Suppliers for Clubmaking Components
Dave Tutelman -- May 31, 2006 plus updates
I am frequently asked who I buy from -- or who I'd recommend -- for
clubmaking components and supplies. I've put together the following
annotated list of suppliers I have dealt with, so I don't have to compose the answer every time. First
- In the "what" column:
The "comments" colums contains my own editorial opinion of how
well they do.
I have only included suppliers who will deal with all comers.
There are suppliers (Tom Wishon Golf Technology and KZ Golf come to mind)
who will only deal with
clubmakers with a clubmaking business, that they qualify to be their customers; I didn't list them
for that reason. (The two that I mentioned above make excellent
products, and I recommend them if you qualify to buy from them. Neither
is an inexpensive supplier.)
That brings me to another controversy about component sellers:
some of them (most of the ones on my list, in fact) compete with their
own customers. That is, they sell completed clubs as well as
components, those clubs made from the components they sell. For
instance, I as a custom clubmaker might be challenged by a potential
customer, "You use Snake Eyes heads in your clubs. But I can order
Snake Eyes clubs from Golfsmith for less than you charge." The customer
may or may not know that I buy my Snake Eyes components from Golfsmith,
who happens to be the manufacturer. Then I add in my cost of a complete
fitting -- which you do not get when you buy mail-order clubs from
Golfsmith -- and my business overhead. And I have already paid
Golfsmith a profit, through their component business, when I bought the
head and shaft. Naturally, I have to charge more.
- H = Club heads
- S = Shafts
- G = Grips
- P = Supplies (Epoxy, ferrules, weights, etc)
- T = Tools
suppliers protect their custom clubfitters by putting a base under the
price someone can advertise clubs made from their components, called MAP (Minimum Advertised Price); this
becomes part of their contract with their component customers. KZ Golf,
which only sells to business clubmakers and doesn't sell finished clubs
itself, does this. So does The Golf Coast, if you build clubs with
their Vector or Trinity components. If the clubs you build are for your
use only, not for sale, then this does not affect you -- though KZG
will not be selling to you (see note #3 above).
2007, Dynacraft was bought by Hireko. They still sell some of the
Dynacraft-label components, but I don't know for how long. The good
news is that Jeff Summitt is the combined company's Chief Technical
Officer; he gives excellent support, and writes some of the best
articles, which can be found on their web site. In fact, as of 2009-2012, my irons and
hybrids are all Jeff Summitt designs.
|An Internet-only supplier, Clubmaker Online also
supports an archive of good clubmaking articles and tips, and the Shop-Talk
email forum for clubmakers. Tends to sell unusual and/or
top-of-the-line components -- generally much better that you'd get from
the OEM clubmakers.
|Diamond Tour Golf
good service. They have their house brand components, which are at
least OEM quality. They carry the Integra line, which is a quality
budget clubhead. I have also used other brands in their product line
with good results.
|They have been bought out by Hireko,
but their design line continues. Good, solid designs that are
innovative as well. Jeff Summitt is well-known in the industry, and
personally provides most of the tech support. Several clubs in my bag
have Dynacraft heads.
|I don't deal with them when I can avoid it. See why below.
|Second only to Golfsmith in variety of tools,
supplies, educational material, etc. Ralph Maltby's designs have always
been very functional and often innovative, and I think they're more aesthetic than they used to
be. My 3-wood is a Maltby Trouble-Out, and I built another one
with the same head for a backup; it's a dozen years old, and I have yet to find a better one.
|Very good prices and variety,
and good customer service. Now that Jeff Summitt (from Dynacraft) is
there, the technical support is a lot more savvy. The head designs tend
to be of
solid quality. Their house brand shafts include some that are very
effective, but some have prominent spines
that have to be found and oriented. (Once aligned, their performance
has been very satisfactory, especially for the price.)
|Pro-Swing and Trident Golf
makes and sells the Trident brand of heads. In the past they have
tended to be rather blatant clone vendors. But I see a few novel
designs in their catalog these days. My current (2012) putter head is
from them, mostly because it is a rather unique design and just what I
was looking for. I have had quality problems with several components I
from them. Nothing an exeprienced and well-equipped clubmaker couldn't
handle, but a beginner might have had problems. (A beginner might have
even built with
out-of-spec components and never noticed -- but the 8i and 9i may be
giving the same distance, and a big gap from the 7i to the 8i. That was
indeed one of the quality problems I encountered.)
|Tony Miller's company does not
have as much variety as he used to, but I'm sure the quality is what it
used to be. I have built and used several iron sets with Raven forged
heads, and they look good and play well. Raven also carries the
hard-to-find Graman line of shafts, which my tests show to have superb
quality control. BTW, I first became aware of Raven in the mid-1990s,
when one of their employees (Paul Nickles) collaborated with me on an
early research project.
is a little-known but outstanding
manufacturer of grips. IMHO, these are the best quality grips on the
market, and at a reasonable price. As of this moment (late 2011),
they are reworking their dealer network and their web site is under complete reconstruction. So they may be a bit hard to
find for a while. Worth looking, though. I have bought Star grips through Clubmaker Online, and that should work just fine while they get their business act together.
|Vector (The Golf Coast)
|The Golf Coast is not primarily a component
supplier; they are a custom clubfitting "boutique", and they are very
good at it. They have developed their own design of clubheads that they
use for the custom clubs they build, but they will sell the clubheads
(and perhaps the shafts) to clubmakers. Their trade names for the
components are Vector, Trinity, and Seahawk.
Most of my favorite drivers since 2000 have had Vector heads, including my current
one (as of June 2006). Update Dec 2008: I've been through several
drivers, and my current driver is yet another Vector. Update Nov 2011:
My #1 and #2 drivers have Vector heads, and the #1 has a
who owns The Golf Coast and
designs their clubheads, is very smart and helpful.
