One of my favorite things to do in “A Quick Nine” is to talk to the creative geniuses in the golf industry, the people who create the products that become a part of our golf and travel life.
Jeff Herold, the president and CEO of West Coast Trends Incorporated, is one of those people. You may not know his name, but you know Club Glove, and you’re going to know Scheyden (pronounced “Shade-in”) Eyewear. He is the mastermind behind both of those.
In this Q&A, I talk to Jeff about the amazing rise of Club Glove and what he is planning for an encore. We had a long chat (it’s been lightly edited for style and brevity), but make sure to read all the way to the end for the incredible discount Jeff is offering GolfWRX Readers through July 4.
Michael Williams: Jeff, I’ve been trying to get this talk lined up for almost two years.
Jeff Herold: I got to try to get a little surfing in in the morning, okay? And then sneak away and stay below the radar, but no. Great to be on the show. We’re having another fantastic year here art Club Glove and Scheyden Eyewear, and it’s exciting to chat with you about what we’re doing here.
Well, thank you, and again. If I wasn’t bitter before, I’m bitter now. You know, whenever I hear my Southern California friends talk about surfing and going to the mountains in the same day, it always serves to embitter me, but good. I’m happy for you though. Let’s talk a little bit about the origins of you as a person. I know you grew up on the East Coast. Tell me, where’d you grow up, and was golf, and sports, and all that thing sort of a part of your life growing up?
Well, I have a little different route to the golf world actually. I grew up in Buffalo, New York. I was born and raised there. I did spend a couple of years as a child in California actually, and so I always kind of knew that when I finished high school I was going to head West, and so that’s what I did. I drove across the country and took up surfing, and I took up golf at a little bit later age, and so I started golfing also in my mid-20s and fell in love with the game. That’s where the Club Glove name actually came from. I cut up an old wetsuit and kind of hand stitched a head cover for my golf club. That’s where the Club Glove name originally came from … because when I designed this little Neoprene head cover, everybody kept saying, “It fits the club like a glove, it’s like a club glove,” and so, you know, we kind of name our products that way too.
It’s like when I came up with the last travel bag, which is now has been the No. 1 travel bag in all of golf, including the No. 1 bag on tour for a couple of decades almost now. We call that the Last Travel Bag, because when we designed this I said, “You know, we’re going to make this bag so good it’s going to hold up over years and thousands of miles of travel.” Someone said, “It’s going to be the last bag you’re ever going to need.” Then I go, “Well, that sounds like a good name.” You kind of getting the feel of how we name things here?
I’m getting it. I think I can get into the process at some point.
Yeah. That’s kind of the origin, and so obviously the Last Travel Bag by Club Glove became an immediate hit. It was interesting how there was this niche that we found, and there was a need, and we started having tour pros call into the office. I’ll never forget. This was back of course in the 90s, and we had a little gal here that was working the front, and she yelled across the office. She goes, “Hey, Jeff. I’ve got a guy on the phone, says he’s a golf pro.” I go, “What’s his name?” I yelled across. She says, “Larry Mize.”
“Yeah. He won the Masters about 10 years ago.”
Yeah. Take the call. Take the call.
I’ll take that phone call. You know, from that point on, oh my god, the number of PGA touring pros that we’ve had a relationship has just been phenomenal. It’s absolutely fantastic, and we love our position in golf. We’re not a big company. We’re tiny. We’re like a hundredth of the size of Callaway, but you know what? We come to work every day with a smile on our face, and 80 percent of what we sell is made in America, so it’s fantastic. You know what? We all make a pretty decent living here. You know? It’s very humble. If you ever came by our headquarters, you’d see a very humble operation. It’s very blue collar. Maybe I brought that from Buffalo with me. Who knows? You know what? We enjoy what we do. We love being a part of the business. You know, we’re making bags for Titleist. We’re making bags for TaylorMade. We’ve done bags for Ping in their college program, and so we’re kind of like Switzerland in this world. You know?
It’s completely neutral. I like that.
Yeah. It’s fun.
Jeff, you were talking about working with people in the 90s. Let’s get this straight, because it seems like Club Glove has been around since the time of like Ben Hogan or something, but you just really are getting started. You were founded in what, 1990, something like that?
1990 is when the company was founded. I started working on my first head cover designs in like ’89, and then I incorporated. I started out of a garage. It wasn’t even my own garage. I borrowed somebody’s garage. You know, I had no college training. I could not afford to go to college, and I didn’t want to go into debt deeply, but I figured out a couple of things. I figured out how to work a calculator and realized you have to have more money coming in than is going out. I also realized that if you design a product, it’s got to be something where people feel like they get their money’s worth and it’s an effective, trustworthy, and functional product. You know?
