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Independent clubmakers versus big manufacturers

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Having recently discovered that prefer forged irons over cast irons I've been doing various pieces of research into each. Through that research I found many golf club component manufacturers who will only supply master club makers and one that comes up a lot is Tom Wishon. Now I understand that Tom's going to be peddling his own wares and craft to us punters but I'd love to hear other people's perspective on big manufacturers versus independent clubmakers using club components.

 

The way it seems to me is that there are benefits to both:

 

Indy

- Completely custom clubs that fit your swing perfectly.

- Average price. Not exactly cheap but not a patch on some of the big brands.

- Ability to take the club back to your clubmaker without needing anything to be sent away.

 

Big brand

- Able to have then customised to 75% of what you'd get from an independent.

- Generally better looking clubs.

- The types of guarantee you get with buying anything from a major brand.

- Confidence that you're hitting a quality product.

- Large price range. Likely to find something to fit your budget.

- On-course kudos for having the latest and greatest.

 

I have a master clubmaker at my local course who has offered to create a free 6i for me to try out with any spec I want and have it tweaked as many times as I want for free until I'm happy with it. If I never become happy with it I won't be charged and I have no timespan for my "trial". This seems to indicate an unwaivering confidence in his own ability and the quality of what he creates.

 

All of my static fitting measurements were taken yesterday so I'll report back with photos etc when it's been created and after I've been out and played it on course for a while I'll share my thoughts. From memory the clubhead will be an Orka RS5 head to start out with and see what my contact and ball flight are like. The shaft will be a True Temper Dynamic Gold although I don't remember the spec. There's also a possibility of a mix and match of the RS1, RS3 and RS5 for different clubs which I like.

 

Fingers crossed it'll be as good as I hope but I'm reserving judgement for now.

 

So do you play a fully custom set of clubs? If yes what do you play and if no is there any reason why?

post #2 of 19

Independent clubmakers cover the spectrum of quality. You just have to learn what's what.

 

One factor involves your projected use of your golf set. If you play 10 times a year, durability may not be an issue. But, if you play twice a week, some of the offbrand sets may wear out after a couple of seasons. I played a set of Pro Tour irons (Ping Eye2 knock-offs) for 14 years. They cost an extra $5 a head over other options, but were extremely durable - they literally crushed small rocks! I was lucky on those - others got irons for $5 per cheaper, but they didn't four years.

 

Also, if you buy brandname clubs - especially irons - you can get them customized to your build and swing for about the same price as new off-the-rack irons. The only upgrade would be if you had "exotic" upgrade shafts and $20 leather grips. But, you likely won't get sale prices.

 

Also, consider brand-name used clubs, especially irons. Like a car which loses half its value when you drive it off the lot, golf clubs lose half their value after a couple of years. If you can find a used set which fits your personal specs, you can save a lot of money.

 

Soooo... when you're looking at independent clubs, here's what to consider: quality of components, skill of fitter, skill of club builder. Independents don't have to pay royalties to Tiger or Phil - and don't need national ad campaigns. If the master clubmaker has a loyal local following, chances are he knows what he's doing.

 

 

post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by MiniBlueDragon View Post


Indy

- Average price. Not exactly cheap but not a patch on some of the big brands.

 


Just to throw out my experience..... my Callaway X-22's were $78 a club.  My Maltby TE Forged irons cost $32 a club (add $4.42/club if I were to have bought grips).  The KE4's were $25/club with GP Tour Velvet grips.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MiniBlueDragon View Post
 
So do you play a fully custom set of clubs? If yes what do you play and if no is there any reason why?
 

 

Yes (with the exception of wedges and putter..... for now), see my sig.

 

 

Quote:

Big brand

- Able to have then customised to 75% of what you'd get from an independent. - I think your options for customization would be greater through an independent builder.

 

- Generally better looking clubs.  -  I personally think the Maltby TE forged irons are sweet.  Very simple, yet sexy.  e2_whistling.gif

 

- The types of guarantee you get with buying anything from a major brand. - Haven't needed to warranty or replace anything yet,  but have confidence in the companies that I have bought from.

 

- Confidence that you're hitting a quality product.  -  Again, personally, I feel the quality of my own clubs, plus others I have built (component wise), are right there with the OEM'sThe one exception would be paint.

