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Louisville Golf: Post time for persimmon

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“I knew I had to give it a shot. If I had tried and it didn’t work out, I would’ve been okay with that. But I had to go after my passion and see where it went.”

Jeremy Wright gets it. Taking over at Louisville Golf is not for everybody. This isn’t a multi-billion-dollar revenue generating machine with private research facilities and elaborate corporate complexes. It’s not about money…or fame…or 385-yard drives. Gerard Just, the youngest of the Just brothers who started Louisville Golf might have summed it up best:

“You know, I guess you could say we’re simple people. We don’t really go on vacations. But we work hard and we enjoy what we do. We don’t make a lot of money. I don’t think my kids could afford to work here to be honest, but they hate their jobs. We never really had that problem.”

Louisville Golf was established in 1974 by Elmore Just and Steve Taylor when they left Hillerich & Bradsby (crafters of Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Power-Bilt golf clubs). Elmore ran the business side of the company and Steve oversaw the manufacturing aspect. Back then, in the heyday of persimmon, the club manufacturers were on an allotment. Since persimmon (remarkably well-suited for golf clubs due to its strength and density) is a relatively slow-growing wood, there was only so much material to go around and upstart Louisville Golf had to fight for every block they got. Eventually, they built the business into a major player, making 800 clubs a day for the likes of Hogan, MacGregor, Wilson, Spalding, and others.

Master models for Louisville Golf persimmon club heads

Some of Louisville Golf’s more well-known woods that won on the PGA Tour were the Wilson Whale that Payne Stewart used to win the 1989 PGA Championship and the Hogan Apex that Tom Kite used to win the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach. Then metal woods came into the picture and sales dwindled. When Callaway launched the Big Bertha, sales basically dried up overnight.

Though metal woods took off like a rocket in the 1990’s, there were some holdouts. Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, and Mark Calcavecchia held onto their persimmon woods into the late 90s. The last man standing was widely considered to be Bob Estes, who used his Louisville Golf Smart ProBE (a club Just developed specifically for Estes) in the Accenture Match Play in 2001.

When Elmore Just passed away in April of 2001, his brother Mike assumed control of the company. Elmore is actually buried at Persimmon Ridge Golf Club in Louisville, an Arthur Hills course he developed in the 1980’s. When Mike took the reins, though the company had successfully limped along through the metal wood revolution, the hard reality was that they needed to reinvent themselves if they were going to remain profitable. Mike left his mark on the company in 2004 by deciding to leverage Louisville Golf’s unique expertise into crafting period-correct hickory shafted golf clubs and restoring vintage specimens. That decision marked a resurgence of sorts, as the niche has served Louisville Golf well. Today, Louisville Golf and St. Andrews Golf Co. are the only large scale manufacturers of such equipment.

Louisville Golf club heads ready for final assembly

It’s a peculiar set of circumstances to be sure, but oddly enough, many golfers in the 21st century have found Louisville Golf through 100-year-old golf clubs. This is exactly how Jeremy Wright came into the picture. Jeremy was a medical sales representative in Houston, TX with a wife, three kids, and a serious golfing hobby. He had recently gone on a search for an exotic shaft upgrade for his Scotty Cameron putter. On a whim, he googled wooden shafts, stumbled across hickory golf clubs, and the rest was history.

“One of the things I learned in that search was that, when the golf industry transitioned from hickory shafts to steel, a lot of players either kept their old hickory putters or would fit their new putters with hickory shafts for decades after that transition because the feel was so much better.

“So I kept digging into hickory golf and tried to learn what it was all about. I discovered there were hickory tournaments and the winners shot like 75-78 and I thought, ‘I can do that. I’m going to get a hickory set together and figure this out.’ From that point on, I was hooked. There was no going back.”

