Why Custom Golf clubs out perform OEM Clubs
The answer, in short, we know you’re going to get much higher quality and an accurate fit than you could ever get if you buy clubs “off the rack,” Regardless of which Big Box store you go to or for that matter any “OEM Performance Studio” when we do your fitting, then factor in the attention to detail we provide with building your set of clubs to exact specifications and tolerances that are unheard of throughout the industry. Our clubs hadns down will out perform any OEM and thats our performance guarantee.
“What do you mean?” ………….. “The Pros play clubs from the big OEM’s …….That means they’re the best. right?”
The golf clubs the pros play are high quality, but that doesn’t mean the ones you can purchase are constructed or set them up the same way. They aren’t buying clubs off the rack at a proshop or discount outlet; you are. Their clubs are custom made for them by shops like us and are dialed in to there exact specifications, often times spending months testing different shaft and head combinations to get the exact fit and feel they need.
“If I buy those clubs they must be high quality; after all, they are from an OEM & expensive!”
Yes they are expensive, most of the reason they are expensive has to do with the logos you see pro golfers wearing every weekend. Somebody has to pay for that, and it’s the buyer of those clubs. Exacting standards and high quality are not the reasons the clubs you can buy cost so much.
Further, when you buy a set of OEM clubs, you are not getting the same heads or shafts that the pro is playing. He or she has clubs set up to specific parameters. What you buy is more or less generic. Yes, the pro is playing “X” brand of clubs. No, you can’t buy them. (read more)
The clubs you buy off the rack are not constructed, one by one, to an exacting set of specifications, or for that matter are the clubs specifications checked during assembly as we do. They’re made in a mass-production environment where nobody is taking the time to make sure that each and every component when assembled together will be assembled to produce a set that matches. When they are made at the OEM factory, they are shoving the shafts in labels up and shouting “Next”.
They dont take the time to frequency match the set of shafts before they assemble them, sort them from lowest frequency to highest after they were carefully spine aligned, the only spine alignment they get is the assembler adjusting his seat position to straighten his back. The OEM’s dont carefully dry fit the heads and trim the shafts over and over until they get the exact 4 CPM differential you should have between club lengths. No they look at the tip cutting instructions and whack the shaft or for the most part they just pick up the shaft marked 4i and puit it in the 4 iron head because they are taper tipped shafts and they don’t have to do anything except slam them in labels up!
Even the top manufacturers of shafts, Project X True, Temper Dynamic Gold, KBS any of the top taper tip shafts are manufactured within tolerances of the individual flex, granted KBS is the best we have ever seen when it comes to predictability and actual flex tolerances, but they cant be perfect. What we do is take the time to analyze each individual shaft and check and recheck the combination of head and shaft on our frequency analyzer.
It takes on average 8 hours to make a set of frequency matched, swing weight balanced irons in our shop, typicvally an hour to an hour and a half of work goes into each club we finish. If we were to make the same set of irons using taper tip shafts like the OEMS, even with swing weight balancing we could do it in an hour at the most, and that includes a coffee break!
“What do you mean, ‘matches’?”
A set should be matched not only on flex–what you know as “stiff,” “regular,” “senior,” and so on, and we know as 5.0, 6.0, 6.3 or whatever your exact shaft loading profile is. Also matching specifc properties of each club, like swingweight or on moment-of-inertia. This can only be reliably done if each component in a set is individually evaluated for meeting exacting specifications, and corrected for any variance in tolerances that result.
This is not, done by any OEM manufacturer, even when you special order them to your “Exact” specifications! Though some do seem to try and correct for swingweight variance. Mizuno, for instance, is one of the better OEM’s and they are known to come close to accurately adding weight down inside the hosel, in there high end custom clubs. This, by the way, is not bad; it’s a common clubmaking adjustment to match on swingweight. However did you notice the part where we said come close, we dont come close, we are exact to your individual preferences in every aspect of our builds.
“What difference would this make to my game?”
The difference is this: In a frequency matched set, every club feels the same in terms of swingweight, which is important for where you hit them in your stance. Every club also feels the same in terms of flex, so that the same swing will produce the same results with each club. That’s why we fit you to your shaft loading profile to get the exact flex and feel you need.
