While Golfsmith is known as a major retailer their first thirty years of operation focused on golf club component sales. The Golfsmith component brand was one many brand names owned by them. Golf clubs labeled under the Golfsmith brand were typically innovate in their design, manufacturing technology or concept. Where many of the major OEMs are unable to take risks with this products the Golfsmith components were the risk takers within the organization.
Material/Mfg: Investment Cast 6-4 Titanium with 15-3-3-3 Beta Titanium Face
Introduction: 2003, 2005, 2007
This was the first driver I designed at Golfsmith. Having just come off designing the Wilson Deep Red and Deep Red II I was very much focused on using a sole and skirt geometry that focused on a low rearward center of gravity. You can shift the center of gravity much more efficiently using geometry as opposed to mass. This design proved that again. The HiCOR+ project was timed with the debate on whether the USGA would permit a .860COR (coefficient of restitution) for all non-PGA Tour golfers or restrict the golfing public to an .830COR like the tour was limited to. As I designed the driver I had two different face configurations I had to keep in mind, all depending on which direction the USGA went with their ruling. As we all know the .830COR limit was settled on and subsequently the “deader” of the two face designs was used in this model. The face was constructed of 15-3-3-3 beta titanium which wasn’t very popular at the time. The material was much too brittle for most foundries to work with however the HiCOR+ producer, Sino Manufacturing, had been working with 15-3-3-3 enough to ensure great durability with this project. The HiCOR+ sales rivaled the volume of many mid and small size OEMs. Lofts were offered from as low as 7.5° upward to 15° in the driver. We had also manufactured some 17° lofts we used for training schools and physics experimentations. This was the driver that established precedence on the virtues of high loft for slower swing speeds throughout the rest of the industry.
Material/Mfg: 6-4 Titanium
Why a 1000cc driver head? Why not?! We had worked on developing a novelty driver as a prop for custom club makers but the prop turned into a hittable product and Golfsmith sold more of these heads than they originally forecasted. It was big, it was loud and it was an attention grabber at the driving range. The 1K driver was the great equalizer for long drive holes at golf outings. Every contestant always had an equal chance at getting a decent drive the first time they would swing it.
Model: TriMatrix Woods/Irons/Putters
Material/Mfg: 6-4 Titanium Driver, 17-4SS Fairway Woods, 431SS Irons, 304SS Putters
The Golfsmith TriMatrix program was a bold approach to golf club customization using a variable density urethane weighting system interchangeable between all woods, irons and putters within the family. The TriMatrix weight produced by Ecomass ranged from 2 - 12 grams without changing geometry dimensions. Its urethane base provided a good vibration dampening system within each head. The woods each utilized an off-angle hosel sleeve that provided 2º of face/loft/lie angle variance based on the position it was installed into the head. The lofts and lies on the irons was also easier to customize due to the double-annealed 431 stainless steel material and expansion joint in the hosel which relieved stress during hosel adjustments. The wedges and putters were cast out of 304 stainless steel making it easy to adjust their hosels by hand (without a bending bar). Grafalloy produced the TriMatrix shafts which had a great latitude of tip and butt trimming flexibility for performance tuning. Overall there wasn't a feature of golf club customization that was overlooked in the TriMatrix product, except for the fact the assembly could be a little overwhelming with some many parts to work with.
Model: Interface Putters
Material/Mfg: Aluminum Face Frame, Urethane Gasket & Face Insert, Brass Body
I enjoyed working on this Zebra putter project for Golfsmith. It is based on an ingenious construction concept by design veteran Bob Renegar. The construction of the designs utilized an aluminum face frame and brass body that incorporated a urethane gasket between them for vibration dampening. The gasket penetrated into the face frame by being the face insert material too. From the design side I was able to utilize the same face frame and gasket tooling for all models. Only the brass body attachment changed between designs. This was a great approach to offering multiple models with minimal tooling costs. Perhaps not always the greatest focus for the end user but highly appreciated from the designer’s perspective.
