Thursday, January 4, 2007

DClown versus Tom Wishon

DClown versus Tom Wishon

Let me first state that I have nothing against Tom Wishon. I'm sure he knows 100x more than me in terms of golf equipment. I do not claim to be an expert, but I do try to speak from firsthand knowledge of what I know to be fact and fact only.

He's certainly proven over the years that he is EXTREMELY knowledgable in the field of golf equipment expertise, however, a lot of his information is not only dated but incorrect in the world of modern clubs, especially shaft technology. His comments regarding shafts are not only alarming, but also dated, and I personally know more than a few OEMs that have been laughing at a few of his responses. Technology has passed many of his ideals by. In no way am I saying that he doesn't know what he's talking about...that's surely been proven 100 times over to be incorrect...what I'm saying is Tom should really be up on the latest and greatest before he publishes rules and absolutes based on shaft design that have been proven wrong by more than one OEM shaft manufacturer.

Simply put, clubfitting is not an absolute science. It's a BLEND of art & science. You can't just look something up in a book, read a chart, or fit based off what a computer screen tells you. There are so many variables in clubfitting nowadays that you have to take things like player preferences, personal feel, and the basic human mind into account. All the tools and technologies fitters utilize nowadays should be used as TOOLS, guidelines, and blueprints to the fitting process...but they should NEVER replace the human element, intelligence, and intimate knowledge of the product they are working with. Clubfitting doesn't have laws etched in stone or absolutes written on a golden tablet. While there are certainly many standards, nothing will ever replace a highly knowledgable and skilled fitter, not even a computer or a launch monitor can do that...and in some cases, the wheels of technology are turning faster than Mr. Wishon can write.

To Everyone on the Other Post About Square Drivers

I don't normally scan the threads and posts on this Forum but after getting an email this AM telling me I should, I decided to log in and see what all the fuss is about. Phew! Lots to set the record straight on, so I apologize in advance for this post being pretty long.

The article I wrote about square drivers that was quoted on the other thread came from my own company's email newsletter, TWGT E-TECHreport. That newsletter is written for the custom clubmakers so I apologize if some of you did not understand some of the terms or the MOI increment of measurement. I also write for PGA Tour Partners magazine, so in the next issue of that publication, I did a much shorter, less technical explanation of the square drivers and how to determine if one of them is right for you. I'm not against square drivers in general - I simply want golfers to understand what they'll be looking at, how to evaluate if one is good for you, and to make sure you don;t assume that just because it is square, it is better.

Swing Man did a really good job of "translating" some of the pertinent points from my article in his post on page 2 of the original thread on this subject. So if you want the plain facts, find Swing Man's post and you'll understand more clearly what I am saying about square drivers.

Having worked in the golf equipment industry since 1972 and having been a designer since 1986, it is truly unfortunate that so many golfers who all share the same love of this great game can get so angry or mean or just plain negative about something like this. I truly believe that I am fortunate to have found a career that I like so much and that I still get excited about every day I wake up. A long time ago I realized thatthere is so much misinformation in this business that can cause golfers to make the wrong buying decisions for their games. I simply have a passion to state the facts about golf clubs as I know it from my 20 yrs of design experience and 30+ yrs of clubfitting experience.

No, I am not right 100% of the time, but I am confident after this many years in the business that I am right in my technical explanations and assessments of golf clubs more often than anyone else in this business. Here's one reason why I can say that. In my side of the business, I have had to design models for product lines that each year had to have 6-8 new different models of woods, 6-8 new different models of irons, and a lot of wedges and putters - the reason is because that is how the big component companies do business. Baskin/Robbins 31 flavors so you can offer every material, form of manufacture, etc. Do that for as many years as I have and you tend to learn a ton about design, manufacturing and what design elements work and don't work for what golf swing and golfer type in a golf club. OEM companies design one new model each year, and have teams of people doing it, so no one person in an OEM company can possibly have the full, overall depth of design experience I do.