I think you’ve nailed that pretty good with your entire line. So, you started off with the head cover, but when did you get into the bags?
I started designing the Last Travel Bag, in 1996, and so I spent about nine months. First of all, we had a little sheath type travel bag, like everybody else did, and there wasn’t anything exciting about it. During that time what I thought is like, “I’m going to ask some people.” We went to one of the West Coast golf shows here, and I was asking a lot of pros that traveled a lot, I said, “What’s wearing out?” They said, “Oh. The corners. The handles rip off. The zipper breaks.” Golf travel bags when I came into it were kind of like a disposable item actually, and so by the fall of 1996 I had my finished product, and we officially introduced it at the PGA Show in 1997. That summer, late that summer, we did our first U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1997 for Tom Kite.
I mean, that’s an amazing turn around to have a product go from concept to Ryder Cup in that period of time. It’s almost miraculous.
Yeah. Exactly. We had about 18 months from concept to Ryder Cup. We hit one. We kind of struck it right, and the timing was right. Again, the golf travel bag industry, as you can imagine, when you’re on a flight, there’s 200 people on the airplane, and there might be three, four, five, or six people that have a golf travel bag on there, so it’s a small, little niche world. You know? That’s where we capitalized, and it was perfect, you know, me having no incredible business knowledge, no business degree, no money. It’s a good size for me. It’s grown. It’s been wonderful. We have about 50 employees, but we subcontract a lot of the manufacturing, our injection molding and things, and the fabrics that we buy. We figure we touch, because of all the paper products that go into the product, being everything made in America with our luggage and travel bag line, we touch probably about 500 American families that are somehow involved.
That is great. That’s awesome.
Jeff Herold: Yeah. I mean, the thread for our fabric is spun in Tennessee. It’s pretty cool.
Now, from the golf club bag cover that we know so well, you’ve expanded into this entire line of luggage that has become a must carry, not only for people who are golfers, but for basically anyone who wants to have premium luggage, travel gear, and that includes pilots and flight staff. I have to throw in there and inject that you are in fact a pilot yourself, so is that how you got integrated into that world, being a pilot yourself?
It sort of happened that way. Yeah. I had a couple of airline pilots that were my flight instructors, and they saw that I was building some pretty cool, you know, travel gear. They said, “Hey. You’re making stuff that lasts forever. Can you make a roll aboard or a carryon that works for us?” And so we did. We’re not huge in the pilot world, but we have, you know, a couple of thousand pilots wheeling our nags around, and they love it. We don’t hear from them, and so that means they’re happy. Okay? That also means that the product’s holding up, and these are guys that are traveling 250 days a year. By the way, they’re still wheeling two wheeled luggage around, not the four wheel, and there’s a reason for that. The four wheel is great inside the airport concourse, but it’s not so great out on city streets, as people that own that luggage know, so we stuck to the two wheel gear.
Then we also figured out, because of all the tour players and all the feedback, we developed a way to connect the luggage together, and that we call our Train Reaction System. Our luggage has become … now not only do we have the No. 1 golf travel bag on the PGA Tour, but we also have the number one luggage on the PGA Tour. Again, you might think that’s easy, but it’s not so easy, because these guys can have any luggage that they want, and they choose to use ours, and we don’t pay them a dime to use it. It’s pretty cool having that position out there.
The things is, Michael, is we’d like to get the rest of the world to know about this, and they don’t know yet. Now, the luggage, I will admit, it’s expensive. It’s like double the price of our golf travel bag, but when people ask me, “Why is it so expensive?” Well, once again, I have a problem making things that aren’t going to last people forever, and so I kind of over engineered this luggage, so it is for people … I didn’t want to have tour players having to call me saying, “Hey. I’ve got it. I need a luggage repair after … I know I’ve already traveled with it 35 weeks this year, but I had a zipper break.” Well, I’ve got guys that have been traveling with this on tour, guys like Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, some of these guys have been traveling on tour with their gear for years now without a repair needed, and that’s why it’s a little more expensive, and that’s why if you’re a frequent traveler, it’s worth the extra money.
Now, one thing I’d love to do for your listeners is, because the TRS Ballistic is still relatively unknown, I need more people actually getting it in their hands, and using it, and doing testimonials, so I’d like to actually offer a discount code for your listeners, and I’d like to have you name it. Would you like it to be Mike50 or WRX50, or what do you think?
