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Talking New Level Golf with founder Eric Burch

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“If you want to make a small fortune, start with a big fortune”

It’s a phrase I’ve heard many times before, not just with the golf industry but in other industries that are, let’s call them — leisure or sports-focused. It’s an uphill climb to enter any market, but golf might be on another level. There are the big players that are worth BILLIONS, and spend millions of dollars in research and development, along with equal amounts marketing, to make sure that every golfer is aware of their new club technologies. They also have well-oiled systems of distribution.

But in this new world of brand-agnostic fitting centers, boutique brands, social media, and the ability to reach your target demographic like never before there are a LOT of new companies creating high performance, high quality, well-engineered products. But when it comes to forged irons for golfers of all abilities, industry veteran Eric Burch’s New Level Golf stands on its own.

If you don’t know Eric Burch, and you’ve gone through a custom fitting recently, then you are at least partially aware of some of the breakthroughs he’s helped create in the golf industry, including the Club Conex system. His newest endeavor New Level Golf was only started in 2017, but in that short time, it has made some very big strides including distribution in over 150 brand agnostic club fitting facilities and now some professional golfers signed to the roster (including PGA Tour winner Ken Duke).

So how do you go from designing club fitting components to designing forged irons and starting a company that has products on the Golf Digest Hot List? I got the chance to talk to Eric about New Level Golf, his background and how after his years in the golf industry he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

RB: Based on your history in the golf industry you seem to be a real problem solver with a “Be your own boss” mentality, is that how you would describe your self?

EB: I’ve been in business for myself since my early 20s. Other than a few short stints for other golf companies, I have primarily been my own boss involved with golf. I would consider myself a problem solver. Not necessarily by design, but mainly due to starting companies that have always been undercapitalized which forces your hand to learn a variety of tasks to help the business move forward.
Although I’ve received notoriety as a club fitter/retailer, Club Conex, and now New Level. I’ve been fortunate to have won the professional Clubmaker’s Top Shop Award (2004), Golf Digest Top 100 Club Fitters (2016),  & have products I’ve designed be on the Golf Digest Hot List (2019).

RB: What was the first product & club head you ever designed, and how does the workflow go now with New Level?

EB: The first golf products were, of course, the Club Conex prototypes and those were generated from hand-rendered sketches. I still believe, given what I did with Club Conex and the universal system I designed, I hardly get the credit I deserve. I bought a milling machine without really knowing how to use it and over the course of 6-7 months taught myself how to use it and started creating prototypes. Those prototypes eventually became the Uni-Fit system.

The first clubs I ever designed were putters dating back to the mid 2000s, but in terms of New Level, I know what I am trying to accomplish in design as well as fitting into player categories that comes from my years working at my own shop and fitting golfers from professionals to higher handicaps. Since product is made overseas, the engineers I work with at our factory have done a very good job of helping bring my concepts and designs to fruition. I really enjoy doing the designs and creating something that will one day be in someone’s golf bag.  The only current issue with the success we’re seeing now is if the company continues to push forward we will at some point be forced to bring on an industrial design engineer to further help with product development, but that would be in 2021 as most of our products for next year are in development, or have already been developed.

RB: On that note, how long from having an initial concept to that first set of irons or at least a prototype head in hand?

EB: This is heavily dependant on the complexity of the design. The 4995 HB took almost 9 months to get it where we wanted, whereas the 902 took just about four months. Typically we can get a first article sample of a playable sample in less than 60 days.

RB: When you consider the logistics and tooling involved, that’s quite an impressive turnaround time. From a design perspective, what do you think is the most misunderstood part of creating an iron head and the manufacturing process that you face?

EB: This is a hot topic with me since most people just don’t understand the depth of the manufacturing process. A lot of people think of the term open model (a factory’s in house design produced to create a starting point for some companies), they think we are just stamping our name on a head that is already been refined and finished by someone else which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Like with many aspects of club designs some of the tooling we use are openly available, but for example the raw forged blank head is on average 407 grams on a 6 iron that needs to be designed into a profile that weighs just 262 grams. So as you can imagine a club head overweight by more that 35 percent, it’s far from being a finished product. We call all the shots when it comes to every pertinent parameter and specifications of our design. The only thing incorporated into using this process and something we can’t change is the offset of the club. All other facets of the design are facilitated by my directive and incorporated into the final design.