Ever had a set where some clubs felt right, and others not?
The point of matching is to make every club feel the same, and feel right.
My clubs are matched. I know a bad result is me, not the clubs. That means I can focus my attention on the physical aspects of the game without that feeling in the back of my mind that the clubs are somehow responsible, or I have to change the way I swing a particular club to get it to work the way I want it to.
“How do you know that OEM clubs aren’t always matched?”
I have, over the years, had the opportunity to evaluate a variety of OEM sets of golf clubs, for instance, when presented to me for regripping. I can measure them for swingweight, and assess their frequency to check the actual flex, in a specially-designed piece of scientific equipment manufactured just for that purpose.
While this might get a bit technical, and border on engineering, I feel I need to show you how and why, I know these things about OEM clubs. To do this, I have to show you how I assess flex and swingweight, and how to tell if it’s correct throughout a set or not. Are you game?
“Well, OK. Just keep it simple!”
I’ll try to do that. To begin with, let’s talk about Swingweight. It’s a measure of how heavy the head feels at the end of a golf club. It’s not a particularly good measure, but it’s been around for about 70 years, most people understand what it is, and it is the most common way to evaluate what I refer to as the clubs heaviness.
You measure swingweight on a swingweight scale, a unique balance set up to help a clubmaker calibrate a clubs balance. You simply place the club on the scale and adjust the weighting to balance the scale and it tells you the swingweight of that particular club. The reading on the sliding weight tells you the swingweight. Swingweights are measured on a scale from A to G, with A being lightest and G being heaviest. Further, the distance between each letter is divided into tenths, such that you could say that a swingweight of D1 is less than a D4, and a D0 is greater than a C8.
So we can take an OEM set, as given to us from the customer, and measure it.
Most people want a swingweight-matched set, with the exception of the shortest irons. Your set might be specified to a “D0” swingweight, with the 3-9 irons at D0, the PW at about D2, the SW at maybe D4, and so on. There are variations on this theme that depend on how a golfer likes the feel of those short irons, but matched means that the swingweights match. On a recent set of clubs that were custom ordered from one of the top OEM’s we found them to be so far off it is embarrassing that the customer paid $1400 for the set of irons and then had to have us correct them. They weren’t off a lot they were embarrassing.
Don’t you think that you should get something a little better than that for paying that much? I do, too.
“What about this flex thing?”
Flex, of course, is how stiff or flexible the shaft is. The first thing you must know is that there are no standards in the golf industry. None for how shaft stiffness or flex is described. One manufacturer’s “stiff” can be more flexible than the next manufacturer’s “regular.” Even Rifle shafts, purported to be exacting in their frequency distribution, have not been that in my examination. We will discuss that at a later point.
How do you measure what the flex is?
First, we carefully remove the grip from the club if necessary. We typically can remove a grip without damaging them. with most grips we can then reinstall them intact. Then we place the butt end in our frequency analyzer clamp, and tighten it down. The clamp is calibrated to produce the same amount of pressure each time so that readings are consistent. we then position the meter to measure the frequency of the shafts oscillation exactly in CPM’s– or the cycles per minute the shaft oscillates at –and then “twang” the club so it oscillates up and down.The meter gives us a measure of frequency, which we can translate into a specific flex using a graphing process. Length/ Frequency determines the stiffness of the shaft .
Why is frequency a measure of stiffness?
The stiffer a club, the faster it will oscillate with this equipment it has been specifically designed and developed to do just that, determine the number of times an object oscillates, or cycles through the specific neutral plane parallel to the butt of the shaft. Because of that, we now have a way to numerically describe the frequency of that specific shaft or club to determine the stiffness of that club, compare it to other clubs, and evaluate the match within a set.
So what do you do with those numbers?
We plot them on a frequency chart that is set up in a program to illustrate and track the sets of clubs we make, assuring a uniform shaft loading profile. During the late 1970’s Dr. Braley and Kim Braley his son patented and developed this system of frequency analysis of golf shafts as I described in earlier sections, wherein the ideal match for clubs is one where the clubs increase about 4cpm for each 1/2″ length decrease. The resulting slope of the clubs is plotted on a chart such as below. This defines a set of clubs that is matched for frequency (flex).
