Here in the US, spring is approaching and some of us will be out to buy new clubs. Considering the beating the golf industry has been taking in a down economy, the major brands are still spending millions in advertising to get your business. Everybody knows about the big boys like TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist, Cleveland and a few others who dominate the market, but there are many more companies out there that make great golf clubs that you won’t see in the pages of Golf Magazine or on the Golf Channel. Here are just ten club companies that tend to fly under the radar.
1. Piretti Putters – Founded in 2008 by Mike Johnson, Piretti makes top notch milled putters. His designs are a little different, in that they tend to use more weight (15-45 grams more) in their putters and less loft than most for a smooth, consistent roll. As a result, their putters are some of the best feeling flat sticks I’ve ever used, and the Cortino LN model is a personal favorite of mine.
2. James Patrick Golf – Having studied under some of the finest club builders and grinders in the world, James Patrick started grinding his own wedges a few years later and the rest is history. His wedges are forged by Kyoei in Japan, one of the finest forge houses in the world. Building custom, hand ground wedges isn’t cheap, but the finished product is more than a golf club. For serious golfers, his wedges are works of art. Update 2017: James left for a job at Titleist/Acushnet for a number of years and his website went away, but he’s back and partnered with Titleist to continue pushing the envelope and making awesome scoring clubs.
3. Royal Collection – While virtually unknown in the USA, Royal Collection has been ranked #1 in the fairway woods and hybrids category for 7 consecutive years, according to the Darrel Survey. Once known outside Japan as Sonartec, they’ve since dropped the brand. Known mostly for their fairway woods, they offer a full line of premium quality clubs, including the popular and gorgeous looking Tour VS forged irons. Editors Note – June 2017: This article was written in 2012 and from what I can tell, Royal Collection has pulled out of the US market to concentrate their efforts on the Japanese golf market.
4. Feel Golf – Having designed and built clubs for PGA Tour winners for years, Dr. Lee Miller has created some interesting clubs over the years. The most popular club in their lineup is the 73 degree wedge. Feel Golf is maybe the only company out there to reject the latest USGA groove rule and is still designing and selling square-grooved irons and wedges. Since the average golfer won’t have to switch until 2024, why not? Editors Note – June 2017: Feel Golf is no longer in business. My efforts to reach Dr. Miller were unsuccessful and I can’t find any presence on the web for his clubs.
5. Tour Edge Golf – Many readers will be familiar with Tour Edge, but I feel that they probably don’t get the credit they deserve. Their premium Exotics CB4 and XCG5 line of clubs are as good or better than any on the market, especially the fairway woods. Priced at $499, the Exotics CU irons are probably the best “bang for the buck” iron set in golf.
6. Henry Griffitts – Since the 1980s, Henry-Griffitts has been a pioneer in custom club fitting, and those who have played with their clubs tend to remain loyal for many years. Available only at select golf clubs, each player is fit for his set by a certified club fitting professional. Their new T12 forged blades are sure to appeal to the purists and low handicappers out there.
7. Byron Morgan Putters – Another small putter maker, Byron Morgan has built a cult following on golf websites such as The Putter Place and Puttertalk.com. Byron’s putters are all made one at a time to the exact specifications of the buyer. If you’ve always wanted a putter made just for you, Byron Morgan is one of the few people out there that can make it happen.
8. SCOR Golf – President Terry Koehler has come up with a short game scoring system that is unlike anything in the golf industry. His system replaces your short irons with his, which are precisely fit for your swing and set makeup. They offer every loft available from 41 to 61 degrees to come up with the best-matched set of scoring clubs available. There’s too much info to go over here, but check out their website for more info, and look for a full review of SCOR very soon! Editors Note – June 2017: Terry Koehler joined forces with Ben Hogan golf to revive that brand with his designs, which were an evolution of SCOR. While the company’s clubs were very well received, sales sputtered. While the Ben Hogan brand is still limping along during a restructuring, Mr Koehler has long since moved on to other opportunities.
9. Carnahan Golf – Carnahan is a boutique golf brand, available only in select golf course pro shops around the US. Carnahan’s wedges are as good as any major OEM’s offerings. In fact, my good buddy Tony from hookedongolfblog.com swears by them. Using heavier head weights and a longer shaft for versatility, these wedges are great scoring clubs. If you get a chance to try these clubs, don’t miss out!
10. Fourteen Golf – Another Japanese brand, Fourteen is picking up momentum in the competitive US golf market. Having signed PGA Tour players Ryuji Imada and Arjun Atwal to endorsement contracts, their awesome new RM-11 wedges are being played by many other touring pros without an endorsement. I’m also playing the RM-11 wedge, and I try dozens of different wedges every year. Fourteen’s wedges really are that good.
Well there you have it. Just ten of the golf industry’s lesser known brands. I’m sure I left off some good companies. There is also the accessories, apparel, golf balls and more. Maybe we’ll cover those next time. What company did I leave off? Which do you think belong or don’t belong on this list? Let me know what you think!
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