I chose this method of manufacturing for New Level because it allows a far more flexible range of experimentation before a final design is consummated and brought to market. As a new company starting out it would have been near impossible to use a process similar to other OEMs that create a final tool for each and every design solely based on scale. We had several designs that were not used because they didn’t make the cut when it comes to performance and if we had gone the other route we would have had hundreds of thousands of dollars in tooling alone from products that never saw the light of day.

This process is called the “near net” process, and I find it to be much more in tune with today’s industry. I will take it one step further by saying regardless how good one may be at hand grinding and polishing, a human will never be as consistent and effective as a CNC machine. This entire process allows us to keep our costs reasonable and offer a…uniquely designed, full one-piece forged club for a fair price. There are a lot of other companies using this process you’d just never suspect it.

RB: As a club builder and fitter myself, I have encountered my fair share of misconceptions from golfers, what do YOU feel is the number one thing golfer misunderstand from a design perspective of their clubs?

EB: I can only speak from my experiences, but most golfers are scared of the word “forged” as it has been far too long associated with blades and hard to hit designs. I believe the average weekend warrior still views forged as a design methodology as opposed to a manufacturing process. That is a major objective for New Level to prove that forged clubs can be forgiving, can produce great ball speed, & can be used by your average mid handicap player. Our 1126, for example, is longer from heel to toe, has a shallow profile, and deep undercut – lots of forgiveness for any level of player. From a fitting perspective, I’d say that over 80 percent of players are using shafts that are too heavy, and too stiff for them.

RB:  We’ve talked a lot about the product, and now I need to know – How many retail outlets currently carry your irons and wedges. And lastly, what advantage do you believe New Level irons and wedges have over the competition?

EB: New Level products can be found at roughly 150 locations worldwide and growing almost weekly. If I had my way, we’d never sell another club off the website since I truly believe getting fit by a professional is the best way to get the right set, but saying that as the brand is growing and during the infancy stages, I am trying to get as much product in the field of play as possible to spread brand awareness. We get positive feedback on a daily basis. We have an extensive questionnaire on our site to help those that are not close to one of our retailers, and we also have a lot of people that see our clubs, like what they see and order to their known specs.

As far as our advantages go, I believe it’s pretty simple — being small allows us to pay more attention to each and every client and ensure they are getting the attention that they deserve. The mentality is always to be big enough to make money, yet no matter how we grow, act small and care about every single customer. Currently, we have the care part down very well. My belief is with any business I’ve ever been involved with is that if you do the right thing and stay focused eventually the money will take care of itself. It’s funny because I experience many of the same challenges with New Level as I did with Club Conex early on. Although I am mixed in with a ton of larger players in the golf industry, with New Level I am starting to see our awareness with golfers grow. I hope that this growth continues and we still maintain a great rapport with our customer base.

If you are interested in New Level products check out their website, or call and check with your local club fitter for availability.

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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.

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Jay

    Apr 24, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    Just got my combo set. Incredible irons. I have tried Honma and PXG.
    These are easier to hit and go further. I have the 902 in the 5 and 6 iron and
    the blades in the 7-P. They are just sweet.

  2. manufacturing process engineer degree

    Apr 22, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    Nice! Can Cisco Services Experts help with testing product?
    If so, I’d like to know if there are any job
    openings in this field. LOL

  3. Bob Kendall

    Apr 22, 2019 at 9:55 am

    My son is a fitter at TXG and he just acquired a set of New Level 1031 irons. The fit and finish is as good as anything and better than many others. Most importantly, they excel at ball speed and forgivness. He has access to whatever he wants and these proved to be the best for him, and yes, he tried PXG offerings.

    • EB

      Apr 25, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Always let’s you know how a product performs when its chosen from such a vast array of options. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ryan T

    Apr 21, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Burchie…

    Ignore the haters! Love to see your success. I remember when you came to the rock from Michigan. All you had was a ton of game, love for your family, and a dream! Glad to see the dream coming to fruition!

