes, shims and tip weights.
  • Sanding belts for prepping shafts (80 or 120 grit works well). 
  • SHARPIES! You can never have enough.
  • Small pliers and clips.
  • Acetone.
  • Sand paper of varying grits.
  • Gloves for using acetone. It can be nasty on the skin. 
  • Safety glasses. I can’t stress this enough.
  • Calipers (digital are best, but analog can do the trick).
  • Grip tape.
  • Sharp hook knife and straight blade.
  • Butane torch with extra fuel.
  • Flash lights. 
  • Scissors
  • Metal trash bin

Questions, concerns or comments? Let me know in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to answer all I can. 

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Ryan Barath is a writer & the Digital Content Creation Lead for GolfWRX. He also hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on GolfWRX Radio discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club fitter & master club builder who has more than 16 years experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour professionals. He studied business and marketing at the Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop in Hamilton and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers, including True Temper. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, from course architecture to physics, and share his passion for club building, and wedge grinding.

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. KENS CUSTOM CLUBS. PXG DEALER

    Apr 30, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    Chop saw is a no no, to much dust a good wet saw with proper blade and also a complete bench collection system, throw in a good launch monitor and 25 years experience also club fitting schools and club building schools and you might be getting close also a moment of inertia machine to ho beyond swingweight and make every iron feel the same could go on with more list never ends if you want to keep up with technology.

  2. geohogan

    Mar 4, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Please, where is the fire extinguisher?

    Grinding sparks ignited on the bench after I finished grinding.
    I almost lost my home to a fire on my work bench.
    There is wood and flammable chemicals. Have to have a working fire extinguisher and know how to use it. cheers

  3. Tom D

    Oct 17, 2016 at 3:22 pm

    Heck, I’d love to get a loft/lie machine and I’m closer to 60 that to 16!

  4. Andrew Nielsen

    Oct 9, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Great article and appreciate the tip on the Gryphon Mitre Saw. Been looking for a small chop saw just for shafts and the Gryphon is perfect. Any recommendations on Bench top drill presses?

  5. Skip VanB

    Oct 7, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Ryan,
    Great fun article! That’s a nice shop you have. Where did the base for your work bench, the one with your vice come from?

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 7, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      Hi Skip,

      I’m gonna be straight up, I am a very lucky guy to not only be married to a great lady, but to also have a very talented brother-in-law. He’s is not only a welder, but also a great designer of all things metal. This base was completely custom built to the space that I had and specs that I gave him ( although I installed the vice on my own after the bench was built )

      But for most, there are a bunch of bench kit system that very easily allow you to build to your spec at a very reasonable cost. You just need to buy the metal or plastic fibre brackets and then have the base pieces cut to length.

      Really hope this helps.
      Ryan

  6. alan

    Oct 6, 2016 at 7:53 am

    nice article thanks. i tinker around in my garage and get by.

    my wife is canadian. we head up to muskoka usually once a year. when we are on the 403 bridge i look over at hamilton and wonder who would wanna live in hamilton. now i know!

  7. Wesley

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Great article Ryan. I have all these tools but some are less costly like club scout. Folks don’t forget there are plenty of places like harbor freight to get tools that will perform same function for significantly less cost than golf specific suppliers.

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 6, 2016 at 1:08 am

      Exactly!
      I really tried to stress that you can stretch your dollar by purchasing either used or more cost effective options with certain tools. This is also very effective since most people are only going to go as far as using the tools irregularly and because of that lighter duty machines can be just as effective.

  8. Travis S

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    If you had to guess how much would everything cost for this complete setup? Just the necessities tools and machines not the extra parts like ferrules, tape and etc?

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 6, 2016 at 1:10 am

      from new you’re looking at probably close to $5000 but if going used like I did and if you are willing to invest some time in building a few things yourself you can do it for less than half.

  9. Travis S

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    What a great story I just started tinkering this year and installed a vice. I would kill for all that and appreciate your enthusiasm and modest cost effective setup. Keep up the good work!

  10. Grizz01

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    If you are building your own clubs and tinkering around. You don’t need all that crap.

  11. KK

    Oct 5, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Missing hotmelt setup. Otherwise absolutely fantastic.

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 5, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      100%

      I have used them many times before, but just like with the chop saw, I don’t want to buy a cheap one at the moment and I’m waiting to buy the champ model used on tour vans.

  12. DJ

    Oct 5, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Regarding dust collection systems. A really good club fitter I went too never had a vacuum system to control dust, specifically when cutting graphite shafts. He had to quit his business since all those years of breathing graphite led to him losing 40% lung capacity. Reason enough to invest in a high quality system if you are going to make this more than a hobby.

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 5, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      Exactly!

      Breathing in any sort of small particles for a long period of time is never good. Its the exact reason I do all of my finishing work and grind work in a proper metal shop, and with a dust mask.

