IT is a truism of golf. The most expensive, hi-tech clubs are of little use to a golfer if they are the wrong size or the flex in the shaft does not suit the way a person plays.
That is where club makers come in.
These tailors of the golf industry make sure the clubs a player is using perfectly fit their style.
However, despite the name of their art, the days of a club maker forging a shaft in the workshop or shaping a wood by hand are largely gone.
These days the clubs people are having tailored to suit their game are built up from components sourced from the main golf club manufacturers.
Having a set of golf clubs ‘made’ involves a fitting session to ascertain the right length of club shaft and grip.
The way a person hits the golf ball also needs to be taken into account.
Take, for example, the difference in swing between Tiger Woods and professional tour bad boy Long John Daly.
Both hit the ball a prodigious distance but there is a marked difference between their swings.
There is also a marked difference in the amount of flex they require from their club shafts.
Indeed, Titleist, the company that sponsors Tiger Woods, pays an enormous amount of money to ensure that his clubs are set up correctly.
Mr Woods draws a team of Titelist’s finest club makers to ensure that his clubs are up to par for every tournament.
In Western Australia there are numerous club makers – every club professional is required to have a certain level of club making ability before he or she can receive a Professional Golf Association accreditation – but only four are said to be of note.
One is Reg Ridley, who operates from the Peninsula Golf Club in Mandurah.
Mr Ridley is the only accredited member of the Professional Club Makers Society US in WA.
He said the PCSUS was the ruling body for club makers worldwide. Mr Ridley said the most important part of the process was to do a proper club fitting.
“You have to measure each golfer’s swing,” he said.
“Every person is individual and every person has different swing parameters.”
The other three main club makers in WA are Royal Perth Golf Club immediate past president Bob Howe, the Golfers Workshop’s John Peters and Vines-based Paul Smith.
Mr Peters said the business of club making had changed dramatically over the 20 years he had been involved.
“Back then we did make the woods ourselves,” he said. “These days virtually everything comes out of China.
“It’s now more a matter of whacking the shafts into the heads and away you go.
“But it’s also a matter of getting the right shaft to suit the player.”
Mr Smith, a former head of global equities for Standard Charters Bank in Hong Kong, said he came into club making by accident.
He has three sons, all left handers, and decided that it would be cheaper if he could learn to make the clubs himself than to buy several sets of left handed golf clubs as his children grew up.
“It started out as a hobby and sort of exploded from there,” Mr Smith said.
He said a good set of clubs could make a huge difference to a player’s game.
“You can use an existing set of clubs or build up a new set from new components,” Mr Smith said.
Part of Mr Smith’s fitting method involves a golf simulator.
He gets his customers to “hit a few balls” in the simulator and from there works out the best fit for them.
“I work out what they like the look of and what shafts, grips and club heads best suit them.”
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