I don't think I pontificate as one of the posters said or at least I don;t want it to be perceived that way - I am admittedly VERY passionate about my work and about golf clubs in general and I can't stand it when bad information about golf clubs and fitting is put forth and believed by un-knowing golfers who think because the source is a big brand name company that it has to be factual. I fight hard for what I think is right, and I try to do that without being condescending or insulting. But I know I always debate technical points on the technical points and never on the brand or a commercial bent. If you read my book, The Search for the Perfect Golf Club, you'll see that it is only about the design/assembly factors in clubs and how they need to be selected for any golfer type.

For those of you who think companies who sell components are crap companies, in >90% of the cases you are absolutely right. It's too easy for someone to find open models or get knock offs from struggling foundries to sell and portray themselves as an "expert" when they are far from it. And because >90% of the component companies have no business being in this business, that certainly casts a negative pallor over us all. But in thinking that 100% of the companies who are in the component business are garbage, you're missing some pretty good designs and some decent information that might help you make a little better buying decision the next time you go shopping for a new club(s).

If I am so good in what I do, why aren't my designs on tour, in more golfers' bags, a part of an OEM product line? Those who ask this simply do not understand the BUSINESS of golf clubs. Money talks, and when you read DTown's post on the other thread about one OEM spending $162,000,000 in marketing over the past three years, wow, in the hands of marketing "experts", that much $$ certainly can sway a lot of public opinion. Mutiply that by the number of other "9 figure golf companies" out there and you will have a case of many people thinking, "don't confuse me with the facts, my mind's already made up."

As one of the posters said, I have had the opportunity to head up design for one of the biggest OEMs but I turned down the offer. I dislike big corporate attitudes and their rules/trappings, but most of all because I could not get my arms around the fact that if I did accept the position, I would be doing nothing but helping to provide golfers with yet another standard mass produced golf club design to be sold off the rack and never custom fit.

Some of the most enjoyable times in my career have been when I got the chance to design custom sets from scratch for Scott Verplank, Crenshaw, Lietzke and the last set that Payne Stewart played in competition before that terrible accident. I haven't designed for 50 tour pros because the companies I designed for just did not spend the money to hire a whole bunch of pros, but these pros liked what I created and so I guess I am the only designer from this side of the business whose designs have been used to win on the PGA and Champions Tours and in Ryder Cup competition.

I'm very proud that I was able to think up and create some design firsts before any other company - first draw biased metal wood in 95, first graphite + metal driver in 96, first titanium driver in the US in 94, and so on. They're listed on my web sites if you are interested. If you would like some verification of my knowledge, you can ask any of the equipment editors for any of the game's major publications what they think of the info I give them when they call - they talk to all the game's technical experts so they've had many chances to compare what I tell them to what they hear from the others. Call 'em and ask what they think of my knowledge.

I learned a long time ago in my work that real custom fitting, meaning building the set from scratch to have every possible specification matched as accurately as possible to each golfer's size/strength/athletic ability/swing characteristics, is better for ALL golfers than simply buying a standard made set off the rack. I have said this countless times - there is nothing wrong with the clubhead, shaft, and grip quality of the big brand name companies. I know that because in some of my past work I have been a paid consultant for two foundries who produced heads for Taylor Made, Mizuno, Nike, Wilson, etc - so I have seen first hand that their quality is good. These foundries hired me to help them stay up on the latest materials, solve manufacturing problems and help them get a little better at making the heads for their golf company customers because they liked the suggestions I would make when I was sheparding my own designs through their factories.

The only thing wrong about the OEMs is that their primary business model is to make standard clubs to sell off the rack in a "one size fits all" manner. Golfers who think that getting to choose a shaft flex you have no idea how stiff/flexible the letter on the shaft says it is within that one model of a shaft, or golfers who think choosing a driver loft between 8.5 and 11* is 'custom fitting', then they are very ill-informed about what REAL custom fitting is and what it really can do for all golfers.

