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Professional club builders and chefs have more in common than you think

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I’ve been building clubs for close to 20 years, and I get a lot of questions about what it means to be a professional club builder and run a build shop. It’s a lot different than being a hobbyist who does a few repairs or has put together a club or two in their garage—similar to how a regular home cook is not a trained chef. But please note, like many, I started off as a hobby builder myself!

Now, it’s not to say that you can’t become a professional chef without proper training. In fact, many of the best chefs I know have worked from the ground up with no formal training but have put many years into their craft to get where they are today.

So how does all this cooking talk relate back to club building? Although the mediums are very different, the processes to create the final products are more similar than you might think, and at the end of the day, the goal is the same—deliver a great product over and over again.

The starting point – Good ingredients

Building a set of clubs and creating a great dish is all about working with raw ingredients, and for golf clubs that means using high-quality components with tight tolerances. Sourcing from manufacturers that offer tight specs and components to properly assemble (if required), is like buying your vegetables from a local farmer. You know where they come from, you know how they were produced, and you know where to go if you have an issue.

Quality will always come with a price—tighter tolerances, and fresh ingredients might be a bit more expensive, but you will always get out of a meal or set of clubs what you put in. If you want an end product you are truly going to enjoy, professional chefs, just like club builders, are going to go to the end of the earth to search out the best ingredients for the dish they plan to create.

Prep work – Knowing your recipe

This is the boring part, always has and always will be. It’s about washing the veggies, chopping to size, organizing into portions, and storing until it’s time to cook.

For club builders, this is the make-or-break time of building a set—it’s making sure you have weighed out all of the components, sorted and organized, and spotted any potential issues with what you are working with and making a correction. For clubheads, that means taking into account the required build specs and adjusting head weight accordingly—no different to making a dish ordered spicy rather than mild—you better get it right or it’s coming back.

Once you have taken all the steps to get your ingredients/components prepped to make your dish according to the recipe/specs, we move onto the next process of putting everything together. If you have followed all the appropriate steps to this point, whether you’re a club builder or a chef, this is one of the fastest parts of the process.

For clubs, once the epoxy has been mixed, it takes as little as 15 minutes to actually assemble a 14-piece set, for a chef it’s similar. The dish comes together in the pan with pre-organized and portioned out ingredients and boom – you have a fully cooked dish in a matter of minutes. No chef starts peeling potatoes when an order is placed.

Work area – cleanliness & organization

This is where I draw a direct comparison, from a chef in their kitchen to a club builder – a clean and organized workspace, to me is the greatest sign of a professional. If you have ever walked into a restaurant with an open kitchen concept, it inspires confidence to see clean counters, organized utensils, and a work area organized and ready for action – if you see a dirty kitchen or a health inspection notice on the door – good chance you’re not stopping to eat.

A build shop should be no different—counters should be tidy, tools should be clean and well maintained for safety as well as precision, and components along with small parts should be organized and quickly accessible at all times. It should be considered a source of pride to maintain a clean workspace as much as it is to deliver a well-built set of clubs or a perfect dish, I have never trusted a messy club builder.

Final preparation

You can do everything right to this point, both as a chef or as a club builder, but if the presentation isn’t right then the customer isn’t likely to be happy—nor should they.

With food that final step means platings—and there is a big difference between a discount $5 buffet and a farm to table chef-inspired tasting menu—it doesn’t take a keen eye to spot the difference.

As for clubs, it’s the little things, many of which won’t be noticed by the naked eye or at first glance: lies and lofts, the number of tape wraps under a grip, or swing weight. Those are all things that a golfer must trust was done correctly by their builder. The other part is what can be seen, just like meal plating—no bend marks on hosels, grips on straight, and last but not least, the ferrules turned down properly.

This is my biggest sticking point, because if a club builder isn’t willing to take the time to properly finish one of the most noticeable parts on a club, the ferrules, what else have they potentially skipped out on? Can you trust the lies and loft are right? Can you trust the grips are on correctly with the right amount of tape? Did they even take the time to do the proper prep work?

Any true professional in a skilled trade, whether it be a club builder or chef, should always take pride in their work, and to be considered proper professionals they should also act accordingly, with attention to detail, and the goal of creating a delicious meal or well built set of clubs at the end of the day.

