Founder Q&A and Shoptalk
There are so many interesting areas to cover regarding golf equipment, fitting, client service, and the general state of the golf industry. Here, we'll post discussions on topics that we think will be of interest to our visitors. Please check back as we'll be adding new updates at least once a quarter.
Sept. 24, 2016 – Interview with Jay Turner, Founder/CEO, Jeffmont Ltd
Q: After 30+ years as RedBird Sports, why did you decide now to change your name to Jeffmont Ltd?
A: After receiving a patent on our dimensional fitting system and the successful creation of the RedBird Sports name we decided to reset the company under the name Jeffmont Ltd to help facilitate our growth and the establishment of additional club brands as well as to allow us to expand the application of our dimensional fitting system.
Our RedBird name as a brand of course remains and we’ve committed to “Avian” as another of our new brands.
Q: With the new Jeffmont company name and the launch of the Avian brand of irons and wedges along with the opening of your Fitting Lab, what else do you have planned for 2017 or beyond?
A: From a product standpoint we plan on bringing out a new line of titanium drivers, high performance fairway woods, and a new hybrid series. We also may add another Rullo putter model to our line.
For our Fitting Lab, we’d like to increase activity in this area. With the addition of our TrackMan 4 and the swing and ball flight analysis it brings we’re able to be even more precise with our fits. Not with club length and lie angle, which are calculated with our dimensional fitting algorithm, but for shaft type and set make up. The analysis data that’s generated is really helpful.
CLUB DESIGN – INFLUENCES, PHILOSOPHY, MATERIALS, METHOD
Q: Can you talk about your club design approach, for example your influences, philosophy, likes, dislikes, materials, and method of design?
A: Influences My formative years in golf began in the 1970s when woods were actually made from wood – persimmon and laminated wood – and all of the irons were basically a type of muscleback design. I’ve always really appreciated the smooth, functional shapes from some of the best designs in the past, what I’d call “classic style,” and have adapted and incorporated these shapes and finishes with modern manufacturing methods for precision and quality.
Philosophy/Likes/Dislikes My philosophy, and this applies to every type of club I design, is to focus on honest performance. So whether that performance is regarding distance, maneuverability, feel or forgiveness, I believe these features can and should be achieved by making heads from the best materials with an emphasis on design. This produces clubs with solid feel without having to incorporate an outside component to alter feel through absorbing vibrations. For instance, if you create an iron that has mass in the correct areas then you don’t have to add in thermoplastic vibration absorbing materials because the design already accomplishes that. I’m 110% for sound, gimmick-free, fad-free design, which unfortunately I think gets emphasized and promoted too much in our industry.
Materials For materials, we recently introduced our new Avian 530 iron set and a trio of wedges that are milled from forged S20C and S25C carbon steel blanks, respectively. These forged carbon steel blanks are soft, yet very dense, and provide very solid, great feel with every strike. It’s my new favorite material for our higher-end irons. Our new Rullo 016 blade putter uses 303 stainless steel. It’s a completely milled, single-piece head/neck model. I chose this material for its soft feel, machinability, and corrosion resistance. These soft 300 series stainless steels are terrific for the type of precise, intricate designs that I like to do with my putters. Another feature of the material is the variety of interesting colors you can achieve with heat staining. This is something we offer as a unique model option.
Design Method Club design from the era that I started in is essentially sculpted, where a design is conceptualized and then put into rough line drawings and then worked out of a block of metal. Sometimes it’s CNC-machined, but other times it’s done by hand-shaping. I also design with a CAD program but always even while using CAD, I shape the edges and lines by hand. Usually, I eventually hand-grind and shape on a variety of grinding and polishing wheels and vertical mills.
So my club design basically reflects my personal likes, which is leans heavily towards traditional and classic. My approach is a bit old-school in that I like to work a physical block of metal vs. pure digital designing.
While I’ve focused mainly on irons and putters here today, I’m working on our new line of drivers, fairway metals, and hybrids. I’ll plan to talk more about my design approach for these types of clubs in a future interview.
CLUB FITTING, INVENTING THE JDFS ALGORITHM & WHAT THE BIG GUYS ARE DOING WRONG
Q: What initiated your interest in fitting? You started with this back in the 1980s, way before fitting was a popular topic and a mainstream focus for the average golfer that it is today.
A: When I first started working with clients it became obvious that one size did not fit all. So working from that premise, and because we made sets to order, I thought why not try to fit a club as precisely as possible? You wouldn’t buy a shoe that doesn’t fit properly. And for a golf club to function optimally it needs to fit as precisely as possible.
Q: Can you summarize how you’ve arrived to where you are now where you can determine the optimal shaft length and club lie angle for anyone using your smartphone? How did you start developing your fitting algorithm and what were the steps in between and the breakthroughs along the way?
A: It started with the concept that anything you can see can be quantified and that started my process of considering how human physiology influences the fit of a golf club. This was my first breakthrough – NOT thinking about fitting in terms of a swing. In other words, longer/shorter torso, longer/shorter legs, hand size, etc., as there are many different body types. Being able to identify the many distinct types of physiques showed me that there should be different sizes of golf clubs as every body is unique. I should emphasize here that this is not about average, tall or short bodies as two people the same height can require a very different size based on body makeup.
