Our Exclusive Interview with Tom Wishon (Part 1)
Durango’s Tom Wishon is the guy big brands love to hate. Why? Because Wishon loudly opines that the business models of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Titleist, Callaway, Nike, PING and TaylorMade force them to focus more on profits than on producing clubs that can genuinely allow golfers to play to the best of their ability.
And why would the big brands care about one derisive voice? Because Wishon is regarded as a world authority on golf club design and clubfitting technology, the brainiac behind more than half of modern golf’s most significant club design innovations. He’s a one-time PGA teaching professional who for the last 40 years has designed and engineered quality equipment for golfers of all abilities—from touring pros to double-digit players.
Wishon knows how to design and custom-fit golf clubs, making them in such a way that players become more accomplished golfers. In an exclusive interview with Colorado AvidGolfer, we asked him a few pointed questions about golf club design.
CAG: What will be the “next big thing” in golf club design?
WISHON: There won’t be one. The USGA and the Rules of Golf are preventing new achievements in clubhead or shaft technology, and golf companies have exhausted all the possible scientific advances in clubhead design technology. New materials, off-center forgiveness, clubhead size, moment of inertia—all have either been offered already or are handcuffed by the USGA.
Golfers have nothing to look forward to?
Technologically speaking, nothing of consequence. We’ll continue to see an industry-wide effort to cosmetically change a club’s detailing with colors and graphics. We may also see a continuing decrease of the loft angles on irons, which started 30 years ago to the point where we now see a 5-iron lofted the same as a 3-iron was in the 1980s. And we’ll see a re-hash of previously offered clubhead technology.
What is the biggest lie in golf club design?
That golfers can gain additional yardage with today’s new drivers. Since 2004, the USGA has limited clubhead COR—coefficient of restitution—which basically is the clubface’s ability to springboard energy from the club to the golf ball. All club manufacturers are at the maximum allowed COR for designing club heads. The only way a golfer can buy more distance off the tee is by being professionally custom fit.
Is there nothing a golfer can do to add distance to his or her game?
There are three proven methods that will add yardage. One is taking golf lessons from a PGA professional. The second is boosting one’s flexibility and strength via physical fitness. The third and most overlooked method is to be properly fitted with clubs that are tailored to your unique swing.
Why shouldn’t I buy clubs off the store rack? Aren’t I getting what I paid for—a better game?
Not likely. A professional custom fitting analyzes, tests and determines the 12 key specifications for all 14 clubs in the bag to fit each golfer’s size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics over multiple hours of scientific analysis. That’s a much different experience than putting faith in a club that was “swing tested” for 20 minutes.
Bottom line—what can a golfer honestly expect from properly fitted clubs?
Professionally fitted clubs will positively impact the games of more than 90 percent of today’s golfers. The club-fitters we mentor and work with continually verify that they can cut four to eight strokes for golfers who shoot between the mid 80s and high 90s. High handicap players do see the biggest improvement, but even better players can expect to see visible results from purchasing clubs that are built to their unique specifications and swing characteristics.
Tom Wishon is credited with more than 50 design “firsts,” including the first titanium driver introduced in the United States; author of ten books and more than 200 magazine articles on club making, shaft technology and custom clubfitting; designer of clubs for many of the game’s biggest names, including Harvey Penick, Payne Stewart, Ben Crenshaw and Scott Verplank; and technical advisory panel member for more than a dozen years with Golf Digest.
Chris Duthie is a contributor to Colorado AvidGolfer, the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com.