 

- Large price range. Likely to find something to fit your budget.  -  Plenty of option for home builders and local custom shops that are very affordable too.

 

- On-course kudos for having the latest and greatest. - I prefer the "they must not be that great, I've never heard of them" from the duffer with $2000 worth of clubs in his bag.  f3_laugh.gif  But that's just me..... I'm like that with everything else.  I'd prefer to custom fabricate my own brackets for my hot rod project rather than buy some trick billet pieces.

 

Also consider a gently used set of heads that can be shafted and bent (if necessary) to your needs.  If they aren't beat up badly, they can be buffed and polished and cleaned up to look practically new in most cases.

post #4 of 19

There are quality component manufacturers out there as well as those that produce cheap junk.  The first thing to do when finding a custom club-builder is to find out which he offers.  Tom Wishon, Hireko, Golfsmith, and The Golfworks all offer excellent components.  The next thing to do is to research the club-builder himself (ie: references, etc.), and find out the return guarantees and warranties he offers.  Having a set of custom clubs built for you can be a tremendous boost for your game but it can also be a disaster if you are not careful.

post #5 of 19

The key is to find clubs you like and hit well.  I have followed posts here and on some other forums and it seems everyone has their personal preference (usually whatever they are playing at the time they post).  I've seen posts that say Mizuno's are like "butter" and then someone else will say X-Forged or X-Prototypes are then the Titleist guys jump in.  One thing I've learned for myself is that I don't like big SGI irons and I don't aim them as well as GI iron or what some might consider players irons.  I foolishly let the sales guy talk me into the Diablo Edges when I knew during fitting that they just seemed huge compared to the X-12's I learned with. 

 

Take you time testing the clubs and go with what feels good to you and what you hit best. 

 

 

post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by newtogolf View Post

The key is to find clubs you like and hit well............  One thing I've learned for myself is that I don't like big SGI irons and I don't aim them as well as GI iron or what some might consider players irons.  I foolishly let the sales guy talk me into the Diablo Edges when I knew during fitting that they just seemed huge compared to the X-12's I learned with.

 

 


I agree!!  My first instructor fit me into X-22's.  It got to the point where I HATED to look down at those monster looking heads.  Moved into the KE4's and liked them much better.  Since then I've really started liking a thinner top line and slightly smaller head and have slowly started replacing my set with TE forged heads.  I know there are some who gain more confidence by seeing the larger heads thinking they can't miss, but for me it's just the opposite. 

 

post #7 of 19


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MiniBlueDragon View Post

Having recently discovered that prefer forged irons over cast irons I've been doing various pieces of research into each. Through that research I found many golf club component manufacturers who will only supply master club makers and one that comes up a lot is Tom Wishon. Now I understand that Tom's going to be peddling his own wares and craft to us punters but I'd love to hear other people's perspective on big manufacturers versus independent clubmakers using club components.

 

The way it seems to me is that there are benefits to both:

 

Indy

- Completely custom clubs that fit your swing perfectly.

- Average price. Not exactly cheap but not a patch on some of the big brands.

- Ability to take the club back to your club maker without needing anything to be sent away.

 

Big brand

- Able to have then customised to 75% of what you'd get from an independent.

- Generally better looking clubs.

- The types of guarantee you get with buying anything from a major brand.

- Confidence that you're hitting a quality product.

- Large price range. Likely to find something to fit your budget.

- On-course kudos for having the latest and greatest.

 

I have a master clubmaker at my local course who has offered to create a free 6i for me to try out with any spec I want and have it tweaked as many times as I want for free until I'm happy with it. If I never become happy with it I won't be charged and I have no timespan for my "trial". This seems to indicate an unwaivering confidence in his own ability and the quality of what he creates.

 

All of my static fitting measurements were taken yesterday so I'll report back with photos etc when it's been created and after I've been out and played it on course for a while I'll share my thoughts. From memory the clubhead will be an Orka RS5 head to start out with and see what my contact and ball flight are like. The shaft will be a True Temper Dynamic Gold although I don't remember the spec. There's also a possibility of a mix and match of the RS1, RS3 and RS5 for different clubs which I like.

 

Fingers crossed it'll be as good as I hope but I'm reserving judgement for now.

 

So do you play a fully custom set of clubs? If yes what do you play and if no is there any reason why?