A well-matched set of clubs should be on the same slope. For example, if we were to plot a matched set of clubs, it might look like this on the chart, where the 3-iron is 39 inches long with a frequency of 305, and so on, that is length/cpm are all on the same line or slope.
Now, it doesn’t matter that the line be on top of one of the lines indicating “X” or “S” or “R” or whatever. Those are arbitrary indications of what “stiff” or “regular” might be, but they’re not absolutes. On this particular chart, though, the “S” slope corresponds roughly to a set produced with True Temper Dynamic Gold S-300 steel shafts with a 5-iron length of 37.5″.
But realize this: There is no standard. When we fit a golfer, I’m looking for a specific flex that suits their game. It might be between the lines you see on the chart, and usually is. Often customers send me a club they just love–I evaluate it for flex and swingweight, and then build an entire set to that designation. The frequency–flex–of that club probably doesn’t fall on one of those parallel lines. I don’t care whether it does or not–the point is to get the flex the individual golfer likes the best, and produces the best results for his or her particular shaft loading profile regardless of what line it produces on the chart.
My own irons, for instance, are just a bit over an “R” flex shown. Why? Because I’ve hit a lot of different flexes and when analyzed using our Dynamic Frequency Fitting system, that’s the one that feels best to me and when analyzed using a launch monitor as a check that works best for me. What will work best for you? Why, the one that fits you best! Our fitting sets provide us the ability to get you to the exact CPM of your flex profile! Take that big box stores, they can typically get within 5 CPM at best and are usually wrong, we have the clients to prove it ; )
So how do you tell if a set is doesnt match?
Do you have a go to club in your bag or do they all feel the same and perform the same?
Unless you can say that every club in your bag feels the same when you swing it identically to the others, your clubs dont match.
The clubs in this set varied from virtually a senior flex in the longest 3 irons past “regular” to nearly “stiff” in the shortest irons. How easy do you think it would be to maintain a consistent swing–and consistent performance–with a set varying so much? This customer was having me remove the original shafts and replace them with new KBS Shafts which matched his swing profile. The original shafts were listed as an extra stiff shaft and he was fit at one of the local Big Box stores here in Paramus, they obviously weren’t familiar with what the Tour specifications were! Although the shafts were listed as “XS” there was nothing extra stiff about these shafts and the gentleman was unable to hit use the new clubs because they were all over the place in flex. We corrected that and he was thrilled
Finally, here’s a somewhat extreme example, a set of graphite-shafted irons from OEM manufacturer “C”. This golfer brought me his set, telling me to reshaft it because he simply couldn’t hit consistently with these clubs. I needed to find out what it was about these irons that made them tough to hit, so that we didn’t corrected all the problems before we reshafted them. Here’s what the frequency plot looked like:
It was quite clear, once we evaluated the clubs for frequency, why the golfer had such a hard time with this set. Imagine trying to groove a swing where you needed one which could perform with a “stiff flex” 3-iron, a “senior flex” 4-iron, a “regular flex” 7-iron, and so on. We spent the time to fit him properly with his shaft loading profile and built him a set that was more to his specific swing characteristics that looked something more like this, thanks Phil!
His reports included a “smile” as he no longer had to fight the clubs. His handicap has dropped significantly;
“So summarize for me what all this means, would you?”
In brief, it means this: Unless you know that your irons have been specifically constructed so as to match them on flex and swingweight, you have little reason to believe that they are. Sometimes they’re OK, but often they are not, and how will you know the difference? If you’re having trouble on the course, how will you know if the problem is your swing, or the clubs that you’re using?
The above data makes it clear: Even top-of-the-line manufacturers don’t produce clubs that are perfect, and often produce clubs that are far from perfect. And if your clubs don’t match, the old “all you need is one swing” theory about golfing goes right out the window. The more different your clubs are, the more different swings you need to make them work. And as I’m sure you’d agree, it’s hard enough just learning one swing. That’s why when we fit you we go through and explain why frequency matched clubs are different and you need not try to power through shots, let the clubs do the work for you!