    RT

  5. Rich Douglas

    Apr 21, 2019 at 1:09 am

    These clubs look great. Properly fitted, I’m sure they’re a good choice for a great many golfers.

    Myself, I’m a single-length guy. I’ve been playing Wishon Sterlings since late 2016 and have not looked back. I keep hoping to find the next generation of single-length, but it doesn’t seem to be on the way. (No, Cobra isn’t it. Neither is Edel, but it’s closer.)

    It’s too much to ask for a small company like yours to take on such a gamble. But I’m afraid no one is going to pick up the mantle. Still, greatest regards to your company and for your success!

    • EB

      Apr 25, 2019 at 9:26 pm

      I see the merit in single length but it’s too big a risk at this point for us.

  6. Perry Green

    Apr 20, 2019 at 4:14 pm

    New Level looks great. I am going to try them for sure. Very proud of a home town guy. Congratulations Eric! Well done.

    • Eric Burch

      Apr 20, 2019 at 6:12 pm

      Thanks Perry. Happy to help an old friend and PGA Professional our, just LMK.

  7. Eric V

    Apr 20, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    The hater comments on this thread are beyond the pale. What a bunch of jerks!!! Probably some low level schmoes who work for TM or Callaway. Or, maybe they just need a hug.

    I wish Roger Dunn/Worldwide carried your stuff Mr. Burch. It’s kinda all we got in SoCal besides places only country-clubbers can afford to get fit at. The products look fantastic.

    • Eric Burch

      Apr 20, 2019 at 6:10 pm

      Not sure who it is, but it’s hard to see, and even harder to understand why there is malicious posts against a small company. Anyway, it is what it is, but I’m not taking my foot off the gas anytime soon. I guess we’ll just see how it all pans out? If there isn’t a shop near you, you can always demo a club through the demo program on our website. Thx!

  8. Wally S.

    Apr 20, 2019 at 12:10 pm

    I only purchased a wedge from New Level about a year ago, got it customized with the shaft and grip of my choice which you could get from any company, but the communications I received from Eric to make sure this is what I wanted and kept me informed as to the build progress and shipping status because of issues from the shaft manufacturer. Love the club, love the service that New Level gives, when it comes time for a set, New Level will be in the mix.

    • Eric Burch

      Apr 20, 2019 at 6:13 pm

      Thanks Wally. Glad to hear you like the wedge. Communication is critical for a small brand and it is something often missing in today’s world. We pride ourselves on it!

  9. Mark

    Apr 20, 2019 at 3:23 am

    A small point. This – “we call the shots when it comes to every pertinent parameter”, followed by “something we can’t change is the offset”. For some of us, offset is a very pertinent parameter.

    • Eric Burch

      Apr 20, 2019 at 9:27 am

      The offset is incorporated into the tooling. We select a tooling with the offset we desire to meet the fundamental needs of the overall design.

      • Mark

        Apr 20, 2019 at 10:27 am

        Thank you very much for replying to my point. I did understand that the offset is incorporated in the manufacturer’s tooling. My point was that the degree of offset you are obliged to accept through using off-the-shelf tooling may not suit those of us who prefer less/more offset than what you choose. When I am considering an iron head design, I like to know the designer’s thoughts on the role of offset in his design/s.

        • Eric Burch

          Apr 20, 2019 at 6:17 pm

          Mark, we select the parameters for all aspects of the design and if the offset does not meet the defined criteria then we will attempt to find another tooling. It’s not as though we try to design a players club, and say well the #6 iron has 5mm of offset, guess it’ll do. The tooling is selected after the design phase, not before. Hope this clarifies.

  10. BigMike

    Apr 19, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    I recently ordered a set of New Level 902 irons built to my specs. Eric personally called me and talked about my game, goals for new irons, etc. based on our conversation he made a few suggestions which I appreciated. The clubs arrived and are simply fantastic in every way. Feel, looks, distance, workability, etc are as good or better than the other brands I have games including Mizuno, Miura, TM, PXG, Callaway and Cobra. After 10 rounds I am a believer. I also ordered a wedge and hybrid iron and they are also impressive. If you are in the market It would be orth your time to demo New Level

    • The dude

      Apr 19, 2019 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks for that Eric “Big Mike” Burch

      • Big Mike

        Apr 19, 2019 at 10:25 pm

        Not Eric.screen name Lobber on WRX. Why the hate? It’s golf. Not life and death. Peace Dude

        • Kevin Krenzke

          Apr 30, 2019 at 8:23 pm

          Because “The Dude” still lives in his parents basement and he is made that his paper route is not generating much cash these days.