I am just in shock right now. I am humbled and honored to have this offer, and this is totally spontaneous, I want to let everybody know.
This is unscripted. You know what? Let’s go with GWRX50.
GWRX50. Okay. So, that’ll be a code. Now, that code is going to work for our new TRS ballistic Luggage. Okay?
We have a separate website for that. It ends up going to our clubglove.com, but it’s trsballistic.com. It’ll just work for the new luggage. It doesn’t work for the golf travel bag, as you can imagine, because you can get the golf travel bag at your local country club, golf course, or retailer, Edwin Watts, Roger Dunn, Dick’s Sporting Goods. Places like that all carry the Club Glove line, Golf Galaxy. The TRS Ballistic line, okay, is not carried by most yet, because it just hasn’t resonated with enough people as to how good this stuff really is, even though the PGA Tour, they love it. You know, I might as well throw Dustin Johnson into that list, too, by the way, because that’s all he travels with, the Club Glove TRS Ballistic.
The GWRX50, if they go onto clubglove.com and go to the TRS Ballistic, on the checkout that code will knock 50 percent off their Ballistic Luggage purchase.
That is awesome. Is everybody hearing this? Thank you so much, Jeff, for doing that. To my audience, you’re welcome. Okay?
And if any of my country clubs that carry it are mad at me for selling it at 50 percent off, just bear with me. We got to get more people using this, and more people are going to come ask for it then.
I will deal with you. I will handle any feedback you get from those guys. You direct them to me. Okay?
There you go.
We’ll take care of it. Okay? Club Glove security.
You know what I’ll do? I’ll put this code out until … we’ll just put it until July 4. I got to put a limit on it of course.
Beautiful. Done. Done. Well, look. I’m excited, because I know people now are going to want to click off and stop listening immediately and just go buy luggage, so let me just bang out a couple more quick questions here, so that everybody who’s listening can get done with this and go shopping. You’ve got this whole line of gear, which is awesome, when you look at the products online. I mean, it couldn’t be more impressive. You said you’re growing that business and making that particular top spin and stay up, and then you got into the eyewear with the Scheyden. How did that get started? Because as you told me before, that’s not really necessarily golf stuff.
That’s kind of a different niche.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I took up flying back in 1998. I went to the PGA West Coast Show in Las Vegas, and I got stuck in a traffic jam. It was a seven hour trip versus four hours. Okay? I talked to some other folks who were going to the show, and they flew over in their little private plane. They said, “Ah. It took up 90 minutes.” I’m like, “Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. I like that,” so I took up flying in 1998, and got my pilot’s license, and partnered up with somebody on a small plane. While I was going through all that, I realized when I was flying and wearing a headset, there was nothing that was designed out there that was comfortable underneath the headset while you were flying. I thought, “You know what? I want to design an eyewear line for pilots,” and once again, because I like to do the best, and I like to make in America, I tried to get them made in America. I couldn’t find anybody who would want to manufacture them for me, so I flew to Japan, which is known as some of the best metal frame eyewear manufacturers in the world.
Everything we do is handmade in Japan over there, and all of our metal frames are Titanium, because I wanted them lightweight. I wanted them comfortable. Then of course on the lenses I said, “I want the clearest composite lenses you can make, and I also want to offer glass, which is the benchmark in optical clarity,” so we have glass and titanium, I mean, two of the best materials you could ever have in a pair of sunglasses. That’s how it all started was, just again … You know? And we’re still making them. We do eyewear for the Air Force Thunderbird Team. We do aerobatic pilots. We have tons of general aviation pilots that use it. We have airline pilots. We also have a great line of glass polarized for fishing. We have some amazing kayak fisherman that just love our stuff.
You know, there’s no secret to it, Michael. All it is is saying, “Look. I want the best possible materials.” Does it come out a little more expensive? Of course it does, but once again, you get a titanium glass frame from Scheyden Eyewear, they’re probably going to last you many, many years if you take care of them.
In DC, we always define a nanosecond as the time between when the light turns green and when the car behind you blows its horn. It seems like there’s a nanosecond between the time that you come up with a product and a product is successful. I know that you have great quality products, but there has to be something about you that moves that product. What do you think it is about you that convinces people to come to this product and stay with it so quickly, or is there somebody else who’s the people person? Are you as good with people as you are with product, or what is it?
