Clubmakers’ Classroom: The Build

w/ Don Irving, Masters Club Fitter – Artisan Golf     

In this article, I am going to take you through the process of building a set of custom clubs. Once the fitting has been done, we have all the information to then build the set of custom clubs. The information collected includes such things as shaft weight, shaft flex (measured in cycles/minute) shaft composition, lie angle, loft angle, grip size, etc. This information now needs to be integrated into the building of the clubs. I will take you through a step by step process of the build from start to finish.

The first step is to assemble all the components as identified in the fitting. I select the correct heads, the correct shaft, and the correct grip. The first step is to weigh every component and make sure there are no anomalies. The hosel of each head is then cleaned and abraded so that the epoxy that is used will have a strong bond between the shaft and the head. This is an extremely important step. It is a simple thing to do but must be well done to ensure that a head will not work loose and come flying off the shaft.

The next step is to find the spine in every shaft. The spine of a shaft is the plane of the shaft with the most resistance to bending. The spine of a shaft runs along the length of a shaft and is not a straight line but is more of a slight helix or spiral. Finding the spine of a shaft is done by putting it on a machine and rotating the shaft until the gauge registers the highest number or resistance. Once the spine is located and marked each shaft is then oriented in exactly the same location. I like to orient the spine in the droop plane of the swing which is at the 12 o’clock position, looking down on the shaft in the address position. Spining each shaft gives a more consistent performance for each club throughout the set.

Now it is time to work on having the correct flex in each shaft. This is done by dry fitting the head to the shaft, marking the eventual length of each club and clamping the shaft into a frequency analyzer, which gives the number of cycles per minute (cpm) that the shaft is oscillating. If I want a 7 iron to frequency at 310 cpm and the machine reads 292 cpm then I must start trimming the tip of the shaft and re-measuring the length and keep doing this until I reach my goal of 310 cpm. Historically each shaft gets stiffer and stiffer as we go from the longer clubs to the shorter clubs. Depending on what the fitting yields, I may, for example, want the irons to have a difference of 7 cpm between each club. So, the 5 iron may be set at 300 cpm, the 6 iron at 307 cpm, the 7 iron at 314 cpm and so on. For stronger more aggressive players I will generally maintain this type of difference for each club. For players with a slower more even tempo I may only have 4 cpm between clubs and for some players I build the clubs to a flat line frequency where there are 0 cpm between clubs. Again, this is determined during the fitting. An individual golfer’s shaft flex is determined by three factors examined during the fitting. These three factors are clubhead speed, release point and swing tempo. Although swing speed has generally been regarded as the key component for choosing flex, release point and tempo play a very significant part in the process. It is not uncommon for two golfers who have the same swing speed to have very different flexes in their shafts based on how they swing a club as well as how hard they swing a club.

Once all the shafts have been frequencied it is time to assemble the clubs. I mainly use a high strength 24-hour epoxy to bond the head to the shaft, making sure that any excess epoxy has been cleaned off the shaft or the head. The clubs are then left to set for 24 hours to be certain the epoxy is well cured. Once the epoxy is hardened the lies of the club are then adjusted by bending the hosel of the head either up or down. Generally, it is the irons that may require bending, but occasionally the hybrids and fairway woods may need to be bent. Not all hybrids and fairway woods can be adjusted.

Once the correct lies and lofts have been adjusted the next step is to balance the clubs to a specific Moment of Inertia (MOI). Balancing each club to the same MOI ensures that each club will feel the same when swung. Balancing clubs for MOI is achieved by either adding weight to the head of the club or by making certain clubs slightly longer.

Once the clubs are MOI balanced, they can all be gripped. The grip type and size were determined in the fitting. So, it is a simple matter of installing each grip to its correct size, by adding any build up tape if necessary. After gripping, the ferrules are turned down to match the size of the hosel and are then polished. The clubs are then cleaned, and all the specs are recorded for future reference.

Due to the space limitation of this article, I have provided a simplified account of building a set of clubs, but hopefully I have given you an informative insight into how it is done.