Model: JetStream Black Box Woods
Material/Mfg: 6-4 Titanium Body with Forged 451 Beta Titanium Face (Driver), 17-4 Stainless Steel Body with S-290 High Strength Steel Face (Fairways)
I like developing “black box” drivers just because the material concept was so cool. The black box material, a billet forged 451 beta titanium, was the same material used in the aircraft flight data recorders due to their durability to a multitude of environment factors. The 451 material in particular was the same used by the Soviet Union in their MIG fighters. We were able to take this material and forge it using the largest forging press (5,000-ton rating) in the Eastern Hemisphere. In fact, it is very likely the Soviets used this same press for parts of their MIG fighters since it is located at the Chinese Aerospace R&D Facility in ChengDu, China. By billet forging the black box material driver face we could eliminate 20-grams of weight since it was forged into a lattice face structure. This provided a great deal of discretionary weight to use in the driver’s body. We not only used the black box material for the Golfsmith JetStream woods but also for a previous generation called the Black Box woods too. The fairway woods incorporate an S-290 super strength steel face (290Ksi Tensile Strength) which were double the strength of 17-4 stainless steel. Another feature of all of the woods was the tapered waist hosels. This permitted face and lie angle adjustability with less stress resistance for player customization.
Model: Special Force Woods and Irons
Material/Mfg: 6-4 Titanium
The first Special Force club I worked on was created to be an un-sliceable driver. From a specification standpoint I called it the anti-Rush Limbaugh model - it kept you far from the right side (unless you were a southpaw). So I needed to match up an iron and fairway wood set that had the same virtues as the driver. I took a page from my Top-Flite Intimidator 400 project and incorporated high bounce angle soles on all of the woods and irons of the Special Force family. Anytime you take a sand wedge with a high bounce angled sole you’ll notice that the face rotates to a closed position when the club is set down in the center or forward of your stance. This is the same position that most golfers address their iron and fairway shots. By using the bounce angle of the sole to help dynamically close the club face the Special Force irons and fairways turned out to be excellent slice-fighting clubs. Another unique approach that I took with the irons was the extremely low face profiles in the longer clubs. Getting the ball airborne easily was a necessity based on the fact that the loft between each iron was 5° throughout the set, enabling greater distance dispersion between each iron.
Model: Special Force Driver
Material/Mfg: 6-4 Titanium
Introduction: 2003, 2005
I developed the first anti-slice Special Force driver in 2003. The club performed so well that Golfsmith offered a 100% money back guarantee that if it did not dramatically reduce your slice you could get a full refund. Of the thousands that were sold only five drivers were ever returned (I would have loved to have seen their swings). What made the Special Force driver work so well was its design specifications. To begin with the hosel design was offset. The offset enables the golfer a fraction of a moment longer to help square the club face up at impact. Adding to that a 2 1⁄2° closed face angle and a very high CG Angle (center of gravity angle) makes the face want to close naturally on its own. The loft on the driver was a bit more liberal at 12° which helped to impart backspin as opposed to side spin and added to that was a very heel-ward center of gravity. Placing the CG heel-ward imparts draw spin on a center impact and hook spin on a toe impact. To super-charge the heel-ward CG dynamics the toe half of the face had 8” of bulge (versus the typically flatter 12”) while the heel side had only 18” (which makes the ball travel straighter instead of fading). In essence, the Special Force drivers were anti-slice clubs on steroids. There was only one catch them – they have likely been the most unattractive drivers that I ever created. But the old designer’s creed “form follows function” was applicable to the Special Force.