So hooked, in fact, that when Jeremy heard the Just family was fielding offers for the company as a result of Mike’s passing in October of 2016, he put his name in the hat. It just so happened that Jeremy and his wife were both at a point in their careers where they were looking for more. Burned out and tired of the cyclical corporate rat race, they decided to go all-in on Jeremy’s passion, submitted an offer to the Just family, and ultimately were selected from multiple potential suitors to carry on the legacy of the company.

Sole plates for Louisville Golf persimmon fairway woods

As for where Louisville Golf goes from here, you can probably expect a lot more of what got them here in the first place. After all, one of the biggest reasons Jeremy was selected to take the reins at Louisville Golf was his commitment to preserving its heritage.  Louisville Golf may not be rubbing elbows with the major OEM’s anymore, but these days, they’re not trying to either. Just like the rest of us golfers, they’re getting by with grit, optimism, and respect for the game. They’ve also seen the fortunate bounces and bad lies that come with a life dedicated to golf, but as the old adage says, the most important shot is always the next one. Time marches on. And so does Louisville Golf. They remain committed to what has brought them this far and see that as a springboard into the future.

“We’ve got some products in the works that I think are really innovative and will show what persimmon is really capable of. I think if you’re a better player who can find the sweet spot on a consistent basis, you really should think seriously about persimmon. Especially if you’re looking to get a specific yardage out of your clubs like with a fairway wood or hybrid. There was a video circulating a few years ago with Rickie Fowler using a steel shafted persimmon fairway wood and he was getting a 1.49 smash factor. You can’t get much better than that. The way the bulge and roll is shaped on a persimmon wood and also the location of the CG allows for a bigger gear effect than modern titanium woods. Persimmons do impart more spin on the ball (especially on a mishit), so we acknowledge the ball may not go as far, but that spin also brings the ball back to the target, too. That’s one of the biggest advantages of persimmon. You’ll be shorter but in the fairway as opposed to long and in the trees.

“The people that find us are looking for a deeper connection to the tradition and the spirit of the game. They’re tired of paying for marketing fluff and silly catch phrases. We make viable alternatives for the modern golfer, we make classic reproductions of the steel shaft/persimmon head era of golf, and we make spot-on hickory shafted clubs as well, so we think we have a place in just about everyone’s bag depending on how you prefer to experience the game. Nothing compares to the joy of a purely struck golf shot with a wooden golf club. You just feel like you’re playing golf the way it was meant to be played.”

A visit to Louisville Golf reveals a group of people who have dedicated their lives to exactly that: playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Hard work, attention to detail, a commitment to quality, and having a lot of fun along the way are the hallmarks of their operation. One strike directly on that persimmon sweet spot will send all of those vibes straight into your bones. Playing golf with persimmon woods in the 21st century may be taking the road less traveled, but it could make all the difference.

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Peter Schmitt does not profess to be a PGA professional or to be certified at...well...anything much in golf. Just another lifelong golfer with a passion for the game trying to get better every day, the definition of which changes relatively frequently. Peter is a former Marine and a full-time mechanical engineer (outside of the golf industry). He lives in Lexington, KY with his wife and two young kids.

38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. John L.

    Dec 16, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Fantastic article. I’m an avid golfer who caddied and began playing during the late persimmon era of the 1980s, but, like many others, jumped to metal woods in search of more distance…under the mistaken notion that more distance would equal more “fun”.

    Several years ago, after burning out after buying the latest $400 460cc monster driver, I finally realized the error of my ways. I abandoned the 7,200 yard tees and moved up to 6,300…and began playing either a set of vintage steel shafted blades and persimmon woods or a set of hickory shafted clubs with persimmon heads.

    Golf is once again fun…and I am now playing golf SHOTS, and not just the bomb & gouge game of “hit”.

    Thank you Louisville and Jeremy. I own several of your clubs and I love them !!! You are restoring the art of shotmaking to the game…and bringing back the fun as well.

    Well played Sir…well played.

  2. sergizmo

    Dec 15, 2018 at 9:56 pm

    Hopefully Louisville can survive and possibly thrive going forward. Probably the one “made in USA” club manufacturer left.

