Golf simulators have come a long way from the Dave & Buster days of golf simulation. New technology has driven the golf simulation to new incredible heights. The new realistic simulators are allowing golfers to practice and play golf indoors when the weather will not cooperate.
Golf simulators come in many forms and sizes. Models range from Wii Golf, which uses the Wii remote to replace the golf club and ball. On Wii Golf, players swing their arm to control a simulated golf club on the screen. The flight of the ball is displayed on either the user’s computer or TV screen.
The most-advanced golf simulators use computer vision-based camera systems that use high-speed cameras to track both the club and the golf ball after the golfer hits a regular golf ball with their own clubs. Other types will use a laser tracking system to track the ball and club.
These systems generally use a projector to display the golf shot on a large screen displaying either a photorealistic or computer generated golf course image in front of the player. Golf simulators are installed in a wide rage of locations including private homes, business offices, golf retail stores and new type of business, indoor golf centers.
Indoor golf centers typically have two to 12 golf simulators installed and offer golfers a way to play golf when the weather makes playing outside impractical. Some simulator companies are including video capability and pressure plate technology for teaching purposes that indoor centers are offering.
Some lower cost golf simulators use sensors contained in a golf hitting mat to monitor the club and ball contact zone and calculate the resulting golf shot. One of the most critical features for people considering installing a golf simulator is ceiling height. To be able to safely swing a golf club indoors requires a ceiling height of at least 10 feet, otherwise there is a real risk that some tall players might hit the roof with their golf club.
At the PGA Merchandise show last week, displays from most of the major golf simulator manufacturers were on hand to introduce their new innovations.
1. aboutGolf Limited
aboutGolf uses its proprietary 3Trak ball tracking technology to track the ball and club. That 3D machine vision technology, known as 3Trak, was released in May 2008 and has since revolutionized the indoor golf experience.
3Trak begins gathering club data as the club approaches the ball, and begins gathering ball data at the moment of impact. High-speed, 3D cameras gather images of the ball and the club at up to 2300 frames per second.
“The 3D realism of aboutGolf is second to none,” said Theodore Stechschulte, COO of aboutGolf. “We are dedicated to producing golf environments that feel, look and play like the real thing. We render all courses in full three dimensions using the latest in 3D graphics advancement. 3D environments, unlike photo-based systems, do not limit players to the areas of the course for which there are photographs. And aboutGolf 3D graphic environments allow the shot location to be a valid 3D position, resulting in a seamless play experience.”
The images provide direct measurements on extensive data related to the ball and club, providing useful information for instruction and improvement. The measurements are also used in conjunction with true-trajectory physics to accurately replicate the shot — regardless of its speed, direction or shape.
COST: aboutGolf simulators run from $39K to $90K, and 41 courses are available.
Advanced modules available – 1.) aG Flix video swing analysis, 2.) aG balance Pro force plate
2. Full Swing Golf
For more than 25 years, Full Swing Golf has dedicated itself to delivering the most innovative, high-quality, realistic and enjoyable golfing experience available on an indoor system. Some of the world’s most respected golf professionals also use Full Swing in their teaching and training regimens, such as Hank Haney, Ian Poulter, and Mark Wilson.
“Full Swing Golf has developed a new extension to its existing infrared tracking system,” according to Chad Coleman, Vice President of Sales for Full Swing Golf. “Utilizing a single high-speed camera to focus solely on ball spin and club head data, Full Swing Golf has truly mastered the art and science of ball flight. The ION camera captures detailed spin data using regular, unmarked balls including back spin, side spin, and spin axis. Displaying this information on-screen allows you to make better shot decisions. The ION camera gives you club head speed, club face angle, and club path information with intuitive on-screen illustrations of your club,so you can improve your swing.”
COST: Full Swing simulators run from $45,000 to $65,000 and 80 courses available.
Advance models include – 1.) Swing Catalyst, which includes High Speed cameras and Balance plate technology, 2.) SwinGuru, which will record, replay and analyze your swing in 3D.
3. High Definition Golf
Interactive Sports Technologies™ out of Vaughan, Ontario, Canada is the manufacturer of High Definition Golf™ simulators set a new standard in accuracy and realism for indoor golf. The simulator utilizes advanced computer vision technology to provide the most comprehensive and precise shot analysis in the simulator industry.
It has the unique capability to measure all critical ball and club parameters including: ball speed, club speed, launch angle, club face angle, ball spin and spin axis at high accuracy. These factors have made High Definition Golf™ simulators the system of choice for PGA Tour pros such as Stephen Ames and top golf Instructors like Jim McLean.
“In addition to pioneering computer vision technology for ball and club tracking in the golf simulator, Interactive Sports Technologies also developed a new method of 3D modeling for their simulators,” said Todd Richardson, President and CEO of High Definition Golf. “This revolutionary process combines high resolution digital images, satellite data and geophysical data into 3D models of golf courses that not only look real–they are completely accurate everywhere on the course. Every tree, bunker and hazard is faithfully reproduced exactly as you would see it if you were playing the actual course.”