  13. John G

    Oct 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Nice article for beginner but we know that when one starts repairing/rebuilding/building clubs from everywhere, tools and parts really-really add up fast.

    When I started many years ago, most all my tools came from Mitchell and this or that special tool or part is always on going.

  14. Steven

    Oct 5, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Wow, that is an impressive setup. I don’t know if I want to build or alter clubs, but looking at the setup makes me want to try.

  15. Blade Junkie

    Oct 5, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    You don’t know how lucky you are in the USA having big houses, basements and huge garages to put all this stuff. Many of us in the UK are making do with a 6′ x 3′ garden shed LOL.

  16. Jason Thompson

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:58 am

    I’m curious what large scale workshops you have built? I know the guys who did Modern Golf’s and you weren’t even employed there.

  17. NFG

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:49 am

    I want to be like this guy, sweet set up!! My work shop is small but I can do what I need to do.

  18. alexdub

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Great write-up! This is one of the better features from GolfWRX in a while. Who doesn’t love repair shop man caves>?

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 5, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks!
      This really was a subject I wanted to cover and share. I’m glad you like it.

  19. Christopher

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:20 am

    Can you share your plans you used for that bench ruler. I like that setup!

  20. RAT

    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:02 am

    Interesting , gone from just a little to making it a vocation. Start up – pick 3 of the most important, forget the small hand tools and etc.

  21. Jim

    Oct 5, 2016 at 9:59 am

    Drill Press is a must for accurate, straight/tight hosel bores.

  22. Tom

    Oct 5, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Great hobby to get involved in if your a serious golfer. I do it so that I can buy inexpensive sets of irons. Take measurements, make adjustments for junior player just starting he game.

  23. David W.

    Oct 5, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Good stuff! Not going to build anything myself, but a great read.

  24. Charlie

    Oct 5, 2016 at 7:54 am

    Were you seeing just how much you could bend a Mizuno MP T11 wedge before it snaps?

    • Ryan Barath

      Oct 5, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      I wasn’t sure someone would catch that or not.

      It was a Mizuno wedge I bent completely flat: 0 LIE, 0 LOFT. I thought it was going to break when i did it but it just kept going. I actually have two, 1 is a paper weight (pictured) and the other is an assembled club that’s around 14″ long. It looks hilarious and is fun to try and hit a ball with.

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On Spec

On Spec: Interview with GOLFTEC VP of Instruction Nick Clearwater

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In this episode of On Spec brought to you by Golf Pride Grips, Ryan talks with GOLFTEC’s Vice President of Instruction Nick Clearwater about his history with golf, teaching, and how he and his team at GolfTec help golfers play better.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

From the GolfWRX Vault: The day I met Ben Hogan

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In addition to continuing to look forward to new content that will serve and engage our readership, we also want to showcase standout pieces that remain relevant from years past. In particular, articles with a club building or instruction focus continue to deliver value and convey useful information well after their publish dates.

We want to make sure that once an article falls off the front page as new content is covered it isn’t relegated to the back pages of our website.

We hope that you’ll appreciate and find value in this effort.

Industry veteran (and one heckuva writer) Tom Stites, who served as the Director of Product Development at Nike’s Oven, tells the story of how he landed a job as an engineer at the Ben Hogan Company and what his first meeting with Mr. Hogan was like.

Get a taste for Stites’ excellent piece from 2015 below.

Getting near my boy was the real reason I wanted to get to Texas, but the golf was a sweet attraction, too. With a perfect touch and timing, the Good Lord prompted the Hogan Company to advertise for a new product development engineer. On just the right day, I was changing flights at DFW and bought a copy of the Fort Worth paper. In the want ads I saw something like, ”Ben Hogan will pay you cash money to engineer and work on golf clubs.” So I applied.

My product development experience at Kohler got me the interview, but the Good Lord got me the job. It was truly a real miracle, because in 1986 I knew zero about club design and manufacturing. I was quickly made the boss of the model shop, and was to manage the master club maker Gene Sheeley and his incredible team of long-time club artisans.

Me as their boss? That was a joke.

I knew a few things about physics at that time, but these guys were the real deal in club design. I knew immediately that I was in over my head, so I went to Gene and professed my ignorance. I pleaded with him to teach me how to do the job right. At that, I guess he considered me harmless and over the next number of years he became my Yoda. His voice was even a bit like Yoda.

Read the full piece here.

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Opinion & Analysis

Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?

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There is a growing trend on the PGA Tour and other professional golf tours where some of the game’s best players favor a fade from the tee box. Amateur golfers often struggle with golf shots that slice away from their target. These shots can lead them out of play and have them eagerly chasing a more neutral or drawing shot shapes. Additionally, a large fraction of low handicap and professional golfers play a golf shot that draws repeatedly onto their target. These thoughts can leave you wondering why anyone would choose to play a fade rather than a draw with their driver.