I guess it’s just passion. You know? Anything I design I put myself in the position of the consumer, and I say, “Look. If I was going to buy something to have this as a solution to a problem in this world, I want something that’s going to be of great quality and it’s going to work.” I’ve always, over the years, as you get older, and you learn, and of course if you get the ability to spend a little bit more money … As we get older, generally with increase our income, and now we can get a better car, or we can buy better tires. We can buy a little better … whether it’s a little better paint for our house, we realize that, “Okay. I want to spend a little more, but I want to get my money’s worth.” They always say, “You get what you pay for.” Not always true. We all know that, but more often than not, you get what you pay for.
Yeah. I guess that’s true. That really is true. In that sense, you’re kind of a throwback. You know? I mean, your products are new, and creative, and inventive, but in terms of that quality thing, you know, we’ve all sort of grown accustomed to the, quote unquote, planned obsolescence that the corporate world throws at us, so it’s nice to see somebody who’s going in the other direction.
Michael, so many of them are pressured by numbers, and I look at it as we don’t need to be billionaires here. In fact, it keeps the landfill even from … you know? You get a piece of luggage that lasts you for 10 or 20 year, guess what? It’s not in the landfill in two years. I mean, how much cheap luggage …? I mean, the luggage industries almost $40 billion. You know? Does $30 billion worth of luggage go in the garbage dump every year? What happens? Right?
Well, part of it’s in my closet. I can tell you that. I got one closet in the house that’s filled with luggage that’s never going to be used again, because it has a piece of damage or another that prevents it from being …
A broken zipper and it’s over.
Broken zipper, or a tear, or frayed edge, or broken wheel, you name it, I mean, a handle that’s broken. Yeah. You’re right. Some of it’s built, but it’s not really built to last, so it’s nice to know that somebody’s out there actually doing that, you know, for the customer. It’s kind of comforting. You know?
It sounds to me like we’re going to need to get you some TRS Ballistic.
Oh, dude. You have no idea.
I just gave you the code.
You know what? I should do that code for the Scheyden Eyewear too, the same one. It’s a different website, spelled s-c-h-e-y-d-e-n, Scheyden, and people wonder where that name come from. It’s actually my son’s name. I made it up in 1995 when he was born. I couldn’t think of a name for the sunglasses, and somebody said, “Hey. You know, Jim Jannard, he started Oakley. He named it after his dog.” I said, “Well, I don’t have a dog, so I’ll name it after my kid. How’s that sound?” Everybody loved it, because you hear the word shade in there, Scheyden. They’re like, “It’s perfect for sunglasses. Why not?”
I was sure that you did this somewhere as a wordplay on the whole shade thing, but no.
Yeah. It’s just my son’s name, which kind of was a derivative of Hayden. I put a little German flare on there with the S-C-H, Scheyden, and that’s how it worked. If you go to scheyden.com and use the same code, the GWRX50, I’ll go 50 percent off on your Scheyden sunglasses. This is like an introductory deal. I want people to experience this wonderful gear that we make here. You know, what better way to experience it than half off?
We’re talking to Jeff Herold, of Club Glove and Scheyden Eyewear, here on the Price is Right, I mean, the 19th Hole.
By the way, I’m going to be honest with all the listeners. I did ambush Mike with this. He had no idea that I was going to give discounts.
Honestly. Look. Really. This is going to be the most popular show ever. Okay? I’m going to have to put at the beginning and the end that this offer is limited. You know? We’re going to have to put …
Well, you waited two years to talk to me. I might as well give your listeners a deal.
It’s well worth it my friend, well worth it. Look. I want to close out with you with a couple of questions just about you, really, and the stuff that you’re doing. I know you’re working with the Club Glove, and the sunglasses, and you have a little bit to do with OnCore, the guys who have the hollow, metal core golf ball.
Oh yeah. The OnCore guys. Well, I consulted with them years ago, about four years ago. They’re a nice group of folks out of Buffalo, New York, where I grew up. That’s kind of where the connection came from.
Jeff Herold: You know what? Now, they’ve come a long way, and they have three different models, I believe, of USGA approved golf balls, and I’ve played … Their most recent golf ball, called the Elixr, spelled E-L-I-X-R. By the way, OnCore is spelled O-N-C-O-R-E. They first started with this hollow, metal core golf ball, which is a real interesting concept, real techy. Their Elixr though is their latest. They finally … I’ll be honest with you. They have a golf ball that’s pretty darn good for the price. I got to tell you. I’ve gone out, hit it, played with it, and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to give a dozen of these golf balls to any of my friends that are scratch plus one or plus twos. I wouldn’t be embarrassed at all to give them a dozen of those and let it have at it.
