Building a Golf Club

By: Bob Spiwak

Right from the top, if you are label-conscious, a money-making pro or convinced that only the big name manufacturers can build a better golf club, read no further. If, on the other hand you like to tinker, are on a limited budget, or are willing to try something new that you can alter if you don't like it, you might consider building your own golf clubs.

The first time I watched a club pro re-grip my woods I realized I could do that. I examined my driver and thought, "Hey, there's really not too much to this." A club head, a shaft and a grip.

Nowadays, there is a bit more to a driver, including a ferrule, a plastic thing that slips on the tip of the shaft and nestles against the hosel of the head. But in this technical age, there are unseen ingredients in every one of those ingredients. Heads with magical acronyms like MOI (Moment of Inertia) COF (Coefficient of Friction) and others I won't explain here. Graphite shafts now far surpass steel and, although not publicized, there are no standards for the flex of graphite; one maker's "S" (stiff) can be another's "R" (regular).

If building a club interests you, the cheapest way to go is with a steel-shafted putter or perhaps a wedge. You can Google "Golf Club Components" and come up with a lot of names, but I have settled on two: Hireko in California for most of my stuff, and The Golfworks in Ohio, whose founder, Ralph Maltby, wrote the Bible on club-making and repair. Hireko components and shipping costs are cheaper and faster, at least for me anyway. The costs below are theirs.

For this discussion we'll build a wedge. Choose your degree of loft and pay from $8.95 for most club heads to $24.95 for a forged model you don't need right now. A steel shaft will cost anywhere from $5 to $25. Go for a cheap True Temper like TT Lite, which is a fine shaft.

Grips? The catalog offers a plethora of sizes and colors. A name brand will run from about 4 bucks to close to 20. Most average about $7. If you're happy with the size of your current grip, match it. Go to a golf store and check out the brands on the high-priced clubs. A grip is the foundation of the swing and should fit and literally grip both the shaft and your fingers. Buy one there, or if your component catalog has them get it with the rest of your order. Ferrules come in many sizes and designs, and cost about $2 to $5 a dozen.

Do you need expensive tools? Not until you are truly committed to the exercise as a hobby or source of income. A sturdy work bench is a blessing, and an old dresser from the Salvation Army works well. Fill the drawers with golf balls for ballast. The most important tool is a vice. Vice-grip pliers will work, but you'll find other uses for a vice. If you are using a steel shaft, you will need a hacksaw or a tubing cutter; the latter is better.

From the supplier get a hypodermic that mixes the two parts of shafting epoxy. Super Glue is not an epoxy to use - real shafting epoxy is. It's available in a quick-set (10 minutes) or regular (about 24 hours). Both work, but I think the long-term epoxy is more durable.

At the back of your component book will be "tipping instructions." "Tipping" means cutting off the tip of the shaft to the degree of stiffness you desire. Steel shafts DO have standards, and the book may have recommendations based on your swing speed. For this, the tubing cutter is ideal, but not for graphite.

You'll need a sheet of medium grade emery paper. A rubber shaft holder for the vice is a cheap investment.

You'll also need some double-sided grip tape which costs about $8. If you quit after making this club, use the tape on carpets or cleaning dog hair off your spouse's mink coat.

Don't buy a grip "kit." Instead, get an old bakery loaf pan, a squirt bottle and some lighter fluid or gasoline. Have a pair of scissors handy and the most useful thing, a roll of blue towels. A rubber mallet is good; a ferrule setter is a must.

A lot or words here, but so far you have probably spent less than 40 bucks and most of the stuff can be used on other projects.

Now, we're ready to build that Mickelson-killer 60-degree wedge.

1. Tip the shaft as instructed. Measure the distance from the top of the hosel to the heel of the club, mark it, and roughen that area all around with emery paper.

2. Wide side UP, tap the ferrule with your mallet, cushioning it with a rag and, with the setter, push it as far as it will go.

3. Dab a bit of epoxy above this and all around the exposed trimmed end of the shaft and, with the shaved pointed end of the stick, wipe around the inside of the hosel.

4. With the head up, wham the fat end of the shaft several times on a board until the head is firmly within the shaft.

5. Wipe off all the epoxy showing, and stand the club head-up in a warm place where it will not be moved a bit.

6. After a maximum of 24 hours, take a long ruler and measure from the heel of the club to the length you wish.

7. Mark it and cut it here, then use emery paper to smooth the edges.

8. Put it in the vice, held with shaft gripper or layers of rag, and tighten FIRM, not squishy. The naked end of the shaft should extend over edge of workbench.

9. Measure the length of the grip against shaft and mark. Apply the grip tape at that distance.

10. Half-fill the grip with solvent and finger-tight against the hole at the end. With a finger tight against the hole in the fat end of the grip in one hand and the loaf pan beneath in the other, let solvent dribble slowly out of the hole, soaking the tape.

11. Quickly push the open end of the grip over the shaft end as far as it will go. If it has a name or design this should be in line with the blade. If it is a cord grip, this ought to be underneath.

12. Tap the end on a board and let it set for an hour or two.

13. If the edges of the ferrule now are not flush with the hosel, sand these down even with the edges and finish them off with a rub or two of acetone that will bring back the luster to the material.

Voila! There is your club.

This probably sounds complex, but with practice and tools at hand it can be done quite rapidly. The best part is that if you want to do more you can build a full set for more than half the price of name-brand stuff.

Most important is to remember the old adage: "You cannot buy a golf game."

Good luck. Hireko and Golf Works can be found on Google.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultra-private Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

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