Model: P2 Irons
Material/Mfg: Investment Cast 431-1 Stainless Steel
Introduction: 2006, 2008
The P2 irons were a design that fell into no-man’s land as far as construction vs. pricing goes. Most consumers do not think about product position with a new iron design but there is one area where price vs. performance is very sensitive. While it is relatively easy to create an outstanding performance iron special care must be taken when establishing its selling price. A high performance product targeted towards a good caliber of golfer must also appeal to the time and energy the golfer spends towards elevating their game to a high level. Once accomplished most golfers do not want to discount their achievement by purchasing anything less than high performance irons. Pricing high performance product at a value price point is usually the kiss of death. Such was the case of the Golfsmith P2 irons. Gracefully styled to appeal to the purist the P2’s also utilized a new material unseen by the industry – 431-1 stainless steel. The chemical makeup of the 431-1 steel increased the percentage of copper in the alloy enabling hosel adjustments up to 13°. Yes, 13° without breaking! This could only be achieved through greater ductility of the material with some fantastic elongation characteristics. Bottom line – great design, great performance, great construction at a great price. Not necessarily the right formula for sales success.
Material/Mfg: Investment Cast 8620 Carbon Steel with Nickel/Chrome Plating
I love these irons. It was around 2007 and we had wrapped up the spring and summer introductions for that year. It was also the 40th anniversary of Carl Paul starting his component business that evolved into Golfsmith. A light bulb clicked in my head that no one had thought of a commemorative golf club to recognize this great feat. This was usually a marketing function to forecast the need for club models but I felt it appropriate that I get started on a design we could celebrate this great occasion with. The concept for the G40 iron took me less than five minutes to develop. It had to incorporate a Golfsmith heritage in it while not looking nostalgic and be extremely playable by today’s standards. I basically took the back of the Golfsmith Pro Forged Blade iron and incorporated a heel and toe cavity into it. The body and sole had to be thickened to accommodate the displaced mass. The G-Shield medallion was set into its own cavity behind the center of the face. I do not believe I ever modeled an iron faster than this design. I had it blueprinted, simple graphics created and off to the foundry before the marketing department knew what hit them. The G40+ was added on as a more forgiving version of the design. In June 2007 Carl and Frank Paul were each presented a set of the G40 irons with their names custom engraved to commemorate 40 years of Golfsmith.
Material/Mfg: 6-4 Titanium and Tungsten Heel Weight
The design for this cavity crown project dates back to 2003 when I initiated a record of invention to minimize the volume of a driver while maintaining a jumbo sized footprint and face coupled with a low rearward center of gravity. Early versions of the driver sounded atrocious. But for as well as it performed we could not engineer a good sound into it. Working with compressor devices helped advance its sound a little but I also switched to carbon fiber for the crown, created internal baffles and tried foam filling the head also. By the time we launched the SR460 its construction had been changed numerous times and another low crown model had been introduced to the marketplace via the Cleveland HiBore. Going back and listening to the sound of the prototypes and production model are no longer scary. In fact, they all sound good these days. It goes to show you how evolving the equipment industry is. What sounds bad one day may sound good in the future. Unfortunately this wouldn’t be our last club head model in which we’re challenged to improving is sound.
Material/Mfg: 100% CNC Milled Aluminum Body, 17-4 Stainless Steel Nacelles, Urethane Face
When the Enterprise putter was introduced many thought it was a novelty prop. It was in fact the result of a high moment of inertia (MOI) study. My good friend Guerin Rife had introduced a putter model called the Two-Bar. I was discussing the design with a co-worker and stated if we took his two alignment bars and expanded them to the heel and toe the MOI would increase dramatically. Following a quick pencil sketch the concept of the Enterprise putter was born. It is the highest MOI putter reading I have run across to date. Originally labeled with a different name it was fondly referred to as the “Enterprise” during its development. While obtaining licensing rights to the U.S.S. Enterprise name was a cinch there were much bigger challenges getting U.S.G.A. approval due to the novelty look of its namesake. With that finally resolved the U.S.S. Enterprise putter (also known as NCC-1701) went to market in both standard and limited edition versions. Beam me to the hole Scotty!