I’m not telling you the specific manufacturers of the clubs simply because there’s no need. If you feel the need to know, email me privately and I’ll tell you who the manufacturer was and see if I can put you in touch with the actual client that I corrected them for. I don’t see any purpose innaming names, all the OEM manufacturers, suffer from inconsistency and its not entirely there fault, there is no consistency in the entire golf industry until you get into custom club making. The point is what well-matched clubs can do, and where I know you’re more likely to find them.
“But what about shafts that have been specifically designed to provide a frequency-match?”
In my experience, they’re often not that way. They differ by a lot sometimes, and sometimes they’re fairly good. There’s just no way to know without the painstaking evaluation that lets you know which shafts are good, which are marginal, and which should be thrown out.
Even shafts like Project X are not beyond this, look at golfwrx they have blog after blog reporting inconsistency in golf shaft manufacturing standards.
“How do you know that?”
When I was playing off shafts against each other while designing my current set, I wanted to compare a Project X 5.0 and 5.5 shaft to a True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 shaft. I had a number of the same heads; that meant I could create three “identical” 6-irons, differing only by the shaft.
I started out, as I always do, by comparing the raw frequencies of the shafts. Imagine my surprise when the Project X 5.5 shaft turned out to be the same as the Project X 5.0 shaft (they should have differed by half a flex grade, or about 5cpm).
I called tech support to find out what was up, and was assured that after I tip trimmed them, they’d be different. So I did. And they weren’t. They were still the same.
Now, those shafts should have differed by 5 cpm, the difference between 5.0 and 5.5. Or at least have shown some difference. But they didn’t differ at all.
I also had the occasion recently to reshaft a set of Ping irons with the new Project X shaft. The clubheads were taper-tip heads, meaning there is no adjustment of the flex possible with the shafts used. I assembled the clubs with the new shafts and after all was done, I checked the resulting frequency slope of those very expensive steel shafts (nearly $25 per club). I’m sure, now that you know what to look for, you can evaluate them for yourself.
I made what the customer wanted, but what he didn’t realize and you do now, is that what a product says it is, doesn’t mean that’s what it is. Don’t you feel you deserve better? And at a cost less than that with which you can get OEM “quality”? I do, too.
“Are OEM clubs typically that bad?”
I don’t want to leave the impression that all OEM clubs are bad, because they’re not. I haven’t looked at all of them, obviously. I’ve seen some sets that I would consider excellent, close enough in swingweight and relatively close in flex that it would be difficult for the average golfer to know they weren’t perfect, they just blame bad shots on themselves. Those clubs were also custom ordered from the manufacturer and had upgraded shafts. However, typically we see the average set of irons that cost below $1200 for the 4-PW fall into the category that the actual flex difference within the set is 1.2 flexs difference when analyzed, and at least 2 clubs have a swing weight balance that is off 1 or more, which will affect your performance enough that you should have it corrected. Typically with the corrections you will see your handicap drop by a stroke or two. So no it isnt all terrible, but honestly you need to be buying clubs in the tournament or competition level to get that type of quality from an OEM club.
I’ve also seen some very expensive garbage that’s Hot, you spend more time adjusting your swing than your shorts on a hot and muggy day! There’s no way to tell, without assessing them using the equipment clubmakers like we have available.
“Sound’s like being custom fit stop’s you from being a club collector!”
How many times have you seen someone buy a set of clubs only to trade it in 3 months later on some other hope and prayer? You might hit a demo 6-iron or two, and decide that “this is the one.” Too bad you cant buy that club from a big box store, you can only buy one that is “similar” to it. What, Im not getting exactly what I was hitting when they fit me! Nope, you get something that was built basicly with the same thought of the club in mind, kind of looks like it, but buyer beware!
You mean they don’t build the clubs to be identical to what I was hitting. They cant, why, because the heads they are made from are within 2-3 grams either heavy or lighter or often more, especially in the case of drivers, not to mention the loft and lie angles are also close to what they specify. We have recently worked on a brand new set of irons that one club had a lie angle that was off by 4 degrees and the loft angle was 3 degrees higher than what was specified and only 1 degree different than the next highest club! Wow talk about a gap killer! No OEM’s even the biggest ones have unskilled workers randomly assemblying clubs after about an hour of training.