      • Eric Burch

        Apr 20, 2019 at 9:34 am

        To imply that I would falsely represent a consumer in an attempt to sell golf clubs is awful. I would never do such a thing as I have character Dude.

        • Tommy Skeetwood

          Apr 20, 2019 at 9:39 am

          Im going to win the PGA Champonshipdd!

  11. Eric Rosario

    Apr 19, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    I play new level and I have played every brand from blades to cavity backs. These are hands down the best irons I have ever played from a feel and distance perspective. Eric handled my questions personally even asking the lies and lofts of my current setup and going above and beyond following up with me on how they felt. Just because they are not a big name doesnt mean they are not good or even better. I get compliments everywhere I go on these irons. Take them for a spin, you wont regret it

    • Eric Burch

      Apr 20, 2019 at 6:19 pm

      Thanks so much for adding your experience. Delighted to hear you are liking the clubs!

  12. Aztec

    Apr 19, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    So, a new company making forged clubs which retail significantly higher than any current Mizuno or Srixon forged iron.

    Umm…

  13. M. 3-Wood

    Apr 19, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    We had the fortunate opportunity to talk with Eric as well, amazing guy with an amazing vision! Check out our convo…

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4X4WlHmEzg&list=PLm7hutY9l7jCR9PiFDvJgGtNh65DrlPbi&index=4&t=0s

  14. Anser

    Apr 19, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    Chapter 11 in 3,2,

    • Nack Jicklaus

      Apr 19, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      So cruel. But I laughed.

    • Eric Burch

      Apr 19, 2019 at 6:55 pm

      Sorry, you feel this way. In all due respect, that may be a bit short sided to form such an opinion without experiencing the product first hand. The product is offered through – Club Champion, Hotstix Golf, PGA Tour Superstore, Tour Experience Golf, True Spec Golf and many more of the most respected fitters in the industry. The reason they carry it is that it performs well. In a technology-driven market with the validation of launch monitor data, it’s hard to sell something that does not perform. Our first product intro the 902 Forged being awarded to the Golf Digest Hot List, and a growing tour representation of our 902 and 623-M is further evidence of the fact that we are to be taken seriously. There are plenty of great forgings on the market today, I will agree on that, but we are definitely part of the conversation. Respectfully, E.B.

      • Winston Leftmaker

        Apr 19, 2019 at 7:26 pm

        PXG is better though. They have the foam filled forged clubs.

        • Jay

          Apr 21, 2019 at 12:53 pm

          Play to a one hdcp and played PXG. I thought they sucked. Paid 2700 and regretted from the day I received them. I sold them for 1500. Took a beating. I will be trying the NEW level this week. Will give you my feedback.
          The haters are for sure from one of the big 3.

      • David Mattner

        Apr 19, 2019 at 7:49 pm

        Well said Mr Burch. If i bought a set of Mizuno’s then i guarantee i will not be able to speak with Mr Mizuno directly. New Level Golf provide a demo club for 7 days use. Why not give them a try before making comment on how good or how bad they could be.

        Golf is about enjoyment and much more than cost per club. I personally love the idea i can liaise with the company founder and discuss a bespoke set of clubs. If i try the clubs and find i play better or just feel the clubs suit me then that is not a bad thing. If i try the clubs and feel another brand is better then thats ok too.

        Lets give the smaller companies a go. There isnt one best club for all of us so be happy we have such a range of clubs to choose from and discuss in these forums.