    In 2019 I’m gaming 1-3-5 Classic 50’s woods all year. Bought them several years ago direct from Lousiville and played them on and off but not all year. I need t commit to it. It’s so much more enjoyable than the modern stuff. I also have a Smart Pro BE with graphite and a steel shafted 9 Niblick but don’t get along with them as much as the Classic 50s.

    Thank you Just family for your excellent customer service, craftsmanship, value (for the work that goes into these things, they are very reasonable) and left handed availability.

  3. stevek

    Dec 13, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    A persimmon driver head with a stiff steel shaft is completely different than one with a whippy hickory shaft. Why?

  4. Ed Nelson

    Dec 13, 2018 at 7:42 am

    I worked at LG between the peak and trough of persimmon. I consider it an honor. I played golf at Persimmon Ridge with Mike in a regular Saturday foursome. I still remember fondly rounds in the high humidity of the Ohio River Valley, carrying our clubs and experiencing golf as it was meant to be—-tough!

  5. jack

    Dec 13, 2018 at 6:33 am

    not post time for persimmon but “past” time …

  6. James Bucher

    Dec 12, 2018 at 11:30 pm

    A nice read about the folks at LG. I learned about them when I first started playing hickory golf. There is nothing like striping a hickory driver straight down the fairway! It really surprises me that more people don’t play and practice with Hickory/ classic persimmon clubs. When going back to my modern clubs after playing Hickory clubs my ball striking is more pure.
    OGO put your modern bag in the corner and play with some Hickory clubs and find out if you play them?

    • Dick Verinder

      Dec 14, 2018 at 11:39 am

      My modern bag and clubs is no longer ‘in the corner’; not even in the garage – tis a vague memory of long ago. Louisville’s hickories are a blessing for older golfers.

  7. Keith Finley

    Dec 12, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    I still practice with my MacGregor Jumbo Ozaki model. Has a factory Aldila HM 40. Great club.

  8. Loy Seal

    Dec 12, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    I began working on clubs in 1974 and soon discovered Louisville Golf. I sold a lot of drivers made with their heads and still have my personal driver (deep face, mahogany finish with my Seal logo on the crown, DGS300 shaft and Victory grip). I will have to put it back in my bag to try again. I don’t know about the stiff shaft though.

    One of my favorite things to do was to refinish persimmon woods back to the factory finish, complete with the factory decals. I made a lot of money with persimmon.

  9. TONEY P

    Dec 12, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    I started hitting golf balls with a few hickory clubs my dad had. Nothing felt better than a well striped shot and persimmon heads were beautiful. Golf has changed alot since then.

  10. Jim Lynch

    Dec 12, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve been a club builder since the mid-80’s (my pro still asks me to whip the random persimmon head coming in for repairs cause he can’t do it!) and recall “buying out” a lot of the inventory of LG when they were winding down and almost OOB back in maybe 1989-ish? I still have a few boxes of pre-whipped heads and some one-offs that I can’t seem to part with. Great company and thank God they are still around and thriving. I do some business with Linksoul and saw that they have their own line of LG-built woods at some serious prices. Kudos to them as well for helping to keep persimmon out there and available to a new generation. As far as the technical discussion about playability…I took my DG S300 shafted circa-’88 LG #4 wood out to the range to compare with my Ping hybrids last fall and it flew by my 18-degree G30 by at least 10 yards. No lie. All day. It’s back in the bag already.

  11. Tom Wishon

    Dec 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    It truly was one of my greatest honors and memories to have been friends and to have worked in business with the Just brothers, Elmore, Mike and Ron as well as the superb people who shared the vision including Art Henry and Mike Lenahan. These were people who did it for the right reasons – pride and craftsmanship with money way down the list. Elmore also was the vision behind forming the first professional organization for custom clubmakers and his commitment to the game through the development of the Persimmon Ridge GC was just an overflow of the golf passion he had and his brothers shared. I’m pleased to hear that the company is going forward because the world and the golf industry needs more companies and people like this. Good on you Peter Schmitt for shining a light on Louisville Golf.

