That’s right, folks. The legend of Don White has returned. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Patrick Boyd, who has launched National Custom Works along with business partner Ari Techner (all formerly with Scratch Golf). Below is what ensued, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Talk to me about National Custom Works. What are you guys all about?
We fabricate irons (heads only for the moment), and we are a handmade custom company. There is absolutely zero mass production and everything is hand made specifically for the client. We start with heavy, raw forged heads and shape them by hand one at a time specifically to fit the client that will receive them. As of right now, this is all done by Don White, who is an absolute legend. He’s currently able to grind about 100 heads a month or so. Soon, we’ll have Jeff McCoy setup and will be able to double that capacity. I also sell custom ferrules through Boyd Blade and Ferrule, which is another brand that I’d launched last year. Custom ferrules are always a really great way to dress a set of clubs. We don’t go beyond that, at least for now, but if someone really wanted a fully assembled set of clubs, we have ways to make that happen.
Don White’s legend sort of speaks for itself, but tell me about how the two of you got linked up and how this whole thing began.
Well, I was heavily involved with Scratch Golf back in the day. Scratch started off as all handmade custom clubs as well. Later on, we got into the more mass-produced retail side of things in addition to custom product, but we eventually went down in October 2015. At the time we were trying to take Scratch to a new level. The market wasn’t ultimately ready to support a high-priced custom product. Nowadays, that market exists. But anyway, we had hired Don at Scratch in 2010, so that’s where our paths first crossed. He had worked for MacGregor since the early seventies, but MacGregor went bankrupt in 2009.
Don can do just about anything with his hands. He’s totally self-taught. He started for MacGregor polishing iron heads and he would spend his lunch break going around to all the different machines in the shop and seeing what every machine used in the process did. The guy’s just a magician. Obviously, his claim to fame is that he made countless clubs for Jack Nicklaus over the years. Really, he made just about everything for all their tour staffers from 1973 until they went bankrupt in 2009. More than that, though, Don White is one of the best people I’ve ever met. Period. I’ve been so lucky to be able to work with him. His genius in golf club making is widely known, but I can honestly say he’s as great a person as he is a craftsman.
Back to the question, though; I got in touch with Don because one of the guys from Sugarloaf Social Club reached out to me. We’d worked on a couple of projects since Scratch, but a mutual friend of ours was dying to get a set of irons made by Don. He wanted six-degree gaps, whereas a lot of standard sets are like three or four degrees. It was a cool set and it turned out really great. A tour player saw them and got a hold of me right away and we made a set for him. I knew Don was more or less retired at that point, but I asked him if he was interested in still making some golf clubs here and there. His first question was, “Well, how many do you think you can sell?” Ultimately, BB&F Co and then National Custom Works sort of grew from there.
Tell me about Jeff McCoy. What’s his role in all of this?
Jeff McCoy was one of the founders of Scratch Golf, so he and I go way back as well. He designed all the wedge and iron grinds on the clubs we produced at Scratch. He’s also a supremely talented grinder. The biggest difference between Don and Jeff is that Don mainly does crisper lines and Jeff mainly does softer lines. Jeff’s wedges are absolutely amazing and his grinds are second to none. Those are definitely his strengths in my opinion. You know, we learned our lesson with Scratch. We’re not going to try to go the retail route again. We want to keep this thing all handmade and custom-built to exact customer specifications. There are certainly challenges that come with that approach, but the rewards are also great as well. I would say probably half of the projects these days are non-traditional in the gaps of lofts. I personally just love working on those because each one is its own little puzzle. It just totally fascinates me.
What about before the club heads get into your guys’ hands? What can you say about how they’re made and all?
Well, I can tell you that they’re Japanese forgings and they’re as good as anything you can source. I have to be honest in saying some of the models are open (not made exclusively for one customer). There’s a couple of different heads we can start with and that ultimately depends on what a client wants. More often than not, we start with really heavy heads that were originally designed for prototyping. There’s probably 150-160 grams of weight to take off of those depending on the final specifications. To an OEM that is trying to crank out a ton of volume, producing clubs in this manner is not a viable option because that takes a lot of time, but for us it’s perfect. It gives us a ton of freedom to put the CG wherever we want it. We can create progressive sets where the CG moves a little lower in the long irons to help flight the ball higher and vice versa with the wedges. We can also leave a little extra weight in the toe or the heel for some fade or draw bias. All of this depends on what a client wants, but the extra material we have to play with makes it all possible.