So, you’re dabbling with the golf ball business. Is there anything else that’s in the future?
Well, I’m really not. I’m not involved. These guys are just friends, and I consulted with them years ago, but it just came up in the conversation, being from Buffalo. You know what? It’s kind of an interesting thing to see a new golf ball company come around.
Fair enough. I would just say what else might be in the future, because clearly you have an eye for quality and for creativity? You see people doing things that are like apparel? There’s people who are putting out these luxury golf clubs. That seems to be the flavor of the day for guys to make these ultra luxury golf club sets. Any eye on going towards anything like that?
You know, Michael, I’m going to let that incredibly competitive world of hard goods, I’ll let them have at that. Of course everything’s competitive in this world now, these days, but you know what? My expertise is what I call caveman technology. Okay? I’ve got luggage that connects together in one of the most simplest ways you could ever imagine, and you can roll two or three pieces of luggage with one finger and talk on your cell phone, which is something that no one else can do. That’s kind of my niche and my love. Of course, same with the eyewear, too, making beautiful, handcrafted eyewear out of Japan that’s incredibly comfortable and very good, high quality. I’m going to stick with where I’m at, to be honest with you. I’m happy to help anybody else out that’s in the golf world, but I don’t see myself becoming a part of any other company out there, being that I have so much fun doing what I’m doing right now.
Awesome. Well, let me give you a couple of questions that are …? Because I’m a big fan of Inside The Actors Studio, James Lipton, and I want that job eventually, if he gets tired of it. I’m going to give you one of those type of questions. Where have you been? I know you’re a pilot, and you get a chance to go a lot of different places. Where have you been? Where haven’t you been that you’d like to go?
Where haven’t I been that I would like to go? Well, you know, I love to play golf, and I’ve never been to Augusta National to play there. I haven’t even gone there to see the Masters. I’ve been invited, but I’ve always told myself, “You know what? I’ve been to some of the most amazing golf events, two Ryder Cups, U.S. Opens,” and I thought, “If I go to Augusta, I want to go to play.” There’s that. Okay. Now, that’s on the golf side. Okay. There’s several other courses that I’d love to visit of course, and I know I’ve had invites from some of our golf pros in the past, and I haven’t taken them up on it, but then on the other side of the world would be the surfing. You know? I’ve been to Bali, which is amazing, over in the Indonesia area. I wouldn’t mind going to visit a couple more exotic surf spots. That would be on the list. Other than that, I’ve got to be honest with you, Michael, if I die tomorrow, I would have to say, “Man, what a great ride it’s been for me.”
You know, I don’t need a bucket list, because my bucket is overflowing with amazing experiences, and the world of golf, being in the golf industry has been one of the most amazing blessings that I could ever imagine. It’s the greatest industry in the world. It’s filled with people of high integrity. I can’t think of any other industry that has better people, and I don’t think anybody could think of any other industry that has better people than the golf industry.
Yeah. I’ve got to say ditto on that one. I’ve worked in some other industries, and I can tell you that in most places that you work, most other industries, you can meet a bad guy every now and then, and some of them pretty regularly, but you rarely meet a bad guy in golf. It just hardly ever happens. It’s kind of cool. I agree with you there.
No. It’s brutal. It really is brutal. Any game that allows you to keep your own score, that’s for me.
I like it. Well, let me give you one last one, which is for your all-time foursome. If you could play golf with three other people — and we have the the time machine working, so it can be anybody, anywhere, at any time — who’d be the other three in your all time foursome?
Oh, man. The all-time foursome.
You’re playing at Augusta of course.
I think I would pick the fun people, a couple guys that I’ve known for years. I haven’t talked to David Feherty for many years, but he’s funny as hell, and I would get him and Peter Jacobsen, who I’ve known also for years. I think there’s nothing better than going out to play a round of golf with people that have a great sense of humor, because golf is going to punish you. It’s only a matter of time, and quite often it’s right off the first tee. You take a punch right on the first tee. Right? You go, “Uh-oh, here we go. Here we’re in for a battle.” 18 rounds. 18 holes is like 18 rounds of boxing.
Well said. Well said.
I would probably pick those two and then maybe we’ll throw in … Oh, gosh. Who would I throw in there with us? There’s an endless number of tour pros, from Henrik Stenson, to Rory, Rory to Dustin Johnson, all these guys. I’d like to get one of the new, younger guys that’s up there in the top-10 in the world or something like that that’s got a great personality. They’d have to be able to put up with Peter Jacobsen and David Feherty though.
They have to be pretty patient. I get that.