COST: High Definition Golf simulators run from $35,000 to $65,000 and 25 courses available.
Advanced models include – 1.) Video swing analysis, 2.) Weight transfer analysis, 3.) Jim McLean’s 8 step swing module
4. X Golf Simulators
XGOLF out of Los Angeles, California was founded in 2000, and since then more than 3,000 systems have been sold worldwide, providing golf enthusiasts with a unique experience that emphasizes innovation coupled with honesty and integrity.
Industry firsts such as the variable lie stance platform and the automatic ball teeing system have allowed XGOLF to pull away from the pack. These distinguishing features, along with 19 patents, present a very special value proposition to its customers.
“Our goal is close the gap between reality and virtuality and in doing so, we distinguish XGOLF from the other golf simulators,” according to Ryan D’Arcy of X Golf USA. “Our XPLATE (Variable Lie Platform) and XBALL (Intelligent Auto-teeing System) are two unique features that will bring your golf simulation experience to a new dimension. X Golf also has sensors that capture 1 million data points per second. Proprietary software makes 6,000 calculations per second to measure ball and club data.”
The hardware and software innovations such as dynamic weight balance, short-game playability (12″ putts for example), 3D Collision that provides real geometric reactions to when a ball makes contact with an object, are all examples of how XGOLF has listened and adapted to address the needs of the most discerning golfers from around the world.
COST: X Golf simulators run from $35,000 to $65,000 and close to 100 courses available.
Advanced models include – 1) X Plate, variable lie positioning, 2) X Ball, intelligent teeing system, 3) X Balance, weight transfer plate, 4) X Birdie, video analysis
The very latest in golf simulator technology, the GolfBlaster3D Golf System out of Tampa, Florida allows golfers to play on some of the most famous golf courses in the world and use their own standard golfing equipment.
The GolfBlaster3D software has been created using the very latest graphics engines to allow the display of natural elements such as trees and bushes the highest level of realism. Not only are they portrayed in the highest level of detail but also they demonstrate tremendous realism when reacting with the wind.
“The GolfBlaster3D is so advanced and accurate,” said Jan Burger, Owner of GolfBlaster3D. “The system deploys a unique dual sensor tracking method that gathers information from both the golf ball and the club head. Therefore it is capable of detecting every possible kind of shot played with the ultimate of accuracy. Hooks, slices, fades, draws, lobs, pitches, putts etc are all reproduced with fantastic realism. We cannot imagine any other system having the same amount of accuracy and realism.”
COST: GolfBlaster3D simulators run from $25,000 to $55,000 and 40 courses available.
TruGolf out of Centerville, Utah offers affordable golf simulators.
The Technique consists of three different models: Technique Personal, Technique Pro, and Technique Prestige. Each Technique consists of an easy to assemble aluminum frame with netting, their TruTrac Dual Tracking System with Integrated Swing Analyzer and are loaded with technology previously only available with very high-end systems.
Perfect for the golfer desiring a year-round indoor golf experience with less cost, but designed with the teaching pro in mind. Portable, affordable, and feature rich, the Technique is unmatched in quality.
TruGolf also can integrate TrackMan or FlightScope with their premium systems for home and business models.
“Built for lasting performance in a commercial environment and flexible in design to appeal to any aesthetic; our system is fully customizable, allowing you to create an environment the entire family can embrace,” said Dave Ashby, executive vice president for TruGolf.
COST: TruGolf simulators run from $7,995 to $55,000 and 83 courses available.
7. Foresight Sports
The company’s motto is “Not just Simulation. Performance Simulation. ”
“The same innovative thinking that went into developing the GC2 Smart Camera System has gone into the simulation solutions that it powers,” said Rick Cuellar from Foresight Sports. “The result is Performance Simulation™ by Foresight Sports. Built on a strong but lightweight modular aluminum frame and finished with impact-resistant nylon-based materials, our simulation solution delivers durable, long lasting performance that lets you get the most out of your GC2-powered simulation experience. And like the GC2, our Performance Simulation solutions give you everything you need at a fraction of the cost of comparative solutions. Our Performance Simulation solutions deliver unprecedented accuracy and performance-enhancing analysis that matters – including verifiably accurate back and side spin data that gives you a true-to-life depiction of each and every shot. Used by the biggest names in golf. Featured in the corporate and VIP fitting studios of Cobra/Puma, Cleveland Golf, Adams Golf and Fujikura, as well as the R&D labs of TaylorMade and PING, GC2-powered Performance Simulation solutions are used by the most trusted and respected brands in golf. “
Following on the revolutionary GC2 Smart Camera System, Foresight Sports out of San Diego, California introduces HMT – Head Measurement Technology – a ground-breaking innovation that combines with the GC2 to precisely capture club head data with an ease and accuracy never before seen.
