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Highlights from our talk with the “King of Stamping,” Titleist’s Aaron Dill

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Aaron Dill, right-hand man to Bob Vokey himself and the “king of wedge stamping,” as Andrew Tursky called him, talked with the TG2 on a rare day off after spending the week attending to staffer’s needs at the Masters.

While the full 40-minute podcast is well worth a listen, we’re picking from the buffet to make you a plate of some of the best of the chat with Mr. Dill.

On Bernd Wiesberger’s Masters wedge…

The Austrian traditionally gives Dill a call prior to the Masters to dial in his set and discuss wedge stampings. “He’s really into that stuff, and so am I…it’s a collaborative process.” Interestingly, Dill says the actual wedge stamping doesn’t take nearly as long as the preparation. “That stamping took…five to 10 minutes tops,” Dill says. The process of actually applying the paint involves bottles with fine tips and little squeegees, then cleaning the wedge with a little acetone.

On players preparing for the Masters…

“We take into account that the conditions are so unique…Augusta National does such a great job of preparing the golf course…it’s just immaculate out there. Conditions are generally firm and fast.” Thus, “prep involves a little bit of sole testing, a little bit of bounce testing.” Players test different soles to deal with the firmness and want to be sure their grooves are fresh. The process starts a month or two before the event.

On common player changes at Augusta…

While the likes of Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth don’t change much, according to Dill, some players, “I don’t want to say ‘panic,’ but when you get to the Masters, you want to play your best golf. Equipment preparation and golf course preparation is so important those first three days…Justin and Jordan will roll into the event with the same four pieces they played at every other event.” The only changes pertain to new wedges with fresh grooves.

On gaining players’ trust…

“Trust is earned over time. Spending time with them. Listening to them. Getting an idea what they want and what they need…I’ve been fortunate, I’ve been able to work with these guys since they were really young…I got to know Jordan Spieth when he was a high schooler. Being able to say that I spent all that time with those guys validates our relationship and the trust they put in me and Bob Vokey.”

On wedge grinding…

“Wedge grinding is understanding how to polish and ground and how the wheels work…it’s the combination of learning how to grind, but also, understanding what you’re grinding and why.” Dill says the ability to translate a player’s preferences into the wedge s/he wants is vital.

On learning grinding from Bob Vokey…

“Bob, would it be OK if I took a case of heads and just practiced?” Dill would ask. He would then take the heads from Vokey’s shop and practice grinds at his own truck and take them back to Vokey for feedback. Vokey would then mark up the wedges with Sharpie (like a teacher with a red pin), showing Dill what he needed to change. He’d then work with Vokey’s in-house polishers to refine things further and continue to learn.

Wedge grinding is “like a haircut: once you take it off, it’s not going to go back on there…you have to take your time and become one with the that machine.”

On turning wedges into what Tour players want…

“Tour players have these incredible eyes for things. You learn a lot about that when you’re polishing over time: what players are looking for and why, how you can turn a club from a tool into a piece of art…blending beauty and the things that are needed in the sole to produce the things they want.”

On the popularity of Vokey wedges…

“It’s a combination of beauty and technology. Bob will tell you, ‘we’re not going to sacrifice the aesthetics of the wedge.’…He doesn’t want to produce a product that isn’t stunning.” Dill adds, “the first thing we focus on is the aesthetics and the profile. Then, once we have the attractive profile, we’re going to start focusing on technology.” Dill adds the focus then turns to grooves, soles, and CG, “but beauty comes first.”

On developing grinds…

“With Tour players, we spend years testing with them…The D-grind is kind of this interesting play on bounce where you need it and playability where you need it…We call it the big brother to the M-grind…All of our grinds are inspired by what’s successful on Tour. The D for us has been a really big offering, especially when we’re on the East Coast due the the Bermuda grass, the sand-based soils, and the grain pattern.”

“We’ll use Jason Dufner as an example and the K-grind as an example. He said, ‘Hey I was hanging out with Tom Kite, and Tom had this wedge that was really cool, but I want to change this, that and the other thing…can you make that?’ After taking an oversized wedge to the shop floor and grinding, Dill produced the sole Dufner wanted. Dufner took the wedge out, played it, was successful with it, which led to more players asking for the grind. “That’s where the whole process starts,” Dill says. And if a wedge does well on Tour, the company then considers bringing it to retail. “But we certainly don’t just make stuff to make stuff,” Dill says, “that’s why the Tour is so important to us.”

