OK, I’ll admit I am still lingering from a little jet lag from my world wind tour as I and a couple of my fellow coworkers just got back from the heart of manufacturing – Southern China. For golfers, they need to understand this is the Mecca as the vast majority of all golf clubs components, especially clubheads, golf bags and golf accessories are produced in this region of the world. With a population of 1.3 billion there is no lack of workers who are willing to work for a scant wage compared to the rest of the world demanding cheap, but technologically advanced equipment. However, the part about the low wages is soon changing quickly which may effect how much you will pay for clubs and so forth in the future.

There were a number of reasons for the visit. I got a firsthand look and some of the investments made by the foundry in the last year to help increase efficiencies from the robotic CNC plasma welding machines to the vacuum drying units to provide better and more consistent club heads. According to the old adage, pictures are worth a thousand words, but in this case there are certain proprietary methods and machinery to fabricate club heads I promised I would not show. Sorry to be a tease, but a promise is a promise I intend to keep.

Another reason to go was to look at the new 2011 models either in development or in the manufacturing process. The foundry happened to be shooting waxes of our upcoming Acer XDS React iron slated to come out

Wax mold of Acer XDS React iron

later this summer. Plus I got to inspect an aluminum master of a new Acer iron that we just recently signed off on the CAD modeling and the rapid prototype.

One night I was there until 10 PM with the owner of the foundry along with the head engineer of the forging facility examining some of the products we were working on plus discussing some ideas I had for a new way to produce a golf club. Technology occurs when you can challenge the engineers to do things that have never been done before become a reality. These are the building block of clubs that you might see in 2012, even
though you have not even seen the 2011 models yet. This shows you the planning it takes to create new models. Plus the expression is priceless no matter what language one speaks. You hear the voice changes and the eyes get bigger once they understand what I am explaining and you don’t need an interpreter for that.

One thing I wanted to mention was the small little things like all the quality control steps along the way. It didn’t matter if the head was ours, a notable name brand manufacturer or a club head you might see in a boxed set; this foundry inspected each and every head for weight, loft, lie, face angle, face flatness, bulge and roll, dimensional tolerances amongst other parameters. The same QC checks went for the steel and graphite shafts that were produced at the foundry too. Not just spot checking a few shafts along the way, but 100% inspection, including destruct testing in a series of bending in four different points along the length of the shaft. In another building, the mechanical robot plus the air cannon were continuously being utilized to test for durability. All these things go unnoticed by most people as they assume low cost products (relatively speaking) simply don’t go through these rigors. That is simply not the case with our products.

We also got an opportunity to visit and tour some new suppliers for bags, accessories and grips. With so many suppliers in close proximity it is good to explore the possibilities of what they may offer that current suppliers don’t.

After it was all said and done, I spent 30+ hours straight in airplanes, a ferry, train, bus and eventually a car before arriving home. Plus I experienced the “mystery meat” on the airplane that did not necessarily agree with my tummy. Pork my phatoey! But those things will not be a deterrent for returning next year to see what the fruits of our labor spawned from this trip.

SHOP FOR HIREKO GOLF CLUBS NOW!

11 Comments on My Trip to the Chinese Golf Foundries 2010

  1. Gary says:

    Great story Jeff…one question – did you ever sleep (except on the plane)? What an educational experience for everyone involved. And you’re right about our customers not understanding the QC of Hireko golf products. This is something that you, Rob and all the rest of us in this segment of the golf industry have to keep beating into the heads of our customers. As I have stated many times before I am tired of the large, backstabbing OEM’s treating the component side of the industry like some poor step-sister. Keep fighting back!

  2. Jim Prince says:

    Will the new iron heads be usga new groove legal?

  3. Anthony "Gus" Garcia says:

    This is one of the many reasons why I’m a very satified and happy Hireko customer, it’s the behind-the-scene accomplishments by you and the entire staff. I take every opportunity to educate all my customers on your superb components manufacturing and performance. I’m a total believer in Quality Control as witness to over 20 years of communications/electronics in U.S. Air Force. I can assure you, all your efforts do get noticed! Outstanding job, Jeff.

  4. Tom Mason says:

    Sounds like you had a great time and was able to have input on the coming products that are headed our way. As a club builder and fitter I have one question that I ask everyday. With the vast number of club manufactures, name brands and knockoffs included, how much difference is there between the various brands and models? I know you guys are working to get your brand out in the club market but how does one know if the quality and playability are equal? Are the component companies producing products that are equal to what we see on the racks in the chain stores? TM

  5. Jeff Summitt says:

    Jim:

    Every new product going forward is designed to meet the new groove rule.

  6. Jeff Summitt says:

    Tom:

    There are a number of component companies that strive like us to create solid designs with quality workmanship that are on par with the major name brand manufacturers – who by the way do make very good product albeit at a higher price. Then there are component companies who make knock offs or clones who only care that their products “look” like a nationally known product and don’t put the time and resources to manufacturers the clubs with the same quality to cash in while a model is hot.

    However, there is a big difference in the clubs off the rack and what the component industry have to offer – that is custom fitting. The name brand manufacturers are doing this but the lion’s share of their sales is still primarily their stock offerings. The products we produce end up with all sorts of different combinations of shafts, grips, lengths, etc. to fit the customer rather than a certain stock offering.

    So when you talk about playability (which is a separate issue than quality), it is only as good as the fit.

  7. Chuck Stevens says:

    As a hobby,I have been building clubs for at least 15 years and continue to have to combat the OEM’s mantra. The Made in China is still an obstacle. Are any OEMs still casting in the U.S. I tell people few if any. Am I correct,and if so who. I have printed your trip report to show friends Hireko components are as good as anyone’s.

    Chuck

  8. Cypress says:

    Jeff I read your trip story and visit with keen intrest, but you would not give us any infomation on any new metals they are using to increase
    forgiveness in club heads. 431 steel as most of them are, will that continue in 2011 and so on? Or do you see new metal in play? Or is it
    the metal or the CAD machine?
    CY in Houston

  9. Jeff Summitt says:

    Chuck:

    Aside from a few milled putters, every club head is made in the Far East, with the vast majority in China.

  10. Jeff Summitt says:

    CY:

    You will see specialty face materials like titanium (Acer Ti-Ceptional) and maraging steels (Power Play Caiman) used in select designs as this frees up weight to enhance perimeter weighting. However, this adds cost. We are still looking at newer materials to do the same thing and may have found one but it will require more testing. 431 stainless will still be used in iron construction due to the low cost. With new ways to pull the tooling away from the wax, like the iron you saw in the article, we can still find ways to incrementally increase forgiveness that may not have been possible before.

  11. Joe Leo says:

    Good to hear about all the testing being done on the equipment.
    Nowadays it is harder and harder to understand how other component companies still sell their clubheads for almost double what Hireko charges.
    With the sales of “last year’s models” of OEM clubs in stores often being around $149, it is hard to justify to a customer how paying $125 for the clubhead alone, plus shipping etc, plus an expensive shaft… all adds up to a better club for them.
    Nice to see Hireko keeping costs down while still putting out good product.

Leave a Reply