With HMT, a complete picture of your swing analysis and club head performance is now at your fingertips. Instantly see critical data such as club head velocity, horizontal club path, smash factor and dynamic loft and lie — even impact location — with the same unmatched accuracy you’re used to in the GC2.
COST: Foresight Simulators run from $35,000 to $75,000 and 80 courses available.
8. Dancin’ Dogg Golf
OptiShot out of Traverse City, Michigan is an affordable, accurate and portable home golf simulator.
“Until now your only option to practice at home has been to hit into a net,” said Brandon Theophilus, President/CEO of Dancin’ Dogg. “If you’re practicing into a net, you’re missing out on observing your ball’s flight. This means you’re not getting the critical feedback needed to improve your swing. You’re left guessing as to what’s actually happening to your golf shots and will end up practicing the wrong thing over and over again. With OptiShot you can practice with accuracy – great for longer clubs, keep it on your target line, practice with precision – helps you get closer to flags, more birdie puts, see the pattern of your shots – dispersion feature and track progress through time – full session data display. Whether you’re on the driving range in Practice Mode or challenging yourself to a championship course in Play Mode, you will get realistic and accurate feedback. The combination of shot analysis and shot tracer technology puts the information right in front of you so you can make the adjustments necessary to routinely hit better shots with every club in your bag.”
Sixteen advanced optical sensors accurately measure your club through the impact zone capturing shot impact conditions and instantaneously transmitting them through the USB cable to the software.
COST: OptiShot models run from $399 to $4,000 and 21 course available.
9. Unex Golf
A new company to the portable simulator market has emerged.
“Practice your golf swing, right from the comfort of your own home or office!” said Andi Upson from Unex Golf. “No need to run back and forth to the keyboard between shots — use the built-in buttons on the golf pad to control the game with your foot.You’ll get detailed visual feedback after each shot.You can practice with the weight and size of your real golf clubs. UNEX plug and play is easy to operate. Just launch the program and plug your USB cable into the computer and swing pad. UNEX may also be routed to your television or projector through HDMI.”
Accuracy — UNEX Anyshot Golf Video Software gives you precise measurements of your shot and difficulty levels can be adjusted for game purposes verses skill enhancement. Practice on different courses — a variety of course will give you the maximum skill-building benefits. Our virtual software is so advanced that with panoramic projectors (not included), the UNEX software can project on three screens and put you inside the panoramic golf gaming experience. Enjoy the detailed, realistic graphics on your desktop monitor or laptop screen.
It’s easy to adjust your settings using the UNEX Anyshot software for a totally customized golf game.
COST: Unex AnyShot goes for $399 and 14 courses are available.
Story written by Christian Alderucci
GolfWRX’s 2022 Father’s Day Gift Guide
This year’s gift guide is proudly presented in partnership with PGA TOUR Superstore.
A reminder from your friends at GolfWRX: Father’s Day is June 19. And as we do every year, we’re rounding up the best gifts for dad.
We’ve identified some basic “dad” types, like “the Purist” who loves classic golf architecture, hickory clubs, and the traditions of this game. There’s also “the Gearhead,” who in addition permanent residence in the GolfWRX forums, can’t wait to get his hands on the latest and greatest in golf equipment.
But as we say every year: There’s no better golf-related Father’s Day gift than a round of golf with pops. Be it a country club or your favorite muni, take the time to get together to play 18 if you can.
Let’s get to the gifts.
GolfPride CP2 grips
The latest from a classic name in grips is a revelation in soft feel…
“Combining high-performance technology with a soft, tacky feel, the innovative CP2 Wrap and CP2 Pro delivers comfort and control for superior performance. Featuring Golf Pride’s exclusive Control Core technology, an inner core stabilizer is specifically engineered to reduce torque. A reduced taper design allows for even grip pressure in each hand, and a soft, high-traction surface provides comfort in every swing. With the CP2, control fits in the palm of your hand.”
FootJoy Traditions – Shield Tip golf shoes
A truly classic-looking golf shoe…
“FJ Traditions offer complete traction and can be easily maintained round after round. Lightweight comfort and super-cushioned foam deliver an incredibly flexible and comfortable ride. FJ, The #1 Shoe in Golf.”
Best Grips Microperf Leather Golf Grip
Leather grips were the only option decades ago, but they are still a great option for golfers with a purist sensibility!
“Best Grips Microperf uses a perforated leather that is treated with ProTack for better grip when they get wet.”
Titleist 620 MB irons
If dad puts aesthetics and feel first…
“The new 620 MB irons stay true to everything players have come to trust from this classic model, with distinct refinements that make them better than ever. True 1-pieced forged muscle-back irons designed for the purest shot making possible.”