When you buy one of our clubs, you’re not paying for advertising, an R&D budget, or clubs full of the latest technology. You’re paying for our expertise. You’re paying for craftsmanship. You’re paying to get exactly what you need. We are not taking something off the rack and just buzzing a little bit off here and there. We are able to customize virtually every aspect of the club; loft and lie of course, but we can change the offset, move the CG around, and all kinds of different things. And it is done by some of the best craftsman in the industry. Projects typically take six weeks (as of now) for you to get your heads and price can be all over the map depending on what you want, but you’re going to wind up with something that’s been handcrafted by the best talent in the industry to your exact standards. It’s something that, up until now, only the top tour players had access to and, really, even those guys are limited by what their sponsors manufacture. The end product of our process is second to none and we definitely stand behind that.
We’re trying to make the best clubs you can buy. Period. There is no target demographic in mind. We’re not looking to court people from a certain age group or anything. If you don’t want to be limited by what OEM’s have to offer and if you want a meticulously well-made product done to your exact specifications, we’re your best bet for sure.
You also run Sweetens Cove Golf Club down in Tennessee. Tell me about your duties there. Did those paths cross when this thing got started?
I’m the general manager out there. Outside of cutting the grass, I do pretty much everything else as far as the day-to-day operations go. I’m there for like 60-80 hours a week. My partner Rob Collins was the course designer, actually. He did it for a client who basically abandoned it. I first saw the course in November of 2013 and it had mostly been left for dead. Only about half the bunkers actually had sand in them. Mushrooms were growing everywhere. But you could still tell how good the bones were. It took a lot of really hard work to get it ready to open, but we did a soft opening in October of 2014 and we’ve been off and running ever since. It’s just as pure a golf experience as you’re going to find anywhere. We basically have a dinky little clubhouse and a couple port-a-potties and we’ve been the top public course in the state for the last three years according to Golfweek. We’re also No. 59 on their “Top-100 Modern Courses” list.
How long ago did you start playing golf? Tell me about your personal relationship with the game.
I started playing golf when I was 10 years old. I was really into tennis at the time, but my parents played golf. One day, I just decided I was going to skip my tennis lesson and play golf with my folks instead. After that day, it was over. I got hooked HARD. I think I played tennis for about another year or so, but golf was king in my life from that moment on. As hooked as I was on golf, though, I got way more into golf clubs specifically. When I was 12 years old, all I wanted was the Golf Club Identification & Price Guide. It was a book through Golf Works/Maltby. I finally got my hands on one and I circled everything in the book that interested me. The funny thing is more than half the stuff in there, I bought it, looked at it, maybe played a round or two with it and sold it. All I wanted was just to see everything. I just completely geek out over golf club design.
So how did golf and golf clubs then become a profession for you? How did that develop?
I suddenly found myself with some time on my hands and had always wanted to get into the golf business. I found a custom shop that was close to where I was working at the time and sent the owner an email. About an hour later, he shot me a response and about five minutes after we met I had my first golf job. The first several months, I went in after work and started cataloging all the shafts he’d pulled in the past year (there were around 400). After I went through all that, he taught me how to fit and build clubs. I ended up working with him off and on for a couple of years and we still keep in touch today. I had played golf in college at a Division III school, but that was my first actual job in the industry. From there, I was pretty much off and running.
Lastly, tell people how to get in touch with you and how to tune in for what comes next from National Custom Works.
I get a lot of traffic on Instagram for sure. Our handle there is @nationalcustom. Our website just got launched a couple of weeks ago, and I also just launched an online store for the ferrules because that just grew to a point where I wasn’t able to take pictures for everyone. If someone is interested in starting a project with us, the best way to catch us is at my email: email@example.com or my business partner Ari Techner at firstname.lastname@example.org. As for what’s coming up, all I’ll say right now is that we have some very interesting collaboration projects coming soon. Watch our Instagram feed for when that stuff drops.
TG2: Would you rather have Brooks or DJ’s career? 30+ more AMA-style Instagram questions
Brooks Koepka vs. Dustin Johnson? All-time favorite driver? Poker chips as ball markers? Editor Andrew Tursky and Equipment Expert Brian Knudson answer 30+ questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram. They also discuss Joe LaCava (Tiger’s caddie) paying off a heckler to go away.
Enjoy the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
Fantasy Preview: 2018 Wyndham Championship
After one of the most exciting Sunday’s of the golfing year, attention now turns towards the race for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and the quest to attain a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. For the former, this week’s Wyndham Championship is the final opportunity for players to work their way into the top-125 in the FedEx Cup standings and earn a spot in the opening event of the playoffs. Despite many of the world’s elite understandably taking this week off, there are some big names in action here in Greensboro, with Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson all setting their sights on winning at Sedgefield Country Club this week.