Being at my level of golf, like most people, the last thing we want to do is go out and have four hours of seriousness.
Well, I can suggest for you one of my good friends, Lee Trevino. If you want to have fun on a golf course, dude, you could have fun at an insurance seminar with Lee Trevino. That guy is FUN!
He would be a great fourth guy to add to those guys. You’re absolutely right. I’ve had the chance to meet Lee … he gave me the idea for the Stiff Arm that goes in the golf bag. I made this retractable crutch basically to save the drivers, because Lee, he said, “You know what, Jeff? I put a tennis ball on the end of a broomstick.”
But, you know, you cut one. It works for you, but I made the Stiff Arm, which fits anybody’s golf driver, no matter what, and it’s cheap insurance to save your driver. If you’re going to Scotland, and you’re going to play the old course, you want your drive to be there with you and not have the head snapped off. There’s no doubt about that.
I have one, and I wouldn’t travel without it. I have the Stiff Arm. I didn’t know that was you, but that’s you.
Yup. The Stiff Arm, what that did was it completed the soft sided bag. By the way, no one uses a hard case anywhere in professional golf, no one, because they’re a nightmare to deal with, but occasionally if they’re dropped on the club heads, the first thing to go is going to be the driver. It’s the longest club. The Stiff Arm is great insurance, and I always tell people, “If that Stiff Arm’s bent or it doesn’t retract anymore, or something like that, that means that was going to be your driver,” and so for $29, you can save your $600 driver and make sure it makes it to Scotland and back in one piece.
Once again, thank you for that, for inventing that, because I know you have saved my driver, for better or for worse. You saved my driver.
I really just can’t thank you enough, man, for taking the time to talk to us about all that you’re doing. First time, hopefully not the last time we get a chance to talk to you. Again, for listeners, I’ll repeat all these things we got. If you go to the websites for Scheyden Eyewear and for TRS Ballistic Luggage, enter the code GWRX50, you will get … We’re getting 50 percent off? Really?
50 percent off until July 4.
Blimey. Okay. Well, get moving, people. You’ve got your homework.
Don’t tell your head pro at your country club.
Yeah. With that caveat. You won’t get the 50 percent off. We’ll add 50 percent if you do that. How will we know? Don’t worry about it. We’ll know. Okay. We have our ways. Hey, Jeff. Thanks again so much for joining us, man, and we’ll hopefully see you out on the golf course sometimes soon. Right?
Hopefully so. Hitting them straight hopefully, too.
- A Quick Nine: A Q&A with Eric Trump
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- A Quick Nine with John Ashworth, Founder of Linksoul
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The Wedge Guy: What really makes a wedge work?
Having been in the wedge business for over thirty years now, and having focused my entire life’s work on how to make wedges work better, one of my biggest frustrations is how under-informed most golfers are about wedges in general, and how misinformed most are about the elements of a wedge that really affect performance.
That under-informed and misinformed “double whammy” helps make the wedge category to be the least dynamic of the entire golf equipment industry. Consider this if you will. Golfers carry only one driver and only one putter, but an average of three wedges. BUT – and it’s a big “but” – every year, unit sales of both drivers and putters are more than double the unit sales of wedges.
So why is that?
Over those thirty-plus years, I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers to ask that very question, and I’ve complemented that statistical insight with hundreds of one-on-one interviews with golfers of all skill levels. My key takeaways are:
- Most golfers have not had a track record of improved performance with new wedges that mirror their positive experience with a new driver or putter.
- A large percentage of golfers consider their wedge play to be one of the weaker parts of their games.
- And most golfers do not really understand that wedge play is the most challenging aspect of golf.
- On that last point, I wrote a post almost two years ago addressing this very subject, “Why Wedge Mastery Is So Elusive” (read it here).
So now let’s dive into what really makes a wedge work. In essence, wedges are not that much different from all the other clubs in our bags. The three key elements that make any club do what it does are:
- The distribution of mass around the clubhead
- The shaft characteristics
- The specifications for weight, shaft length and lie angle
Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.
For any golf club to perform to its optimum for a given golfer, these three key measurements must be correct. Shaft length and lie angle work together to help that golfer deliver the clubhead to the ball as accurately as possible time and again. If either spec is off even a little bit, quality contact will be sacrificed. The overall weight of the club is much more critical than the mystical “swing weight”, and I’ve always believed that in wedges, that overall weight should be slightly heavier than the set-match 9-iron, but not dramatically so.