Vessel VLS Stand Bag
Clean, cool, simple: traits the purist values…
“Experience lightweight comfort with the next generation of our lightest, full-featured stand bag, the VLS. Crafted from heavy-backed nylon twill and specialized features, such as an exoskeletal base, the VLS was designed to reduce the weight of your load for an effortless carry. With a total of 6 intentionally placed pockets, this stand bag has storage to carry what you need, exactly where you need it. We have given the VLS a larger top that allows you to carry your clubs comfortably. The VLS was built to be carried without any compromise of quality, functionality or style.”
G/FORE MG4+ golf shoes
If dad likes a more modern look that retains clean, traditional elements…
“The MG4+ is the perfect combination of lightweight comfort and technical performance. Built upon the classic necessities of a golf shoe, but with a modern perspective; the MG4+ boasts the same properties of the MG4.1 with it’s washable, triple density foam cushion footbed and auxetic lattice midsole for rebound, paired with a fully waterproof exterior and 3D molded external heel cup for additional support.”
Scotty Cameron Special Select Newport 2 Putter
For the purist, Scotty Cameron stands tall…
“Arguably the most famous putter head shape in the world, with scores of professional titles won, the iconic Newport 2 blade leads the Special Select lineup with tour-inspired refinements to every design aspect and component including a flatter, narrower topline with an insert-free, solid milled putter head, redesigned plumbing neck that provides more visibility to align with the leading edge at address, interchangeable tungsten sole weights and a new soft tri-sole setup carrying through the familiar—yet refined—three red dot back cavity pattern in an alignment-friendly setup that ushers in the latest model of this legendary design.”
Scotty Cameron Pivot Tool
…to go with the putter, of course…
“Introduced in 2001, the Scotty Cameron pivot tool is the result of Scotty’s tinkering. This tool has been the subject of numerous magazine articles and used by many of the world’s top touring professionals. Its unique design provides more leverage when repairing ball marks and is environmentally sound for the greens. It truly is form following function. These pivot tools are milled from tumbled aluminum.”
St. Andrews Old Course Map
Say no more…
“Claire W golf course prints are unique, watercolor-style golf course art pieces that you can proudly display on the wall of your home or office. Perfect keepsake or memento for any golfer or golf fan!”
TaylorMade Stealth Plus Driver
A carbon fiber driver face? That’s gearhead catnip…
“Twenty years of development marks the end of the titanium era. The all new 60X Carbon Twist Face is 44% lighter than an equivalent titanium face, while also being 11% larger than SIM2 and SIM2 Max drivers and nearly 20% larger than the 2020 SIM driver. Sixty layers of carbon fiber have been strategically designed to optimize energy transfer to deliver fast ball speeds over a large area, resulting in optimal distance and forgiveness.”
Callaway Rogue ST Max Driver
Rogue rebooted. Color gearhead dad interested…
“The new Rogue ST Drivers represent a breakthrough in driver performance. Callaway’s industry-leading innovations, including the all-new Tungsten Speed Cartridge, Jailbreak Speed Frame, and an A.I. designed Flash Face are engineered for maximum speed with exceptional levels of forgiveness.”
Mack Made Workshop Custom Putter
If dad is ready to take the custom putter plunge…
“Mack Made makes custom putters and we don’t mean just length, lie, and loft. We are talking about working with a real craftsman to create the putter head design of your dreams! Sketch it out on a napkin and Josey will work one-on-one with you on every detail!”
All-Fit Universal Adapter Sleeve
A workshop necessity if dad likes to tinker…
“If your dad has a collection of driver heads and shafts, this universal system lets them all work together. AllFit has a shaft tip that you install on the driver shaft and sleeve that goes on the driver allowing you to use the same shaft in any brand head! Great for that club junkie dad.”
Mitchell Angle Machine
No gearhead workshop is complete without one…
This Mitchell Steelclub Machine will let dad measure the loft and lie of his irons and then bend them to his desired spec quickly. Mitchell is the name when it comes to golf tools and should last a lifetime.
TaylorMade Spider Tour Putter
For gearheads, there’s something about the Spider’s high MOI design…
“The Spider Tour Black with Sightline delivers Tour-proven performance to every golfer. With perimeter weighting for added stability and an added sightline to zero in the player’s focus, Spider Tour Black with Sightline provides a stroke of confidence to help golfers drain more putts when they matter most.”
Swing Science Callaway Fairway Wood Adapter
If you don’t own and adjust adapters, are you even a gearhead?
“Callaway OEM Wood Adapter for Driver and Fairway. Fits the following models: Rogue & Epic.”
Titleist Pro V1 Play Number Golf Balls
Standard numbers simply won’t do…
“The New Titleist Pro V1 golf ball is designed to deliver longer distance, even more greenside spin and control and softer feel. Featuring new aerodynamic, cover, casing layer and core technologies, these dramatic performance improvements are the result of rigorous development work by Titleist Golf Ball R&D. Total performance to help all golfers shoot lower scores.”
