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Beware the Clubmaking Cowboys

Clubmaking cowboys are those guys who con the public into thinking that they have sufficient clubmaking skills and suitable facilities to perform club assembly, repair and adjustments. They can range from untrained hobbyists to qualified PGA professionals. After seeing so many botched clubmaking jobs in the past 15 years or so, it’s about time the unsuspecting golfing public is made aware of their existence and the possible consequences of using these guys to modify or adjust your clubs.

You've got to be kidding!

You’ve got to be kidding!

Above is an example of a botched job. The customer was complaining that the putter was making a peculiar metallic noise when he hit a putt. Not surprising when we discovered the cause of the problem. The extension was a 2 ft piece of steel shaft which had been jammed into the putter shaft with no epoxy to secure it. The grip was then installed on top of this but now the extension had come loose and was vibrating when the ball was struck. Believe it or not the customer informed us this job was performed at the USPGA Centre for Golf Learning and Performance in Florida where pros from all over America go to be trained. Just goes to show that a cowboy is a cowboy wherever he lurks, even in the most unsuspecting places.

We’ve seen examples of all of these and more:

Grips
1. Grips not fully pushed home onto the shaft
2. Grips misaligned
3. Grips installed without any size consideration
4. Ribbed grips installed with logo to the back and rib to the front

Shafts
1. Incorrect tip trimming
2. Tip over-prepped with the possibility of breakage under normal use

Clubheads
1. Scorch marks from overheating
2. Scratches from rough handling
3. Stress marks from substandard loft and lie equipment
4. Hardened epoxy on exterior surfaces

Club assembly
1. Poor quality epoxy glue, resulting in the head coming loose
2. Excess glue up the inside of the shaft, increasing the risk of shaft breakage
3. Incorrect loft, lie and length for the player
4. No consideration given to swingweight or MOI matching
5. Poorly finished ferrules, often of the wrong size

No professionally trained cubmaker would allow these things to happen.

How do you learn clubmaking skills?
These can be acquired by attending approved training courses run by major component suppliers such as Golfsmith or Diamond Golf International. PGA professionals do get some practical clubmaking in their training programme at the Belfry but this is limited at best and it is only those PGA pros who build on this knowledge, through continuous professional development and practice, who become fully proficient at the various clubmaking tasks. Although theoretical courses are of value, there really is no substitute for the experience gained by performing the work under the supervision of an experienced clubmaker.

Tools of the Trade
Having the knowledge is one thing, having the proper equipment is another. A professional workshop offering a full range of clubmaking services requires considerable investment in tools and equipment, and since this can take some years to recoup, most PGA pros don’t bother. Some pro shops don’t even have a vice.

AGT – the professional alternative to cowboys
Golf clubs are expensive so you can’t afford to have them screwed up either from a cosmetic or performance point of view. If you are only concerned with how much the job costs then you are a prime target for the cowboys. When considering cost, keep in mind that professional clubmakers have had to spend considerable sums of money on education and equipping their facility. This has to be recouped before they can ever make a profit so you can understand why their prices might be a little higher than the cowboys. However if you are looking for value for money and confidence that the job is done properly, then avoid the cowboys like the plague. Be sure to ask if the person or business providing the service is fully insured for public and product liability because if not you may be held liable if a head comes off and injures somebody.
So next time you need your clubs adjusted, repaired or assembled we hope you will consider AGT. Check out our price list or ask us for a quote and you will be pleasantly surprised. At AGT you can be sure of professional high quality work and great customer service at a price which offers real value for money. That’s why our services have proved so popular with Scotland’s top amateur players and European Tour Pros.

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Why are the major brands not actively promoting custom fitting?

As discussed in our previous post “Will you benefit from the latest driver technology”, significant performance improvement will only come from having your new golf club(s) fitted to your own personal requirements. In other words you stand to gain more from the custom fitting process than you do from the new technology per se. OK you may be lucky in that your new off-the-shelf driver fits you perfectly by chance. That can happen occasionally but it is much more likely that any improvement is marginal at best. In actual fact, without custom fitting, the new club may result in a drop in performance by comparison with your current equipment. As a result, the vast majority of golfers who excitedly buy the latest hot driver off the shelf will inevitably be very disappointed with the results. That’s why you see the new models appearing on eBay so soon after their launch. Nothing wrong with the new technology. Just that it needs to be fitted properly in order to gain maximum performance benefits.

Callaway's Performance Centre at St Andrews

Callaway’s Performance Centre at St Andrews

The major brands know this but you will never hear them admit it. Why? Because it is not in their best financial interests to do so. If they were really interested in your golfing welfare they would be telling you never to buy another club off-the-shelf without a fitting session. They would be driving potential customers towards their nearest authorised fitting centres, in order to make sure that every purchase is optimised for the player. However don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Why don’t they do this?