With that in mind, I present to you my finest meal plating…

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Michael

    Jul 31, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Where is the best place to get foundational education to become a club builder? Thanks for your time and the great article.

  2. Jonathan Weaver

    Jul 30, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    Someone is loving the Boyd’s!

  3. C

    Jul 30, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Ferrule. I loathe that word as an amateur club builder.

  4. Veo Robert

    Jul 29, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    Hi Ryan, I’m a professional chef in Boston and an aspiring club tinkerer, not gonna call myself a club builder, however i would like to be able to do so one day. You speak like someone who’s cooked professionally, i wouldn’t be surprised if you have. How true it is to be organized, meticulous and clean throughout the process of cooking, very well said in this matter. This article gives me great joy and hope that one day i can navigate the wonderful of golf equipment to be able to call myself a club builder. Thank you and keep up the great work. PS: get in touch if you ever in Boston, would love to treat you to a good meal, and maybe play a round.

    • Ryan Barath

      Jul 29, 2020 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks for the kind words.
      I am by no means a chef but do a lot of home cooking as well as have a number of friends in the industry that are true chefs. I spent a few years in the restaurant business doing craft beer sales and spent a lot of time in restaurants – the absolutely great ones are easy to spot if you’ve walked about a kitchen – clean, organized, and ready for action. It was how I was able to draw such a parallel for this piece.

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Whats in the Bag

Brandt Snedeker WITB 2020 (August)

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  • Brandt Snedeker WITB as of 2020 PGA Championship

Driver: Ping G410 Plus (9 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X

3-wood: TaylorMade M6 “Rocket 3” (14 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 7 X

5-wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 8 X

Irons: Srixon Z785 (4-9)
Shafts: Aerotech SteelFiber I95 S

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 4 (48-10S, 52-10S, 56-10S) Vokey SM8 (60K)
Shafts: (48) Aerotech SteelFiber I95 S (52/56/60) True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400

Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie
Length: 34 inches

Ball: Bridgestone Tour B X

Grips: Lamkin Crossline

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Bettinardi signs LPGA duo Muni He and Albane Valenzuela

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Bettinardi Golf has announced its partnership with LPGA rising stars Muni He and Albane Valenzuela.

Muni He, who qualified for the LPGA Tour in 2019 and is well-known for her large platform and fashion influence on social media, will use Bettinardi’s DASS QB8 Mid-Slant Tour Dept. putter.

He’s DASS QB8 Mid-Slant Tour Dept. putter is milled to 360 grams and features an oil rubbed bronze PVD finish. The flat-stick is constructed of double aged stainless steel and contains the brand’s F.I.T face milling.

The 21-year-old returned to action last week at the LPGA Tour’s Marathon Classic and will tee it up once again with the Bettinardi putter in her bag at this week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open.

Speaking on joining Team Bettinardi, He stated

“I’m very excited to join the Bettinardi family. The putter gives me great confidence on the greens and hoping that I could bring out my best game for the rest of the season with the support of the Bettinardi team.”

The company have also signed the Chilean Albane Valenzuela to its tour staff, who will tee it up this week using Bettinardi’s INOVAI 6.0 Tour Dept. putter.

The 22-year-old joined the LPGA Tour after being awarded the Pac-12 Women’s Golfer of the Year while at Stanford University. Other accolades include representing Switzerland at the 2016 Olympics, twice finishing runner up in the U.S. Women’s Amateur as well as being an ANNIKA Award finalist.

Speaking after joining Bettinardi, Valenzuela said

”I am thrilled to partner with Bettinardi Golf as I begin my professional career. The company’s technology, craftsmanship and attention to detail give me the confidence that I will be competing with the best putters in my bag. The ability to work with Bettinardi’s designers to customize a putter that optimizes my stroke will be a huge asset for me.”

He and Valenzuela are the latest LPGA players to join Team Bettinardi which features the likes of Annie Park and China’s No. 2 player, Yu Liu.

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From the GolfWRX Forums: Ping putters at the 2020 Albertsons Boise Open

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This week on the Korn Ferry Tour it’s the 2020 Albertsons Boise Open, and in our forums, we have a jam-packed thread showcasing the array of Ping putters present at the event. Check out the new Ping flat-sticks below and let us know what you think.

For more photos, check out the full forum thread here.

Entire Thread: “Ping putters at the 2020 Albertsons Boise Open”

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