FootJoy Limited Edition HyperFlex BOA “Sea Change”
Gearhead dad will take his golf shoes with an extra helping of technology, thank you very much…
“Get ultimate athletic performance with HYPERFLEX golf shoes for men. Featuring innovative materials like the engineered mesh upper, HYPERFLEX men’s golf shoes deliver lightweight support and cushioning so you can play at your highest level. FJ, The #1 Shoe in Golf.”
LAB Golf Mezz.1 Putter
Irresistible technology story for the gearhead here…
“Looks are important, but so is science. That’s why MEZZ.1 looks pretty much like a normal putter. But unlike normal putters, MEZZ.1 actually helps you hole more putts.”
SIK Pro C-Series Satin Armlock Putter
A new putter face technology, you say?
“The Pro C-Series Armlock is the putter that Bryson used to win 5 times on the PGA Tour, 1 on the European Tour from 2017-2019. The head weighs 370 grams with the Armlock-Plumber’s Neck.”
Bushnell Launch Pro
If you have the budget, this will blow your tech-loving father away…
“Your pursuit of longer drives, more accurate carries and lower scores requires knowing the critical data points of your swing. A personal launch monitor will give you these data points, however, not all launch monitors are created equal.”
Blue Tees Series 2 Pro Rangefinder
Value and technology in a laser rangefinder…
“The confidence you need to play from the Blue Tees, Series 2 Pro expertly dials in your distances and makes club selection easy. Simple to use, this golf rangefinder is the perfect combination of size, accuracy, and advanced technology. Designed to change the way you see the course.”
Rapsodo Mobile Launch Monitor
Your tech-loving father surely knows of the MLM, if he doesn’t have one, he wishes he did…
“Rapsodo has harnessed the power of your mobile device and combined it with our professional grade machine learning to create the Mobile Launch Monitor (MLM) . You will be able to work on your game like never before with professional accuracy for shot distance, ball speed, club speed, launch angle, launch direction and shot shape.”
Shot Scope Pro LX Laser Rangefinder
Just look at this thing. If dad loves tech, he’ll be smitten…
“The Shot Scope PRO LX+ is perfect for golfers that want it all – a fast-firing laser optimised for stability and accuracy, along with a GPS loaded with 36,000 courses and built-in performance tracking.”
Bushnell Wingman GPS Speaker
Both technology dad and his foursome can enjoy…
“This “first of its kind” product combines high quality audio with the ability to receive audible GPS distances, conveniently mounts to your cart bar via BITE magnetic technology.”
Irresistible wrist ornamentation for techie dad…
“We’ve got your game with Approach® S62, a premium GPS golf watch that puts critical information from more than 41,000 full-color course maps worldwide on your wrist. It sports a large, easy-to-read 1.3” color touchscreen and a style that goes beyond the clubhouse. The PlaysLike Distance feature accounts for uphill and downhill shots, and Virtual Caddie takes into account wind conditions and past swings to select the best club for each shot.”
Arccos Caddie Smart Sensors
Any tech-loving father ought be tracking his shots. This is the best way…
“The 3rd-Generation system features 14 sensors – one for every club in your bag – and access to the award winning Arccos Caddie app.”
Hyperice Hypervolt Go 2
If your father loves technology and hates the aches and pains of aging…
“The Hypervolt Go 2 by Hyperice is the ultimate portable percussion massager. Lightweight, versatile, and sleekly designed, it offers relief on-the-go – massaging away stress and tension, loosening muscle knots, and targeting fatigue. It’s more than just an ordinary massage gun – it’s designed for go-getters like you to help you do what you love, more.”
FootJoy FJ Hydrolite Rain Jacket
A superb rain jacket for a discerning dad…
“FJ HydroLite Golf Rain Jackets are constructed from advanced technology-packed materials that deliver 100% waterproof, breathable protection for golfers in cool, windy and rainy conditions. Make Every Day Playable with Tour-Proven FJ Golf Outerwear.”
Linksoul Waffle Hoodie
If dad’s a clotheshorse, he’s doubtless taken the golf hoodie plunge…
“Constructed with cotton-cashmere fabric found in our classic sweaters and knitted with our unique waffle texture, this eye-capturing layer will keep you comfy all day. The true people’s champ of hoodies.”
Polo Bear T-Shirt
The RL bear, a clever clotheshorse favorite…
“Part of our collection for the 2022 U.S. Open, this jersey T-shirt features our iconic mascot in Polo Golf apparel.”
FootJoy ProDry RollTab Patriotic Stripe Sock
If dad’s a clotheshorse, he’s always keen to add a twist on a classic…
“ProDry golf socks with DrySof Technology wicks moisture off your skin, allowing for a drier, more comfortable sock.”
FootJoy 2022 U.S. Open Polo
A bit of a callback to Brookline Ryder Cup gear here that dad will appreciate…
“Gear up for the 2022 U.S. Open with limited edition apparel celebrating the return to The Country Club and Francis Ouimet’s historic 1913 win.”
