There are many methods in which to fit, match and build golf clubs; none of which are universally accepted by all those in the golf industry. Some clubmakers build clubs as a hobby for themselves, family, friends or neighbors, while others build golf clubs for the general public. Those who do so professionally have to look carefully at their resources – primarily their time.
A number of clubmakers simply rely on the components at hand to have tight enough tolerances and then carefully assemble each club making sure the shafts are trimmed properly, lengths are correct and grip are on straight. On the opposite end of the spectrum you have other clubmakers go to great lengths to provide clubs to their customers that are built to the nth degree. They may check the loft / lie on each iron and adjust it to the stated specification. Possibly weight and frequency sort each shaft; identify any spine and neutral and strong bending planes of the shaft to orientate it relative to the face. They may possibly use sophisticated software to match the clubs to a specific MOI (moment of inertia) value or add weights inside the butt of the shaft or inside the shaft at specific locations to counterbalance the club. The list can go on and on as each clubmaker is free to incorporate his or her own system of assembling clubs.
A clubmaker’s responsibility is to build the clubs to the best of their ability with the products at hand. It may be nearly impossible to build clubs to eliminate any tolerances altogether. But understand that in most cases we are building clubs for golfers who will have a less than repeatable swing from day-to-day. For instance, factor that from one shot to the next that the wind may be blowing at a different speed or direction. The ball may be on a slight incline or decline with the ball above or below the feet – but rarely ever a perfectly flat lie. The ball could be teed up every-so-slightly different, nestled in the deep “cabbage” or sitting on a cart path. We haven’t even factored in how the player might swing the club that day or if they are tired or sick where they won’t swing with the same amount of oomph.
So how exact is exact enough? A certain amount of tolerance is acceptable that may unperceivable to your customer either in feel or performance. It all comes down to how comfortable you are in putting out a product with your name on it. The best advice I can provide is use your own personal experience as a guideline. Decide how tight of tolerance you should build all your clubs to and maintain that as their standard, regardless of the proficiency of the golfer who they may be assembled for.
But also don’t go overboard in the attention to detail during the assembly phase, otherwise it will cost you your valuable time and recourses and affect your bottom line. The more additional steps you do with the golf club, the more you should command on the finished price of the clubs. This is one of the reasons why the same club built by two clubmakers can range in price. But look at your market as well and don’t over-price your clubs in additional steps that your customers may not be able to afford or want.
If you are deciding to make clubmaking a full-time occupation, you will have lofty goals starting out. Some of you may have started out as a hobby where you had ample time and made clubs for self satisfaction and the ability to experiment with different equipment. A thriving clubmaking business won’t have those same luxuries. Here are five things to keep in mind to run a successful clubmaking shop:
• Establish your own clubmaking standards and stick to it
• Price your services fairly for yourself and your market
• Be realistic on how tight of tolerances you can maintain
• Treat this as a business rather than an experimental lab
• Take great pride in your work. After all, you are a professional!