    • Peter Schmitt

      Dec 13, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Thanks for chiming in, Tom! Cheers!

  12. David Palosaari

    Dec 12, 2018 at 11:33 am

    I am your typical 61 year old hack. Used set of Hogan Apex was my first set of clubs.
    I think I was reading an article about this company and called them to see what they were all about. I talked with Elmore must have been a year or two before he passed 99,2000 somewhere in there I believe. So excited to talk about their clubs. So I bought a driver. Most beautiful club I own! I am proud to say I own a Louisville Golf driver! Now I don’t use it because I don’t want to scuff it up. I actually think the old blades and persimmon woods tended to make us TRY and hit the ball more squarely. Great article thanks

  13. joro

    Dec 12, 2018 at 11:15 am

    As an old wood club maker I did all the custom clubs for the Pros and others. We made some good Woods at Cobra in the 70s and early 80s until Metal took over. They required a lot of steps to make and build in the desired specs;, but it was really fun. They weren’t as long as todays Drivers but the feel and sound was wonderful. I would like to go back to those days on the Tour so the Bombers would have to work harder and use their skills more. The 450 Par 4s would not be a drive and a wedge, and although they would still be the longest it would help equalize things for the shorter hitter.

    Their is nothing like hitting a good shot with wood,

  14. Locust

    Dec 12, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Peter, well done my friend. I have been following your persimmon journey along with the Louisville Golf renaissance for the past year or so. I sense the momentum created by those of us who are tired of the game being bastardized by over commercialization. As many people have come to realize, the game has grown too far way from it’s roots. Jeremy Wright is a pleasure to work with and I encourage everyone to take a strong look at his company. The craftsmanship at Louisville is undeniable. Playing persimmon will help you find your game, and quite possibly, even your soul.

  15. Brad

    Dec 12, 2018 at 2:48 am

    This is real, honest golf. I admit that I do love smashing metal “woods” miles down the fairway. But, there is something about hitting a real wood right out of the middle that nothing can quite beat.

  16. David Perez

    Dec 11, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    As Jeremy’s former medical sales partner in Houston, I can attest to His passion for Golf. He is a student of the game and I’m just so happy he is one of the “lucky ones” who had not only the ability, but guts to go all-in on something he loves every single day! He was a successful medical sales Consultant (not rep, as he was probably being modest in his description of his former glory days) and I’m not surprised at his commitment and success in this endeavor. All the best to you, Jeremy. May every drive be straight and true. dp

  17. chuck harvey iv

    Dec 11, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    It has been a long time since I played persimmon, when I rarely missed a fairway. I used Bailey&Izett woods persimmon & still have my 3&4 wood. Would love to have a driver. Keep us informed. The best to you.

    Chuck

  18. Scott

    Dec 11, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Well done, Peter! Jeremy and the incredible craftsman at LG ensure the finest replicated hickory clubs available. The hickory game encompasses ALL aspects of the way the game used to be…and what it has seemingly lost over time. The style (knickers/Plus Fours), artistry, camraderie, fine scotch (wee nip), and required skill are all part of the true experience. I hope empassioned, distinguished players will take a moment to google “hickory golf”, visit sites like the Society of Hickory Golfers, and consider expanding and enriching their connection to the game…and the people with whom they share it. There are growing groups, hickory days, and tournaments in all regions of the country…and all are welcomed by deep sincere friendship, rarely found in the modern game. If golf is in your soul, come play
    the hickory game…a tie that binds.
    Visit: http://www.hickorygolfers.com

    • ogo

      Dec 11, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      Not for the average recreational golfer who can’t break 100 honestly by the rules. A lovely persimmon driver in their hands would be scuffed with skymarks all over the varnish paint finish to reveal his abject incompetence and clownish play.

