Golf Club making/repair for fun
In 1994, I discovered the wonderful world of golf club making and
repair. While there is no substitute for professional knowledge
for some procedures, club making and repair can be a rewarding
hobby for many active golfers, and the materials and tools are
inexpensive and readily available. The best internet resource on
the topic is the Dave
Tutleman's clubmaking guide.
What follows are my personal notes on club making for the ammateur
Basic Supplies and Tools
What got me into this was discovering that it was possible for
anyone to buy the components to make a club. These are
- Component Club heads -- Both iron and wood heads are available
many suppliers. One can buy club heads that resemble popular
brands, or designs unqiue to the manufacturer you buy from. Each
vendor offers their own line of clubs. Club heads are available in
a variety of materials and designs. Cavity back iron heads run
$7-$15, with Forged blades (limited suppliers) somewhat higher.
Simple metalwood heads are $15-$25, with oversize and composite
designs running $30-$50, and solid Titanium as high as $125.
- Shafts -- Each supplier sells shafts from the same name brand
companies (e.g. True Temper, Aldila, Brunswick, etc.) that supply
shafts to club manufacturers. Shafts run from $4 for simple steel
to $75 for high performance ultra-light graphite.
- Grips -- Again, you buy the same grips that are used by club
and pro shops. They range from about $1-$4. Again, an amazing
variety are available.
- Ferules -- That's the technical term for the little plastic
doo-hickey that goes on the end of the shaft above the clubhead on
some clubs. These are purely decroative except on graphite shafts,
where with some heads they are needed to absorb some of the
stresses where the shaft joins the clubhead. They cost a couple of
bucks for a bag of 10.
The beauty of component club making, is that you can mix and match
and make a club that looks and feels exactly the way you want it.
The Dunkin archives list a wide variety of suppliers. For the most
part, the components are very standard (i.e. all iron heads accept
one or two shaft diameters, and all grips likewise), allowing you
to make up millions of combinations.
How to order
With millions of combinations, the key is finding something you
like. With Clubheads, the considerations are cosmetic and matching
your game. Here are some considerations:
- Size -- The bigger the head, the harder it is to miss, but big
heads may not benefit a low handicapper who already swings
- Perimeter weighting -- Likewise perimeter weighting on irons
expands the sweet spot and improves results on poor shots, while
generally reducing feel and ability to work the ball for the better
- Offset -- This is the distance by which the shaft leads the
club face. More offset is theoretically better for high
handicappers and slicers.
- Bounce -- A consideration mainly on wedges. More bounce is
better for soft sand, and worse for hardpan and close cut
fairways. Pick what matches your course.
- Loft -- This is the face angle to the ground (actually to
vertical). Oddly enough there is no universal standard on what
loft goes with what number club. As a result, some 7 irons play
like 6 irons or even 5 irons in distance and ball flight. Consider
the loft on the heads you choose and your general flight path.
Manufacturers will bend clubs to adjust loft up to 2 degrees on
most iron heads, but this is not an ideal solution. Also, note
that heads with lots of weight low to the ground supposedly produce
higher shots naturally, thus a 26 degree bottom heavy 5 iron may
produce the same shot as a 29 degree blade.
- Lie -- this is the angle of the shaft to vertical. Again,
there is some variability. In general, longer clubs require
a flatter lie, but it is also effected by the golfer's height, arm
length, and swing type. You can get a cheap lie measuring device
to help you decide. Again, clubs can be bent up to 2 degrees.
Shafts are probably the most important component. Critically
important is to buy the right tip style (unitized or constant
diameter is far more common but some heads take tapered shafts). Here
are some of the critical components
- Flex -- Flex is measured by a letter (L,A,R,S,X) or a
Flex ratings by different manufacturers are not necessarily
equivalent. Flex is generally geared to swing speed and tempo, and
you will find many ways to rate it. You can buy a simple swing
speed measurement device for about $15, if that helps in making
- Materials -- Steel is cheap, durable, and very consistent.
Graphite is lighter weight, can be made in a wider range of flexes,
but is more expensive and less consistent. Aluminum and Titanium
are both available as specialty materials. Graphite shafts are
most useful on over-length drivers, and clubs for slower swingers.
- Bend point -- A mysterious rating of where the shaft flexes. Low
bend point gives you more "kick" from the shaft (higher shots and a
little extra distance), but less control. Most PGA tour pros still
use high bend point steel shafts on their irons.