Barstool Golf Tiger Tee
If dad listens to what is, arguably, the most popular podcast in golf, he’ll love this shirt…even if he doesn’t, he still might!
“Barstool Golf Tiger Tee from Barstool Sports‚ Riggs, Frankie and Trent from the Fore Play podcast.”
Barstool Ain’t No Hobby Printed Polo
Dad will like the backstory and love the print…
“Barstool Golf Ain’t No Hobby Printed Polo from Barstool Sports‚ Riggs, Frankie and Trent from the Fore Play podcast.”
Adidas Ultimate365 Core 8.5″ Shorts
A golf wardrobe staple for clotheshorse dad…
“Pull on these adidas golf shorts to keep your cool through warm weather rounds. Their lightweight, breathable fabric delivers dependable comfort on the links. A water-resistant coating sheds damp weather with ease.”
Under Armor UA T2G Polo
Simple. Classic. Pick up a couple for clothes-loving dad…
“Smooth, soft anti-pick, anti-pill fabric has a textured, printed finish. Material wicks sweat & dries really fast.”
Titleist StaDry Performance Bucket Hat
If dad is a genuine clotheshorse, he can pull off the bucket hat in rainy conditions…
“New look, classic style, waterproof lightweight design.”
Ben Hogan, the scientist: Our Q&A with Ben Hogan Foundation CEO Robert Stennett
In case you missed it, GolfWRX posted photos of Ben Hogan’s old experimental prototype clubs in our forums during the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge. We also took a deep dive into the innovative clubs over on PGATOUR.com’s Equipment Report.
Hogan’s experimental clubs were previously locked away in a safe, but thanks to Robert Stennett (CEO of the Ben Hogan Foundation), GolfWRX got a rare in-hand look. Stennett also took the time to explain what makes the clubs so special, how he got a hold of the clubs, and more about the Ben Hogan Foundation itself.
For those who wanted a more extensive dive into our conversation with Stennett, we wanted to release the full written portion of the Q&A (we’ve slightly edited the conversation for brevity and grammar).
Enjoy the interview below, and click here to learn more about the Ben Hogan Foundation.
GolfWRX: First things first, how did you get your hands on these clubs? Did someone donate them? Did they come directly from Mr. Hogan?
Robert Stennett: In the office we probably have maybe 300-400 of Mr. Hogan’s drivers, 3 woods and 4 woods, sets, and iron sets. When Mr. Hogan passed, the family left all the clubs in his home, which were substantial, to the Director of Golf at Shady Oaks Country Club, Mike Wright, who subsequently donated them to the Ben Hogan Foundation when it was established in 2007. They donated all the clubs to the Ben Hogan Foundation. Similarly, when Spalding closed the Hogan Company, all of the clubs that were in Mr. Hogan’s office were donated back to Mike Wright and Shady Oaks, and we’ve taken possession of those, as well. Basically, these were all the clubs that were either in his home, or all the clubs that were in his private office at the Hogan Company.
You know, Mr. Hogan was the Iron Byron. He didn’t have a hitting machine in his day [to test equipment]. He would go into the factory, he would go invent, he would go tinker with a club, and he would bring it out to Shady Oaks and he would be the Iron Byron. He would test it, take it back to the factory, tweak it, and these are some of the experimental clubs Mr. Hogan was tinkering with. Most of them subsequently became very famous clubs.
That’s why we try to say people don’t realize how innovative Mr. Hogan was. Mr. Hogan the scientist. How innovative he was in golf club design. And a lot of people know Mr. Hogan’s dad was a blacksmith. Even though he lost his dad at a very very early age, a lot of folks can make a pretty compelling argument that Mr. Hogan’s love of tinkering with things and bending irons and stuff like that came from his early childhood days of his father being a blacksmith there in Dublin, Texas.
How were these clubs getting made? How were they going from idea to product?
He created his own company, and my own substantiated belief is he did that because his previous company couldn’t stay up with how rapidly he was making design changes in equipment. So he created his own company in 1953. He had his own scientist. I’m sure he would draw something out on paper, send it in, they would bring a mockup to him, and then they would go back and forth as they were creating new equipment designs.
Gene Sheeley was one of his early scientists. He was there for a long time. Then after Gene, a guy that’s still around and a good friend, Tom Stites, was his chief scientist. Tom’s stories are really fun, talking about Mr. Hogan’s ability to see and feel things in a golf club that no human could do. He could pick up a golf club and say, “Well this is wrong…this is too heavy.” And Tom would say, “No sir, we just put it on a machine.” They’d put it back on a loft machine and they found out Hogan could identify something no one else could.
How would you say Hogan’s clubs stand out? How are they different, and what makes them unique?
That’s a good question. What probably makes Hogan’s clubs unique was Mr. Hogan was a perfectionist in everything that he did. That was his commitment in his letter that he sent out to his friends that he was going to create the best golf club known to man, and that his quality control was going to be such that he was going to measure a golf club that was better than anyone else’s. His tolerance for imperfection was very small.
