After playing golf in high school, Jon Lewis, director of Ball State University Dining at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., says he stopped playing for years until picking it up later in life. After buying a driver that didn’t work for him, he looked into how he could repair it. Thus, Lewis began his hobby of building his own golf clubs.
Jon Lewis, Ball State University“I played golf in high school and then stopped playing for a few years because in California it was very expensive and I couldn’t get out much. Then I decided to pick it up again and bought some new clubs and, specifically, a driver that I should not have purchased. After talking to some other friends about what my options were, I quickly learned via the web that maybe reshafting that driver would help. As a golfer, the problem is never the golfer, it’s always the equipment. So I reshafted the driver using all the information I could find from various companies that provide the equipment. I did a very poor job at it. Then I thought I’d better build myself a driver, and that was my first foray into building clubs.
I pretty much taught myself how to do it. I read up on it on my own. A few years ago the club-making companies used to give advice as to how to build clubs. There were also videos and other things you could buy. It was to those companies’ benefit to get people involved in this so they were very free with the educational component. The education part wasn’t difficult. You had to learn by doing—make mistakes and learn from them.
Years ago there were a lot of knockoffs. There were a lot of club heads you could buy that looked like what they call OEM [Original Equipment Manufacturer] heads—heads that looked like heads from brands like Ping and Callaway. They looked like the real things, but often they didn’t perform like the real things. However, you felt good about it because you didn’t pay as much and you felt good about building your own golf clubs.
These companies sell wood heads, iron heads and putters, shafts and grips. The nice thing about club making is that you can mix and match. If you know what you are doing you can pick the right head for yourself and then you can put the right shaft on there, and it may not be a combination that you can buy. That’s what I have enjoyed doing over the years. I made a set of clubs for a friend of mine whose 85-year-old father wanted to get back into golf. He asked me to make a set that fit his father, and often you can’t find that. I made him a set of clubs with the right heads and then a senior shaft, a shaft that was designed for a senior individual who maybe doesn’t swing as hard. That kind of combination is hard to find. I’ve also made sets of clubs for shorter ladies, so the shaft is a woman’s shaft and I make them a half-inch shorter so it fits their game.
I usually build a club in stages so it takes about three days. First I cut the parts, cut the shafts and get the heads ready in one day. The next day I glue them together with epoxy, which has to dry overnight. The third day I’ll finish the club off by cleaning up the club, putting the grip on it and making sure it’s OK. I’ve had mishaps. You can put the shaft in wrong and when the epoxy dries you’ve got a crooked shaft. But unless you really screw up there is nothing you can’t undo. Once you are more experienced you know what the critical parts are that you can’t redo. I’ve probably been making clubs for 20 years, and I’ve been playing bad golf for 20 years.”