They build a set using off-the-shelf parts that are basically glued together and the labels neatly placed face up, hoping to produce something similar to what you hit as a demo and knowing there marketing hype has you convinced that they are technically superior. If you actually care enough about your game to realize they arent performing the way they should and stop blaming yourself for technical mistakes and question the integrity of the manufacturing process over a beer, you just may be able to drop a few more strokes and enjoy the game a little more. We hope you know a club maker and a golf pro that can straighten them out for you and remember, we told you so!
At the same time, how does the average Golfer know whether a set is good or not? Do you feel any inconsistancies, or have to adjust your swing to make a club work right for you? Thats your first clue! If every club doesnt feel the same, when you swing it, thats your second clue. Do you really need another? Find a real custom fitter, unless you have access to Thousands of dollars of equipment to test them, and the knowledge to interpret the data you can’t know. You could find a clubmaker who has that equipment and have them checked. But why should you have to? If you read this far we know you have suffered all the indignity of the OEM shuffle and have traded in new clubs after owning them for 3 months for another set that cost more, but still doesnt work that great! Why are you fighting it, the answer is right in front of you have your next set custom built and matched to your specifications right from the start?
Why pay more if you’re not getting more?
“So Custom Clubs are just as good as OEM clubs?”
No, in my opinion, they are better. How many times in this day and age can you buy a product that costs less than the typical alternative, yet performs better?
You can get a custom fit set of irons with forged heads (from a superior manufacturer like Tom Wishon) for under $600. If you are looking at some of the terrific cast heads that are out there, you can get a tremendous matched set for even as little as $350-400.
“How can the price be so much less?”
Custom clubmakers don’t have to pay PGA Tour pros to play their clubs. They don’t have national advertising budgets to support, nor a distriibution chain to satisfy. There is no middleman, and no stockholders to satisfy with profits.
“But what about resale value?”
I’m always surprised by this. Does it make more sense to pay $800 for a set of OEM clubs that you can resell for $300, or spend $500 for a set of custom made, matched clubs that work? Either way, you’re out $500. Unless you are playing for bragging rights, “I have a brand new set of Callaway’s and I shot a 90” I just had my set custom made to my exact shaft flex profile, I shot a 78 today and last year my best was an 84!” I would prefer to brag about my low score, not the clubs I paid twice as much for and cant hit.
Wouldn’t you rather have that $300 saved up front instead of paying it to an OEM dealer and having to go through the effort of reselling them to reclaim the money, because you cant hit them well?
Besides, Custom Clubs that are fit to you and your swing aren’t clubs you’re going to want to sell. You’re going to want to keep them until they are so worn out that there aren’t any grooves left in the face to see if they meet the new USGA rules. Or until your swing changed to where you need a differently-matched set. Do the math, and think about bragging rights, Ill take a lower score and saving some money.
“So what’s the lowdown on Custom Clubs?”
With custom clubs, you come out ahead on cost, they meet or typically far exceed the quality of OEM clubs, they’re fit specifically to your swing profile and shaft loading characteristics, and ours are frequency matched and swing weight balanced.
We will go as far as saying bring us your clubs, leave them overnight and we will provide you with a shaft analysis showing the inconsistency of your clubs for flex and swing weight balance and then we will show you what a set of our clubs feels like, night and day difference, read the reviews, they are all the same raving about what we do!
“Still skeptical, take our OEM challenge !”
We are so sure that your clubs will fail the matching test that we will run them through our frequency analyzer and test them on our swingweight balance beam at no charge to you we only need them for a few hours, we will profile your clubs and if we are wrong, we will give you a $50 gift certificate good towards any of our custom work or the purchase of new golf equipment from our shop. If we are right, we know we have a customer for life. Why, because you will want us to correct your set and make them right, we will even give you a 15% discount towards re-shafting your new clubs and include a free 2 hour fitting and 1 hour adjustment fitting with your new clubs upon completion and delivery!That’s how confident we are!