Couple things to note- There is a balance between fitting and building....if you are getting a good fitter, but not a good builder then you might not even end up with the clubs you were fit to. If you get a good builder that is not a good fitter, then you might end up with clubs that do not actually "fit" your swing.   

 

  A great fitter/builder will do a dynamic fit on you. A plus to that would be, someone who also checks to make sure that you are balance. Giving lessons if needed to correct compensations you may have developed as well.  This insures you are not fit you to a poor motion. ( this is very important because once your fit to clubs, you are somewhat stuck in that swing). Many people underestimate how much clubs dictate what you do in your swing. 

 

  In that fitting you should be hitting the exact clubs you will be buying, while hitting off of a lie board and watching ball flight. This way you will feel confident with what your getting. 

 

   -Tolerances-  Big manufactures do not have tight tolerances, so the clubs your actually fit for can be all over the place ( somewhat makes the whole "fitting" pointless if you don't actually get what you ordered)  Good builders should be able to show you (by measuring) that your clubs are exactly what you ordered when you pick them up.

 

  -Guarantees-  You want to go to someone who stands behind their work, a good builder will. A good manufacturer will as well. Some big name companies will adjust lie and loft for life, which is a plus.

 

 - Price- Honestly you can get a good builder to work with your budget, and get you a quality set of clubs for the same price or cheaper then big brands.

 

 

If you are thinking about getting custom clubs, make sure your getting fit properly and then built properly. If one of those is missing, you might as well grab a cheap set of clubs off the rack. 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by golfernc View Post

 

   -Tolerances-  Big manufactures do not have tight tolerances, so the clubs your actually fit for can be all over the place ( somewhat makes the whole "fitting" pointless if you don't actually get what you ordered)  Good builders should be able to show you (by measuring) that your clubs are exactly what you ordered when you pick them up.

 

 


 

Funny you mention this.... I finally have my loft/lie machine mounted like I want it, so I decided to check all my irons (the Maltbys) last night.  Of the 5 iron through gap wedge, one was 1/2° off on lie, and one was 1/2° off on loft.  The rest were spot on.  So now, out of curiosity, I want to get my X-22's back from my brother and check all them just to see where they are.  

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

I guess I'm lucky in that of the three pros at my course, one of them is also the club builder. If there's a glaring problem with my swing I'm sure he'd mention it; especially as the 6i is a free build to see how I get on and can be tweaked as many times as I like for as long as I like before I decide to buy (and if I don't all I do is hand the club back, no harm done)

 

Regarding tolerances my current VMS Irons were checked a couple of days ago before I decided to entertain the thought of a custom set of clubs:

 

Club | Loft | Lie

4 | +0.5 | -1

5 | -0.5 | -0.5

6 | -0.5 | 0

7 | -0.5 | -1.5

8 | +0.5 | -0.5

9 | +0.5 | 0

PW | 0 | -1

GW | 0 | -0.25

SW | +0.5 | -0.5

LW | 0 | -1

 

Quite a variation in many of those.

post #10 of 19


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MiniBlueDragon View Post

I guess I'm lucky in that of the three pros at my course, one of them is also the club builder. If there's a glaring problem with my swing I'm sure he'd mention it; especially as the 6i is a free build to see how I get on and can be tweaked as many times as I like for as long as I like before I decide to buy (and if I don't all I do is hand the club back, no harm done)

 

Regarding tolerances my current VMS Irons were checked a couple of days ago before I decided to entertain the thought of a custom set of clubs:

 

Club | Loft | Lie

4 | +0.5 | -1

5 | -0.5 | -0.5

6 | -0.5 | 0

7 | -0.5 | -1.5

8 | +0.5 | -0.5

9 | +0.5 | 0

PW | 0 | -1

GW | 0 | -0.25

SW | +0.5 | -0.5

LW | 0 | -1

 

Quite a variation in many of those.


They actually don't sound that bad, ( it could be a lot worse)  if you wanted to you could adjust the 7 iron. It might tend to go right on you.  ( or if it's your favorite club, the other clubs could be adjusted to match that.) If you were going to do anything else  with those clubs I would check the swing weights and total weights.   Good luck!   Oh and its great that your club pro will let you use the club and tweak it as much as needed, sounds like a good option. I would recommend getting fit using a lie board.