  19. James Kaiser

    Dec 11, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Jeremy Wright is a very humble person. He shot 66- 72 to win the Heart of America by a bunch of shots this past summer, he’s one so many modern day hickory titles it would make your head spin, he is sort of like the new Tiger Woods of Hickory golf taking the title over from Randy Jensen. He also won the Foxboro Hickory championships playing reproduction Gutty Percha balls and set a course record he’s an amazing golfer. By the way Andy Just also won the Natuonal Hickory Golf Championship and is an amazing hickory golfer. I can pretty much guarantee you that if Andy or Jeremy play Tiger Woods and it was Tigers first time playing hickory golf he would get a run for his money by either one of these golfers. Been trying to get Justin Thomas out to play these guys too but Justin must be scared to play them????

  20. Andrew Just

    Dec 11, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    Great article here. As the son of Elmore Just and a man who wanted to take over the business, I can honestly – jeremy is right for LG. I wish them nothing but the best. I am a lifelong tried and true customer who uses LG in both modern and hickory play.

    • Peter Schmitt

      Dec 11, 2018 at 6:24 pm

      Hi Andrew! Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the kind words. Your family started something very special that you are no doubt very proud of so I consider your opinion high praise indeed. I look forward to building a proper stable of Louisville Golf clubs myself in the (hopefully) near future.

  21. Robert T Leonard

    Dec 11, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    I have beautiful persimmons (refinished Clevelands from the 80’s) that I might like to occasionally play with. I usually play with ProV1’s or TP5’s golf balls. Should I play with a softer ball if using persimmon woods?

    • Peter Schmitt

      Dec 11, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      Yes I would advise a softer ball. The Wilson Duo lineup is very popular among the persimmon crowd due to its low compression. I think Chrome Soft (not the X) is relatively low as well. You’ll also find the feel to be super addicting IMO. Happy hunting. Isn’t it fun?

      • Robert T Leonard

        Dec 11, 2018 at 6:37 pm

        Will try the Wilson. Thank you.

  22. Steve

    Dec 11, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    I have a set, driver and niblicks… the niblicks are a great idea except that I play on a lot of hardpan… the driver is brilliant, but I mostly use it for practice.

  23. ogo

    Dec 11, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Persimmon… no COR… no weight adjustment… no 460cc… no hosel adjustments… no impact crack… no annual status model change… just wood body, plastic faceplate, lead backweight, steel soleplate and varnish. That’s no fuuun…. 😛

    • Peter Schmitt

      Dec 11, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      If memory serves me right, I think the COR for a persimmon wood is generally around 0.78 for what it’s worth. Not exactly right at the 0.83 limit, but no slouch either. And Jeremy actually showed me a vintage hickory shafted persimmon wood with an adjustable hosel, so it was actually done long before it was considered “cool.”

      • Andrew Just

        Dec 11, 2018 at 6:01 pm

        People freak out when I hit a PROV1 with hickory shafts and Persimmon heads further than their Taylor Mades

      • ogo

        Dec 11, 2018 at 8:00 pm

        Thank you for your brave presence on this open fine forum provided by the fine GWRX folks… your personal responses are appreciated. Now… do you own a persimmon driver? I do, an old Powerbilt driver with an A-flex steel shaft, not exactly hickory. I love that or gasmic {{{THUD}}} upon impact between the scr ews… it’s glorious …!!

        • Peter Schmitt

          Dec 11, 2018 at 9:10 pm

          I own several steel-shafted persimmon woods and am hoping to dive head first into the hickory shafted realm in the near future. Like most people, I left persimmon behind back in the 90’s. Once I went back, though, I kind of forgot why I left. When you hit a balata ball perfectly with a persimmon wood, it changes you….

          • Tay

            Dec 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm

            You would love the hickory game. Give it a try. For me, it was like learning the game all over again (in a good way).

  24. A. Commoner

    Dec 11, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    A really good article. We could use more writing like this.

    • Peter Schmitt

      Dec 11, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      We could use more comments like this too! Appreciate the kind words.

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