You know with Hogan, everything Mr. Hogan did was with purpose, from the extra spike in his shoe, to the way he dressed, to the way he practiced. It carried forth into his business, and the equipment design. A lot of people know the first batch of irons that he made…he had them all destroyed. And he lost a business partner. They spent, back in the day, $100K on making those irons, and they were not to his standard. He made them destroy all of them and start over again because they weren’t perfect. My understanding is they were chopped up. He said, “These are not acceptable.”
Now that sets a pretty good tone when you’re starting a company and you have a certain amount of seed money, and you take that seed money and make your first sets of irons, and you say these are not acceptable to be sold to the public, and you chop ’em all up and start over. That sends a pretty good message to your staff of what you’d expect as a leader.
Can you go through some of these clubs, and tell me what you know about them, whether it’s materials or the idea behind them?
What I did was I just brought 5 examples here. It’s one thing to hear my words how creative and how innovative Mr. Hogan was. It’s another thing to show you a club that no one knows about that was perhaps invented 20-30 years before you’ve heard of the club.
I’ll take this [hybrid] for example. You can see there’s no number on it. He never made this. He just built this experimental club, took it out to Shady Oaks, hit it, tinkered with it, but here is what I believe to be the first hybrid ever known to man. This was made probably 20-25 years before you ever heard of a hybrid.
If you look at it, and look at the shaft and set it down, it’s a hybrid. There’s no doubt. They didn’t have that name at that time, that’s just what he was inventing. He was experimenting and creating a hybrid 30 years before you heard the word hybrid. I think this was in the early 1960’s. Most of these clubs were from the early 1960’s.
When did you first hear the word hybrid? Mid 80’s? Late 80’s? So, 25-30 years before you heard of a hybrid, here’s Mr. Hogan inventing a hybrid.
Here’s another example that we brought. You see again, there’s no number on this. It was an experimental club. I believe that this was perhaps the first metalwood ever made about 20-25 years before people started creating metalwoods.
You can kind of see the reflection, it does actually have Hogan’s signature on top of it. It doesn’t have a number on it. He never produced it for the public’s consumption, but he was experimenting with different metals on woods.
Similarly, here’s an iron. He never made it. It’s made out of, I think, aluminum. It’s about half the weight of a normal iron.
I’m sure he was experimenting with swing speeds. I don’t know what the 5+ means on there, but this set of aluminum irons that we have, each one of them has a different groove design on it. He was trying to see if that could somehow effect spin and club head speed with different metals.
Here’s what I believe to be the first bore-thru shaft that Callaway made famous with the Big Bertha in the early 90’s or so. Here’s a bore-thru shaft that Hogan was making in the 1960’s before you heard of the Big Bertha.
It’s the most widely sold club, maybe to date, and part of their design was the bore-thru shaft.
And we have a…this was a different kind of putter. I could also bring you a counterbalanced putter that Mr. Hogan made 30 years before you heard of counterbalance. He filled this whole top part of the club with lead. It’s so heavy you can’t believe it. He was experimenting with counterbalance on putter 40-50 years before you started thinking about distributing the weight differently in a putter.
I feel like Hogan was basically Bryson DeChambeau before Bryson came along, except he had his own company to build designs, try things out, and chase perfection.
All pros today build a golf club around their swing…they have all the technology. You think about 70 years ago, they didn’t do that. Mr. Hogan built golf clubs he couldn’t hook. He put a Apex 5 shaft in, he tipped it, he set the grip on it, he put a reminder in it, he set the grip in it where the club was sitting 4.5 degrees open. He built a golf club that no human could hook. He started building a golf club around his swing in the 1950’s. Now, everybody does that. But 70 years ago, nobody did that. That was part of his scientific approach to golf.
What was Hogan’s background like? Did he have any engineering or science background? I know his dad was a blacksmith, but did he have any qualifications other than curiosity and knowing the golf swing better than anyone else in the world?
I think you probably hit it. Mr. Hogan did not have the opportunity to pursue his education. He was obviously a brilliant man, but he had to drop out of school in 10th grade to sell newspapers and to go loop at Glen Garden Country Club to get that 65 cents to give his mother so they could eat. And Mr. Hogan always believed in education. That’s why the foundation gives out scholarships, because he always believed in an education…but he did not have that privilege. He always respected it. He was a brilliant guy, but he did not have the opportunity to pursue a formal education.
His attention to detail was so amazing and he was so meticulous, and he spent so much time investigating and learning the golf swing that equipment design naturally flowed to his love of golf and his interest in pursing perfection.
Can you tell me a little about what the Ben Hogan Foundation does?
Thank you for asking. We created the Ben Hogan Foundation in 2007, so we’re relatively young. I was fortunate to know Mr. Hogan. I guess I first met Mr. Hogan when I was 14, as a teenager. Then I knew Mr. Hogan until he passed, when I was in my mid thirties or so. So forbout the last 20 years of his life. I didn’t know the great golfer. He was more in his grandfatherly stages.