Sedgefield CC is a relatively short par-70 golf course. It measures just over 7,100 yards, and it’s a golf course that doesn’t particularly favour the longer hitters. The rough is playable in Greensboro this week, and like most years at the Wyndham Championship, expect players who have their wedge game dialled in to thrive here at this event.
Last year, Henrik Stenson put on a ball striking clinic, posting 22-under par to win the title by one stroke over Ollie Schniederjans.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Webb Simpson 12/1
- Hideki Matsuyama 16/1
- Henrik Stenson 18/1
- Rafa Cabrera Bello 22/1
- Brandt Snedeker 22/1
- Shane Lowry 25/1
- Billy Horschel 28/1
It’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Daniel Berger (35/1, DK Price $9,300), but the Floridian showed some very promising signs at last week’s PGA Championship. After opening his PGA Championship with a very poor round of 73, Berger then shined over the next three days. The American posted three consecutive rounds under par, two of which were 66 or better. It was enough to give Berger a T12 finish and plenty of momentum heading to Greensboro this week.
In St. Louis last week, Berger lead the field for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, gaining an impressive 8.5 strokes over the field. It was the second best performance with his irons in his career, and at Sedgefield, Berger is going to have hole after hole where he can attack pins with his precise iron game. The two-time winner on the PGA Tour has had a quiet year, but in a weakened field, with plenty of question marks surrounding those at the top of the market, he has a superb opportunity for win number three here in Greensboro.
A T31 finish at the PGA Championship last week means that Chris Kirk (80/1, DK Price $7,500) has now made the cut in his last ten events. From these ten events, four have resulted in top-25 finishes, and Kirk has been hitting the ball particularly well as of late. Over his previous 12 rounds, Kirk ranks fifth in the field this week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th in ball striking and eight in Strokes Gained-Total.
Kirk will cost you just $7,500 on DraftKings, and looking at some of the players that are more expensive this week, he appears to be a bargain. Kirk is three for three in cuts made at the Wyndham Championship in his last three visits, and the four-time PGA Tour champion looks in excellent shape to mount his best challenge yet in Greensboro. Over his last 12 rounds, Kirk leads this week’s field for proximity to the hole, and on a golf course where flushing short irons to close range is going to be key, the American looks to offer some of the best value around this week.
With 17 out of 19 made cuts this year, and arriving off the back of a T12 finish in his last outing, Rory Sabbatini (75/1, DK Price $7,100) looks undervalued once again on DraftKings this week. Over his previous 12 rounds, Sabbatini ranks 24th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and 10th in Strokes Gained-Total. What’s more, is that Sabbatini is coming to a golf course that he has played very well in the past. In his last two visits to Sedgefield CC, the American has finished in the top-10 twice, with his best result coming last year when he finished T4. Coming off a strong showing in Canada, and with his proficiency in making cuts and excellent course history, Sabbatini looks a great DraftKings option here this week.
- Daniel Berger 35/1, DK Price $9,300
- Chris Kirk 80/1, DK Price $7,500
- Rory Sabbatini 75/1, DK Price $7,100
The 19th Hole: Katie Kearney’s Insights from Inside the Ropes with Tiger Woods on Sunday
“Tiger made the other players disappear!” Golf correspondent, Instagram star and St. Louis native Katie Kearney describes what it was like to be inside the ropes at Bellerive on this week’s edition of the 19th Hole with Michael Williams. Also featured are Golf Channel Contributor Ron Sirak, and Chris McGinley of V1 Golf.
Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
The 8 hottest driver shafts of 2018 on the PGA Tour
Bobby Clampett: “The 2 big problems with club fitting”
GolfWRX Members Choice: The best players irons of 2018
Francesco Molinari’s Winning WITB: The 2018 Open Championship
A deep dive into “toe hang” of a putter, and why it matters
Kevin Na’s Winning WITB: A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier 2018
SPOTTED: TaylorMade “GAPR” 2-iron
Everything you need to know about TaylorMade’s new GAPR Lo, Mid and Hi clubs
Bryson DeChambeau’s handshake snub: Big deal or not so much?
Blade vs. Mallet putters: What the top-50 players are using (OWGR and SG: Putting)
Joe LaCava, Tiger Woods’ caddie, paid a heckler $25 to leave at the WGC-Bridgestone
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