Why I don't like Golfsmith
Perhaps you noticed that Golfsmith is not my favorite supplier -- not even close. Since they are
probably the biggest -- and definitely the best-known -- of the
suppliers for clubmakers, I probably should say why not.
Actually, I started in clubmaking with Golfsmith as my favored supplier in the 1980s. A lot of clubmakers
did. Golfsmith founder Carl Paul was, more than anybody else, the father of custom
clubmaking. So what happened?
Strike one: In the early 1990s -- say 1993 -- Golfsmith started
to outgrow what it could do well. Their business expanded very rapidly,
and they quickly exhausted the qualified labor market in Austin. So
they hired people who didn't know much about clubmaking, and let them
deal with customers anyway. It got to the point that I could not trust
their phone support, and even their Internet tech support was very
spotty. (They hired Mark Ehly to keep Tom Wishon and Britt Lindsey from
being swamped with support work, but it took at least a year before he
had enough experience to be helpful.) The worst of it was that none of
their support staff felt it acceptable to say, "I don't know." They
always gave you a confident answer -- just as confident when it was
wrong as when it was right. It was the first time I realized that
confidence does not equal competence. That, of course, renders the
Strike two: They expanded to OEM sales as well as components.
Soon their OEM business was by far the bigger money maker, and this
seemed to drain some of the resources and focus from the clubmaking
business. About that time, they also started building retail
establishments all over the country. As soon as they had a store in NJ,
I started to be billed for NJ state sales tax on my Golfsmith mail
So the presence of the store -- which was a good hour's drive each way
-- was actually a negative, a discouragement from doing business with
them. Too far to actually shop there, but its existence added to the cost of my mail order.
Strike three: The Paul brothers cashed out; they sold Golfsmith to a large sporting
goods retail conglomerate. Now the component business really became a
stepchild. Tom Wishon left, and started his own company. (Tom was the
designer behind the best and most innovative of Golfsmith's components
in the '90s.)
Three strikes and you're out.
On the plus side -- yes, there is a plus side -- they still have
the most complete line of tools, and probably of supplies. GolfWorks is
a not-too-distant second. But Golfsmith is still first in this regard,
and even now I occasionally go to them for this reason. That is why there
are still more strikes on the scorecard...
A Golfsmith store finally opened not far from me, about a half hour's
drive. The clubmaking section is relatively small and in the
back. Most of the stuff out on display in the clubmaking section is
clubheads and grips. The more interesting things (tools and supplies)
are behind the counter. Only their clubmaking specialist will go
back there to get anything; if he's not there, you'll have to wait to
be served until he gets back. And, if the rest of the staff is
clueless, even the "expert" only has a fraction of a clue about
clubmaking. Don't expect competent assistance there. I only use the
store for things I'd buy from the catalog, but need now
and would rather drive to the
store than wait a few days for shipping (or a few months, see below).
But I call first; their store inventory isn't nearly up to what's in
Strike five: In 2010 I went
shopping for a new golf cart, and hit all the golf stores within 30
miles to look at them. That includes Golfsmith. I was in the store on a
weekday (so they were not very busy) from 11:30am to noon. I know this
rather precisely. I had budgeted a half hour of my time for the visit,
to mesh with another appointment in the area. Initially (about 11:35) a
salesclerk helped me with some questions about the Sun Mountain Micro
Cart. He didn't know the answers either, but together we were able to
figure them out. He didn't feel he could take responsibility for
opening any of the boxes on the display shelves to show me a cart. He
said he would send someone out who could help me. I was there until
noon, and no such person appeared. I stayed in the carts area the whole
time, and twice flagged down people (not the original salesclerk), who
also went to look for the "cart specialist". Finally, at noon sharp, I
left for my other appointment. Half an hour plus drive time wasted
because of employees just not giving service. (In all fairness, the
store manager responded to my angry follow-up email. I don't have a lot of
confidence he can solve the problem, but maybe he will try.)
Strike six: Not many
places you could go for a 100g butt weight in 2011. Usually I make my
melting lead into a section of scrapped steel shaft, but this time I
felt it would be less effort to just order it -- and it had to be from
Golfsmith. Placed the order on October 13. Nothing happened. That includes nothing happening in "order status" on their web
site. I tried to call their customer service line, and couldn't get
through the busy signal for a few days. I dropped it for a while and
finally called them again Thanksgiving week -- well over a month after
the order was placed. They discovered that the shipping point had been
out of them, was still out of them, and wasn't going to get them in any
time soon. They could, and
Bottom line: Since I
decided in 2008 that they were not worth the trouble unless I'm
desperate, I have dealt with them about once a year. Each time, they
have been somewhere between frustrating and useless.
- Informed me it was back-ordered.
- Had another shipping point send it; apparently they ship from
several places. After I called and woke them up, that is what they did.
MAP (Minimum Advertised Price)
- Here's how MAP works, according to David Dugally of Golf Coast; I
heard a very similar explanation from Jennifer King of KZ Golf a few
years ago (though KZ tends to be far more aggressive about "protecting
The point of MAP is to protect the brand's reputation of quality and to
protect the clubmaking businesses that feature the brand. Suppose
someone buys the components to sell in finished clubs, and advertises
those clubs at a lowball price. It makes the brand seem "cheap", hurts
its reputation. In addition, it undercuts other clubmakers using the
same brand of component.
Under a MAP agreement, anyone is free to sell for what they wish; you are just limited in the price you can advertise.
The actual price is an agreement between the buyer and the seller, but
any lowball deal does not become public information. In this way, both
the brand's reputation and competing clubmakers' margins are not
Of course, if you are not building clubs for resale, this would not matter to you.
Last updated Oct 9, 2012