The debate over whether players should fade or draw their golf shots has been intensely lobbied on either side. While this is highly player specific, each particular shot shape comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to discuss why elite golfers are choosing to play a fade and why you might as well, we must first explore how each shot shape is created and the unintended effects within each delivery combination. This article explores the ideas that lead some of the most outstanding players in the world to choose a fade as their go-to shot shape for their driver.

Before examining what makes each shot unique, golfers should be familiar with some common club fitting and golf swing terminology. Club path, clubface angle, impact location, spin-axis or axis tilt, and spin loft are all detailed below.

The curvature of a golf ball through the air is dependent on the backspin and sidespin of each shot. These spin rates are directly linked with each players golf swing and delivery characteristics. During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation. The relationship between the golf club face and the path of that club will determine much of how the golf ball will travel. A golf clubface that is closed to a club path will result in golf shots that either draw or hook. A clubface more open to the club’s path with create a shot that fades or slices. It is important that face angle measurements are taken in reference to the club path as terms like “out-to-in” or “in-to-out” can results in either of these two curvatures depending on face angle and impact location measurements.

Impact location should not be overlooked during this exchange and is a vital component of creating predictable golf shots that find the fairway and reach their maximum distances. As strikes move across the clubface of a driver gear effect begins to influence how the golf ball travels. In its simplest form, gear effect will help turn the golf ball back to the center of the golf club head. Impact locations in the heel will curve towards the middle and lead to golf shots with a more pronounced fading shape. Toe strikes lead to the opposite reaction and produce more draw or hook spin. Striking a golf ball from the upper half of the driver clubface produce higher launches and less spin, while strikes from the bottom create lower launches with higher backspin rates.

Spin-axis tilt or simply axis tilt is a result of the amalgamation of face angle, club path and strike locations. A golf shot will curve in the direction that its axis tilts during flight. Golfers familiar with launch monitors like Trackman and GCQuad, can reference axis tilt and spin-axis tilt measures for this measurement. Shots that curve to the left will have a leftward tilted axis, and shots to the right a rightward axis tilt. Golf shots tilting to the left and to the right are given names depending on which hand is dominant for that golfer. A draw or hook is a golf shot that curves in the air away from the golfers dominate hand. Right-handed players will see a golf ball hit with a draw spin from right to left in the air. Left-handed golfers see their draw shots spin from left to right. Fades and slices have the opposite shapes.

Spin loft is another critical component of creating and maintaining the flight of a golf ball. In concert with the spin-axis tilt of the golf ball, the spin loft influences the amount of backspin a golf ball possesses and will determine much of how stable that golf ball’s flight becomes. Golf shots hit with more backspin curve less violently than golf shots hit with too little spin especially in the wind. Spin loft is exemplified as golfers find themselves much more accurate with their wedges than their driver. More spin equals more stability, and this leads us to why professional players opt for their fade.

Modern drivers can be built to maximize the performance of each golfer on their best swings, but what about their misses? Golfers often lose confidence standing over their golf shots if they see the ball overdrawing or hooking too often. Overdraws and hooks create golf ball flight conditions that are unpredictable and lead to directional and distance detriments that can cause dropped shots and penalties. Because of this, elite right-handed players do not often like to see the golf ball going left from the tee box. By reducing their chances of hitting hooking tee shots, golfers often feel more freedom to swing the golf club freely and make smooth, powerful motions. This is never more evident than when watching Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hit their drivers. While both players hit the golf ball both ways, their go-to shot from the tee is a left-to-right curving fade.

But wait, doesn’t a draw go further than a fade? While it is not inevitable that a draw will fly further or roll out more than a fade, the clubface and club path conditions needed at impact to produce each shape often lead to differences in spin rates and launch angles that affect distance. Less dynamic loft created by a closed clubface can lead to lower launch, less spin, and more distance. The drawback of these conditions is the reduced spin loft and decreased stability. So how much distance is worth losing to find more fairways? As we continue to see some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour win tournaments and major championships distance is the premium.

Luckily, modern drivers and club fitting techniques have given players a perfect blend of distance and accuracy. By manipulating the center of gravity of each driver, golfers can create longer shots from their best strikes without giving up protection from their mishits. Pushing the weights more near the clubface of drivers has given players the ability to present more loft at impact without increasing backspin. The ability to swing freely and know that if you miss your intended strike pattern your shot will lose distance but not end up in the most dangerous hazards have given players better, more repeatable results.

While it can be advantageous for casual golfers and weekend players to chase as many yards as possible, players that routinely hit the golf ball beyond 300 yards can afford their misses to fall back if they will remain in play and give them a chance to find the green in two shots. More stability when things do not go as planned thanks to increased spin lofts and less violent curvature has allowed elite level golfers to perform consistently even under the most demanding situations and it is why we continue to see a growing number of players favor a fade from their tee shots.

 

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