- Length -- Some come pre-cut, but most have to be trimmed on both
ends (a simple operation, but get the measurements right!) If you
are building very long clubs, you may need longer shafts than
normal, but this is unlikely. Remember that the hosel in the
clubhead makes up 1-2 inches of the club length, so a 43 inch shaft
will make a 45 inch club, usually.
With grips, cosmetics are the main issue. Be sure, however, you
order a grip that is compatible with your shaft diameter. You can
install mismatches (and get bigger or smaller grips) but
installation is tougher. Grip size is about the only real
technical issue. All catalogs tell you how to measure your ideal
size, but personal preference is a large part of it. Using
weighted or lightweight grips to impact swingweight is bogus, don't
worry about it.
Here is what I bought/used to start club making:
- Grip tape -- two sided tape is essential
- Grip tape solvent -- a $5 can lasts forever since you recycle the
excess. You can use lots of other household fluids, but the real
stuff is cheap, effective, and smells better.
- Epoxy -- Get a modest supply of shafting epoxy. It's cheap. The
little plastic tubs that powdered drinks come in are ideal for
- Pipe cutter -- You use this to cut steel shafts (DONT USE IT ON
GRAPHITE) If you have one for plumbing work, it will work fine.
You can buy one at a hardware store or from a golf supplier at
- Grip cutting knife -- I bought one with hooked blades that works
nicely for cutting off old grips. You can get them from hardware
stores as well, about $5.
- Sandpaper -- Use fine grained sand paper for roughing up shaft
to epoxy them. Don't rough up graphite very much.
- Dimpling jig. I made a simple jig by drilling a 3/8 inch hole in
block of wood, with an intersecting hole in which I could insert a
nail set. This is used to put dimples in a steel shaft to help it
hold epoxy better.
- Shaft clamp -- a $2 piece of rubber to hold club shafts in a
Note that I found holding clubs in a vice necessary only rarely.
I later bought, since I was interested in this as a hobby, a
swingweight scale ($50), lie check mat ($10), swing speed indicator
($15), and lead weighting tape ($3). Not necessary for simple
assembly and repair.
Here are some things I learned that were helpful
- Dave Tutelman's fomulas from the Dunkin archives are very good
predicting swingweight. If you can pick a shaft, length, and head
to get what you want it's a lot easier than adding weight or filing
- Cutting steel shafts with a tubing cutter takes a fair amount of
effort, and the cutter wears out over time. Cutting graphite with
a hacksaw is easy. Wrap the cut area with masking tape first, and
- Heat ferules in VERY HOT water to soften them. Then use the
dimpling jig to help shove the ferule on the shaft. Pick a Ferule
that matches your hosel diamter to minimize the need to sand/file later
- Dimpling is easy, but takes a fair amount of force. The shaft and
hosel go together much easier with epoxy than dry so don't worry if
the joint seems tight when dry fit.
- Epoxy takes forever to dry. Plan 2-3 days.
- Wrapping grip tape spiral style is fairly tricky. Consider the
wide tape that you just stick on lengthwise.
- The club catalogs and Dave Tutelman's notes describe how to build
up extra layers of plain tape for oversize grips. This works, but
is somewhat of a pain. It's easier to order combinations of grip
and shaft size that get close to the size you want.
- Fill the grip up with solvent and drown the tape with it (collect
all that spills to go back in the can. The grip should go on
easily if you use enough. Check carefully to make sure you don't
twist your grip. It's not difficult to get grips installed close
enough to perfect by hand.
- Some grips are tough to put on when cold. If you work in an
unheated space in the north, keep all your supplies inside and warm
until the final assembly and ideally heat the club and grip
somewhat. (I put them over a radiator or in front of a hot air
vent) Wrap the shaft with tape inside and go out only for the
messy bit with the solvent.
- File/sand the excess ferule off, then use acetone to polish it. A
little goes a long way. Acetone eats plastic.
- Removing grips for regripping is easy with a hooked blade, just
slit the grip and fold it back and off. Getting the old tape off
is the real pain. No easy solutions I know of. They sell various
gadgets for removing grips in one piece so they can be re-used.
Maybe this is good for a pro shop, but I figure grips last a year
or less in heavy use, so why fool around and waste time cleaning
all the old tape and gunk out of a grip when a new one costs <$4
and you are going to need one within a year anyway?