I was wondering what else might be cool to write about and having a hard time coming up with something good. I eventually thought it might be a good idea to start with some of the background info I’ve learned like club building history and concepts and how some of these ideas came about. I’ve learned a great deal apprenticing at one of the oldest custom club builders in the country, and being that this all started out as a hobby for me I’ve always been interested in learning as much as I possibly can.
Our shop’s roots go back a long way. Our founder was an apprentice in Scotland with one of the founders of golf club building, Ben Sayers. Sayers was a Scottish professional golfer who later became a distinguished teacher, instructing royalty and other professionals, and course architect. However, one of the things he is best remembered for is manufacturing golf clubs and equipment. He formed a company in 1873, which is widely acknowledged as being the oldest golf company in the world, and patented several innovative designs and created many revolutionary pieces of equipment.
Our founder apprenticed with Sayers in Scotland before coming to the USA and becoming the head club professional at Seaview Golf Club in NJ, since he was a scratch player as well. During his time at Seaview, he was hired to also build and repair clubs by a gentleman who managed the sporting goods department for a large department store in Philadelphia. Their golf business thrived at the department store, but the overall sporting goods department was eventually eliminated. With the mass of business that they still had from the golf department, a private shop was opened up in 1923.
This private shop quickly earned a reputation for exceptional work. One skill which set them apart was the ability to make wood heads, which were all handmade at the time out of actual wood, with a top line and leading edge that had exactly matching angles in relation to the shaft. This was apparently a rare skill which set them apart that was learned during the time apprenticing in Scotland. This reputation led to them eventually working with many professionals and emerging component manufacturers, like True Temper and Royal Precision.
Around the late 70’s, club companies started wondering things like why it was that their sponsored professionals wouldn’t always put all of the new clubs they were given at the beginning of the season into play. Instead, they would test new clubs at the range, and even though they would all be built to the same specs there were clubs in the set which didn’t behave like all the rest. This led the PGA to consult with an engineer named Dr. Joseph Braley. One of Dr. Braley’s determinations was that club companies needed to account for the fact that, due to the manufacturing process of steel shafts (which is all that were being used at the time), shafts could not be all reliably produced exactly the same. So he created a method by which shafts could be objectively classified by a reliable flex measurement, instead of just R/S/X as was currently being done. He designed a device that could clamp a club at the butt-end, bend (or “load”) the club a specific amount, and then release it to oscillate in front of a laser. The number of times the club oscillated through the laser was measured as its cycles per minute, or CPM. He then created a curved chart which represented the CPM of clubs at different lengths and their relative stiffness. The chart was created based on measuring steel shafted 43” drivers, which were the current norm for the time. He would abbreviate a 260 CPM driver as a 6.0 flex designation by taking away the 2 and adding a decimal to create a shorter flex nomenclature. 255 CPM = 5.5, 247 CPM = 4.7, etc. The rest of the flex designations were based off of club length and the CPM which matched the relative stiffness of the 43” driver. So a shorter club needed a higher CPM to have the same relative stiffness at 43”, and vise versa, so thus the 4.7/5.5/6.0/etc. flex designations remained uniform across club lengths despite the difference in actual CPM.
This new way of classifying shafts by stiffness led Dr. Braley to purchase a company that manufactured steel tubes and turn it into a golf shaft company. His company used the numeric flex designation nomenclature that he’d developed to classify shaft stiffness. This new ability for pros and builders to receive extremely precise shaft flexes led to Dr. Braley becoming one of True Temper’s biggest competitors for golf shaft sales, so TT began weight sorting their shafts to more precisely identify them as such: R100, R200, S100, S500, etc. However, it seems this did not have as much of an impact as TT wanted, because they later purchased Dr. Braley’ company, then called Royal Precision.
At the time they were bought, Royal Precision were the manufacturers of several very popular shafts, including the Project X and Rifle. TT’s original intent was to do away with the Royal Precision lineup, but they received pushback and did not. However, one popular feature of the Project X shaft was lost in the process, and that was it’s very unique satin color. Royal Precision used a special German machine to create a very nice looking brushed satin chrome finish on their Project X shafts. This machine used a specific type of sandpaper to create the look, which I guess was too expensive for TT to keep buying, so they scrapped the machine and figured they’d find a way to create the brushed satin look on their own. After several attempts it was decided to keep the Project X as a bright chrome finish like the rest of their shafts. Years later, Dr. Braley’s son Kim Braley started a shaft company called KBS. I believe he wanted to create a shaft that was a twin of his father’s signature satin Project X, and so the standard weight, stable-tipped and stepless C-Taper was given a brushed satin finish.