1. Off-the-shelf-sales of non-fitted equipment probably accounts for over 90% of their revenue. They depend on this for their survival. They can’t afford to jeopardise this vital income.

2. Most dealers don’t want to be bothered with custom fitting. It adds to their costs and it could result in complaints if the supposed fitted club doesn’t perform to expectations on the golf course.

3. Golfers will generally stick with a club that performs well, so it is not in the company’s or the dealer’s best interests to have too many customers who believe that their equipment performance is now optimised. They would prefer you to randomly experiment with a new club every year in your search for golf’s holy grail ….that elusive club that will totally revolutionise your game overnight. Then if it doesn’t work you can always trade it in for another one.

4. Custom fitting conflicts with the industry’s current well established sales/marketing strategy which has proved to be so successful over the past 30 years or more. Difficult to see this changing unless it is customer driven at some point in the future.

The obvious conclusion – Custom fitting is not actively promoted by the major brands because annual financial return is of higher priority than performance outcomes or customer satisfaction.

CURRENT SALES STRATEGY FOR THE MAJOR BRANDS

• Think up a new catchy pseudo-scientific name for their latest club design and come up with a convincing marketing message to promote the product and attract the attention of the golfing public.

• Keep any test data in house, so that any marginal improvements in performance can be used to justify the often exaggerated marketing claims.

• Pay the top tour players to use and promote the product … the message being it must be good if the tour players are using it.

This strategy is well established and has been shown to be the most successful way of selling clubs and generating maximum profit. Custom fitting just complicates things and adds to the cost of doing business both for the parent company and the dealers.

Ping – the exception to the rule

Ping have promoted custom fitting from the beginning. Karsten Solheim’s philosophy was that every Ping club should be custom fitted to the customer’s requirements. Custom fitting is now firmly established as a key component of Ping’s business model. 75% of Ping customers expect to be custom fitted. Ping encourage their dealers to place custom fit orders and their production is geared towards this, so there is no conflict of interest in terms of custom fit versus non-custom fit.

Compare this to the likes of Callaway or Taylor Made. Over 90% of their sales are off-the-shelf. They insist on dealers purchasing stock for sale and display. Then they wonder why these same dealers don’t send potential customers to their performance centres. It is hard to criticise the dealers. If you were a dealer with stock on the shelf and a customer in the shop ready to buy, then you might also be loath to send the customer for a fitting session with the added risk losing the sale. It is difficult for the major brands and their dealers to effectively promote custom fitting and off-the-shelf sales at the same time. In this conflict of interest custom fitting takes a back seat.

However in order not to be seen as anti-custom fit the major brands have reluctantly set up fitting centres around the country to cater for the small number of well-informed customers who appreciate the benefits of playing with custom fit equipment, and to compete with Ping. They know that the custom fit side of the business generates little or no profit, but they feel they have to show willing or lose credibility and a segment of the market which could generate profit in the future.

Performance Centres such as Callaway’s at St Andrews offer great facilities in terms of Trackman monitoring and their extensive range of fitting clubs. The trained fitting staff are knowledgeable and experienced. Customers generally achieve significant performance improvement. Over 96% of official customer feedback rates the experience as excellent. You cannot fault the company’s financial commitment to custom fitting but without actively educating customers on the benefits or the need for custom fitting, these excellent centres will be under used most of the time, and consequently the vast majority of the golfing public will continue to buy standard clubs off-the-shelf based solely on price, appearance and marketing hype.

So why aren’t all PGA pros promoting the importance of custom fitting?

Trainee PGA pros get very little training in custom fitting and it is only those who subsequently take an interest in the subject that become capable of fitting a player or giving proper equipment advice. Bearing in mind the expense of setting up a fitting centre in terms of a launch monitor, range of fitting clubs and workshop equipment, it is hardly surprising that so few pros offer this service locally. However they can still send customers to the major brand fitting centres but few choose to do so. For the reasons stated above it is so much easier for them to convince the customer that, just by chance, their ideal set of clubs happens to be sitting in the shop. The customer will generally accept this advice without question because they are under the impression that a PGA qualification denotes expertise in all things golf, including golf equipment. Unfortunately this may not be the case.

So if the major brands or PGA pros are not actively educating golfers as to the benefits of custom fitting, who is going to do it? Golf magazines run regular custom fit articles but their message is often superficial and non-convincing. Small specialist equipment companies like AGT will continue to preach the gospel but until the golfing public hears this from the equipment manufacturers or their local PGA pro, it will remain a secret for the chosen few. If you are fortunate to be one of the chosen few then you can rest safe in the knowledge that you will have a competitive advantage over the “unconverted” for some time to come.

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Will you benefit from the latest driver technology?