 

post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by golfernc View Post

 

They actually don't sound that bad, ( it could be a lot worse)  if you wanted to you could adjust the 7 iron. It might tend to go right on you.  ( or if it's your favorite club, the other clubs could be adjusted to match that.) If you were going to do anything else  with those clubs I would check the swing weights and total weights.   Good luck!   Oh and its great that your club pro will let you use the club and tweak it as much as needed, sounds like a good option. I would recommend getting fit using a lie board.

 


Yep definitely. I think my plan is to get the free 6i which has been static fit to my height, wrist to floor and hand size and speak to them about dynamically fitting it. Then I plan to use it for a few weeks and see how I get on with it, making tweaks as needed. Once I'm happy I'll speak to them about the process for getting a full set built and fit correctly.

 

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 

OK folks, time to get all photolicious as my club was finished today and taken out for a quick bucket of balls at the range.

 

Finished club spec:

 

  • Orka RS5 6 iron at 32 loft, 61.5 lie - 1pc billet hot forged head in S25c carbon steel 259(g).
  • Nippon NS Pro 950GH R shaft 94.5(g) weight that's been 'pured' during build.
  • Lamkin Crossline grip.

 

So far I'm *very* impressed! :

 

  • Much easier to hit the ball in the middle of the club face.
  • Gives a clearer feeling on shots.
  • Feels lovely off the face.
  • Feels somehow more balanced?
  • Is half an inch shorter and more suited to my (lack of) height at 5'7"
  • Grip is a little thicker than the grip on my VMS's and it feels so much better with the extra size.
  • Club head is smaller and neater at address than the VMS.
  • Thinner sole than the VMS.

 

Looking forward to getting out on the course and trying it rather than just the range!

 

And some photo's:

 

IMG_4323.JPGIMG_4325.JPGIMG_4324.JPGIMG_4326.JPGIMG_4329.JPG

post #13 of 19

That's a really nice looking head!  And they have a lot of other nice looking wood and hybrid heads too.  Looking forward to hearing your experience with it!

post #14 of 19

Looks great!   I'm surprised that its also pured....that's sweet!

post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 

Yeah I'd never heard of "puring" until the clubmaker told me about it and demonstrated on a couple of clubs in the workshop.

post #16 of 19

Just to clarify, did he actually PURE the shaft, find the FLO (flat line oscillation), or find and align the spine of the shaft?

 

PUREing (SST PURE) is a patented process by a company here in the US, http://sstpure.com/ that can only be done by licensed shops.  What your builder likely did is called FLO, clamp the shaft at the butt end, and attach a laser to the tip end and pluck it, turning the shaft slightly until the laser produces a straight line back and forth.

 

I could be wrong, and he could have actually used the PURE technology, but I just wanted to clarify since the two processes both produce a similar result, but by different means.  

post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 

OK I've done some research and it's definitely not "pured".

 

The process he demonstrated was to place the shaft in a set of bearings at both ends and bend the shaft slightly, then he turned the shaft which spun by it's own accord to one particular position every time. No matter how many times it was turned it always settled that way which showed where the club's spine was and that was then marked. From there the options were to "high it" or "low it". If I remember correctly, low'ing it meant facing the spine away from the target giving more 'kick' from the shaft at impact but a wider dispersion as it would twist more on bad shots and high'ing it meant facing the spine toward the target to give less twisting on bad shots and thus a tighter dispersion but also less kick/distance too.

 

He said we "highed" my shaft as my distances are pretty good.

 

Then he did as you mentioned above with "plucking" the shaft to see where the natural oscillation was.

 

I think it's the process described on http://thesandtrap.com/b/bag_drop/shaft_spining_splining_and_pureing_black_art_or_the_ultimate_tweak as "Spining" but as mentioned he incorrectly called it "puring" when describing it to me. The very fact that he refers to the spine position as "highing" and "lowing" also suggests that it's a naming difference rather than him lying.

 

EDIT: This process is what he showed me:

post #18 of 19

Hopefully I didn't come across as suggesting that he way lying to you about the process.  a3_biggrin.gif I was just wanting to clarify what process(es) he did. 

 

I built a bearing-based spine finder and use it on all clubs I build, as well as finding FLO.  Whether or not it actually does what is purported to, it certainly can't hurt anything to do it, and it gives me a warm fuzzy knowing that I have done everything I can to make my equipment the best it can be.

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