Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Have the large golf companies been "knocking off" Tom Wishon designs?

Who's cloning whom? - Or, Things I discovered while researching other things.
COLUMBUS, GA, June, 13, 2011
By: Roy Nix
Executive Director - Assoc. of Golf Clubfitting Professionals

Recently I was doing some research looking for interesting facts about custom fitting and custom clubs to put on my web site. I wanted to find information related to golf equipment to further educate golfers to help them improve their game. There are always great tidbits of information on my good friend Tom Wishon's web site http://www.wishongolf.com so it was there I started my journey looking for inspiration and ideas. Truth be told what I discovered in my visit to Tom's web site was not primarily the content I was searching for, but what I did discover seemed to be quite interesting and information most golfers really need to be aware of.

Those of us who work in relative anonymity as professional custom clubmakers are used to hearing golfers say that the golf clubs we build are not of the same quality or not as innovative as the golf clubs created by the big golf companies whose giant marketing programs have made to be household words among golfers. We custom clubmakers are often accused by golfers of making golf clubs which are "knock-offs" or "clones" of the heavily marketed golf clubs of the large companies.

Base on what I discovered at Tom Wishon's http://www.wishongolf.com web site, it appears this opinion of these golfers is 180 degrees backwards. It appears that quite a number of the big golf companies may have been "knocking-off" some of Wishon's innovations in golf club design over the years. A designer since 1986, Wishon has created innovative golf club designs for brands including Dynacraft, Golfsmith, Snake Eyes, Lynx, and Harvey Penick and now for his own company's Wishon Golf brand. As a golf club designer, Tom Wishon has not only designed more different models of golf clubheads than any other person in the game, but among those more than 300 different clubhead designs are more than 50 which stand as 'golf club technology firsts' - created and brought to market by Wishon before the big golf companies brought out their version of the same design technology.

Just for fun, I jotted down a few of the more interesting Wishon firsts listed on his web site for you. See the list below.

1. First Variable Thickness Face Driver - 1995, Golfsmith Ti 260 Driver
a. Callaway followed with their own version of a variable thickness face on a driver models in 1997, since then several other companies have done the same. Today it seems more golf companies offer drivers with a variable thickness face than with a uniform thickness face. Who Copied Who?

2. First Thin Face High COR Irons - 2000, Snake Eyes Fire Forged Irons
a. In 2004, Nike introduced their thin face Slingshot irons to follow Wishon's Snake Eyes design. Since then a few other large companies have brought out their versions as well. Who Copied Who?

3. First Thin Face High COR Fairway Woods - 2004, Wishon Golf 525GRT woods
a. Prior to the introduction of Wishon's 525GRT woods, most experts in the golf industry believed it was impossible to create fairway woods with the same high COR as a driver. Wishon's 515GRT woods proved the experts were wrong. Interestingly, Adams Golf claimed they were the first in this category with the introduction of their 2011 Speedline fairway woods but I'm told subsequently has retracted that statement in their ads.

4. First Driver Head made from a Part Graphite, Part Metal construction - 1995, Golfsmith Power Link Driver
a. When Callaway offered their part graphite/part metal ERC Driver in 1998, everyone thought they were the innovator for creating a unique part graphite/part metal driver head. Who would have thought this design technology was done 3 years before?

5. First Adjustable Hosel Metal Woods - 1996, Golfsmith AHT Metal Woods
a. A technology that is all the rage right now on drivers from companies like Taylor Made, Cobra, and Titleist, does anyone really know they were 'only 14 years behind' in releasing this technology to allow golfers to change the lie and face angles of their driver?

6. First Metal Driver Larger Than 350cc - 1997, Golfsmith Long Jon Driver
a. From 1993 through the end of the decade, the largest driver heads offered to golfers were made with a volume measurement below 300cc. Only when Callaway introduced the Great Big Bertha in 2000 did the big companies begin to crack a driver size barrier that few know had been breached by one of Tom Wishon's designs in 1997.

7. First Cup Face Construction Woodhead - 1997, Golfsmith BlackHawk Driver
a. A cup shaped face is now known as a good way to help increase distance from off center hits with any driver or wood head. Callaway was the first of the large golf companies to do that on one of their drivers in 2000, while once again, they came in second in releasing this interesting driver face technology to golfers.

8. First Draw Bias, Heel Weighted Metal Wood - 1995, Golfsmith AccuCore 50 Driver
a. Putting more weight into the heel side of a metal driver has been touted as a means to reduce the tendency of a shot to fade or slice since the mainstream market first saw this technology on drivers in 2000. Who knew that it had already been done 5 years before?

9. First Milled Face Irons and Wedges - 1992, Dynacraft CNC5000 Irons and Wedges
a. Now pretty much seen in a variety of different companies' wedge models, no golf company introduced a milled face iron or wedge until the late 1990s - a good while after Wishon did it. And not only that, he did it on a full set of irons as well and not simply on the wedges!

10. First Putters made with Interchangeable Faces for Changing Loft - 2005, Wishon Golf CLF Series Putters
a. Club repairmen have been asked to bend the hosel of putters as a means to change the loft of the face for a long time. Unfortunately when this is done, the putter no longer sits square to the target when allowed to rest on its sole on the green, so the golfer has to HOLD the face square to be able to putt accurately. No other company has yet figured out that it might be a better idea to have faces made with different loft angles to screw on to the putter body so the sole angle could remain intact.

11. First Woods or Hybrids Made with Softer Metal Hosel to Allow Custom Lie and Face Angle adjustment - 2011, Wishon Golf 929HS Woods and 775HS Hybrids
a. Experts all extol the accuracy benefits of fitting the lie angle of the irons to the golfer's swing. No one talks about doing this for the fairway woods or hybrids, yet they too are clubs intended to be hit off the fairway to greens because typical woods and hybrids are made from metals that are very difficult to perform such a lie adjustment. Here again, Tom Wishon figured out a solution before all the giant companies did.

12. First to match golf clubs in a set for identical swing feel by MOI Matching - 2003, Wishon Golf
a. Ask any mechanical engineer who knows a little about the performance of a golf club what might be the best way to make all the clubs in a set require the same exact effort to swing so that better swing consistency could result and you'll hear the answer to be, "to match the clubs all to the same Moment of Inertia." Where no other company has done this as an alternative to the 90 year old technology of swingweight matching, Wishon did.

And those are just a handful of the more than 50 golf club design technology firsts that have come from the component custom clubmaking side of the golf equipment industry. If you care to read about the others, take a moment to visit http://www.wishongolf.com and look for the link on the left hand side for DESIGN FIRSTS. And it would be nice if the next time you hear a golfer say that the component custom clubmakers offer nothing but knock-offs and clones, you could offer some of the facts.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Can a graphite shaft really be worth $400 or $500?

Last time I checked, the cost of graphite pre-preg ranged from about US$ 50 at the bottom end to about US$170 per KILO for ultra high-end aerospace grade, which works out at under ELEVEN dollars for a 60g shaft. What's a reasonable allowance for factory labour, overheads, shipping, etc? How do we get from there to $400, $500 or $600 for a graphite shaft, even allowing for generous profit margins for both the shaft manufacturer and the distributors they work through in the aftermarket? As the old saying goes, "there is a sucker born every minute."