Most golfers live in hope that one day a driver will appear on the market which will revolutionise their game. Everybody is looking for another 20 yards off the tee. The major club manufacturers nurture that dream by the manner in which they market and promote their products. For example at the beginning of the year Callaway made claims that their X Hot driver would give you another 30 yards. Is this actually possible? Well yes it is under certain circumstances.  At St Andrews we have often achieved more than 30 yards for some players. Will everybody achieve such yardage gains?  Not in a million years! So why does it work for some and not for others?  Read on for an explanation.

The new Optiforce driver from Callaway

The new Optiforce driver from Callaway

 

MODERN DRIVER TECHNOLOGY
With the R&A testing and controlling driver technology, the manufacturers are pretty limited as to what they can do. In reality they only have 3 areas to work on.

Clubhead speed
Manufacturers may claim to have increased driver clubhead speed by either lengthening the club, reducing the overall club weight, reducing clubhead drag or by a combination of all three. At best they might manage to increase clubhead speed by around 1-2 mph which translates to around 2 or 3 yards of distance, assuming you achieve a centre strike. Keep in mind that it is ball speed and not clubhead speed which contributes towards driver distance so an increase in clubhead speed without achieving an increase in ball speed is of little value. The key here is the quality of strike and that is more likely to improve with a shorter rather than a longer driver.

Clubhead moment of inertia (MOI) and face technology
Since ball speed from centre strikes is controlled and limited by the R&A, manufacturers are trying their best to minimise the loss in ball speed from off-centre strikes. They do this by increasing clubhead MOI and designing forgiveness into their face technology. It is true that in recent years this has been achieved to some extent but the improvements nowadays are marginal. So once again this aspect of driver design doesn’t really explain yardage gains of 20 yards.

Centre of gravity (COG)
Manufacturers will talk about how they have moved the COG in their new driver heads to optimise launch and spin rate. High launch and low spin are the buzz words which all of them are trying to achieve. However a particular COG position in the clubhead may only be appropriate for a particular loft and likely won’t suit everybody. The effect of a slight movement in COG by itself has minimal effect on ball flight, certainly not enough to account for 20 yards.

HOW TO EXPLAIN YARDAGE GAINS IN EXCESS OF 20 YARDS
Whether or not you can achieve significant gains in driver yardage with a new driver depends upon:

1. How well you are hitting your current driver
2. Whether or not you have serious swing faults
3. How well you are fitted for the new driver

If you have serious swing faults then chances are you are going to struggle with any driver and instead of buying a new club you would be better spending the money on a series of golf lessons.

Assuming that you are a reasonable player without serious swing problems, we can tell if you have another potential 20 yards in the tank by checking out your swing speed on Trackman. We know the maximum yardage possible for any clubhead speed. So for example if you are swinging your driver at 90 mph then we know that the maximum distance you can achieve off the tee is 245 – 250 yards on a calm dry day with normal run. If you are currently only achieving 225 yards then there is potential for another 20 yards if we can optimise your ball speed, launch angle and spin rate with the new club. At St Andrews we have seen yardage gains of 50-60 yards where the player was currently using an ill-fitting driver.

If on the other hand your driver launch conditions are optimised and you are already hitting drives of 245-250 yards, then you will gain nothing in terms of yardage with a new driver although you might improve shot consistency, accuracy or dispersion.

So what actually determines the benefit you will gain from a new driver is not the new technology by itself, but whether or not the new technology can be optimised in terms of face angle, head bias, loft, shaft, etc. Keep in mind that a new driver bought off the shelf without fitting could actually perform worse than your current one. That means buying a new driver without a custom fitting session could prove to be an expensive mistake.

So if you are looking for more distance off the tee, your first step should be a Trackman fitting session to see if the potential for yardage gain is there and, if so, to then get fitted properly for the new driver. Once your launch conditions are optimised and you are achieving your maximum distance for your clubhead speed, then that is as good as it gets unless you are willing to start working out in the gym to gain more clubhead speed.

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AGT’s Fitting Centre at St Andrews transferred to the Links Trust

This is to inform customers of the business changes within AGT. As of 1st July this year, managerial control of the Custom Fit Centre within St Andrews Links Golf Academy has been transferred by mutual agreement to St Andrews Links Trust.

Under this arrangement Martin, Greg and Gordon are now Links Trust employees with Martin as the Fitting Centre Manager. Ed remains with AGT and the AGT operation has returned to its original location in the village of Ceres, 8 miles from St Andrews.

Note the new AGT telephone number 01334 828090.

AGT will continue to offer clubmaking, repair and adjustment services from Ceres. In terms of new clubs, AGT will now focus on Miura irons/wedges, Scor wedges and SeeMore putters. However we will continue to offer a full range of equipment repairs and adjustments. By reducing overhead costs, we will continue to offer the same high quality clubmaking and equipment support services but at more competitive prices.