The specific fitting algorithm, another breakthrough, was created over 12 years to take my fitting from an essentially trial and error, visually-based fitting process to one that is scientific and specific to each individual. Using data I had collected and analyzed over the years from thousands of our fits, I developed an algorithm that was applied in our patented fitting kiosk and is now used in our smartphone app.
Q: Why do you think your fitting approach – to a player’s body dimensions – is better than or the right way to fit as opposed to almost every other fitting method out there that focuses generally on a player’s swing with little to no consideration of a player’s physique, unless maybe if that player happens to be extremely tall or short?
A: Our system is better because of a couple things. Most swings with the exception of elite amateurs and the pros have inherent flaws. When you fit a flawed swing, the flaws have influence on the fit in that the fit only works when the flaws are present. Such a method stifles improvement and encourages a downward spiral where it becomes virtually impossible to get better using miss-fit clubs. The other problem with swing-based fitting is inconsistency. As most players don’t swing consistently from one time to the next, the issue arises as to which swing do you choose for the fit? You can see that this method is purely trial and error. However, when you use a person’s physical dimensions then it allows for consistency of fit because those don’t change from swing to swing and one day to the next. So it allows for swing improvement, and can initiate a virtuous circle.
Q: Since we know that fitting is beneficial for every player at all skill levels, for the big golf equipment manufacturers here in the U.S. – companies like Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist, Ping, and Cobra – do you think they should offer more in terms of fitting for their customers? And is it even possible for them to offer this?
A: Yes they should absolutely offer it, but I see several obstacles. First is the mindset that fitting should be swing based. So you see some manufacturers are only able to offer fitting if you come to visit them or go to select locations. This severely limits the number of golfers who can be fitted. Also, how do you fit someone who has never touched a club? In any case as I’ve stated I don’t think fitting to a swing is the best method, and in most cases is detrimental. Other manufacturers have come up with sizing charts, but from my analysis this is a simplistic approach primarily based on a person’s height, and it fits players incorrectly.
Another major impediment making it nearly impossible currently for the big guys to offer fitting is their business model, which calls for developing product and building inventory before they know who they are selling to. Therefore they manufacture quantities of clubs for an “average-sized” man, woman or youngster. This leads to very imprecise fits and, for anyone interested, the need for retrofitting after the fact.
Q: What future plans do you have for your Jeffmont Dimensional Fitting System (JDFS)?
A: In the immediate future I’d like to broaden its reach so we can fit as many people as possible, via the web and in person in order to help all golfers improve by having clubs that actually fit their unique bodies correctly. Longer term, we’re committed to working with more and more teaching pros to have them better understand and make use of our algorithm as part of their lesson regimen. Eventually, we hope major manufacturers adopt our approach of fitting to a body and offering clubs in appropriate sizes for their customers.
Q: You prefer to use the term “crafting” clubs instead of the word “manufacturing” clubs. Is there a reason for that?
A: Well everything we do is handcrafted to order so there is an artisan aspect to our process. We don’t manufacture clubs on an assembly line. We fit our client first and then we build by matching and adjusting club materials to fit the specifications of each client as precisely as possible. Every club we make is bespoke.
Q: Can you take us through the typical steps or process involved with crafting a full set of irons for a new client?
A: Once we’ve determined our client’s optimal fit and needs we first select and carefully balance the shafts to weight (+/- 0.5g). Next step, we optimize, check for flex or irregularities, and trim the shafts to length. Then we select the clubheads and balance them so we have a consistent swingweight throughout the whole set without requiring any extra balance materials. This results in clubs that feel the same because they have the same process and methodology to get to the same weight. Finally, the set is personalized with our curated matching color grips and ferrules and stamped with our client’s initials (for our Avian line), paint-filled, cleaned, and polished.
Q: You offer your clients a lifetime guarantee on any purchase of a new RedBird or Avian club. Why do you do this and isn’t it risky and/or expensive?
A: The lifetime guarantee comes from a personal perspective. I want to treat our clients like I wish to be treated, and since we craft a great product there really is no risk because we use the best materials available. We have virtually no defective clubs, although there can be some “breakage” during normal use though.
Q: You also offer a trade-in program for your clients. How does it work, and is it popular?
A: Yes it’s popular. When a client comes in wanting a new model we take the existing club(s) and apply a credit towards a new purchase. The credits we offer are quite reasonable and it allows us to create a nice selection of used sets that we can then sell to new golfers who are starting out or are looking to upgrade their existing clubs.
Q: Can you tell us more about the “retrofitting” service that you offer?
A: Sure, this is actually an offshoot of our JDFS Algorithm. Using our fitting technology to identify the optimal shaft length and club lie angle, we can take a club that someone has bought off the rack and adjust it to their best possible fit. That said, it’s much better to get fitted before buying a set but it’s not possible with most big manufacturers as they don't have complete or accessible fitting programs in place the way that our fitting technology gives us the ability to precisely fit and size someone from the start.