By Ed Mitchell, PGA
Have you ever wondered how club making and repair got its start in our country? Do you know the role golf professionals played with the evolution of club making and repair for more than a century?
Herb Graffis vividly explains this in his book THE PGA, which he published in 1975. In the late 1890’s, Scottish professionals were enticed to come to this country for employment opportunities. They brought their club making skills with them along with a limited number of hickory-shafted clubs. They went on to layout golf courses and to teach those who had an interest in learning this great game how to play. They even provided the clubs for their golfers to use. With a limited supply of clubs, the Scottish golf professionals were constantly repairing them.
According to Herb Graffis, Scottish professional Willie Dunn is credited with having the first pro shop in the United States. Dunn came to our country to design and build Shinnecock Hills. H. B. Martin, a newspaper golf writer had written that Dunn brought over from Scotland a good supply of clubs, balls and bags that he sold to the members at Shinnecock Hills.
Robert White, the first PGA President and former golf professional at Ravisloe Club in Chicago, was a club maker like his fellow professionals. He headed a group that advertised themselves as the Professional Golfers’ Association at least 10 years before the PGA association was formed. White and his fellow pros had organized to make golf clubs during the winter to sell at their respective clubs the next summer.
During this same era, some sporting goods companies started manufacturing clubs and sold their products for less than what the professionals did. It took several years but these mass-produced clubs changed the way golf professionals did business. Eventually, golf professionals evolved into retailers of name brand clubs. The club making and repair skills of the Scottish golf professional were all but lost.
However, by 1960 golf professionals were discovering a new profit center. The Golf Pride replacement grip was putting golf professionals back into the club repair business. Golfers’ welcomed the convenience of having new grips and golf professionals were making money replacing them.
Herb Graffis states in THE PGA, “when the fully trained, experienced professional sees a pupil’s problem that he suspects may be with clubs as well as technique, he has to go back to the method successfully employed by his astute predecessors who were golf pros in the building decades of the early 1900’s”.
Graffis is stating that today’s golf professionals need to have skills like the old Scottish professionals. These skills include having the knowledge and equipment to measure golf club specifications in order to make alterations that will assist the pupil’s playing ability.
As a teacher, this knowledge will help achieve the best teaching results. Golf professionals should know the specifications of the clubs their golfers use and alter them when appropriate.
Graffis had great foresight. Custom fitted clubs became very popular 25 years after he published his book. This is what makes club performance and repair so important today. Golfers’ want their PGA professionals to be equipment experts and great instructors.
Club performance enhancement for today’s modern clubs is simply re-shafting, re-gripping, and adjusting loft, lie, and face angles. Today’s golf professionals need to provide these services just like their Scottish predecessors.
During the past 50 years, most golf professionals have provided re-gripping as a repair service. They were trained to replace grips by their tutor. There is now a big demand for golf professionals to provide re-shafting and angle adjustments. These club performance enhancements are just as simple as re-gripping.
All PGA members should join the continuing evolution of the role of golf professionals by returning to their roots. Club performance enhancements are very profitable and golfing members want the same tour van repairs that tour pros receive.
Professionals who provide these services enhance their credibility and are respected for their equipment knowledge, which increases new club sales. Return to your roots and make golf more enjoyable for your golfers.