      • James

        Apr 19, 2019 at 10:42 pm

        You were kind enough to respond to my past inquiries about where I can get a demo, and I was informed by you directly that club champion carried them. Because of your response which I never expected, I will be taking extra time with your products when i go into my fitting for a new set of irons in the next 2 weeks. Always appreciative of your community interaction

      • Timothy Daniels

        Apr 20, 2019 at 1:44 pm

        They’re beautiful, great feeling irons with original designs. That’s quite a feat. I know people who have purchased your clubs and they’re guys who had the entire field to pick from. Congratulations for bringing such a high quality product to the market. Those club heads, before they go on the shaft, look like little sculptures.

      • Kevin Krenzke

        Apr 30, 2019 at 8:20 pm

        Keep the faith Eric. Glad to support a quality small business in the USA.

    • Kyle Monfort

      Apr 20, 2019 at 2:20 pm

      What a moronic thing to say. Considering Eric sold his last company for likely significantly more than what you’re worth, his financial position is something you don’t need to worry about. Also, to take a new company from scratch to getting on the golf digest hot list and getting tour representation is beyond impressive. Most trolls like yourself only make these type of comments to deal with the fact they’re utterly useless in life. Maybe next time just say well done instead of being a prick.

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Toulon Santa Monica: The inside scoop

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As many have already seen this week in the forums, we spotted a brand new model from Toulon: the Santa Monica.

There were a lot of finer details going on with this putter that got peoples ears up including

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Thanks to a ton of positive feedback, we had to find out more.  So, we went right to the top and called up Sean Toulon to find out about this new model and what else might be coming in the near future.

Here’s what we know:

The Santa Monica, that was captured is part of a larger project that will be going all out when it comes to customization and “showing the world what we can do when it comes to design and manufacturing,” according to Toulon. This line of putters will not be available on the grand scale and instead will focus on individual pieces and prioritize the customer experience.

This new line from Toulon will also include new putters not yet seen, although we have one name so far: La Grange (shout out to Texas!), and it will also include different materials not currently found in the Toulon/Odyssey line. The focus will be 100 percent on boutique, different and just for you, said Toulon. The new line will center around exercising total creativity, and also have the potential for one-off and limited-number pieces.

We don’t have a timeline for when these will become available to the public, but when we do, we will be sure to let you know.

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Forum Thread of the Day: “Viktor Hovland signing with Ping”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from Dave D and it surrounds Viktor Hovland’s future as a Ping staffer. There has been plenty of chatter on our forums after Dave D shared this post from @golfnation_’s Instagram account.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • cvhookem3: “Seems like he was hinting at that with his equipment changes at the US Open. Good for him. He should be a lot of fun to watch.”
  • bladehunter: “Figured. He had near a full ping bag anyway. Love this kid. I really predict great things. Loads of raw tools.”
  • ImagineThat: “I think we’ll be seeing a lot of Viktor Hovland in the future…enough where his name will no longer appear strange. He seems to really be an upbeat guy with a nice personality, and he has a nice friendly smile to go with it.”

Golf Digest’s E. Michael Johnson reported Hovland is now a Ping man, writing he “signed a multi-year deal with Ping to play a minimum of 11 clubs, including driver and putter, along with a Ping staff bag and logo on the hat.”

Entire Thread: “Viktor Hovland signing with Ping?”

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TaylorMade signs Matthew Wolff to a multi-year deal; Wolff WITB

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TaylorMade Golf has officially announced the signing of Matthew Wolff on a multi-year agreement that will see the 20-year-old play the company’s metal woods, irons, wedges, putter and ultimately, TaylorMade’s flagship golf ball, the TP5x.

Wolff had previously unveiled that he would be making his professional debut at this week’s Travelers Championship, and just as top prospect Collin Morikawa did earlier at this month’s Canadian Open, Wolff will do so as a TaylorMade staffer.

The NCAA All-American and 2019 NCAA Division I individual champion made his debut on the PGA Tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this year where he finished T50 after opening his week with a round of five-under par.

Matthew Wolff WITB

Driver: TaylorMade M6 (8 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design TP 7TX

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M6 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke 6.5 TX

Utility Iron: TaylorMade P760 (2)
Shaft: Nippon Modus 130x

Irons: TaylorMade P750 Tour Proto (3-PW)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind Raw (52, 56, 62 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Copper

 

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