Check out our new price list for equipment support services

The Tour Van Gold service has been transferred to the Links Trust but the service remains unchanged at the same location, provided by the same experienced staff. Current TVG members can still access their data using the link at the bottom of our website pages which takes you to the new login page.

Finally I’d like to extend our thanks to the Links Trust for giving us the opportunity to set up and operate the fitting centre at St Andrews for the past 7 years. Special thanks also to all our former staff at St Andrews, including Martin, Greg, Gordon, Norrie, Pat, Ross and Stephen. It has been a blast working with you guys. Over to you Martin. You are the ideal guy to take fitting at St Andrews to a new level.

Ed Robertson

Applied Golf Technology Ltd
5 Main Street
Ceres
Fife
KY15 5NA
Scotland UK

Tel: 01334 828090
Website:  www.appliedgolftechnology.co.uk

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SeeMore’s Virtual Belly Putter

The latest announcement from the R&A and USGA that anchoring a belly putter is likely to be banned from 2016 is sure to upset a lot of golfers around the world, who have come to rely on the belly putter as the final solution to their putting woes. For some, the thought of going back to a conventional putter may even conjure up thoughts of giving up the game all together. If you are one of them then, before you do, I would advise you to experiment with what we refer to as SeeMore’s virtual belly putter which incidently remains conforming under the new rules.

Why the need for a belly putter?
In our experience the belly putter is a last resort to fixing putting flaws which plague so many of us. These include random set-up, stroke inconsistency, poor putter path, excessive use of the hands, off centre strikes, and many more, often culminating eventually in a serious case of the yips. So for many, the belly putter is a Band-Aid solution and the thought of removing it brings back a lot of unhappy memories. I should know as I was there myself and did test a belly putter on SAM Puttlab to see if it might help. It definitely resulted in a more consistent and improved putting stroke, but I didn’t like the feeling of a putter stuck in my belly. Maybe I would have got used to it but I didn’t give it a chance. Perhaps just as well considering the recent R&A announcement. In the meantime I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the SeeMore system of putting at the 2012 PGA Merchandising Show.

How to turn a conventional SeeMore putter into a virtual belly putter
John Higgins of SeeMore walked me through the SeeMore set up:

1. Shoulders relaxed and back, rather than hunched forward.
2. Posture slightly more upright
3. A feeling of my upper arms staying connected to the sides of my chest (the invisible anchor)
4. Putter shaft vertical in the middle of my stance, ball slightly forward of centre
5. Eyes over the heel of the putter rather than over the centre of the ball
6. Hiding the red dot on the SeeMore putter which results in feet, waist, shoulders, and eyes parallel to the target line

This set up required a 34.5 inch putter, 2 inches longer than my previous one. For the first time I then experienced control of the putting stroke by simply rocking my shoulders with virtually no wrist action. My shoulder movement was now driving the putting stroke through my invisible anchor, resulting in my arms and the putter acting as one single pendulum.

In this short video John Higgins of SeeMore  explains the benefits of the invisible anchor point and the virtual belly putter.

In effect this results in the same benefits achieved with a long putter anchored in the belly, namely:

1. Improved stroke path (inside to square to inside as confirmed with the putting arc)
2. Proper release of the putter
3. Stability and consistency from setting up the same way every time
4. Consistent loft at impact as a result of making contact with the ball at the bottom of the stroke arc with the shaft vertical
5. More consistent centre strikes
6. A stroke driven by simply rocking the shoulders, with no need for manipulation of the putter

In addition to this , by hiding the red dot, I then had an important feedback signal prior to pulling the trigger. The difference this made to my putting stroke was nothing short of amazing as confirmed by my SAM Puttlab stats.

Click to view full Sam Puttlab stats

The invisible anchor point
What turns a conventional putter into a virtual belly putter is the invisible or virtual anchor point between the sides of the chest and the upper arms. In order to achieve this, the proper putter fitting for length and lie is essential. Thinking back to when we had a visit from the the late Ramsay McMaster, he stressed to us at the time that anchoring the upper arms to the side of the chest was the key to a solid and reliable putting stroke. His tip for achieving this invisible anchor was to slightly tense your chest with your upper arms by your side in the putting position. This tends to push your shoulders back and chest forward, locking your upper arms to the side of your chest, from where you can control the putting stroke by simply rocking the shoulders.

Conclusion
Who needs an anchor point in the belly when you can have an equally effective one by locking your upper arms to the side of your chest in the SeeMore setup. Now is a great time to test the SeeMore putting method as we have a special Christmas offer of 10% off our website listed putter prices. Offer ends 24th December so don’t miss out. Just give us a call at 01334 466728 to fix up an appointment. It could be the last putter you will ever need to buy.

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