On the importance of wedge fitting…

“It’s important to get out and test things…if you’re going to make an investment in your golf equipment, you might as well make sure that whatever you buy is right for you. Everybody’s different, and that’s why we make 27 different models in SM7.”

On Justin Thomas’ wedge stamping…

“When he was younger, he came out to our test site…he was hitting shots, and he was just peppering this flag. And they were like, “You’re like radar. Every single time it’s perfect.’ That’s how ‘radar’ started. When I first met Justin, he had that on the wedges. When he came out on Tour, I asked him if wanted to keep stamping it.” Thomas said he wanted to do something different, so Dill started stamping some lyrics from some of the songs Thomas was listening to. “And his short game kind of went down hill a little bit,” Dill says, and Thomas said, “On this next set…go back to ‘radar.’”

On memorable stampings and the process…

“Morgan [Hoffmann] is great because he always has new material for me. We would relate it to things that were going on in his life. Another great guy is Robert Streb…Darren Stiles is another funny guy…He did latitude/longitude coordinates on some of his clubs…I tell guys, ‘I don’t want to do initials, that’s boring. Let’s tell a story, let’s have some fun. Let’s be funny. Let’s be unique.” Dill says that sometimes players come up with ideas, and sometimes they leave it in his hands. “Ian Poulter, he would have just ‘IJP’ on there. One day we were talking about cars.” Poulter told him about his newest Ferrari: his 13th and asked if maybe Dill could fit the names of all 13 models on a wedge.

On his all-time favorite stamping…

“I did the 17th hole at Sawgrass for Robert Streb. That was really, really fun. I stamped the Valspar chameleon on something.”

On whether raw wedges actually spin more…

“Not necessarily. We did some great work on scoreline testing. Sometimes, when you cut your scorelines in and put a surface over the top, like a chrome or something like that, we describe it as folding a piece of paper in. Every time you fold a piece of paper in, it can become a bit softer. So, that’s where we got together with our vendors and realized there’s a better process for that…the perception is raw spins more. In our testing, it’s so small, it’s not that much.”

On who has the best short game on Tour…

“I think my favorite guy, who is just impressive with a wedge, is probably Jordan [Spieth]. He does everything well and is just so consistent. Now, there’s another guy I’ve enjoyed watching forever, he’s one of those guys that Tour players go to…for wedge advice: Brett Rumford.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

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19th Hole

The Houston Open could be permanently closed

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The Houston Open looks to be in trouble. While, the PGA Tour won’t release the 2018-2019 schedule until some time around The Players Championship, word regarding schedule changes is already filtering out…and of course speculation abounds.

Unfortunately for the Houston Open, the long-standing Tour stop’s future looks to be in jeopardy on the heels of some recent news. First reported by Houston’s ABC 13 and later by Joel Beall of Golf Digest: The Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the tournament since 2003, no longer wants to host the competition.

“We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club’s decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event,” a Houston Golf Association statement said. “The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club.”

The tournament’s future has looked bleak since 25-year sponsor, Shell, ended its duties in 2017. Additionally, the Golf Club of Houston has been substantially renovated in recent years to provide players conditions similar to what they’ll face the following week at Augusta National.

However, knowing the tournament will move out of the pre-Masters calendar position, clearly didn’t sit well with GCH, and the club is finished playing host.

Thus, any future Houston Open needs a new course and new sponsor, which is, at the very least, a tremendous ask roughly a year out from the potential competition.

RELATED: Detroit could be getting a PGA Tour event

 

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Good? Bad? Hilarious? GolfWRX members discuss hypothetical two-man teams

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In its second year, the Zurich Classic’s team format is a new and curious beast amidst the medal play that dominates the PGA Tour. The two-man team format got GolfWRX member AceCatKY thinking.

He writes

“What would be some of the best/worst/funniest pairings of two PGA golfers for a two-man event? Current and past golfers can be paired together so you could have Old Tom Morris and Patrick Reed if you wanted…I think DJ/DeChambeau would be hilarious for the dichotomy it would present…What do you guys/gals think?”

Oh boy, what a superb hypothetical; imagine the possibilities: good, bad, and ugly! Naturally, GolfWRXers were quick to weigh in.

Bye writes

Sergio and Tiger would be interesting.