We encounter so many golfers who have migrated to light steel or graphite shafts in their irons, but are still trying to play off-the-rack wedges with their heavy stiff steel shafts that complete prohibit the making of a consistent swing evolution from their short irons to their wedges.
That leads to the consistent observation that so many golfers completely ignore the shaft specifics in their wedges, even after undergoing a custom fitting of their irons to try to get the right shaft to optimize performance through the set. The fact is, to optimize performance your wedges need to be pretty consistent with your irons in shaft weight, material and flex.
Now it’s time to dive into the design of a wedge head, expanding on what I wrote in that post of two years ago (please go back to that link and read it again!)
The wedge “wizards” would have you believe that the only things that matter in wedge design are “grooves and grinds.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Grooves can only do so much, and their primary purpose is the same as the tread on your tires – to channel away moisture and matter to allow more of the clubface to contact the ball. In our robotic testing of Edison Forged wedges – on a dry ball – the complete absence of grooves only reduced spin by 15 percent! But, when you add moisture and/or matter, that changes dramatically.
Understand the USGA hasn’t changed the Rules of Golf that govern groove geometry in over 12 years, and every company serious about their wedge product pushes those rules to the limit. There is no story here!
For years, I have consistently taken umbrage to the constant drivel about “grinds.” The fact is that you will encounter every kind of lie and turf imaginable during the life of your wedges, and unless you are an elite tour-caliber player, it is unlikely you can discern the difference from one specialized grind to another.
Almost all wedge sole designs are pretty darn good, once you learn how to use the bounce to your advantage, but that’s a post for another time.
Now, the clubhead.
Very simply, what makes any golf club work – and wedges are no different – is the way mass is distributed around the clubhead. Period.
All modern drivers are about the same, with subtle nuanced differences from brand to brand. Likewise, there are only about four distinctly different kinds of irons: Single piece tour blades, modern distance blades with internal technologies, game improvement designs with accented perimeter weighting and whatever a “super game improvement iron” is. Fairways, hybrids, even putters are sold primarily by touting the design parameters of the clubhead.
So, why not wedges?]
This has gotten long, so next week I’ll dive into “The anatomy of a wedge head.”
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: 2023 PGA Merchandise Show recap
All the new interesting things we enjoyed and appreciated.
2023 Ras Al Khaimah Championship: Betting Tips & Selections
The conclusion to last week’s Dubai Desert Classic was almost perfection.
The scant amount of viewers on a Monday morning would have been treated to a surely scripted play-off between world number one Rory McIlroy and his LIV nemesis Patrick Reed, bar that damned 13-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole. It was, of course, a fitting start to the year for the world number one, and an ending that the week deserved after ‘Tee Gate to Tree Gate,’.
With our main man, Lucas Herbert, playing some sublime golf in behind and finishing strongly in third despite the absence of luck on the Saturday greens, it showed the DP World Tour in a cracking light.
It’s a shame this week doesn’t.
We move from the quality of Dubai to a standard DPWT field and, while favourite Adrian Meronk is improving fast and now up to 52nd in the rankings, the long,wide, forgiving nature of Al Hamra makes this nothing more than a bosh-it, find it, hit it, putt it, competition. Links-like it may be, but with no wind forecast, this won’t hit anywhere near the heights of the previous two weeks.
Previous DPWT winners here – Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard – suggest length is the one factor that separates the medalists from the also-rans and is the key factor behind high-level tee-to-green numbers, certainly rather than accuracy.
There isn’t really any option but to look at the handful of true links players at the top and it’s only narrowly that Victor Perez gets the vote.
Splitting last year’s winners (for there were two Al Hamra events in 2022) Ryan Fox and Nicolai Hojgaard is tough but I’ve always felt the Frenchman is capable of a higher level of play and he is the selection in front of favourite Meronk, even if they both have similar course and recent form.
I rarely get him right – backing him twice over the last six months – even if he has won two titles in the space of seven months.
Still, this is another day for the Frenchman (and me) and for a winner of the Dunhill Links, the Dutch Open and three weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, he may actually be overpriced at 16/1.
It’s tough to find any better ‘standard level’ links form lines than beating the likes of Matt Southgate, Joakim Lagergren, Tommy Fleetwood, Tom Lewis and pals in Scotland, and beating Fox in a play-off at Bernadus Golf. However, he was at it again at Yas Links, leaving behind the names Min Woo Lee, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren and Tyrrell Hatton – all synonymous with the test he faces this week, on the same paspalum greens and with opposition of higher class than three-quarters of this week’s field.