I had the opportunity to see Mr. Hogan hit golf balls later in life and it was astounding how well he could hit it as an old man. But I knew Mr. Hogan more as a gentleman. The stories that you hear Mr. Hogan being aloof and difficult etc., I didn’t see that. Mr. Hogan would walk into the 19th hole and he would always be the first to speak. He’d pat you on the back and he’d say, “Hi, fellas!”
When you were touched by the hawk, you’d say, “I’m going low today, boy. I’d been touched by the Hawk.”
But I knew Mr. Hogan later in life, and I knew him as a very kind man. And that’s what we do with his foundation. Mr. Hogan’s word was his name and his words were so important. Hence, our interest is in working with the First Tee organizations across the country and building Ben Hogan Learning Centers. People think the First Tee teaches kids golf, and it does, but more importantly, it teaches kids about core values, the importance of honesty and integrity, and perseverance and hard work. We think that’s something Mr. Hogan would want us to do.
Then we have about five different scholarship programs that we do. As I said, Mr. Hogan wasn’t able to pursue his education, but we have scholarships to help young people pursue their education, because he didn’t have that opportunity.
The final element that we do is when Mr. Hogan was winning about a third of the tournaments he was entering, he left the PGA Tour and joined the Army Air Crops and he proudly served his country in World War II for three years. I knew how patriotic Mr. Hogan was, so we do a military appreciation event each spring at Fort Hood to thank our soldiers for their service. Everything we do, we do because we think it’s something Mr. Hogan would want us to do. Teaching young people core values, helping young people pursue their education, and thanking our military for their service to our country. That’s what we do with Mr. Hogan’s foundation.
Just for a general consumer, if they’re interested in seeing these clubs in person, do you have a facility where people can go and look at his old clubs and merchandise?
These, they can’t. These are special. They go into a locked safe. These are irreplaceable. We’ll bring them out here like we do at Colonial when we have friends contact us. We want people to know the Hogan story. We want them to understand all the interesting elements that made Mr. Hogan so special. We have a small museum that we support in his hometown of Dublin, and we have some clubs on display there. We do some displays at Shady Oaks Country Club, or if somebody wants to contact me, they can come by the office and we can show them Mr. Hogan’s collection. A little private tour.
Any final words you may want golf fans to know about the Ben Hogan Foundation?
Thank you for giving the foundation a platform. That’s important. If you’re not actively, especially as fewer and fewer people know Mr. Hogan, if you’re not actively trying to maintain that legacy, people can forget. Byron Nelson is a good example. I can’t believe how fast his legacy is going away for being one of the absolute greats of the game. I don’t think Jack’s or Arnie’s legacies will diminish because of their Children’s Hospitals, that will really keep their legacies there. But it’s important, and it’s important for these young pros out here to learn about Mr. Hogan.
We just signed an agreement with one of the biggest collegiate golf tournaments to move here to Colonial every year. We just signed an agreement to put that tournament in Mr. Hogan’s name. It will be called the Ben Hogan Collegiate Invitational. It will have the 15 best golf teams in the country here, and as a part of that, as I was visiting with our friends here at Colonial, one thing is to put Mr. Hogan’s name on it and create a Hogan-esque trophy, but the other element of that is these kids are in college to get an education. Every time they come here, they are going to get and education on Mr. Hogan. It won’t be painful. We’ll have Bruce Devlin or one of his friends tell fun Hogan stories, or the guys that were around and shagged range balls for Mr. Hogan. It’ll be a fun thing for them. It’s important they learn about Hogan and learn about the history of the game.
Vokey WedgeWorks adds 2022 T Grind to SM9 wedge lineup
Vokey WedgeWorks has today announced the launch of its long-trusted T Grind.
Played by tour pros such as Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, the T Grind was designed for great hands and vivid short-game imagination and is designed for a shallow angle of attack in firm conditions with low bounce and a narrow crescent surface.
Compared to Vokey’s L Grind, it has a wider back flange which aims to allow for lower measured bounce, and it arrives in 58 and 60 degree loft options.
“Wedge play is an art, and the T Grind brings out the best in the artist,” Bob Vokey said. “The leading edge stays low to the playing surface as the wedge is rotated, which allows you to hit a variety of shots from tight lies. This is the wedge that really made Vokey Grinds an important part of our process –and still to this day is a great option.”
As a reminder, the SM9 wedges contain a CG that has been raised vertically by adding weight to the topline design, where a tapered pad at the back of the toe helps align the CG properly without being visible from the playing position.
Specs, Pricing & Availability
- Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S200; Grip: Tour Velvet 360 White
- Lofts: 58 and 60 degrees in RH/LH
- Finishes: Tour Chrome (RH only), Raw (RH/LH)
- Bounce: 4 degrees
- Availability: June 8, 2022
- Price: $225
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