Seve and Phil could have been the most entertaining pairing in history.

jonsnow says

Bubba Watson & Steve Elkington

Patrick Reed & Rory McIlroy

Danny Willett & Smylie Kaufman

Cardoustie says

Lumpy and Jesper

Tom Watson and Gary Player

Seve and Azinger

Robert Rock and Ollie Schneiderjans

Frankensteins Monster says

Ian Poulter/Patrick Reed

Todd Hamilton/Danny Willett

Tony Finau/Colt Knost

Robert Rock/Ben Crane

Michelle Wie/Tad Fujikawa

Check out the rest of the replies in the thread, or let us know your hypothetical two-person squads below. 

 

 

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19th Hole

From Master P to Metallica: Check out team walk-up songs for the Zurich Classic

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It’s the list you’ve been dying for since you heard the Zurich Classic of New Orleans would feature golfer walk-up music.

OK, you’re at least mildly interested in what, say, Jon Curran and Keegan Bradley will be walking out to (the answer: “Shipping Up To Boston,” by the Dropkick Murphys, appropriate for a pair of sons of New England).

Here’s the official list, per the PGA Tour (not every team is included). As you can see, it’s a mix of classics, local references, hip-hop, and a surprising dose of metal.

Team                                         Song                                      Artist                                       
William McGirt/Sam Burns Callin’ Baton Rouge Garth Brooks
Kevin Na/Byeong Hun An Make ’em say Uhh Master P
Chris Kirk/J.T. Poston Crazy Train Ozzy Osbourne
Chez Reavie/Lucas Glover For Whom the Bell Tolls Metallica
Martin Piller/Joel Dahmen Lovumba Daddy Yankee
K.J. Choi/Charlie Wi Gangnam Style PSY
Ryan Armour/Johnson Wagner Enter Sandman Metallica
C.T. Pan/Zac Blair Half Time Ying Yang Twins
Tyrone Van Aswegen/Retief Goosen Africa Toto
Tom Hoge/J.J. Henry Right Now Van Halen
Shawn Stefani/John Rollins Thunderstruck AC/DC
Tony Finau/Daniel Summerhays Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing) Zapp & Roger
Keith Mitchell/Stephan Jaeger Pizza Guy Touch Sensitive
Ben Silverman/Matt Atkins Enter Sandman Metallica
Zach Johnson/Jonathan Byrd Thunderstruck AC/DC
Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay Eye of the Tiger Survivor
Greg Chalmers/Cameron Percy Down Under Men at Work
Keegan Bradley/Jon Curran Shipping up to Boston Dropkick Murphys
Brendan Steele/Jamie Lovemark California Love Tupac
Charley Hoffman/Nick Watney California Love Tupac
Billy Horschel/Scott Piercy Young Forever Jay Z ft. Mrs. Hudson
Cody Gribble/John Peterson Careless Whisper George Michael
Steve Stricker/Jerry Kelly As Good As I Once Was Toby Keith
Chris Stroud/Brian Stuard Enter Sandman Metallica
Sergio Garcia/Rafa Cabrera Bello The Best Tina Turner
Kevin Tway/Kelly Kraft Gucci Gang Lil Pump
D.A. Points/Kyle Thompson Working for the Weekend Loverboy
Mac Hughes/Corey Conners Big League Tom Cochrane & Red Rider
Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley Circle of Life Carmen Twillie
Shane Lowry/Padraig Harrington Beautiful Day U2
Russell Knox/Martin Laird Flower of Scotland
Gary Woodland/Daniel Berger Forever Drake
Brandon Harkins/Lanto Griffin Started From the Bottom Drake
Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown Slippery Migos
Andrew Landry/Talor Gooch Big Poppa Notorious BIG
Jason Day/Ryan Ruffels Down Under Men at Work
Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson Gold Spandau Ballet
Matt Every/Sam Saunders Running With the Devil Van Halen
Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan DNA Kendrick Lamar
Emiliano Grillo/Peter Uihlein Mi Gente (Remix) J Balvin, Willy William, Busta K.
Jamie Donaldson/Ross Fisher Sweet Disposition The Temper Trap
Harold Varner III/Robert Garrigus Ebony and Ivory Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
Alex Cejka/Ben Crane Here I Go Again Whitesnake
Abraham Ancer/Roberto Diaz Mexico Lindo y Querido Vicente Fernandez
Xinjun Zhang/Zecheng Dou Believe in Myself Zero Point Band

See what GolfWRX members think about the song selections in the forums.

 

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