Perez looks to have produced evidence that a golfer is at their peak at 30-years of age producing an outstanding bunker shot to win his latest trophy, with a sound coming off the club reminiscent of his play at Wentworth in 2020, when splitting Hatton and Patrick Reed.
Although this is his first outing here on the DPWT, he has a seventh and second place from two outings on the Challenge Tour and he is in the right form to take those figures one better.
Third for total driving over the last six months, Perez ranks in the top-10 for ball-striking over the same period (11th over three months) and arrives here in confident mood, telling reporters:
“I’m looking forward to playing at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship for the first time. I got the season off to a great start at the Hero Cup followed by my first Rolex Series win in Abu Dhabi, so this is a great chance to keep the momentum going and secure more Race to Dubai and Ryder Cup points,” before adding:
“I’m playing great golf at the moment, and I’m hoping it continues in Ras Al Khaimah.”
Perez is a confident selection, but back him up with another proven rip-it merchant in Callum Shinkwin, who has come in a few points since the market opened but justifies the move after an excellent top five in Dubai.
First thing we know about the three-time winner is he hits it a mile, ranking in the top-10 for off-the-tee ten times since the start of the 2022 season, including being in the top three in the two events 12 months ago. That itself is worth noting, as are his best efforts away from the victories- at Fairmont, the Dunhill Links and last week in Dubai, all with pointers to this week’s test.
There was nothing wrong with mid-20 finishes here last year, the first just a couple of days after destroying the course in a fun Texas Scramble pairs, and he will surely take comfort in lying up there with Rory McIlroy last Monday, matching those final two birdies.
Another around that ‘magic’ age, this is a course that will give Shinks every opportunity to play shorter irons into the targets and, with last week’s top-10 ranking for putting, this may be the time to go with the Moor Park magician.
I can’t see a shock result here this week – the top lot have perfect conditions in which to show their class – but I’ll be looking at the top-10/20 markets for the following:
Tapio Pulkkanen – Trilby-wearing Finn that hits the ball a country mile. Trouble is, half the time he does not know in which direction it’s travelling. Here, with accuracy not a factor, he can take inspiration from last season’s seventh place in the first of the back-to-back events, when a three-over back-nine cost him a place in the medals.
20th just seven days later shows he can play the track, whilst best efforts over the last 12 months include a third place at the Czech Masters, 10th at the Dunhill Links and third in Portugal, again all events with a leaning to the type he’ll take part in this week. Given his tied-second in Prague a year earlier, we can surmise he repeats form at tracks that suit.
It isn’t impossible he suddenly finds his form on tour, and with an inkling he’ll ‘do a JB Hansen’ and go crackers for a spell. This would seem the perfect place to start.
Julien Guerrier – Third at Hillside and Celtic Manor last season show the former winner of The Amateur Championship (at Royal St. George’s) still has what it takes to compete at this slightly lower level. Add top-15 finishes at Denmark, Spain, Germany and Mauritius – all with front-rank putting stats – and it’s easy to see the two-time Challenge Tour winner having some effect in the top-20 market.
A sixth and eighth-placed finish at the Rocco Forte in Sicily behind Lagergren and Alvaro Quiros (both who turn up when they sniff links from a mile away) reads well, and his repeat performances at his home country, Portugal, Spain and Prague show he performs where he has good memories.
With four outings here, split between the Challenge Tour and the DPWT, the Frenchman can continue an improving course record of 19/13/9.
Jack Senior – I’m convinced that 34-year-old Senior is a better player than his current ranking outside of the top-500 in the world, and although it has been a while since his win at Galgorm Castle in 2019, he has racked up top-10 finishes at Gran Canaria, the Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club (behind Min Woo Lee, Thomas Detry and Matt Fitzpatrick), Mallorca and on the Spanish mainland.
Back at Galgorm, he was tied-13th last year, a repeat result that sits nicely with his 23rd in Mallorca, and top-20s in Prague and Denmark, courses already highlighted as associates to Al Hamra.
I’m happy to ignore last week’s missed cut as it was his first outing since October, and he’s of enough interest back on a course on which he has a sixth, 11th and 19th place finish in three tries at the lower level.
I’m expecting one of the top eight or 10 to prove too good, but these events often throw up names on a surprise leaderboard, and it will take just one hotter-than-normal week with the putter for that to happen.
Victor Perez – WIN
Callum Shinkwin – WIN/TOP-5
Julien Guerrier – TOP-10 TOP-20
Tapio Pulkkanen – TOP-10 TOP-20
Jack Senior – TOP-10 TOP-20
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