Think about this for a second. . . .

Golf is the only "bat and ball sport" whose participants cannot buy their "bats" off the rack in a custom fit form to match their swing and manner of play. Look at baseball/softball bats. You head into any top sporting goods store and within each brand and model of bat, you will see a myriad of different LENGTHS, different WEIGHTS, different HANDLE DIAMETERS - bats are not all the same length/weight/grip size because the bat makers and the retailers all know people who shop for a bat won't and can't play with the same specs. Tennis too - all high quality brand name rackets are sold in different grip sizes and with no strings - again because the racket makers and retailers know that tennis players have to choose the right grip size, their preferred string type and the right string tension for their swing and how they play.

But not golf - despite the fact golfers come in all sizes, strengths, level of athletic ability and most of all, different swing characteristics. The reason you don't see in golf clubs what you do in bats and rackets is because we golfers have to buy and use 14 clubs, not ONE. From a pure business standpoint, can you imagine what a hassle it would be for the club companies to have to forecast, make, stock and ship the same club model but in different lengths, different weights, different face angles, different grip sizes, etc etc - and likewise can you imagine the retailers having to stock and display all these custom variations in 8 to 10 different brands?? Standard, one size fits all is the way it has to be done for convenience and all the marketing is aimed to tell golfers what pros use these clubs and how great they are right off the rack - and millions of golfers buy into that despite the fact they would play better and more consistently if they were truly custom fit.

The reason you do not see more component designs on tour or in fellow golfers' bags is because no component company makes the profit or volume to accumulate $162,000,000 in three years with which to market and sway public opinion. Most retailers of golf clubs do not want to have the mess of doing their own assembly, much less spend that much time building sets for golfers when they can just stock standard clubs that have real demand generated by $162,000,000 times 4 or 5 spent over three years. An OEM makes 5 times the profit on each standard driver they sell to a retail shop that a component company makes selling a driver HEAD in "ones and twos" to individuals who range from the best clubmakers on the planet to people who are lucky to know what end of the shaft to install in the head.

In my last position, I busted my chops trying to get the company to let me set up training and custom fitting programs for their retail division. They said no because of several reasons, 1) we only make 20-25% profit on each OEM club we sell so we cannot allow the sales staff to take more than 10-15 mins to make the sale, 2) we can't feature custom fitting because it takes too long for the profit it generates and besides, the OEMs would get mad at us for competing with them, 3) the sales people turnover is too great to merit spending the time/money to train them like that. Kinda sad, eh? And those are the people that sell many of you the golf clubs with which you play. Yes, there are a few retailers of golf clubs who do a fine job training and servicing their customers. But the operative word is few, not many because the emphasis today is more about sales than making sure every golfer walks out with the best clubs for THEIR game.

Sorry for the length of this. As I said, I am very passionate about this field and I really want to help golfers get the best for their game and for their money. Best advice I have is to go to, Borders, Barnes&Noble and get a copy of The Search for the Perfect Golf Club or the other new one about drivers. Read it. You won't see "sales speak" or "marketing hype" in there and any of the advice I give in there can be done with an OEM club if you wish. All I care about is that golfers realize the facts of life about golf clubs and then go make an informed buying decision. Yes, I am very much PRO-CUSTOM FITTING because 30+ yrs of watching and working with golfers tells me GOOD custom fitting is indisputably better than standard off the rack when the goal is for the golfer to spend his/her money wisely and end up with a set that truly can offset some of the negatives in their swing and accent the positives.

But don't assume that a golf club is good for you just because the company is huge, or you see it in a tour players' bag, or you see it in ads and on TV. Please take the time to learn a little about the technology of how clubs really work for different swings - if you do you will be happier with your purchases and enjoy the game a little more. And if you have questions about things that confuse you, email me and I will be happy to offer the pros and cons from facts, not hype or marketing.


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